The Real Fountain of Youth
What if I told you about a secret medicine…one that guarantees you a lifetime of fantastic health?
This medicine strengthens every single part of your body.
It reduces the aches and pains throughout your entire body.
It even makes your mind clearer and sharper.
It boosts your energy and vitality.
It literally slows down the aging process.
Sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?
But I can assure you that it exists.
And even better, it is free of charge.
The only thing it costs…is effort and dedication.
This medicine is, as you guessed it: exercise.
Unfortunately, most people don’t think of exercise as medicine at all.
In fact, with our fast-paced and topsy-turvy world, most people just want to be able to pop a quick pill that fixes their problems and move on.
We live in a world that demands instant gratification in every aspect of our lives.
We want our food delivered to our door. We want our entertainment streamed instantly into our living rooms. We want to be able to keep up with our friends instantaneously via social media.
Many expect health to be the same way.
Many of my patients are very motivated when it comes to doing physical therapy and doing home exercises. I’m absolutely inspired by their dedication to improving their bodies and their health.
However, many other patients are skeptical when it comes to exercise.
They ask me:
“Dr. Chu, isn’t there just an injection or pill I can take to get better?”
Or they’ll say:
“I’m in too much pain to exercise.”
“I’m too tired to exercise.”
“I have too much going on in my life to exercise.”
To be honest, these are all valid concerns. I understand.
When you’re in severe pain and have twenty errands on your to-do list, the last thing you want to hear is your doctor harp on you repeatedly about exercise.
No one said great health would be easy to achieve.
But nothing worth having is easy.
It’s very challenging to create a consistent exercise regimen, especially when you are in the midst of experiencing severe and chronic pain.
But it is absolutely worth the energy and discipline you devote—and will pay you back ten-fold.
Think of it this way:
This is your life. This is your body.
This is the one vehicle your soul has to navigate and experience the world.
A healthy body allows you to enjoy quality time with your closest loved ones.
It allows you to move through the world with ease and experience all of its beauty, whether it be your own backyard or distant travels to faraway countries.
It allows a father to throw a football with his son, allows a woman to enjoy time in her garden, and allows a retired couple to take the vacation they’ve always dreamed of.
Can you honestly think of anything more important in this world than your health?
Don’t you think it’s worthwhile to devote just a little bit of time to it every day?
Does Exercise Really Improve Pain?
Everyone knows that exercise is great for your heart and lung health.
Everyone knows that exercise helps with weight loss.
Everyone knows that exercise extends your lifespan.
However, many are cynical that exercise could also reduce their pain.
Since I see countless patients suffering from pain each day, I see the evidence first-hand. Talk to any other doctor, and they will share similar observations.
My patients who are fit and exercise regularly recover far faster and more completely from pain flares than my patients who don’t. I could list hundreds of examples from just my own clinical experience.
There is also a plethora of research that correlates with my observations.
Here’s just a sampling of it:
A review published in Biomedical Research International in 2017 concluded that aerobic and strength training were the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. They reported benefits in terms of reducing pain, reducing depression, and improving global well-being.
An article published in The Spine Journal by Sculco and colleagues looked at a cohort of patients in a neurosurgery practice, split into an aerobic exercise group and non-exercise group. Two and a half years later, they found that the patients in the exercise group had:
Lower usage of pain medications
Better work status and function
A review published in Clinical Rheumatology in 2010 looked at the data from 37 randomized controlled trials. They concluded that exercise was a very effective treatment for reducing chronic low back pain, and more importantly, improving function in that population.
Obviously I could go on and on—but I won’t bore you.
How Does Exercise Actually Reduce Pain?
So you’ve seen the evidence that exercise is great for improving pain, but what are the underlying principles behind this?
First, let’s talk about the key muscles surrounding the spine, which are known as your core muscles. When they are strengthened by exercise, they become a dynamic back brace that protects the structures of your spine from the shocks and stresses of everyday life.
Next, aerobic exercise boosts the flow of blood and nutrients to the tissues surrounding the spine, promoting healing and reducing stiffness.
Also, improving flexibility releases over-tensioned structures that place abnormal stresses on the spine. It also allows you to move more naturally, improving your function throughout the entire day.
Lastly, I want to touch on a phenomenon known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia.
This is essentially a fancy way of saying that your actual sensitivity to pain actually decreases following a bout of exercise.
While we don’t fully understand why this happens, it’s likely because exercise actually changes the neurochemistry of your brain.
There’s a great deal of evidence that exercise stimulates the release of endogenous opioids and cannabinoids in your nervous system. These natural chemicals act to suppress pain and just make you feel good overall after you exercise.
Furthermore, there’s also evidence that exercise positively affects the serotonergic system of the brain—which is what anti-depressant drugs work on. In this way, exercise literally acts like a natural anti-depressant drug.
Make the Decision to Get Started
My patients are often faced with a myriad of challenges when it comes to their health.
Most of them are not only dealing with chronic pain, but also issues such as:
Far too many people in this world are unfortunately stuck in a negative feedback loop.
Every health problem exacerbates the others.
Obesity leads to increased pain…which leads to worsened sleep and depression…and so on.
Quite understandably…many of my patients feel very overwhelmed by it all.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to find the will to fight your way out of it.
Some way, somehow, you NEED to.
Find the strength within yourself to break out of that negative feedback loop.
And the first step you can take…is to start exercising daily.
I say this because exercise has such a high return on investment—it will truly improve all areas of your health simultaneously.
Of course as you progress you’ll need to address and optimize all of your health issues over time.
But the first and easiest tangible step you can take towards improving health and reducing pain is to start a consistent exercise regimen.
I’m being absolutely serious when I tell you that exercise is the true fountain of youth.
It’s not a secret buried in an ancient ruins or hidden away by the government.
It’s been here in plain sight all along.
And it’s absolutely free.
All you need to do is make the decision to get started…and commit to it every day.
Thank you so much for reading. I absolutely commend you for taking the time and effort to educate yourself about your pain.
As a physician, I believe it is so crucial to take a proactive approach to your health. I know that your dedication will pay off over time.
Until Next Time,
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Dr. Jonathan S. Chu is a physician who specializes in Interventional Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), and is the founder of 360 Pain Academy.
Dr. Chu earned his medical degree from the Penn State College of Medicine / Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Afterwards, he completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Lankenau Medical Center. Next, he pursued residency training in the field of PM&R at the Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center Combined Program. He went on to fulfill a fellowship in Interventional Pain Medicine at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, where he learned advanced procedures for the treatment of pain from renowned leaders in the field.
He is double board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine.
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