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Hurt Too Much to Workout? 3 Strategies to Reduce Pain and Improve Your Ability to Exercise

So often with Autoimmune Disease and Chronic Illness, it hurts to move. It hurts to walk, it hurts to hold a dumbbell, and sometimes it hurts to just exist. One major component of healing is movement. This cannot be ignored. You hurt so you can’t work out but the lack of movement increases the pain. It’s a vicious cycle. Luckily there are strategies to help reduce the pain so that you can break out of it, start moving, and feel better.

In episode 52 of the podcast, Dr. Diane Mueller joined me to talk about strategies to improve your health and combat chronic illness. It was a wealth of information and today I want to dive deeper into a problem many people with autoimmune diseases and chronic illness struggle with. That problem is pain. It hurts too much to move. Then if you push through, you’re in so much pain the next few days you can’t move, but then the pain gets worse because you don’t move. Movement is lubrication to the joints. It moves our lymphatic system which I don’t think many of us remember learning about or truly understanding how essential this system is. 

The lymphatic system is complementary to the cardiac system. It is part of our immune system and has many functions including protecting our bodies from pathogens, maintaining body fluid levels, and removing cellular waste. Here’s how it works:

Fluid from our blood leaks into the tissues of the body through the capillaries, carrying nutrients to the cells. The nutrient dense fluid then also collects waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells. From there it then drains this fluid into the lymphatic capillaries and lymphatic vessels. These vessels carry the fluid throughout the body, passing through numerous lymph nodes which filter out more unwanted materials. This fluid is then passed into a much larger lymph vessel known as the lymph ducts. The right lymphatic duct drains the right side of the body and the much larger left lymphatic duct, known as the thoracic duct, drains the left side. The ducts empty into the subclavian veins to return to blood circulation.

The lymphatic system is moved throughout the body by muscle contractions only. There is no heart to pump it through the body. So when you aren’t moving, it’s not able to do its job, and your pain increases due to the build-up of those waste products, bacteria, damaged cells, and other potential pathogens.

The reason I’m sharing this with you is that when we know why something is important, we are much more likely to find a way to do what we need to do.

Now I’m not saying to just move and be in pain. If you are in too much pain to walk and carry things, it’s very likely you have a high toxic load. Remember the lymphatic system carries nutrients and removes waste. If that’s not happening, waste is building up and that is likely causing you a lot of pain. 

So the step before the 3 strategies I’m going to give you today to support the lymphatic system before even working out is to reduce your toxic load. I’m not going to dive deep into that hear because I already did in episode 36. So after you’re done listening to this episode I recommend going and listening to episode 36.

Now let’s dive into 3 strategies to reduce pain and improve your ability to move your body with much less to no pain.

#1 Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy is using heat and red infrared light to help stimulate the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell to function better. It may help enhance the function of the lymphatic system and as well as

And this is just the stuff that has been studied. Imagine all the things it helps with that haven’t been studied yet!

The sun is one of the best sources of red infrared light. The problem is people are terrified of skin cancer and avoid the sun as much as possible. If you fall into this category then you have other options.

You can actually purchase light boxes that use red infrared lights. You can sit in front of them and some people will incorporate stretching and slow yoga in front of them too. If you choose the lightbox you wear goggles and usually close your eyes the entire session. You will stay in front of it for 5-20 minutes at a time. And typically you do it once a day.

#2 Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is when you take a soft-bristled brush while having dry skin and starting at your feet start brushing in long sweeping strokes up the body towards your heart. Some people say 1-2 strokes per area while others say 10 per area. I have sensitive skin so I do 2 usually.

Dry brushing is pretty awesome. First, it’s affordable. The brush is like $5. It helps stimulate the circulatory and nervous system. It encourages the reflex response in the lymphatic system which helps fluid move throughout the body and clean up that cellular waste we talked about earlier. It’s also great for the skin.

So it’s a great option to help support your body and start reducing pain.

#3 Epsom Salt Baths

Have you ever gone to the ocean, swam, and played in the water then notice you felt better, are more relaxed, feel less stressed out, less achy and sore, and sleep better? Saltwater is one of the most bio-available sources of magnesium. 

Magnesium is a mineral pretty much everyone is deficient in because our soil is so depleted. Many people don’t swim in water that’s in the earth versus swimming pools for example. Being deficient in magnesium can lead to:

  • Increased pain
  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • PMS symptoms
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Anxiousness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Higher blood glucose levels
  • Irritation on the skin

Epsom salt baths not only are a bioavailable source of magnesium which can help reduce pain, but the heat of a bath also helps the body detox toxins out through the skin. So it’s a double win. 

And those are the 3 strategies to help reduce pain and allow you the ability to move your body more with less to no pain. 

A quick note on incorporating exercise:

When you do decide to start incorporating movement, start slow and light. It’s a really bad idea to jump into an hour of intense cardio or lifting heavy. Don’t go from 0 to 100. Instead, start gentle and light. I know this can be frustrating. We’ve been conditioned to believe that to get any benefit from exercise you have to go hard. This just isn’t true. Especially when you’re dealing with pain, autoimmune disease, and chronic illness. You are going to get so much more benefit from easing back into movement and slowly increasing intensity over time than trying to go hard. If you can walk for 3 minutes twice a day, GREAT! Do that until it’s easy then add 2 more minutes. If you can start with stretching and mobility work for a few minutes a day, GREAT! Then add in walking. Then add in light weights. Then slowly increase it. Movement is absolutely essential and thankfully any movement is better than none.

3 Strategies to Reduce Pain and Improve Your Ability to Exercise



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About Us

Hi friend!

I’m Marian Mitchell, Health Coach, Chronic Illness Warrior, Mom, and Food Lover. I help you navigate the food and lifestyle side of Chronic Disease Management with coaching, meal plans, recipes, podcast, and this blog. You can thrive without eating the same 4 things every day. I’m here to show you how.

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