Walk With A Doc: Managing pain through regular exercise

Maria Cisneros and Monica Carrillo walk with pain management specialist Dr. Jeremiah West at the Walk With A Doc event in Layton. They talked about ways to reduce pains from osteoarthritis. (Ken Fall, KSL TV)

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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LAYTON — Whether or not we like it, pain is part of life. But experts say lifestyle changes like nutrition, sleep and exercise can help you manage that pain. One mother and daughter explain how they are taking action.

Monica Carrillo and her 80-year-old mother, Maria Cisneros, share a lot in common. "My husband says, 'Oh you are the same as your mom!'" she said laughing. "Maybe physically, the way we think!"

And as they both get older, add aging pains to the list.

That's why they're at Walk With A Doc, an Intermountain Healthcare-partnered event, where anyone can enjoy a walk and conversation with a physician like Dr. Jeremiah West who is a pain management specialist.

Cisneros has osteoarthritis and had a double knee replacement and hip prosthetic. She says she has pain all over in her shoulders, knees, and back.

"The doctor asks her always, 'Where's your pain from 1 to 10?' and says, 'From 1 to 100!' Too much pain," Carillo joked.

Now she is also following suit. "I'm starting to experience the same pain to her in my back, osteoarthritis also, and in my shoulders," Carillo described.

Though it may feel counterintuitive, West says staying active is key to managing pain. "Getting an exercise program and walking and using the muscles can really help actually lower your chronic pain overall," he said, since it loosens stiff joints. "Then the synovial fluid, blood flow, everything increases, and you can have a lot more movement and the pain can decrease."

West says endorphins, brought on by exercise, are a natural painkiller. "To be able to jump in and use your dopamine and your own endorphins to stimulate those pathways instead of using an external source, such as an opioid medication," he explained.

Both Cisneros and Carillo say exercise pays off. "It helps a lot with my pains and they go away," Carillo said.

"The more that you can be active and move then in the long run, you feel better overall," West said.

West also says exercise has cardiovascular benefits, can reduce the risk for cancer and diabetes, and can even improve someone's mental and emotional health. "If you could take one pill to solve a lot of maladies, exercise is that one pill," he said.

It doesn't need to be intense exercise — just start West says. "It doesn't matter where you have been or where you're at, as long as you start doing it, you're gonna see the benefits," he said. "Even a slow walk to a brisk walk is going to be just enough to get all the health benefits … just be patient with yourself; have some self-compassion, it takes time."

He says it's important to schedule your exercise to be consistent and look for a companion. "Finding someone, a buddy to do it with, that's around your same level and who's going to kind of encourage you!" he said.

Intermountain hosts free Walk With A Doc events in Layton, Salt Lake, Park City, Orem, and Moroni. Anyone is invited to participate and is encouraged to bring questions for the doctor.


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