Men’s Health Tips: Understanding and Managing Chronic Pain with Exercise

Learn about chronic pain in men, its causes, and get men’s health tips from Hinge Health physical therapists.

Published Date: Jun 6, 2024
two-men-walking-together-and-laughing

Men’s Health Tips: Understanding and Managing Chronic Pain with Exercise

Learn about chronic pain in men, its causes, and get men’s health tips from Hinge Health physical therapists.

Published Date: Jun 6, 2024
two-men-walking-together-and-laughing

Men’s Health Tips: Understanding and Managing Chronic Pain with Exercise

Learn about chronic pain in men, its causes, and get men’s health tips from Hinge Health physical therapists.

Published Date: Jun 6, 2024
two-men-walking-together-and-laughing

Men’s Health Tips: Understanding and Managing Chronic Pain with Exercise

Learn about chronic pain in men, its causes, and get men’s health tips from Hinge Health physical therapists.

Published Date: Jun 6, 2024
two-men-walking-together-and-laughing
Table of Contents

June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to men’s health issues and encourage men to get early detection screenings, seek treatment for health problems, and make lifestyle changes to improve their health.

Statistics say that men are less likely to seek healthcare,” says Nandini Rampersaud, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. This reluctance to see a healthcare provider can have an impact on men’s health in general, but particularly on musculoskeletal (MSK) issues and chronic pain.

“If you have a concern, it’s better to get it checked out sooner rather than later to prevent it from leading to more issues down the road,” says Dr. Rampersaud. “For example, if it’s not addressed, an acute injury could turn into chronic pain that can then affect other areas, such as your emotional health or your ability to participate in social or recreational activities. If ignored, it could lead to something more serious.”

There are many ways that you can take care of yourself, though. At Hinge Health, we always start with movement. Exercise is one of the most important things men can do to protect themselves from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — all of which they are at a higher risk for compared to women. Movement is also the best medicine for chronic pain, which strongly influences all aspects of men’s mental and physical health. 

Read on to learn more about chronic pain in men, its causes, and tips to help you relieve and prevent it — including exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Nandini Rampersaud, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Rampersaud is a Hinge Health physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health physical therapy.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Maureen Lu, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Lu is a Hinge Health physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with over 17 years of clinical experience.

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

MSK Pain in Men

Whether you’re male or female, chronic pain refers to pain that lasts for more than three months, says Dr. Rampersaud. “It’s something ongoing, not due to an acute injury.” The term chronic only applies to the timeline, though. The pain itself can be severe or mild, achy or sharp, localized or widespread.

While the definition is the same, men and women may experience and manage chronic pain differently, possibly due to hormonal differences, lifestyle habits, overall health, or cultural conditioning. “Men tend to focus on the physical sensation, while women tend to focus more on stress and the emotional impact around pain,” says Dr. Rampersaud. “Perhaps because of gender stereotypes and social constructs, many men may think they need to ‘tough it out’ when they’re in pain. But when they do seek help, they find that they can address their symptoms and improve their quality of life.”

A good place to start in addressing ongoing MSK pain is by working with a physical therapist (PT). PTs are movement experts who can play a crucial role in managing chronic pain by recommending tailored exercises, activity modifications that fit into your life, and other therapeutic interventions. 

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

Movement Is Medicine 

In order to address MSK pain in men, PTs recommend movement, which helps by:

  • Stimulating the release of natural painkillers like endorphins

  • Reducing inflammation, a common cause of pain

  • Stretching muscles for better mobility

  • Strengthening muscles to support joints

  • Increasing circulation to provide nutrients and lubrication to joints for optimal functioning

  • Helping you relax to lower stress hormones like cortisol, which can make pain worse

  • Boosting mood and energy levels, making it easier to cope with pain

  • Improving sleep to reduce pain levels

Sometimes, being in pain for a long time can make you feel stuck — like you’re going to have pain no matter what, and there’s nothing you can do about it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter what’s involved in your pain, there’s always something you can do to improve it. And that often starts with moving more. Movement — through physical therapy and exercise therapy — can build strength, flexibility, and resilience all over your body, and allow you to do what you love. 

Common Causes of Chronic Pain in Men

Chronic pain can be complex and, in some cases, it’s not clear what the cause is. Here are some common reasons men may experience chronic musculoskeletal pain. 

  • An injury. Acute injuries such as fractures, sprains, and strains resulting from accidents, falls, or sports-related activities are significant contributors to musculoskeletal pain. Most acute injuries heal with proper treatment that involves exercise therapy. But sometimes, pain can linger and become a chronic condition, especially if you don’t rehabilitate after the injury happens. Even an old sports injury from childhood can be a factor in chronic pain later in life.

  • Osteoarthritis. Arthritis develops when the cartilage that cushions your joints wears over time. Changes in cartilage are normal with age, and arthritis commonly affects men as they get older. While many men have no symptoms or pain from arthritis, it can contribute to swelling, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and pain for some. 

  • Overuse and repetitive strain injuries. These injuries occur from repetitive motions or overuse of certain muscles and joints, often seen in sports, manual labor, or repetitive tasks at work.

  • Urological conditions. These can sometimes be related to (MSK) pain in men. The connection can be due to several factors, including anatomical proximity, shared nerve pathways, and conditions that affect both systems. For example, inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) can cause pelvic pain that may radiate to the lower back, hips, and groin. Kidney stones can cause severe pain in the lower back and sides. Testicular disorders can cause pain that radiates to the groin and lower abdomen, potentially overlapping with back or hip pain.

Risk factors that can make you more prone to chronic MSK pain include:

  • Age. More people over the age of 65 report having chronic pain, according to the CDC. Some health problems (such as osteoporosis, metabolic disorders, and heart disease) are more common with age, which can affect your ability to be active and contribute to chronic pain.

  • Stress. Mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, can contribute to pain. Stress and exhaustion can heighten your pain perception. 

  • Obesity. Excess weight puts additional stress on your body and can worsen pain symptoms. 

  • Smoking. It reduces blood flow, which impairs the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles, bones, and joints. This slows healing and can increase pain. Smoking also promotes systemic inflammation which can exacerbate conditions like arthritis and contribute to MSK pain. 

Men’s Health Tips for Chronic Pain 

No matter how long you’ve had musculoskeletal pain, there are many ways you can start to get the relief you want. Here’s what Hinge Health physical therapists recommend.

  1. Go for a walk. Movement increases circulation, and it can be good for your mental health. “Emotional stress can heighten your perception of pain,” says Dr. Rampersaud. “Going for a short walk can help ease or prevent chronic pain.”

  2. Drink more water. When you’re dehydrated, fluids are pulled out of tissues in your body, which can cause or exacerbate body aches and pains. “Staying hydrated can help keep your cartilage supple and joints lubricated,” says Dr. Rampersaud. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. (That means a 200-pound person should try to drink 100 ounces of water daily.)  

  3. Track your food and activity. Tracking your eating and activity patterns, as well as when you have pain flare-ups, can help you identify pain triggers. For example, some foods contribute to inflammation, which makes pain worse. If you find that your pain worsens after eating certain foods, you can adjust your diet to alleviate some pain. Or you may identify activities, like sitting for too long, that aggravate your pain. When you know this, you can make adjustments, like getting up from your desk more often or exercising at different times of the day, to ease pain. “Triggers are different for each person, but keeping a diary or log can help you identify your potential pain triggers,” says Dr. Rampersaud.

  4. Don’t smoke. “Nicotine in cigarettes is a vasoconstrictor, so it makes blood vessels narrower, which impairs circulation,” says Dr. Rampersaud. Poor circulation can heighten pain sensitivity and cause joint stiffness.

  5. Do what you love. Whether your passion is golf, cycling, hiking, or playing basketball with your kids, you don’t have to give up what you love to do just because something hurts — in fact, giving it up could make things worse. Physically, it can lead to weaker and tighter muscles, making MSK issues more painful. “It can also impact your emotional health, which can increase stress and heighten your sense of pain,” says Dr. Rampersaud. “Instead of cutting out a favorite activity altogether, try modifying it.” For example, if you love hiking, find a short walking trail, go for a hike with low elevation gain, or go for a challenging hike but for a shorter time.

  6. Don’t forget to stretch. When it comes to exercise priorities, stretching often ends up toward the bottom of the list, especially for men. “Men tend to care more about building muscle, but if muscles don’t have flexibility and joints don’t have mobility, it can result in pain, hinder movement, or limit your ability to be active,” says Dr. Rampersaud. This can put you at more risk of an injury, and make your workouts less effective. For example, limitations in ankle mobility from tight calves can limit the depth of a weighted squat. Adding stretches to your routine (like those below) could alleviate pain and help make you stronger.

  7. Work on strengthening. “Strengthening muscles can help support your joints,” says Dr. Rampersaud. Strong muscles take pressure off joints and ensure proper functioning to alleviate or prevent pain.

  8. Ask for help. If you’re not getting the pain relief you need on your own, a physical therapist can help. They can tailor a program to your specific needs to reduce pain, improve function, and get you back to doing the things you enjoy.

Exercises for Chronic Pain in Men

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Open Book Rotation
  • Doorway Stretch
  • Cat Cow
  • Wall Squat
  • Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Hamstring Stretch

The above exercises are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists to prevent and manage ongoing MSK pain in men. The primary focus of these exercises is to improve mobility, particularly counteracting long periods of sitting that creates muscle tension and joint stiffness. They also increase flexibility and strength to help relieve neck, shoulder, back, hip, and knee pain.

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

PT Tips: Take a Deep Breath

Finding a relaxation technique that works for you can minimize pain. “Emotional stress can heighten your perception of pain,” says Dr. Rampersaud. “That's why self-care practices like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga play a big role in pain reduction.” If those techniques don’t sound appealing, pick something that works for you — like listening to music, taking a hot shower, taking a walk in nature, or getting a massage — and do it regularly.

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

$0 Cost to you

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Join more than 800K members and over 1,700 companies that trust Hinge Health to get relief.

References 

  1. Mills, S. E. E., Nicolson, K. P., & Smith, B. H. (2019). Chronic pain: a Review of Its Epidemiology and Associated Factors in population-based Studies. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 123(2), e273–e283. doi:10.1016/j.bja.2019.03.023

  2. Overstreet, D. S., Strath, L. J., Jordan, M., Jordan, I. A., Hobson, J. M., Owens, M. A., Williams, A. C., Edwards, R. R., & Meints, S. M. (2023). A Brief Overview: Sex Differences in Prevalent Chronic Musculoskeletal Conditions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(5), 4521. doi:10.3390/ijerph20054521

  3. Zelaya, C., Dahlhamer, J., Lucas, J., & Connor, E. (2020). Key findings Data from the National Health Interview Survey. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db390-H.pdf