Physical Therapists’ Advice to Manage Pain at Home from Physical Therapists’ Advice to Manage Pain at Home

Physical Therapists’ Advice to Manage Pain at Home

The general conception is that people with back pain should rest. This, however, is counterproductive. “If you can move, you should,” Michelle Friedman, lead physical therapist and owner at Atlantic Physical Therapy, says. Back and knee pain are the two most common chronic conditions with which people seek help, Nathan Koch, physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at Endurance Rehab says. Managing chronic pain is about strength, flexibility and learning how to move properly, he adds. Poor movement patterns must be corrected; otherwise the pain will not go away.

Stay active

Thinkstock

The simple truth is that the less you move, the more agony you’ll be in, Koch says. “The less joints move, the more painful they are.” No activity is recommended in rare cases such as neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis when patients get fatigued. Even if you have a fracture, it’s good to use your upper body to heal faster, he adds. You’re improving blood flow and also trigger endorphin release, he adds.

Progressive workouts

Shutterstock

Strengthening is No. 1 for managing chronic pain, Koch says, and progress loading is No. 2. You start with simply learning how to properly get up from a chair and squatting in order to do basic daily activities, such as putting your socks on. Only then should you move on to more complex moves such as lunges. 

Warm up first

Shutterstock

Exercise not only helps prevent pain, but it also aids in relieving it. Don’t take a painkiller if you feel discomfort. Warm up first, Koch says, by doing some light cardio or stretches. Then try passive rehab such as a hot patch or active rehab such as spinning on an exercise bike. “Ice packs don’t do a lot for chronic pain,” he adds. Cold therapy is used to reduce inflammation after exercise.

Don’t do the same routine

Shutterstock

You should not do the same routine for more than 4-6 weeks, Koch says. Switch it up and make it progressive, he adds. Too much of the same thing ends up being too little of a workout.

Side-lying hip abduction

Shutterstock

This is a good exercise to target the hips and thighs, Friedman says. This is especially important for people who sit too much because these muscles remain inactive. Lay on your side with the hip you want to strengthen on top. Keep  your hips straight up towards the ceiling.

Engage the glutes

Shutterstock

Stronger glutes mean less pain in the knees, Koch says. Strong hip muscles, the exercises for which engage the glutes, take stress off the knees. The function of the gluteus maximus is to extend and externally rotate the hip. Because it’s connected to the tibia, it helps maintaining the knee in extension.

Squats

Shutterstock

The most obvious benefit of squats is building your leg muscles – quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These drills also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building, improving muscle mass. The squats also activate you glutes and back muscles.

Lunges

Shutterstock

Lunges are the go-to exercise for the legs. When done right, they can be very effective. Hold weights as you move. You can hold a rubber band over your head and pull it apart. This added balance component activates the shoulder muscles, Odorisio says, giving you a nice line between the thighs and the shoulders.

Biking

Shutterstock

This is one of Koch’s favorite cardio exercises that are also great from managing knee pain. “As long as the bike fits properly and the height of the seat is correct,” he adds. This is low-impact on the knees and it strengthens the muscles. Exercises with reduced impact or no quick direction changes are a good choice for bad knees.

Hamstring stretch

Shutterstock

There are many ways to do this stretch but you should start with the version on your back. Straighten one leg upwards using a towel, Friedman says. This move targets the muscle fibers nearer to the knee. Hamstring flexibility is key for the health of your back, hips, and knees. They are all connected.

Knee-to-chest exercise

Thinkstock

This “hugging chest” exercise is a great stretch that works the glutes, the hamstring and lower back. Lay on your back, bend your knees. Bring one knee to the chest and keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Hold for at least 10 seconds, Friedman says, and repeat 10 more times. Straighten one leg flat to the floor to get a better stretch.

Lower trunk rotation

This is one of the best moves for the back, Friedman says. Lay on your back, bend your knees and drop them to the side. This way you are working on increasing flexibility in your lumbar spine and hips. This will help with greater mobility and rotation in the spine, Friedman says.

Hip flexor stretch

Shutterstock

It’s important to deal with tight hip flexors. These muscles allow the knee to pull up. This is a very common problem among people who sit for prolonged periods of time. Try the pigeon stretch. Bring the heel of your front leg to the pants pocket on your other leg. This will align your hips and allow you to drive them into the floor, accentuating the stretch.

Wall slides

This is one of Friedman’s favorite exercises because it works the quads, hips and glutes all at the same time. It helps undo the damage caused by slouching forward all day. Stand with your back against wall. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Slide down into a squat position with your knees bent 90 degrees.

Bridges

Shutterstock

This is a good exercise for your back. Bridges are excellent for building and maintaining core strength. PTs use it for maintaining strength for the purpose of avoiding back strains. The Yoga bridge pose, in particular, is an excellent way to stretch the front of your hips and open your chest.

Don’t count on a treadmill

Thinkstock

Koch says he is not a fan of the treadmill for treating knee pain. “When your foot lands, the treadmill moves back and a force moves you back,” he adds. “That force is not normal when you normally walk and puts more stress on the knee and back.”

Child’s pose

Shutterstock

This Yoga pose is great for stretching your back and flexing the spine, Koch says. Kneel on the floor. Breathe out and lay your torso down between your thighs. Extend your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs, according to the Yoga Journal. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up. Stay like that for at least 30 seconds.

Cobra pose

Shutterstock

The Cobra pose is great for strengthening your back muscles, Koch says. Lay on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Bring your legs together and press the tops of your feet into the ground. Inhale and lift your chest up. Gaze straight ahead to keep your neck long. Pull your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your elbows close into your ribcage. Hold for 6-8 breaths.

Book openers

The move resembles turning a page, hence the name. Lay on your side with your head on a pillow, and bend your knees and hips at 90 degrees, Koch says. Don't let the waist sink to the ground as you rotate, reach and stretch.

Swimming

Shutterstock

Physical therapists recommend swimming because it’s a low-impact, non-weight bearing, whole body sport. Many muscles are involved.  Particularly among seniors, swimming is a good choice for exercise with arthritic joints because it takes gravity out of the equation. It directly engages and strengthens the muscles of the upper back and neck.  

Physical Therapists’ Advice to Manage Pain at Home