Pain Relief Exercises to Keep in Your Back Pocket
Do you ever find yourself waking up with aches or pains and wishing your pain would go away? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2016 they found that 1 in 5 people deal with chronic pain. You are not alone! Sometimes we learn to live with the pain and brush it off as normal aging aches and pains, or we convince ourselves we just went a little too hard working out. Either way, you should not have to deal with pain. To avoid pain, it is essential to learn how to incorporate a simple self-care daily routine to prevent pain from ever creeping back into your life!
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not quite right. Imagine you were driving your car when suddenly, your gaslight comes on. Naturally, your first thought is to find the nearest gas station. Even if you have to take a slight detour, you do what it takes to make sure you can refuel your car. But what if you decided to ignore the gaslight warning? You would eventually run entirely out of gas with a huge set back to your trip that could have been completely avoided. Now let me use this scenario to compare it to pain we experience in our body. Imagine your body is the car, you are the driver, and pain is the gaslight warning telling you that something is wrong with your body. It seems like a simple decision to get gas for our car when it’s running on empty, so why would it be any different from listening to your body when you are in pain? I am not talking about the type of muscle soreness after a tough workout that goes away in a day or two; you know when your body is in real pain and even if you aren’t sure there are medical professionals out there who can help!
The first step to a pain-free life is being aware of your body and admitting when something is not quite right. And even if you aren’t currently experiencing pain, it is even more pertinent that you understand how you can prevent injury from happening in the future. Not sure where to start? Below I have listed a few simple physical therapy exercises plus self-care tips that can get you on track to being the best version of yourself!
Lower Back Pain Relief or Injury Prevention Exercises
- Bird Dogs Exercise
- Instructions: Lay with your stomach on an exercise ball, supporting your core (equipment not required –you can perform this with both hands and knees in a quadruped position on the ground). Then, lift the opposite arm with the opposite leg while switching sides every other repetition (see pictures below).
- Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 each leg
- Standing Hip Abduction and Extension
- Instructions: Start in a standing position, hands resting on a stable surface to help with balance, such as a sturdy chair, back of a couch, or a railing, and start by lifting one leg out to the side, then repeat on the other leg. Next, you will perform hip extension leg swings, which means you will swing your leg behind you instead of out to the side (see pictures below for both exercises).
- Note: Make sure you are standing upright the entire time and keep your core engaged to prevent upper body movement.
- Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 for each leg
Shoulder Pain Relief or Injury Prevention Exercises
- Standing “T’s and V’s” – Front and Side Arm Raises
- Instructions: Using light weights (1lb-5lb) or no weights at all, get in a standing position with one foot slightly in front of the other. Having your feet in a staggered stance will increase your base of support and activate your core throughout the exercise. Once in position, you will be performing front arm raises (V’s), and sidearm raises (T’s), as shown in the pictures below.
- Repetitions: 3 sets of 10
- External Rotation with Band
- Instructions: Using a resistance band (not required for this exercise, you can always use no equipment if preferred); standing up straight with your shoulders slightly retracted, you will perform an external rotation movement, as shown in the pictures below.
- Repetitions: 3 sets of 10
3 General Self-Care Tips
- Dedicate a certain amount of time each day just for yourself and hold find a way to stay accountable. I like to use a calendar to write out what I want to accomplish every day to make sure I stay on track! Whether I want to focus on physical exercise, hobbies that bring me joy, or practicing mindfulness, it helps to set obtainable goals each day.
- Make exercising, stretching, or staying active apart of your routine! This where a physical therapist could help create a personalized home exercise program for you to do on a weekly basis that will rehabilitate an injury, keep your body healthy, and prevent any future reinjury.
- It is OKAY to take a rest day! Life can get in the way for everyone sometimes. Listen to your body, and if you are exhausted take a break and give your body the rest and recovery that it needs.
3 Commonly Asked Questions
- What is the difference between good and bad pain?
- Good Pain: this type of pain is what you might refer to as muscle soreness. After a tough workout or strenuous exercise, you might experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is your body’s normal response to exercise and will go away after a few days. This pain does not linger around and will not prevent you from going about your daily activities.
- Bad Pain: This type of pain can often be linked to a certain incident, movement, exercise that you remember immediately causing pain in a specific area. This type of pain will last longer than normal delayed onset muscle soreness, and it will often prevent you from performing your daily activities. This is when you want to seek help from a physical therapist or a medical professional.
- How could physical therapy benefit me?
- Physical therapy is more than just a rehabilitation center for someone who is injured, needs post-operative care, or referred by their physician. It is for anyone who has acute or chronic pain, who wants preventative help to avoid injury or re-injury, or for anyone who is struggling with their daily activities. And the list goes on!
- My day is already jam packed. How will I have time to work these physical therapy exercises into my daily routine?
- Although life can often get in the way of your daily routine and it might seem like you do not have an extra second in the day to do physical therapy exercises, your body needs and deserves self-care. I will bring you back to my car analogy that is running low on gas, your body needs to refuel, and if you keep ignoring your body it will come back with a vengeance down the road! When you go see a physical therapist, they want to give you a home exercise program that will work with your schedule. I can guarantee no matter how busy your day is, you can dedicate at least 10 minutes, 2-3x a day, towards self-care! In the grand scheme of things, that is not much time, and your body will thank you for it!
Looking for more mobility or rehabilitation exercises? Check out the Train Centric App for more effective, simple, and free exercise routines!
DISCLAIMER: As always, if you are in severe pain, I urge you to see a medical professional like a physical therapist or your primary care physician before completing any physical activity. They will be able to help diagnose the source of your pain as well as give you a personalized home exercise program that will be best for your injury.