Why Walking Can Improve Pain


People who live with chronic pain, getting up, out and moving can seem challenging. Many patients fear that physical activity will make their pain worse. But in fact, we know that the opposite is true, the right kind of exercise can help reduce pain.

"Walking for example can be a great way for most patients to become active without making pain worse. It might seem hard to believe that walking with a painful joint could actually help reduce the pain, but movement helps mitigate pain and damage of osteoarthritis," says Dr. Julio Paez, M.D.

Dr. Paez adds, "Movement is key for the nutrition of cartilage. Cartilage doesn't have a blood supply, but does have living cells. The way you feed cartilage is to have motion as you walk and move. We also know exercise engages the endogenous opioid system. Our bodies make opioids and use these opioids to decrease pain. We often see this in runners who experience a runners high."

Dr. Paez says exercise like walking also seems to activate parts of the brain involved in reducing pain. "Parts of our brain are activated during exercise to turn down pain systems. The messages of pain being sent for example from your knee up the spinal cord to the brain are reduced during exercise."

Chronic pain is debilitating and a lot of people don't want to make their pain worse, but Dr. Paez tells patients that gentle physical activity like walking, gradually increased with a health providers guidance can improve their pain.

Dr. Paez adds, "Walking for exercise is a simple form of physical activity. It isn't the only remedy, but it does boost a patient's belief in their ability to be physically active."



South Lake Pain Institute

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