A new announcement from the medicine watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people suffering from chronic pain should perform regular exercise. Many people who have chronic pain turn to painkillers, so the institute hopes to curb the number of patients taking medications.
Experts agree that it’s not surprising to these new guidelines about exercise, as harmful side effects from painkillers have long been recorded. Painkillers may reduce some of the pain associated with chronic pain, but they do nothing to address the underlying problem of joint stiffness and muscle weakness. People can also become reliant and abuse painkillers.
This statement from NICE comes at the same time as the publication of a review that shows how exercise is more effective than usual care and more cost-effective. This can mean a better outcome for the patient while giving exercising a tremendous value.
Before COVID-19 hit, a program had started in the United Kingdom in March 2020. This included 294 physiotherapy departments and community center sites across the country. Almost 20,000 people had taken part in the program. It was recorded to have saved the health system roughly £30 million by reducing the amount of healthcare support these patients need.
As COVID lockdown begins to ease, the UK is slowly getting these programs back up and running. By teaching people the importance of exercise in managing joint pain, they can reduce their usage of painkillers.
It has been known for a long time that exercise is good for those with chronic pain, but it has not been largely recommended as an alternative to painkillers. Exercise is essential for patients with joint pain. Walking has been found to help joints stay active as they can become stiff and painful if not moved regularly, especially in those with knee pain. Muscles that protect our joints against harmful movements can also weaken, exposing them to even greater harm.
Teaching patients about safe physical activity can help them keep their joints moving and help those with muscle weakness. An organization such as NICE is a welcome addition to the UK’s healthcare system and could greatly benefit patients in the US if something similar was implemented. For those who are suffering from chronic pain, talk to your doctor about an exercise program that could help.