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Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Pain Management

Low Impact Aerobic Exercises for Pain Management

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Pain Management

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When you’re living with some level of pain, whether it’s from a herniated disc or a widespread musculoskeletal condition like fibromyalgia, it’s tempting to get into the habit of avoiding exercise. The logic behind this type of thinking is that exercise will make their discomfort worse. In fact, the reverse is true. A lack of activity can actually weaken muscles and contribute to pain. While certain exercises should be avoided, there are some low-impact aerobic exercises that may help manage pain.


Walking is the simplest type of aerobic exercise, and one of the most effective since it can easily be adjusted to any comfort level. For instance, if you’re just getting back to being active, you could start with 15-20 minute daily walks at a casual, relaxed pace on flat, even surfaces. As you gain confidence and muscle strength from walking, ankle or wrist weights can be added for resistance.

Elliptical Exercises

An elliptical machine can replicate some of the movements associated with jogging and running at a more controlled pace. The pedals or footholds on elliptical trainers help users avoid potential pain from repetitious pressure on feet. The resistance and angle settings also allow certain muscle groups to be targeted with better precision.


Swimming laps on your own or as part of a class achieves two main goals. The motions of swimming gently stretch muscles. Since the buoyancy of the water supports your body’s weight, swimming also reduces joint stress while allowing for a greater range of motion. It’s important to take some precautions with swimming to avoid the neck or back pain that’s sometime experienced with front stokes. Instead, use side or back stokes to avoid over-stretching muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.


If your primary source of pain is arthritis, you may benefit from biking. Even if you have joint damage or inflammation that limits some of your peddling motions, biking on flat surfaces a few times a week at a slower pace may improve your flexibility over time. A recumbent bike that has a seat for back support and puts virtually no weight on the upper body is sometimes recommended for people with arthritis. A unisex frame can also help with mounting and dismounting.

Exercises that place too much pressure on the spine, such as bent-over rows and straight-leg deadlifts, should be avoided if your pain is spine-related. Many aerobic exercises may also be performed safely in water if land-based exercises put too much stress on your bones and joints. A pain management specialist can direct you towards workout routines, activities, or exercises specific to your abilities.