Stretching exercises to relieve your pain

Stretching exercises to relieve your pain
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Don’t let aches and stiffness hold you back - try these simple stretching exercises and relieve your pain for good. Health writer Karen Evennett has found some easy ways to tackle painful niggles.

Whether it’s tense shoulders, twinges in your lower back or groaning knees, pain is often our body’s way of letting us know we need to take better care of ourselves. Keeping our bodies strong, flexible and mobile is essential to staying young, independent and pain free.

“If you’re spend too much time sitting at a desk or slumping on the sofa, you may have the kind of lifestyle that means you’ll have to work extra hard at maintaining your youthful bendiness,” says top physiotherapist Sammy Margo.
 

Back pain

Why it happens:
/The culprit is an inactive lifestyle. It encourages a C-shaped posture and weakens the muscles that support your spine. 

Prevent it:
Keeping active – little and often throughout the day – will help. Stick to a healthy weight too – excess lbs put even more pressure on your back. Be mindful of anything you do regularly that causes twinges – such as lifting shopping or gardening.

Ease the pain:
If you find yourself feeling sore after doing too much, ease out pain by lying on your back with your knees to your chest for about 30 secs. Repeat, but, as with all the exercises here, you must stop if it causes any new pain. Ibuprofen is also good for relieving the pain of a sore back, as long as your pharmacist confirms it won’t react with other medicines you’re taking or any conditions you have.

Stiff hips

Why it happens:
Blame that sedentary lifestyle again! Sitting all day stops your hip flexors from getting the full range of movement they deserve – and that makes them stiff and sore.

Prevent it:
Get out and walk – ideally taking big strides to stretch the tight muscles at the front of your hips. Swimming breaststroke will help too, by rotating and opening the hips.

Ease the pain:
Lie on your back, knees to your chest, then gently rotate them, drawing imaginary circles in the air. Also, try Healthspan’s Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplement (£10.95/30 caps, 0800 73 123 77) which may help prevent hip pain. For acute pain, try Deep Heat Rub (£4.60).

Painful shoulders

Why it happens:
Driving or sitting too much can cause pinched shoulders by making them short and tight at the front and long and weak at the back.

Prevent it:
Try this old-fashioned deportment exercise: stand with your back and shoulders flat against a wall for 30 secs – then try to maintain that posture for the rest of the day.

Ease the pain:
Loosen up with these two easy stretches: roll your shoulders backwards, then interlink your fingers behind your back and stretch your arms behind you.

Painful knees

Why it happens:
Caused by wear and tear – and being overweight.

Prevent it:
Lose weight and keep active. Cycling is particularly good for your knees, as is swimming – avoid breaststroke, it can worsen knee pain. Try leg raises to strengthen thigh muscles: lie flat on your back, legs straight and tummy pulled in. Brace your thigh muscles and lift one leg at a time a few inches off the ground. Turmeric can prevent knee pain: try Pukka’s Wholistic Turmeric (£15.95/30 capsules from health food shops).

Ease the pain:
Apply a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, or massage in Pukka Active Oil (£12.95, pharmacies). 

Sore neck

Why it happens:
Constantly lifting your eyes for computer work can cause this. So have regular breaks and do ‘yes, no, maybe’ exercises – nodding yes, shaking your head for no, and then combining the two for a ‘maybe’.

Prevent it:
Wear a pashmina scarf to keep your neck warm, especially if you’re travelling. You should also try sleeping without a pillow if you lie on your front at night.

Ease the pain:
Comfort the area with a microwavable wheat bag, often available in health stores. If you wake up with a sore neck, try lying flat on your back on your bed and slowly turn your head from side to side. Gently rub your neck with your fingers to help ease the ache.

Painful wrists and hands

Why it happens:
Tingling, throbbing, cramp and stiffness could be a sign of RSI – repetitive strain injury – especially if you’re working on a keyboard, or doing other repetitive movements such as knitting or crochet.

Prevent it:
Stress makes it worse, so try to relax – and take regular breaks from repetitive activities.

Ease the pain:
Press the back of your hand on your injured side with your other hand to help bend your wrist. Hold for 15 to 30 secs. Next, stretch the same hand back by pressing your fingers in the opposite direction. Hold for 15 to 30 secs. Keep the arm on your injured side straight during this exercise and do three sets.

  • Arthritis Research UK recommends wax therapy where warm wax is used to apply heat to affected joints. Speak to your GP surgery about finding a practitioner in your area.
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