We ask a lot from our bodies on a daily basis from sitting all day at the office to doubling down as weekend warriors and joining the latest marathon. Even being a parent and racing after your kids is taxing on the body. No wonder you’ve got a kink in your neck and a tight shoulder. However, it’s important to know you don’t have to live with the discomfort.
“When dealing with physical pain, it’s easy to think that laying off exercise and movement is a surefire way to speed up healing and recovery. That’s not the case,” says Melissa Rodriguez, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and NASM Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT) at Mindbody & ClassPass. “Once you’ve received a clean bill of health from your doctor to engage in physical activity, it’s time to get moving. In fact, simply moving your body is going to help with pain.”
Exercises for Dealing with Shoulder Pain
“Many people carry tension in their shoulders and neck. You may notice when you are startled, stressed or working at a computer, your shoulders are shrugged up toward your ears,” Ashley Mastandrea, a regional Lead Teacher for YogaSix. “The neck and shoulders are also a place where many people round forward, again working at desk, doing dishes, loading groceries, looking down at a smartphone, etc.”
To decondition this pain-inducing habitual posture, you’ll need to stretch and strengthen the neck, shoulders and back.
Start on hands and knees. Walk your hands forward keeping your hips above the knees. Bring your forehead to the ground and lightly press your hands downward to find some activation in your shoulder muscles. Take a few deep breaths and let your chest rest toward the floor. Stay 30-90 seconds
Benefits: Stretch the front of the chest where we contract when rounded, warm up and activate the shoulder muscles and stretch the back.
Start by lying on your front body and place your elbows under your shoulders so they are 90 degree angles. Think of the cat in Egypt! Roll your shoulders up back and down. Press lightly into your hands and create a slight pulling action back toward your chest. Breathe deeply and let your chest rest forward. Press the back of your head slightly backward. Stay 30-90 seconds
Benefits: Chest and back stretch, activates the arm and shoulder muscles
Seated Neck Stretches
Sit any way you’re comfortable. Roll your shoulders up back and down. If it feels ok to you, interlace your fingers behind your back. Sit tall and gently let your chin rest toward your chest. You can roll your ears toward your shoulders back and forth or make circles all around. Be slow and gentle. Hold anywhere that is more tense. Come back to seated and take a few deep breaths before moving on.
Benefits: stretches the neck, releases tension and helps build awareness of how you move your neck and shoulders habitually
Exercises for Dealing with Hip Pain
Roll Knee to Chest
“This exercise stretches the glutes and hip flexors, which are a group of muscles that attach to the pelvis and thigh bone,” says Rodriguez. “When these muscles become tight, they can cause pain in the hips and lower back. Stretching these muscles on a regular basis can help to relieve hip pain. This exercise also helps improve range of motion in the hips.”
Lie down on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Gently pull your right knee towards your chest until you feel a stretch in the muscles around your hip. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Repeat on each leg for a total of 2 sets.
“So much of the practice of yoga is building awareness and mindful engagement with life,” says Mastandrea. “When you’re more in tune to your body through the practice of postures, you will find yourself better able to take care of your body’s needs. Yoga can invite you into the space for relaxation and rest to stimulate healing that allows the body to repair itself. “
Step your left foot back a few feet keeping your feet at hips width apart. Bring your hands to your hips and take a deep breath in lengthening your spine upward. Breathe out and bow forward over your right leg. Hands can slide down your leg or to yoga blocks or to the floor. Feel free to gently bend your right leg. Breathe here 30-90 seconds. Slowly stand and do the other side.
Benefits: stretches the hamstrings and glutes
While there are many reasons that you might be experiencing hip pain, according to AKT’s Master Trainer, Alissa Tucker, the sedentary nature of today’s society is a big one.
“The human body wasn’t designed to sit in chairs and yet even the most active of people these days spend the majority of time seated. Because of this, our hips are in a constant state of flexion which promotes tightness in the hip flexors and weakness in the glutes,” Tucker says. “In order to correct this and help relieve and prevent hip pain it’s important to stretch the hip flexor complex and strengthen the glute muscles, primarily the gluteus Maximus and gluteus medius in addition to increasing hip mobility.”
Start on all fours then bring one leg forward, bend and externally rotate the knee of the leg that’s forward so the outside of the calf is on the floor. With the back leg extended long, fold forward over the bent front leg until you feel a stretch. If you experience any knee pain in this stretch, stop and do a figure four stretch lying on your back instead. This is a great hip opener stretch and will help to increase mobility in the hips and reduce pain.
For this exercise you need a tied Thera band or a booty band, says Tucker.
Bring the band around your ankles for maximum challenge or bring it higher on the legs for less resistance. Keep the legs parallel with a slight bend in the knees and walk laterally, keeping tension in the band by keeping your feet separated the entire time. Try four walks each direction and repeat 10-15 times. “This exercise works your outer glute (gluteus medius) muscles which are important for hip, knee and ankle stability and alignment,” she says.
Exercises for Dealing with Foot Pain
“Stretching the feet and paying attention to where you place your weight into them is going to help you alleviate foot pain as well as discomfort that causes issues up the legs, into the hips and even upper body sometimes,” says Mastandrea. “If you have chronic foot pain, please seek out a podiatrist to consult with for insoles.”
Myofascial Release with Tennis Ball
Some relief to foot pain or tightness could come from myofascial release. From seated, place your bare foot onto a tennis ball and roll the ball along your foot. You may hold points of tension with as much pressure as desired for 30-90 seconds. Remember to take deep breaths as you explore this deep massage. Repeat the other side.
Benefits: Works through tightness in muscle and tissue of the foot, builds personal connection to the foundation of our standing posture and honors self care
Chair to Crane Pose
Start with feet hips width apart, keep hands on hips. Bend your knees and sit back while keeping your chest lifted. You can lift your arms if you’d like. Focus your gaze on a still point and shift your weight into your right foot. Ground into the whole foot and straighten your right leg as you lift the left knee up to hip height. Flare your left toes and feel both legs strong. Breathe here a few breaths. Return to the chair and repeat on the other side. Go back and forth a few times to build heat and focus on keeping knees over ankles and pointed straight ahead.
Benefits: Strengthens legs and glutes while building awareness to where we place our weight in the feet and how we use the muscles that support our hip joint
“The foot is a complex area of the body made up of 26 bones and many small muscles that work together to support the body and facilitate movement,” says AKT’s Master Trainer, Alissa Tucker. “Our feet are like our roots. If there is a problem in the function of the foot, it can trickle up the kinetic chain and cause dysfunction and imbalances in other areas of the body.”
Roll it Out
“Tightness in the calves can manifest as pain in the foot and ankle and is often what causes Plantar Fasciitis, pain located on the bottom of the foot near the heel,” says Tucker. “Foam rolling or using a massage gun daily can help to release the calf muscles and help to relieve pain in the bottom of the foot.”
How to do it: Begin by placing the foam roller up on the “meaty” part of the calf, the part that you can see flex when you point your foot, the gastrocnemius. Cross your other foot overtop to help apply pressure. Try to relax the muscles of the leg that’s on the foam roller. Slowly “scan” the area by moving the leg. When you feel a tight spot, stop and hold on that spot for 30-45 seconds. Continue as many times as necessary. Once you’ve gotten all the tight spots there, move down to your Soleus. This is just below the gastrocnemius, connecting down toward the Achilles tendon. Repeat the same process here; scan and hold as many times as needed. Repeat on the other leg. For more intensity you can use your arms to lift your hips off the floor.
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