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The Power of Exercise for Pain Management

Carolynn Berry, known by her friends as ‘Lynn’ was an avid cyclist when she found her passion and the hobby she shared with her husband at risk. Chronic pain issues had put Lynn on the sidelines – but the right medical treatment, a recovery plan and (yes!) more exercise got her back on her bike, and racing competitively for PainPathways magazine.

Where the Pain Began

Lynn has not one but two chronic pain issues. Since her teenage years, she has had a bulging disk in her back that flairs up periodically, taking her out of commission if she does things like lean over into the trunk of a car or bend over for long periods of time planting flowers. More recently, she started having hip pain while trying to sleep. At the time, she was riding over 300 miles a week in preparation for a trip to ride some of the Alps routes that were part of the Tour de France bike race. An MRI did not show anything specific, and it did not appear to be arthritis. The pain came and went over the next several years. By the fall of 2012 it was pretty consistent and was affecting not only her sleeping but also cycling.

After seeing an orthopedic surgeon who did not take her seriously, doing physical therapy and receiving cortisone injections, Lynn was still struggling. Basic activities, such as getting in and out of chairs or cars and even walking without limping were a challenge. Last year, Lynn met an orthopedic surgeon at a sports conference who eventually diagnosed her with a torn labrum in her hip and torn gluteus medius (rotator cup tear of the hip). In order to get Lynn not only back to basic activity but back on the bicycle, the surgeon recommended surgery, which Lynn had this past September. While not 100 percent yet, Lynn is having a good recovery and is experiencing less pain with exercise, daily activities and sleeping.

The Frustration of Not Being Able to Ride

“So much of my life outside of work is tied up with cycling that I questioned what I was going to do with myself if I could not cycle,” explained Lynn. “My husband rides and most of our friends ride so it is not only exercise but my biggest social outlet. Also, I have been very physically active most of my life so not exercising is not an option for me. I kept asking around until I found a physician who could figure out what was going on and offer some solutions.”

For Lynn, there were challenges staying motivated, when she experienced frustration in trying so many avenues to understand what was going on. Often, she would start a long ride, get quite a distance from a car and realize that she was going to struggle to get home because of the pain and weakness in her quadriceps. While being frustrated and in pain to the point of crying, she was never left behind because of the help from her devoted husband and friends who waited for her and even pushed her up hills, at times!

Modifications to Exercise While Looking for a Solution

Not one to give up exercise completely, Lynn cut back on the volume of cycling and did more walking during her search for answers. When in therapy, she did exactly what she was told to do in order to stay busy. After her surgery, she said that “being on crutches for eight weeks was exercise in and of itself.” She truly believes that continuing some form of exercise helped prevent depression and also helps her sleep to this day.

Lynn’s advice for people in a similar situation to her is to find ways to keep moving even if they have to change the kind and amount of exercise. She feels that her overall good physical shape has aided in her recovery from the surgery, making it faster than that of much younger people.

Cycling for PainPathways Magazine

The PainPathways womens cycling team from 2012

One positive that came out of Lynn’s pain condition is that she now rides officially for PainPathways Magazine.

PainPathways has been wonderful for me and a whole group of women who want to train and race their bikes. In general, there is not a lot of support for women’s cycling and racing. PainPathways’ support has made it possible for us to have a competitive team with a group of women (young to old) who believe in the benefits of exercise and competition for women and who give back by offering clinics and general encouragement to less experienced riders.”

Lynn also feels that cycling is a very social activity that brings people of all walks of life together. She has enjoyed meeting women from all over the country who enjoy the benefits of the exercise and are working to promote a sport they all love.

Why (According to Lynn!) Everyone Should Consider Cycling

Lynn and her husband, doing what they love!

Lynn recommends cycling to everyone she knows. While it is much less stressful on the joints than walking or running, she also believes biking can provide a sense of freedom to those who are limited in their ambulation – a lot of territory can be covered without a huge outlay of energy. Different bikes set-ups can help those with physical limitations find a comfortable position. She has found it to be much more of a social activity than running, and is constantly amazed at the friends she has made through cycling.

“It is a great way to experience a community,” says Lynn.

If you are a cyclist and agree with Lynn, share your thoughts below!

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.

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