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The Importance of Strength Training for Chronic Pain

Strength Training & Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting beyond normal tissue healing time, generally taken to be 12 weeks. It contributes to disability, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, poor quality of life, and healthcare costs.

As we age, chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis (OA), fractures associated with osteoporosis, and low back disorders become more prevalent; and these chronic conditions can cause a considerable amount of pain in older adults.

For many years, the treatment choice for chronic pain included recommendations for rest and inactivity. However, significant research has shown that exercise is an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic pain.

Studies have shown that it can be an effective way to reverse this downward cycle of deconditioning and worsening pain, and gradually over time help those with chronic pain engage more in activities of enjoyment and essential activities of daily living with greater ease.

Strength training, like lifting weights or using resistance bands, increases muscle and bone mass, muscle strength, balance, flexibility, self-confidence and self-esteem.

Aerobic exercise, like running or swimming, is designed to make the heart stronger and help the body use oxygen better.

Both are beneficial and necessary for your overall health, just in different ways.

When you have pain (for example back pain), for a prolonged period of time, your back muscles may have less muscle mass, greater fatty content, and more stiffness, which can cause them to fatigue more easily and result in worsening pain.

Over time, this pain and easy fatiguability may lead to fear of movement, resulting in further deconditioning of your back.

Weight training exercises can improve the health of your back by

  • Increasing the function of the muscles in your back and core

  • Improving muscle strength

  • Increasing your lean muscle mass

  • Increasing the range of motion of your spine

  • Decreasing your body fat

For example, front squats, back squats and military presses require stabilisation of the abdominal, trunk and lower limb muscles, during a multi joint movement, which is representative of daily living.

Some isometric exercises, such as the plank may be useful in injured or highly deconditioned people, as they teach them to contract these muscles for stabilization.

However, they are limited in their application, as they are performed in a non-functional static position that is rarely replicated in daily life.

There are numerous health benefits to strength training that can help reduce chronic pain. When muscles are stronger, your effort decreases, which helps prevent fatigued muscles, and stopping long-lasting cycles of pain.

“If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.”

As with any condition, please consult with a Chartered Physiotherapist before embarking on a rehabilitation programme.

Contact us here @ Elite for further information.

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