Do you suffer from low back pain, knee pain, or shoulder/neck pain? Have you searched on-line for the “best exercises” to deal with your issue only to find that they don’t help you at all? Or, they actually made your problem worse.
Maybe you have seen another Physical Therapist who gave you exercises that only seemed to make your pain worse. And, you are wondering – Are those exercises bad for me?
Let’s clear this up right from the start – there are no bad exercises. Exercise, just like everything else, is complicated. And trying to label an exercise as “good” or “bad” is too simplified.
What is true is that some exercises may be bad for you RIGHT NOW.
If you have low back pain should you do tons of crunches to strengthen your core? Stronger core muscles are shown to decrease low back pain overall. However, crunches may not be your best choice as they increase lumbar flexion (think bending forward). This motion may increase your low back pain right now. Which would mean that crunches are not the best exercise for you to strengthen your core right now. Your body might require a different exercise to strengthen your core AND put your back in a position to heal.
If your knee is swollen and limited in motion should you try to stretch your quads to improve your knee motion? Probably not at this time. Stretching your quads may actually increase pressure on your knees which may actually increase your swelling. This will lead to a DECREASE in motion – which is the opposite of what you are looking for. If your knee is swollen you probably need to limit the motion for now until the swelling decreases.
You see, there is no such thing as a good or bad exercise. It is simply looking at what your body is doing right now and finding the best way to get it moving optimally.
The truth is that your body is designed to heal itself naturally. This is why our #1 Core Value is “Movement Is Life”. If your body is able to move correctly then it is able to heal completely.
So, what can keep your body from moving normally?
Your joints are sticky or just plain stuck.
If your joints are not moving correctly then the other surrounding tissues are not able to move as they are designed to. How do you know if your joints are stuck? A simple trick: If you try to move the joint normally and you feel like you get to a point where “it just doesn’t move any more”. You may know that point.
You may be trying to turn and look over your shoulder to back out of a parking spot and you can’t see all the way behind you. So, you have to turn your trunk so you can actually see behind you to pull out. This can be caused by the joints not moving correctly and limiting your rotation.
Your ligaments don’t have the usual stretch – or they move too much!
In general, ligaments help support the joint and guide the joints to move correctly. When the ligaments are too tight they can cause compression of the joint which leads to ouchy pain when you are trying to move it. This happens because the ligaments are putting too much tension on the joint itself.
The opposite can also be true – and is more often the case. The ligaments gets loose and the joint can get “sloppy”. This causes the joints to move too much which causes pain and inflammation when you are trying to move. We often see this in the knee joint when the ligaments get stretched out and don’t control how much the knee joint is moving. Which leads to pain with walking, running, or jumping. Well, it actually leads to pain with walking which keeps you from running of jumping!
Your muscles just aren’t cooperating.
So, what happens when the joints and ligaments don’t move correctly? The muscles aren’t able to contract and relax properly so they become dysfunctional. You see, muscles are dumb. They can only contract and relax. When you have pain, the muscles do the one thing they are able to do. They contract! They will continue to remain contracted for as long as you have pain.
Which means that you end up with super tight muscles that won’t stretch or relax normally. Over time this builds up and becomes impossible to break through on your own. The muscles simply won’t respond to any form of stretching, foam rolling, or massager. I mean, these things may help you feel better in the short term but the results just don’t last.
Your entire body feels like it doesn’t move right.
Often we see people here at PT4EB who feel like an entire section of their body is not moving correctly. What started out as pain in one joint has spread to take over an entire quarter or half of their body. You may feel like you just can’t move the way you used to.
This is often caused by fascia which is the saran wrap of the body. Fascia lies underneath the skin and also wraps around all the muscles. So, when the muscles get tight then the fascia gets tight and is not able to move correctly. This leads to increased force through the joints as well. And, we are back at the beginning.
So, you see, we don’t believe that there is anything such as a “bad exercise”. However, we do believe that there are exercises that are not good for you – at this time!
If this resonates with you and you find yourself asking “Are the exercises I am doing right now the best ones for my body?” then we encourage you to reach out and sign up for a Free Discovery Visit. At this completely free, no obligation appointment we will listen to your story and hear what you have tried up to this point. We will also discuss your current exercise program and any modifications that may be needed for your body right now.
Or, if you are ready to find the optimal exercises that work for your body then we encourage you to head straight to an Initial Evaluation. This is designed for people who know they need help and are eager to get started. You may feel like you have dealt with this situation long enough and are ready to find the true answers that work for YOU. Not a handout of generic exercises that are given to everyone with your problem.
Either way, we look forward to helping you move normally and find the exercises that work best for your body!