This article takes a look at the epidemic of chronic pain and how fitness professionals manage—or mismanage—it in their own lives. Fitness veterans who have dealt with this problem, either personally or in a clinical setting, share advice on how to take care of the body so that it works optimally for years to come.

Surgery is just one of the many solutions to chronic pain, defined by the National Institutes of Health as persistent pain lasting for more than 12 weeks (NIH 2011). In addition to surgery as a treatment option, the NIH recommends medication, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, nerve blocks, psychotherapy, relaxation therapies, biofeedback, behavior modification, and complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) approaches such as tai chi, meditation, massage therapies and similar self-managed treatment methods. What it does not recommend is ignoring the pain or “working through it.”

An Objective Eye

It can be difficult to take a step back and be objective when it comes to your own health. Katy Bowman, MS, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, California, and author
of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement (Propriometrics Press 2014), suggests you write down
the following:

  • clinical diagnoses received
    over your lifetime
  • every prescription medication
    you take and why
  • every over-the-counter medica-
    tion you take, and how often
  • every surgery you have had
    or need to have
  • visits to the hospital, doctor,
    chiropractor or any other
    allied health professional
  • body parts that “alert” you
    regularly or on a semiregular
  • body parts that hurt
  • body parts that aren’t working
    to the best of their ability
  • health issues you worry about
    having in the future
  • Alternative Treatment Options for Chronic Pain

    Medication and surgery are not the only options when dealing with chronic pain. The following treatments are viable methods for addressing aches and pains:

    • acupuncture
    • chiropractic manipulation
    • supplements and vitamins
    • cognitive therapy
    • yoga
    • relaxation therapy
    • hypnosis
    • guided imagery
    • music therapy
    • biofeedback
    • massage

    To read more about chronic pain in fitness professionals, please see “Playing Hurt” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


    NIH (National Institutes of Health). 2011. Chronic pain: Symptoms, diagnosis, & treatment. Accessed Jan. 14, 2015.

    Alexandra Williams, MA

    Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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