Engaging in physical activity is the best thing to do for pain management. And what better time was there to be active than last week! Those four record days of winter warmth were a godsend. Muscle strengthening and stretching are a physical activity that you can use to combat your pain, but when considering which exercises to do, remember this rule: The pain you feel “there” probably comes from elsewhere. Let us explain with three quick examples.
Knee pain can stop many people from engaging in the activities they like to do. When considering which muscles to strengthen, don’t stop at the quadriceps.
Instead, stretch and strengthen with balance in mind. Since the quadriceps muscles are already well developed, the hamstrings should be strengthened to balance the force placed on the knee by the quads. This advice is particularly useful for runners since knee pain is the main reason runners stop running.
Imbalance is again the culprit with hip pain, but not because of an imbalance of action. Indeed, most people have hip pain because of weakened hip extensors that they don’t exercise. Translation: All of the sitting we do leads to overstretched, weakened butts. Then, the body compensates for that weakness as we walk or run, and that’s why the pain eventually occurs.
The hamstrings along with gluteal muscles also serve as hip extensors. Thus, exercises and stretches of both muscle groups may help with hip pain.
The first two examples may be no-brainers, but what about back pain? When walking, the back is like a ninja compared with other body parts: It flexes, extends and rotates, and during a five-mile run, it could rotate thousands of times. If there is stiffness at, say, level 1 of the spine, those thousands of rotations strain the back that many times!
Yet, if you’re having back pain find yourself using heating pads and such, the cause of your pain may be … your hips! Remember the weakened hip extensors and how the body compensates when the muscles are not pulling their weight? That compensation can be felt in the back.
As always, ask your doctor: she/he can help you rule out more serious causes of your pain and advise you on which exercises are right for you.
And of course, see a physical therapist if you find that your exercises and pain relievers are no longer working for you. (The longer you wait, the deeper the body sets into its pain pattern.) We can:
- Find the cause of your pain and relieve it with special methods such as electrostimulation
- Restore range of motion that the body has limited to protect itself
- Come up with custom strengthening exercises that prevent further injury in ways generalized advice cannot
While we can’t control the weather, we can control ourselves. Everybody keep moving!