Chronic pain is one of the most common complications of sickle cell disease (SCD). Avoiding activities that can trigger a full blown pain “episode” or “crisis” is key to staying healthy and out of the ER, and for some, this includes avoiding exercise. But, it doesn’t have to.
Strenuous exercise, like taking a boot camp class or hiking, reduces oxygen levels in the blood and may cause red blood cells to sickle. The cells become hard and sticky C shapes and as they travel through tiny blood vessels, they can become stuck and painfully clog blood flow. Low – to moderate-impact exercise, on the other hand, can help to increase oxygen, keep blood circulating and flowing smoothly and help to alleviate pain symptoms.