What defines a condition as being chronic?
Chronic conditions can be defined as diseases which effect human health, are long lasting in nature and persists for longer than three months. These are typically not curable, although in some cases may go into remission. It is, however, important to remember that there are multiple diseases which fall under the umbrella term “chronic disease”. Each has its own variation in the length of time the disease must be present for it to be considered chronic. Furthermore, the term ‘chronic condition’ does not only refer to diseases, but can also include long-standing functional disabilities, such as developmental disorders and visual impairment.
What causes chronic conditions?
It is important to understand that while some chronic conditions are preventable, others are not. Autoimmune disorders, for example, are some of those over which we have no control. Conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis are examples of autoimmune diseases in which the body mistakenly attacks and damages its own healthy tissues.
Other chronic conditions however are preventable and are linked to lifestyle choices that are within our control. Poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet and a lack of physical activity are risk factors which contribute in the development and progression of preventable chronic disease. Examples of preventable, yet common, chronic conditions include Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer.
What are the symptoms of chronic conditions?
If only it were that simple. The symptoms of chronic conditions vary from one condition to the next. However, many people may experience some or all of the following symptoms which are common to most chronic conditions: extreme fatigue, pain, headaches, nausea, dizziness or blurred, forgetful memory. Symptoms for chronic conditions often come and go spontaneously, making it difficult to plan activities ahead of time.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms and in many cases, it is often severe or debilitating. Simple activities of daily living can often be enough to exhaust someone suffering from a chronic condition. Pain is another common symptom, including headaches, joint and muscle pain, back ache or neck ache.
Exercise as medicine
Physical activity and physical fitness are powerful in their ability to both lengthen and enhance quality of life. Research has shown that there is no body tissue or system that does not benefit from regular physical activity. There are very few chronic conditions in which the burden of the condition or the co-morbidities related to the condition are not made better through being physically active. Exercise prescription can be seen as a form of disease prevention alongside medication. Exercise can be helpful in slowing down the rate of both cognitive and functional decline. Thus, exercise can function similarly to medicine and allows for a broader spectrum of application than any single medication.
See for example our blog post that follows the story of Petal Wainwright and how aquatherapy has assisted with her daily existence with Ankylosing Spondylitis .
Fighting Disuse Syndrome together
The Downward Spiral of Chronic Disease, or Disuse Syndrome, explains how individuals diagnosed with chronic diseases often become vulnerable to becoming sedentary. Due to their condition, they often feel breathless or fatigued with small amounts of moderate activity. This in turn leads to inactivity, resulting in the individual becoming deconditioned, reducing their exercise capacity, leading to further deterioration.
At Fish & Field Biokinetics we care about our patients, encouraging activity and movement to ensure they don’t fall into this downward spiral.
Bernell, S., & Howard, S. W. (2016). Use Your Words Carefully: What Is a Chronic Disease?. Frontiers in public health, 4, 159. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00159
Moore, G. E., Durstine, J. L., & Painter, P. L. (2016). ACSM’S Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases and Disbailities(4th ed.). United States of America: American Collage of Sports Medicine. Golubic, M. (2013, January 14). Lifestyle Choices: Root Causes of Chronic Diseases.
Stenehjem, A. (2018, March 23). 12 Important Things You Should Know About Chronic Illness. Retrieved from https://masteringhealthhappiness.com/2017/01/12/important-things-you-should-know-about-chronic-illness/
Wahlberg, D., & Wisconsin State Journal. (2013, January 07). Health Sense: Not all chronic diseases are preventable. Retrieved from https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/health_med_fit/health-sense/health-sense-not-all-chronic-diseases-are-preventable/article_f764d18c-54ee-11e2-946a-001a4bcf887a.html