Ready for happier and more productive days and a better night’s sleep? Try these pain-specific exercises. Many of us are already turning to natural remedies… And what’s more natural than helping the body heal itself?
Physical therapy has been a valuable tool for managing pain for decades. Unfortunately, it’s costly and time-consuming, and many of us don’t have the resources to pursue it. Luckily, there are several exercises that are effective, and that you can do yourself, in the comfort of your own home or office.
Managing Symptoms With Pain-Specific Exercises
Just like pain, all exercise is not created equal. Some can cause more harm than benefit when dealing with injuries or chronic pain. Others can ease your pain and provide relief. Some forms, such as yoga, can gently stretch your muscles and help build strength. But the following pain-specific exercises can help relieve pain in targeted areas of the body.
As always, you should discuss any new exercise plan with your doctor first. Your physician may recommend that you see a physical therapist for specialized exercises to help control your pain. Always follow your doctor’s advice. When done right, exercising can help you stay fit while coping with pain.
Sciatic Nerve Exercises
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back, branches into two, and runs down each leg all the way to the toes. Sciatica is a painful condition that occurs when this nerve is compressed or irritated. A variety of causes can be responsible for sciatica. Pain from sciatica can be felt anywhere along the route of the sciatic nerve, from the low back, the buttock, the back of the thigh, the calf, the foot or the toes.
Hamstring stretches are good for sciatica no matter what condition is the underlying cause.
- Sit on the edge of a chair, straighten one leg in front of your body with your heel on the floor.
- Sit straight up and try to push your navel towards your thigh without leaning your trunk forward.
The video below will walk you through how to stretch your hamstrings properly.
Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc
Press-ups can be helpful when sciatica is caused by a herniated disc.
- Lie flat on the floor on your stomach.
- Using your elbows for support, push your upper body up while keeping your hips pressed flat on the floor.
Exercise for Sciatica from Spinal Stenosis
Back flexion can help to relieve the pain of sciatica when the root cause is spinal stenosis.
- Lie on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.
- Pull your knees up toward your chest until you can feel the stretch. Use your hands to pull in on your knees and deepen the stretch.
Curl-ups, which are similar to old-fashioned sit-ups, are another pain-specific exercise for sciatica that is caused by spinal stenosis.
- Lie on your back on the floor with your arms folded over your chest.
- Tighten your lower abs while raising your head and shoulders up from the floor.
Exercise for Sciatica from Degenerative Disc Disease
The hook-lying march can help relieve pain from sciatica caused by degenerative disc disease.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides.
- Tighten your abs and raise your right leg a few inches off the floor, followed by your left leg. Continue alternating your legs in a marching pattern.
- For a variation of this exercise, raise the opposite arm when raising each leg.
Bridging is another exercise that helps relieve the pain of sciatica when the condition is caused by degenerative disc disease.
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent.
- Tighten your abs and lift your buttocks up towards the ceiling.
Shoulder Pain Exercises
Often, shoulder pain is the result of an injury. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce pain and promote healing. The arm-across-chest stretch can help increase shoulder mobility as well as reducing pain.
- Hold one arm straight out in front of your body.
- Place your opposite hand behind the elbow of your outstretched arm and gently pull it across your chest.
Shoulder rolls are another great way to ease shoulder pain.
- Stand up straight with good posture and your arms hanging loosely at your sides.
- Raise your shoulders up, back and down, forming a circle.
- Follow up by reversing the circles, rotating your shoulders up, forward and down.
Stretching your neck with neck rolls can also help relieve pain and tension in your shoulders.
- Begin with by holding your head straight.
- Tilt your head to the right, front, left, and back, forming a circle.
- Reverse your circles, tilting your head to the left, front, right, and back.
Exercises for knee pain
Knee pain is one of the most common types of pain. Not surprisingly, knee pain can really slow you down because movements as simple as standing and walking become more difficult. Fortunately, there are multiple pain-specific exercises for your knee that will have you back on your feet in no time.
Kick backs can help ease knee pain by building strength in the hamstrings and increasing mobility in the knee.
- Stand up straight and hold on to something stable to stabilize yourself, such as a wall or a chair.
- Working one leg at a time, bend at the knee and lift your foot up as close to your buttocks as possible.
Long Arcs can relieve knee pain by strengthening the quads and increasing the mobility of the knee.
- Sit in a firm chair with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your foot up from the ground and straighten your knee, extending your leg in front of you.
Knee marching can strengthen the quads without putting undue stress on the knee because there is no weight placed on the knee.
- Sit in a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. If needed, you can hold on to the sides of the chair to stabilize yourself.
- Alternating your legs, lift your feet up from the floor in a marching pattern.
Buttock kicks can strengthen hamstrings and similarly to knee marching, this exercise puts no weight on the knee joint itself.
- Line flat on the floor on your stomach with your legs straight.
- Alternating legs, lift one foot straight up off the ground.
Lower back pain exercises
When you are unable to lie down on the floor to stretch because you are stuck working at your desk, try the seated lower back rotational stretch. It utilizes the same principle and stretches the same muscles, but you don’t have to sprawl out on the office floor in front of your coworkers.
- Sit upright on an armless stool or chair.
- Cross your right leg over your left knee.
- Placing your left elbow on your right knee, twist your torso to the right.
- Repeat on the other side.
The cat stretch is another pain-specific exercise that can help manage lower back pain.
- Position yourself on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Pulling your stomach in, arch your back up towards the ceiling.
- Then, arch in the opposite direction and let your abdomen sag towards the floor.
Carpal Tunnel Stretches and Exercises
As the amount of time we spend typing and texting increases, so has the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of repetitive motion. Stretching and pain-specific exercises can help relieve the discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrist extension stretches can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and increase the flexibility of the wrist.
- Extend one arm in front of you at shoulder height.
- Point your fingers up towards the ceiling, palm facing outwards.
- Using your other hand, gently pull the fingertips of your extended arm back towards your body.
- Repeat on the other side.
Grip strengthening is an exceedingly easy way to ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and strengthen the muscles of the hands.
- Use a soft ball, such as a tennis ball or stress relief ball. If you can’t find a suitable ball, putty can also work for this exercise.
- Holding the ball in the palm of your hand, squeeze the ball with your fingers then release your grip.
As simple as it sounds, another exercise that can help ease carpal tunnel pain is surprisingly, shaking your hands. Hold them in front of you and let them go limp. Then shake your hands like you are trying to dry them after washing your hands.
Start Fighting Pain Today
With pain-specific exercises, you have the power to fight your pain naturally. Living with pain is a daily battle, so you need every weapon you can get your hands on to win the battle. Stretching and pain-specific exercises are tools you can start using today to help manage your pain. Although exercising alone may not be enough to bring your pain under control, it can be a powerful addition to your treatment plan. Always remember to talk to your doctor about any persistent pain you are experiencing and get your physician’s okay before starting any new exercise regimen.
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