How To Exercise To Reduce Pain

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Over the years I have had the honor to work with many professional athletes. I have watched them get injured on the field or stage, and then got them fixed up and back out to perform, quickly.

I have treated most types of athletic injuries, from concussions to post concussive disorder, to muscle pulls and sprains and strains. The list goes on.

I have also had the honor to work with many professional athletes after they retire and are out of the spot light. I have witnessed firsthand the effects that a lifetime of high impact exercise and sports have on the body. I have witnessed firsthand the health effects and pain that retired football players and ballet dancers deal with on a regular basis. I have treated some retired athletes that can barely walk due to the damage done to their body from high impact sports.

Through my practice I see a difference in people’s bodies who played high impact sports through high school; not to mention the cumulative effects of playing a lifetime of high impact sports if you’re a professional athlete. From what I see in my practice, those who have played high school football, wrestling, cheerleading, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, to name a few, have a higher incidence of arthritis and joint pain when they reach their 30’s, and beyond.

How it manifests in the real world is this: Someone in their 40’s/50’s/60’s/ even as young as their 30’s, will come in with some type of pain. Let’s say knee pain. The person works at a desk all day. The person tells me that they have had this knee pain on and off since high school. They first got this knee pain when the landed funny after a jump while in high school (or after they got hit funny while playing football, or had their knee tweaked while wrestling, or twisted their knee while playing hockey, etc). Since then the pain has been on and off. Then couple that with working at a desk, which will irritate the knees. The first place someone will feel pain when their body gets irritated is in the area that is least structurally stabile. In the area of previous injury. The area of previous injury will be the first place that flairs when things get irritated.

Another reason why previous injuries have a way of sticking around or coming back later to haunt you is neurological wiring, or neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that your neurological system can be wired and rewired, in this case in response to an injury.

Whether a muscle is injured from an actual trauma, or from repetitive/cumulative trauma, the results are the same. When a muscle is injured, it tears on a microscopic level. It becomes spasmed and inflamed. When it tears, it establishes a neurological connection between the muscle and the spinal cord. This connection is called a reflex arc. This reflex arc will perpetuate the muscle spasm and can keep it going for months to years. Once this reflex arc is established, it will stay in your body for the rest of your life. Thus making it easier for the muscles to fall into these already established neurological patterns of spasm and inflammation. Not to mention the fact that as you age, you don’t recover as well as what you used to when you were younger. So those old injuries have a way or rearing their heads more and more as you age.

These are all reasons why I recommend low impact exercising. These are also reasons why I recommend that if you aren’t a professional athlete, then don’t train like one.

Recently I wrote an article about Crossfit, and the incidence of injury in that and other extreme exercise systems. The article is titled “If you are not a professional athlete, then you don’t train like one.”  Crossfit has the same rate of injury, 73.5%, as that of triathlon (or marathon) training, Olympic weight lifting and power lifting. This means that ¾ of those who try an extreme exercise system will injure themselves. And injure themselves bad enough to have to take time off from working out, and from working.

This fits with what I have observed anecdotally in my office. In my opinion, 20% of the general population will be in good enough shape to be able to do an extreme exercise system. Of those 20%, only 5% will be able to stick with the program without injury.

My thought is that we should be exercising to feel good (and to look good). But if we are exercising so hard that we hurt ourselves and then can’t exercise, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of exercise?

I set up the Pain Free Lifestyle program to be an alternative to those extreme exercise systems that most of us can’t do. It is set up so that you can do the workouts long term, and consistently, and without injury. As a matter of fact, I set up the routine to decrease injury. I believe that if you exercise in the right way, you can decrease your chances for injury, and reduce pain. Exercise to feel better, not to beat your body up for some short lived, temporary gains. Exercise long term, and you will get benefits from it long term.

Certainly the high impact and high intensity workouts will burn more calories than a low intensity, low impact workout  will. High impact and high intensity exercising gives more bang for the buck than the low intensity and low impact workouts (there are high intensity and low impact exercises such as rowing and biking that do pack just as much bang for the buck as do the higher impact forms of exercise). When looked at short term, these high impact and high intensity workouts can seem to be more beneficial.

When looked at long term though, the high impact and high intensity workouts are actually not as beneficial as low intensity and low impact exercises. Exercise is about consistency, not intensity; this becomes more true as we age.

When you are in your 20’s, that is the time to do high intensity and high impact exercising. You can recover from the cumulative trauma from the workouts quickly. You will not have as much wear and tear on your body as you will when you are older. You will generally have less injuries as well the younger you are.

As we age we lose our ability to heal. We don’t recover as quickly from injuries and insults to our bodies as we did when we were in our 20’s. As we age, old injuries have a way of rearing their ugly heads periodically. If you keep exercising like a 20 year old as you age, you will injure yourself more frequently. You will get a better workout from a high impact and high intensity workout, but as you age you won’t be able to stick with it as long because you will injure yourself. If you keep injuring yourself, you won’t be able to exercise enough to get into, and stay in, shape.

I believe that if you use exercise in the right way, it can actually reduce pain and increase motion. Doing the correct, low impact exercises with low intensity will allow you to feel better from exercise. Don’t give into those advertisements that tell you that you have to go hard to get hard and that the only way to get into shape is through many hours of pain. No pain, no gain becomes more and more inaccurate as we age.

Avoid pain as you age. Exercise with low impact and low intensity to start with. If you do, then you will be able to stick with the routine and perform it consistently enough to get into shape and feel better. You may never get 6 pack abs, but who cares? Most of us don’t have the genetic disposition to get 6 pack abs. So why wreck yourself trying to get lean, chiseled, 6 pack abs?

The Pain Free Lifestyle program is set up to be easy to follow, and easy to get into. It shows you step by step how to get into exercise, and keep exercising, for life. It is the Pain Free Way.

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