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Ouch! Avoiding the Aches and Pains

Ways to Save Your Body
  -- By Joe Downie, Certified Physical Fitness Instructor
Exercise beginners usually try to make up for lost time by going all out their first week. The result? Injury or intense soreness. Pain does not necessarily mean gain.

Many injuries occur at joints, where bones meet and provide motion. An enormous amount of stress and constant pressure are put on your joints, even from everyday activities, especially if you have added weight. Just as you wouldn’t expect your house to handle the wear and tear without strong beams, your body won’t handle the stress without stronger muscles. Lower back pain, hip pain, shin splints, shoulder injuries, knee pain, tight calves – all can be avoided with a warm-up and proper stretching, along with a little strength exercising.

The three areas most commonly plagued with pain are the lower back, knees and shoulders. Here’s how you can alleviate each with just a little strength training and stretching:

The Lower Back
We usually think of sitting as a relaxing experience, but the lower back feels like the ceiling is coming down with all the pressure being put on it. Lower back pain is often caused by muscular imbalance. The pursuit of a flat stomach can leave you with much stronger abdominals compared to lower back. In actuality, crunches, sit-ups and all of those abdominal exercises don’t burn very many calories.

Exercises that will help strengthen the lower back:
Start out doing 1-2 exercises for 10-15 reps, two times a week.

Tight hips can also cause back pain. Runners often times feel pain in their lower back from the tightening of their hips caused during a running motion.

Knees
Knee pain is usually the result of poor muscle strength in and around the knee. The hips, quadriceps (thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh) and calves help absorb pressure and relieve a lot of the pain and tension on the knee.

Simple body weight exercises will help improve strength in all areas of your lower body and increase your range of motion, including:
Start out doing 1-2 exercises for 10-15 reps, two times a week.<pagebreak>

Just as tight hips can cause pain in your lower back, tight hamstrings can cause pain in your knees. A proper cool down and stretch following your workout will also help increase your flexibility and prevent stiffness. See our Fitness Resource Center for ideas.

Shoulders
Shoulders can be a problem for many people, especially those who do a lot of overhead lifting. Check out the article on strengthening the shoulder.

Our bodies are very complex, but we actually have a lot of power to take care of the nagging aches and pains that can affect us. Take the time to incorporate these exercises into your fitness routine to help you lead a happier and healthier life.