If you suffer from muscle or joint pain some movement is medicine

Pain doesn’t care what kind of day you’re having, whether you’re rich or poor, male, or female. Pain always strikes at the worst time because there is never a good time for pain.

Much like getting a flat tire on the side of a busy highway, it sucks, and it ruins your day, your week, your month or even your year.

Okay, that’s a little overboard but I couldn’t resist. Let me get back on track.

Unfortunately, this is a subject I’m all too familiar with. 7 years ago, I herniated 3 disks in my lower back and ever since then my back periodically goes out with a bang. There’s never any warning and when it goes, it’s knocks me around for a few weeks at a time

It’s frustrating because it limits everything I do. Which includes lifting weights. What were you thinking? Get your mind out of the gutter and leave some room for me. 😊

A painful lower back makes most things difficult. Some other non-serious injuries you can work around but when your lower back is out, even little tasks are painful and sucky.

It’s no fun and it’s made me somewhat of an expert of exercising while in pain.

Some General Advice About Exercising While In Pain

Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program

Start slow and gradually increase your intensity as you gain confidence

Move at your own pace and don’t try keep up with others

Move daily, if possible.

Accept that you will be able to do more on some days than others.

Be patient with your progress. Overexertion makes pain worse and can strain muscles.

Benefits Of Exercising With Pain

Resting for short periods can help with your pain but too much rest can make it worse and put you at greater risk. Regular exercise can help ease pain by improving your muscle tone, strength, and flexibility. (1)

Exercise may also cause the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

Because regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions (and healing bloody supply to achy muscles and joints), particularly the hippocampus through better blood supply that improves overall health by improving the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients. (2)

However, I feel the greatest benefit is confidence. When you’re in pain you may lack the confidence to move your body but when you find movements that don’t hurt, it restores a little faith in yourself.

Exercises For Pain

Note- These are general exercises and are not based on any rehab or Physical Therapy protocol.  These are experience based and are for muscle or joint pain only

I understand some of the movements here are going to cause some people pain. The trick is to find pain-free ways to move when your body is screaming at you to stop. Trust me when I tell you I know what that feels like.

Please choose your movements wisely as you know what hurts and what doesn’t.

1. Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercises are muscle contractions without movement. These exercises help to strengthen the muscles around a painful join without having to move a lot. Plus, Isometric knee exercises (if knee pain your thing) help give short-term pain relief to your beat-up knee also. (3)

The following exercises work on the quads, hips, shoulder, and core which are all important for better health and well-being.  Try holding these exercises for 30 seconds at the start and the work into the 1-1.30 minutes range.

Note- Some videos are hyperlinked.

Wall Squats

Isometric Hip Extensions

Isometric Towel Row (stick to 30 seconds)

Chin Up Hold

Split Squat

When my back, knees and shoulders hurt, these are my go-to exercises.

2. Breathing Exercises

Taking in a slow deep breath and exhaling slowly has an immediate calming effect, helping reduce your stress level and your pain. The deep belly breathing will oxygenate your blood which in turn releases endorphins, while also decreasing the release of stress hormones.

This is a win-win when you’re in pain

These two exercises below which have helped me during times of pain.

A. Static back

Lie on your back, with both legs bent at right angles with your feet resting on a chair or couch. Rest your arms at shoulder level and let your low back settle into the floor.

Breathe in through your nose and exhale of your mouth, letting your stomach rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Do this for five to ten minutes only focusing on your breath.

B. Crocodile Breathing

Lie face down on a mat with your hands resting on your forehead. Take in a deep breath through the nose and feel your belly rise off the ground. Hold for a second and then push all the air out of your lungs. Do 6-10 breaths.

3. Floor Exercises

Exercising on the floor lessens the threats (real or perceived) to your nervous system because you’ve got the stability of being on the ground whether you’re on your back (supine) or on your hands and knees (prone). 

What does this mean to you?

Less threats your nervous system senses means less pain for you. This is why exercising on the floor is great when you’re suffering from muscle or joint pain.

Here’s an example of a floor exercise routine you can do to maintain your sanity and increase confidence in your body while you’re in pain.

1A.  Egg Rolls – 6 reps each side

1B.  Deadbug -6 reps each side

1C. Isometric Hip Extensions 30-60 seconds

1D.  Six Point Rocking 15 reps

1E. Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – 60 seconds on each side

Wrapping Up

Don’t let pain be your master and don’t lose confidence in your ability to move while in pain. Equal parts rest, relaxation and selected movements will help keep your head on straight while you’re suffering.

Painkillers isn’t the only medicine your body needs. It needs movement too.

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