How To Properly Exercise With Aches, Pains and Injuries
If your injury or nagging pain has had you thinking you just can't work out, have we got the blog for you! Below we've listed some common areas of injury, and all the exercises you can still do, even with a pain in that area**
Sometimes it seems like it was almost inevitable – we’re working out consistently and making great progress and then BAM! An injury strikes. Maybe it’s our shoulder that starts to pinch, or maybe it’s our knee that starts to give out - whatever it is, it’s never fun.
When we first have an injury or a lingering pain, our immediate reaction can be to stop working out entirely. We can give up, thinking that if we do anything, we’ll make our injury worse. We’ll say up front that we’re not doctors or physical therapists, and with some injuries of course rest needs to be a priority, but we will say that just because one part hurts, doesn’t always mean there’s nothing else you can do! We really want this blog to be one that gives you hope, and one that helps you focus on what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t**
So let’s dig in!
[Be aware that this is a long post, so if you want to just skip to the area you need help in, simply click on the word below!
1) BACK PAIN
Injuries and lingering pain in our backs can be especially hard. It seems like we never realize how much we use our backs until we can’t anymore! But, even with a back that doesn't cooperate, there's still exercises you can try!
CARDIO - Getting cardio in when your back is finicky is difficult but not impossible. Swimming, for example, is a great exercise even when the your back is in pain. It’s a very low impact way to get moving, and the water helps to support your body so the pressure isn't all on your core/back. Walking is another great cardio exercise that can be done with back pain, depending again on the severity and location of your pain.
CORE - Crunches can also be done when you have back pain (note that I’m not saying full on sit-ups, but partial crunches) which will actually help to build up your core strength and help to take the burden off your back. We have a lot of creative core videos available with our premium f4 plan, and you can also go through some of those and incorporate what moves look doable to you into your routine! Strengthening your abdominals when you have back pain is especially important seeing as it will help take some of the stress from supporting your body away from your back. Also, if standing is easier on your back, try this great standing core workout!
LOWER BODY - the lower body exercises you can do will vary more on the type of back injury or pain you have, but in general wall sits can also be done which are great for strengthening your core and legs. You brace yourself against the wall with your knees at 90 degree angles for support and then hold the position for 30 seconds and work your way up to more. There are also lots of great strengthening exercises you can do just using your resistance bands and sitting in a chair! If you feel like sitting in a chair provides more support for your back, then sit down and grab your resistance bands and try an exercises like this
UPPER BODY - Arm exercises can also be done, even with back pain but you do have to be a bit careful. Don’t lift too heavy as to put strain on your back, and depending on where the pain is focused, you can do arm exercises (like bicep and tricep exercises with weights) either standing up or sitting in a chair.
STRETCHING - is also key for back pain. A lot of the time, our back pain actually starts in other muscles, like tight hamstrings or hip flexors. We have a ton of great stretching videos in our f4 plan exercise catalog if you’re looking for some help getting started.
AVOID - with back pain, you'll likely want to avoid exercises that require a lot of bending over, like toe touches, and exercises that put a strain on the back, like full sit-ups or leg lifts.
2) WRIST PAIN
Wrists are another hard one - who knew such a small part of our body was responsible for so much! As annoying as wrist pain and injuries can be, there are still a ton of great exercises you can partake in, so let's get started!
CARDIO - walking and running can be great cardio exercises, even when your wrists are in pain. And with our f4 plan, we also have some great Pazaz dance workouts that are great for getting in some cardio, but without the impact on the wrists.
CORE - even with wrist pain, you can still keep your abs and back in tip top shape! Check out any of our core workouts for some great exercises to get you started. We wouldn't recommend core exercises that ask you to hold plank, but anything on your back should work fine. Try some bicycle sit-ups and start to feel the burn right away!
LOWER BODY - with wrist pain, you shouldn't be limited with your lower body much at all. You might not want to do exercises where you have to hold resistance bands or drop down and do some mountain climbers, but you can still do squats, lunges, calf-raises and any weight machine at the gym!
UPPER BODY - unlike with your lower body, with wrist pain it's working out your upper body that you're going to have to get a little creative. You might not be able to hold weights in your hands or do push-ups, but that doesn't mean you can't get some strength training in! Shoulder exercises using our fitness loop is definitely what we would recommend. These are great because you can put the loop higher up on your arm, so that you don’t have to have any pressure on your wrists (and you’re still getting a great arm/shoulder workout!) These fitness loops are great because they can fit anywhere and they shouldn't put any pressure on your wrists! Just watch the video below of an example of some of these exercises using a fitness loop (and hear Michelle's story of her own struggle with a shoulder injury). You'll see that she has the band around her wrist, but you can easily adjust this to have the band around your forearms.
STRETCHING - you shouldn't be too limited with normal stretching when you have wrist pain. However, there are actually lots of wrist-specific stretches and exercises that might actually lessen your pain and help restore some wrist strength and flexibility! Bring some of these exercises to your doctor or therapist to see if they might help out your wrist(s).
3) ELBOW PAIN
CARDIO - Walking and running can be great cardio exercises for both elbow and wrist pain. Again, depending on your type of elbow pain/injury, our Pazaz dance workouts might be good cardio for you. You can always modify the moves that you can’t do and keep up with our feet movements.
CORE - with elbow pain, you might want to limit core exercises that require your hands to be behind your head. Luckily, there are still SO many great core exercises you can do, just a little bit of creativity is required. Try an exercise like the one below, where you reach over your head and then use your abdominals to pull yourself all the way up!
LOWER BODY - with an elbow injury, you really shouldn't be limited with lower body at all! Our quadriceps and hamstrings are some of the biggest muscles in our body, and so by working out those muscles we can actually get a great cardio workout in that burns calories, even if your elbow is limiting you in other ways. Exercises like squats, lunges, leg lifts, and even leg presses if you have access to a weight room are great.
UPPER BODY - Shoulder/arm exercises using our fitness loop—you’ll have to listen to your own body on these, but depending on what’s actually wrong with your elbow, you should still be able to use our fitness loop to get in some good shoulder/arm strengthening. We posted this video in with our "wrist pain" section, but we'll post it again here - it's a video where Michelle demonstrates some great arm/shoulder strengthening exercises using out fitness loops.
AVOID - lifting heavy weights in motions that put too much strain on your elbow. Avoid activates like tennis or biking which can put pressure on the joint.
4) SHOULDER PAIN
I’ve had many, many shoulder injuries over the years, and so this category is near and dear to my heart. And in the past as my injury was healing, I still assumed I couldn’t do anything exercise-related that would involve my shoulder. It wasn’t until I started seeing a physical therapist regularly that I learned incorporating low-impact shoulder-exercises into my workout routine could actually be good for my shoulder recovery! Some of these exercises (like the ones I recommend below using our fitness loops) can actually help regain shoulder strength and even range of motion – both important for recovery. Now, I don’t know the nature of your particular injury, but it’s worth asking your doctor or therapist if you might be able to start some low-impact shoulder exercises.
CARDIO - Walking and running can be great cardio exercises for both those with shoulder pain. Again, depending on your type of elbow pain/injury, our Pazaz dance workouts might work for you. You may want to avoid any overhead movements, but you can still follow along with the other motions. If you do want to get in the water and move around, we've got a great water workout video below! This is Michelle's mother and my grandmother, and even with a partially dislocated shoulder she really enjoys this low-impact workout.
CORE - with shoulder pain just like with elbow pain, you might want to limit core exercises that require your hands to be behind your head. But other than that, you can still get in a great core workout. Try an exercise like in the image to the right, where the woman extends her hands out in front of her and simply uses her abdominals to lift her up and down.
LOWER BODY - you shouldn't be too limited in working your lower body, even with a shoulder injury. Our quads and hamstrings are some of the biggest muscles in our body, and so by working out those muscles we can actually get a great cardio workout in that burns calories. Exercises like squats, lunges, leg lifts, and even leg presses if you have access to a weight room are great.
UPPER BODY - again, depending on the nature of your pain and injury, you may be able to do some of shoulder exercises using your fitness loop. A lot of the exercises Michelle does with the fitness loop are actually designed to help prevent shoulder injuries, and there are plenty of great shoulder rehab exercises you can do with our bands as well. See a partial snippet of one of Michelle's Shoulder Recovery workouts
Here are some additional exercises that could work as rehabilitation exercises for your shoulder using our fitness loops. As always, check with your doctor or physical therapist to see if any of these might be right for you: http://www.thera-bandacademy.com/tba-exercise-program/Thera-Band-Loop-Shoulder-Exercise
AVOID - overhead presses, lateral raises and any other motion that pinches that shoulder joint. Avoid swimming, tennis and other cardio exercises that require extensive shoulder rotation.
4) KNEE PAIN
I am currently dealing with a nasty bout of knee tendinitis right now, so this is another one where I really feel your pain! Fortunately, I've found that even with my injury, I still have plenty of options left to get in a great workout.
CARDIO - for me, running is a big no-no (too high impact), but I can definitely swim, walk, hike and even bike if I’m careful. Depending on your injury, some of these options may work for you, too! If even walking hurts, we have a lot of great options in our f4 plan where you're working out sitting in a chair! If it hurts more to stand, then sit, if it hurts more to sit, then stand and walk - either way you can still get in a good cardio workout.
CORE - these can definitely still be done with knee pain, but, depending on the type of pain your experiencing, crunches and sit-ups with your knees bent may not be best. The great thing is, you can simply do these exercises with your knees flat out in front of you! Do be careful though that you’re not putting too much strain on your lower back, though. Go slow and listen to your body. I can still do planks with my injury, and that’s another great one for your core, arms and legs - so for the best way to work your entire core, try some planks if you're able.
LOWER BODY - with a knee injury, working out that lower body can be especially hard. What I've found is that my fitness loop is my best friend. With my loop, I can still get in a great leg strengthening workout without having to put too much pressure on my knee. If you're injury is anything like mine, you'll also be able to work your calves.
UPPER BODY - with knee pain, you shouldn't be too limited in terms of working out that upper body. We always recommend making strength training a part of your weekly if not daily fitness routine, so if you have some weights around (or your resistance bands) then try some of the exercises in the video below. If your knee hurts to stand, then try these sitting in a chair.
AVOID - squats and lunges. Leg presses, even with light weight, can also be a no-no. Anything that compresses that knee joint past 90 degrees is something that’s not going to aid in your recovery, and should be avoided.
5) FOOT/ANKLE PAIN
Foot pain is a hard one, just like with ankle pain. It can feel like everything puts pressure on it and there’s no exercises available, but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case!
CARDIO - Swimming is a great cardio exercise that can still be done with foot pain. In fact, while you’re swimming there are actually these things called pull buoys that most public pools have available for you to use that you can put between your legs so that you’re just using your arms/shoulders/core to pull yourself through the water. With our f4 plan, we also have cardio workouts that are done entirely in a chair! If you can't really put much pressure on that foot or ankle joint, then some of these types of workouts might be perfect for you.
CORE - with foot and ankle pain, this is where you can really go wild, so to speak. There are so many great core exercises that you can do sitting/laying on the floor, so don’t skip out! Tell yourself that while you have this injury, you’ll focus on making your core and strong as it’s ever been! Below are some of Michelle's daughters favorite core exercises.
LOWER BODY - you should also be able to do leg extensions and flexions if you have access to a gym at all, as though exercises can be done sitting down and are great for regaining leg strength. You can also do some leg strengthening exercises using our fitness loops and resistance bands that can actually be done sitting down, so there’s no pressure on that foot or ankle! Check out this total body toning workout from Michelle below
UPPER BODY - Even if you can’t support yourself on your foot/ankle for very long, you can still get in some great arm strengthening in while sitting in a chair! With our premium f4 plan, we actually offer a TON of great workouts with a low impact option, where one of us sits in a chair the entire workout (and I’m telling you, we’re still sweating even sitting in the chair!) Checkout a few minutes of one such upper body workout below.
AVOID - lifting heavy weights in motions that put too much strain on your elbow. Avoid activates like tennis or biking which can put pressure on the joint.
Injury can really strike at any time, but by keeping in mind some of these tips, you'll greatly reduce your risk of injury and pain from overuse.
MUSCLE BALANCE is a key part of keeping our bodies healthy and injury free! If you only work one muscle (say, your biceps) and not the opposing muscle (in this case, triceps), you're going to have muscle imbalance which will put you at greater risk of injury while engaging in physical activity. Even if you hate working a certain muscle group - try and find a way to get that work in. Be creative! Maybe you hate push-ups (which work biceps), but you don't mind bicep curls. Finding a way to work all the muscles in a balances way will have your body thanking you!
STRETCHING is another key component to injury prevention. When our muscles are tight, we're at more risk of tearing or pulling something. A great way to really relive not only muscle soreness but also muscle tightness would be using a foam roller! There are all different kinds and sizes of foam rollers available, but we really enjoy the larger ones so you can roll out the entire body.
LISTENING TO YOUR BODY is another key component to keeping yourself healthy and injury free. Sometimes, we simply overwork our body, and the thing we need is a break before some overuse injury occurs. Sometimes, we're battling back from an injury, and we need to keep things low-impact for awhile. If you've been feel the aches and pains more and more lately, then maybe take two or three days and focus on just doing low impact exercises. It's better to go slow for a few days then to have to go slow for a few months because of an injury!
We know that injuries are never fun, and we know they can be disheartening. BUT, if you start focusing on all the things CAN do, you’ll realize you’re not as limited as you thought! Don’t stop working out all together when an injury or pain comes – keep your body in great shape by doing the exercises you can do, and by doing so you’ll can help prevent future injuries to the other parts of your body! We believe in you, so don’t lose hope. Now let's get moving!
**medical disclaimer: we are not doctors and we are advice is just that – advice. Please consult your doctor or therapist before beginning any exercise program.
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Guest post by Bree Rossi who has a masters degree in neuroscience from the University of Iowa, and loves sharing what she's learned about the brain as it relates to health and fitness. In her free time, Bree enjoys swimming, reading, eating, and hanging out with Jesus