Unlike most injuries, muscle injuries require a two-pronged approach: healing and strengthening. Building strength is key to healing and to preventing future injuries. You want to be sure that you take it easy, but still challenge yourself.
Strengthening the Ailing Muscle with Exercise
When it comes to muscle strength in any part of the body, it really is a use it or lose it situation. You have to exercise to see any gains. Strengthening muscles can also ease pain and increase function. Here are 14 exercises that will build strength in specific muscles that have been weakened by underuse, injury, or an underlying disease process.
How to Strengthen Neck Muscles
Neck muscles can become weak because we tend to spend so much time staring down at our computers. These five easy exercises will help you with strengthening the ailing muscle in your neck. Stronger neck muscles also protect the spine and the spinal cord. These exercises will help to relieve pain and prevent injury.
Five exercises for neck muscles
- Machine flexion – Tuck your chin to your chest.
- Extension – Lift your chin away from your chest.
- Lateral flexion – Tilt your head side to side, putting your ear to your shoulder.
- Rotation – Turn your head to look to the right and left.
- Protraction and retraction – Explained in the video below.
Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles
Back pain is one of the most common health problems plaguing Americans today. Weak back muscles lead to back pain. Fortunately, there are many types of exercises for strengthening the ailing muscle of the back.
- Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles of the back and abdomen, which eases back pain.
- Yoga can relieve back pain by strengthening back muscles and increasing flexibility.
- Tai chi uses gentle flowing movements to build strength and flexibility throughout the body, including the back.
- Weight lifting and training help build up strength in the back muscles to prevent injury and reduce pain.
Severe back pain may require an individualized exercise program developed by a licensed physical therapist. An example of programs used in physical therapy for back pain is the McKenzie Method, which uses exercises designed to alleviate back pain caused by dysfunction of spinal discs. Conditions like degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc can be treated with this method. The goal of the McKenzie Method is to remove pressure from nerve roots, facet joints, and spinal discs by strengthening muscles of the back, thus reducing pain.
The video below features several easy exercises for strengthening the ailing muscle to relieve pain in your back.
How to Strengthen Pelvic Muscles
It is surprisingly simple to strengthen your pelvic muscles. Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder and help treat incontinence. Many women are familiar with pelvic floor exercises, especially if they have given birth. However, men can benefit from pelvic floor exercises too. Pelvic floor exercise, known as Kegels, are so easy that you can literally do them anywhere. (Seriously, consider doing them every time you sit at a red light in traffic.)
To begin exercising your pelvic floor muscles, you first have to find them. Try stopping the flow of your urine midstream. The muscles you tighten to accomplish this are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Sit comfortably either in a chair, on the floor, or on your bed.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
- Repeat 10-15 times in a row.
- As you build up strength, try holding your pelvic floor muscles tight for a few seconds before releasing them.
- Add more sets as you go, but be careful not to overdo it. You can strain your pelvic floor muscles just like any other muscle in your body.
Strengthening Leg Muscles
Strong leg muscles are essential for stability, which becomes more and more important as we get older. Strengthening the ailing muscle in your leg has many important benefits, as Chhanda Dutta, a scientist with the National Institute on Aging who studies how exercise affects older people, explains.
“Data suggest that we have strength losses in our lower extremities that are greater than in our upper extremities,” says Dutta. “From a functional standpoint, it’s important that anyone who does resistance training incorporate a variety of muscle groups, but especially in the lower extremities because leg and ankle strength are so important for balance and the prevention of falls.”
The video below will show you a variety of exercises to increase muscle strength in weak legs, including squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
Exercises for Knee Pain
Knee pain is a common complaint among Americans. Fortunately, exercises for strengthening the ailing muscle of the knee reduce pain and increase function in the joint. Here are four exercises that will help you build strength in your knee and ease your pain.
- Stationary bike – Riding a stationary bike is a great way to build strength in the knee without overstressing the joint.
- Calf raises – Stand with your legs together, then raise up on your toes and slowly lower yourself back down.
- Leg raises – Lie on your back. Place one foot flat on the floor with your knee bent. Hold the other leg out straight and raise it in the air. This can also be done in the prone position by lying on your stomach with your legs straight and raising one leg into the air behind you.
- Hamstring curls – Lie flat on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend one leg and try to reach your butt with the heel of your foot.
When trying to relieve knee pain, it is also important to remember to stretch the leg muscles. Before exercising your knee, take time to stretch your hamstrings, calves, quads, and hip flexors. Don’t forget to stretch the glutes as well.
Strengthening the Ailing Muscle is Possible
If you are experiencing pain, strengthening the ailing muscle can help. These exercises will get you on the path to less pain and better function. Remember to always see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis of your pain and follow any medical advice you are given during your visit. If your pain is chronic or severe, a physical therapist may be able to give you a personalized exercise plan to help your body heal and gain strength.
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