There is a misconception that exercise causes pain, but actually, the issue of pain is often rooted in a lack of flexibility. Flexibility is the mobility of joints in order to achieve their full range of motion, as well as the muscles’ ability to move around the joints freely. However, when we lack this essential tool, we are sending misinformation to our body about how to move. Our bodies’ are capable of adapting to this limited range of motion, but over time it can lead to compromised body positions. Hence, more pain. In other words, flexibility is the mechanism that allows your body to move without restriction. When restriction is present, pain occurs. This is similar to our joints’ reaction to inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Now, what if we could combat this stiffness and reduce pain just by stretching every day? Well, you can! Perry Fine, MD, a board member at the American Pain Foundation says, “Everybody can do something.” She explains how exercise not only reduces one’s perception of pain but also helps overcome limited functioning. There’s this trend of- get moving, feel better. Now you don’t necessarily need to go to a gym to reap these benefits.
The prescription: Get into a nice, comfortable stretch. Hold it for 15-30 seconds. Breathe Deeply. Rinse. Repeat.
Here are some exercises that play a major role in increasing flexibility and that anyone can do anywhere:
1. Seated Overhead Stretch (Shoulders)
Sit with your back straight in a chair and feet planted firmly on the ground. Relax your arms at your sides. Slowly lift your arms straight in front of you and interlace your fingers. While maintaining straight-arms continue raising your arms above your head. Hold the highest position you can manage without pain for 15 seconds, then lower your arms down to the starting position. Repeat 3-5 times.
2. Seated Side-to-Side Stretch (Back & Abdominals)
Sitting upright with feet shoulder-width apart, put your hands on the back of your head with both elbows bent in opposite directions. Slowly bend at the waist to drop the left elbow towards your left side until you feel a stretch on the right side of your body. Do the same motion on the right side, feeling the stretch on your left side. Hold each for 10 seconds and repeat for 5-10 times on each side.
3. Knee-to-Chest Stretch (Knees, Quadriceps & Lower back)
Lay on the floor with your legs extended and arms at your sides. Bend your left knee, and with both hands grab your left thigh and slowly pull it towards your chest. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Release your leg back to flat on the ground. Repeat on the other side for a total of 5 times each side.
4. Fold-Over Stretch (Neck, Back, Calves, Hamstrings, Glutes)
Stand upright with feet positioned hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly (or as much as is comfortable). Bend forward at the hips and lower your head towards the ground. While keeping your head, shoulders, and neck relaxed, wrap your arms around the back of yours legs and hold the stretch for up to 1 minute. To release the stretch, bend knees deeper and roll up slowly, having your head be the last thing to come up.
5. Relaxed Lunge (Hip flexors, Quadriceps, and Hamstrings)
Kneel on the ground with your shins on the floor. Lunge forward with your left leg so the left knee is bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you. The left foot should be flat on the floor directly under your knee. The right shin remains on the floor. Place your hands on the top of your left knee and press away, pushing your hips forwards and keeping your back upright. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Switch legs and repeat 3 times on each side.
If you need a little bit of relief before performing these flexibility exercises, apply a topical pain reliever a few minutes before beginning. Let it sit for just a bit, apply more if needed, and then you can begin your exercises and your journey to feeling better.