We all know that exercise and fitness are good for you. Exercise keeps our bodies active and healthy. Plus, exercise can help with anxiety and depression and keep us mentally sharp. But did you know that exercise and fitness can also help with different kinds of pain?
Moreover, you don’t need to join a gym, hire a trainer, or purchase expensive equipment. There are many ways to keep fit, and quite a few of them are compatible with your goal of soothing pain. There are plenty of exercises to avoid lower back pain (and other kinds of pain) that you can do right at home. Let’s take a look at some of them, and how they can help you. And then let’s set some exercise and fitness goals.
Exercise and fitness make muscles stronger. Strengthening your muscles makes them better able to support you, and to protect you from injury. Strengthening your core, that is, the muscles of the torso will help to stabilize and align your body. As a result, exercise can help to ease existing back pain and protect against future pain. Here are some other ways strengthening your muscles can help and protect.
- Stronger muscles hold the body in proper alignment and protect the bones and joints while you’re moving. Strengthening your muscles can prevent injury during exercise and fitness activities. Here are some specific exercises from Spine Health to help you protect your back.
- Strengthening your core will protect your spine. It’s important to work your core muscles in an equal and balanced way.
- Strength training increases bone density. This means stronger bones and a lower risk of osteoporosis.
- Most importantly, strong muscles support the body, which can ease the burden on joints and bones, and ease pain.
Some specific strengthening exercise and fitness techniques include:
Pilates is a program of muscle strengthening floor exercises. Many of the exercises focus on the abdominal muscles and the core. The exercises are low impact and are therefore gentle on joints. Also, they can improve flexibility and range of motion. You can read more about Pilates at WebMD. The video below will also give you a taste to see if this exercise and fitness system is for you.
Instead of weight training equipment, bodyweight fitness exercises use the weight of your body for resistance. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to build muscle strength. Many of the exercises, like jumping jacks, squats, and lunges, are familiar. Men’s Fitness has a program of beginning bodyweight exercises you can check out. Nick Haywood’s 10-minute bodyweight workout has some ideas for exercises you can do at home:
Here are some specific exercises for strengthening your muscles in the lower back:
Flexibility Eases Pain
Yoga is scientifically proven to help different kinds of muscle pain. In fact, recent research shows that Yoga is just as effective for back pain as conventional physical therapy. It’s even more effective than wrist splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome. Why? Because Yoga is one school of exercise and fitness that focuses on flexibility. Yoga stretches, lengthens, and relaxes muscles. It also increases the range of motion for your limbs and joints. And this can not only ease existing muscle pain, but can prevent new muscle pain from developing.
There are several different kinds of flexibility exercises for pain, including Yoga. Here are a few of them, and how they can help you.
By relaxing muscles, Yoga eases muscle and tension related pain such as headaches and backaches. It can also help with depression and anxiety. Practitioners of Therapeutic Yoga are certified to work with specific medical problems. The International Association of Yoga Therapists can help you find a Yoga practitioner who can design a program of exercises for your needs.
This video from Giam Can has a beginning Yoga routine for reducing back and neck pain here:
There are specific exercises for pain that you can do at home. Spine Health has a program of stretches to ease back pain, for example. Always remember to go slowly, and don’t do any exercise that makes your pain worse.
Here are some specific exercises from Sundial Clinics to treat and prevent lower back pain.
Different Types of Stretching
Different types of stretching work differently on the body. Static stretching, where you hold the stretch for 30 seconds without moving or bouncing, is gentle and effective. Dynamic stretching moves your limbs through their full range of motion, at increasing speed. It’s a good way to warm up before other kinds of exercise or cool down after a workout. You can read more about different kinds of stretching at Livestrong.
A Few Words of Caution
Flexibility and strength training are integral parts of any exercise and fitness program. But if you have pain or an injury, it’s important not to make it worse. You should always check with a doctor before starting any exercise program. In particular, here are some exercises to avoid.
Exercises to Avoid: Lower Back Pain
If you have back pain, avoid exercises that round the spine. These include: crunches, leg lifts, sit-ups, and toe touches. You should also avoid exercise and fitness types that impact the joints, such as running and jogging. Instead, try swimming or walking. Be aware that ballistic stretching can damage muscles and soft tissue, so stick to static stretches instead.
Exercises to Avoid: Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is very common, and certain exercises can make it worse. If you have shoulder impingement or any other kind of shoulder pain, avoid exercises that bring the muscles of your shoulders closer together. These include:
You can read more about exercise and shoulder impingement in this article from Livestrong.
- Image CC0 by Tumisu, via Pixabay.
Setting Fitness Goals
Setting fitness goals is great, but like any goal, they’re no good if you don’t follow through. You have probably heard of the S.M.A.R.T. philosophy for goal setting. It started out as a management training technique, but it works great for setting fitness goals as well.
S is for Specific
Make your goals something specific. Instead of saying, “I want to get fit,” try “I want to be able to run three miles in thirty minutes.”
M is for Measurable
Make your goals something you can measure. Instead of saying “I will exercise,” for example, set a goal to exercise for half an hour, three days a week.
A is for Achievable
A common mistake with exercise and fitness goals is setting the bar too high. This increases the chances of failure. It also increases the danger of injury. Set a goal that stretches you, but that you know you can achieve.
R is for Relevant
Don’t do something just because other people are doing it. Set a goal that means something to you. If your fitness goals are important to you, it will motivate you to keep going.
T is for Time-Bound
If you set a deadline for your fitness goals, then you can evaluate if you’ve achieved them. Instead of setting a fitness goal like “to work out more,” try “I want to be able to walk 5K by the end of the month.”
Exercise and fitness are an important part of pain management. They can help prevent future pain and injury. So what are you waiting for? Touch base with your doctor, and get started today!