When many people experience chronic pain (pain lasting from three to six months), they tend to avoid exercise for fear of increasing their pain or causing some kind of damage. These people would rather go to the doctor for a prescription pain medication instead. Guess what? That's the worst thing you can do. Better to engage in some physical activity instead. Exercise is the safest form of pain therapy you can do and the best part: there are NO SIDE EFFECTS other than the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkiller. Unfortunately many of the drugs available on the market today DO have adverse side effects. Something as simple as daily walking is a superb exercise that may reduce chronic pain. Strive to incrementally increase the distance you walk on a daily basis. Strength training with weights is another excellent exercise that may reduce chronic pain such as arthritis as well as back and knee pain. No published study has ever determined that exercise is harmful. On the contrary, there's plenty of evidence from studies supporting that physical activity actually REDUCES chronic pain. So get out there and exercise!
When you go to the gym, the worst thing you can do is to only work on certain muscles at the expense of others. For instance, most guys like to focus on the "vanity" muscles--the ones you see in the mirror such as chest and biceps. But what about the antagonist muscles such as back and triceps? By neglecting the muscles you don't see in the mirror you risk incurring chronic muscle soreness and possible injury. Remember, it's all about balance. Balance in terms of strength and and balance in terms of flexibility between opposing muscle groups (e.g., biceps and triceps). You'd serve your body well by training in a manner that's comprehensive when it comes to exercising your muscles. There are, after all, over 600 muscles in your body! Be sure to give equal treatment to the muscles in front of your body as well as the rear. Consider a push-pull split routine in which you train only the push exercises one day and then the pull exercises the next day. For example, push exercises include bench presses for chest and overhead barbell extensions for triceps. Pull exercises include barbell rows for back and dumbbell curls for biceps.
We tend to gravitate toward exercises and stretches that we're familiar with and feel comfortable doing. The problem is your body most likely needs more than this in order to be pain-free and stronger. Your brain which controls bodily movement has learned to move a certain way in order to avoid pain. The problem is that this "certain way" of moving may not be conducive to your health and well-being. You've subconsciously learned to move in a way to avoid pain for better or worse. The end result: your brain has learned to process an abnormal movement as a normal movement as a means to prevent pain. The idea here is to step out of your comfort zone that your brain (and therefore your body) has adapted to for such a long time. The unfortunate aspect of training from one day to the next is that you most likely do not realize you're exercising within your comfort zone. You've become so used to training a certain way that your body has learned to adapt to an abnormal movement pattern. Remember, adaptation is the enemy of progress. A knowledgable personal trainer and/or a physical therapist may be an invaluable resource for you to realize and then learn how to break away from a faulty movement pattern that may be causing chronic muscle pain.
BOTTOM LINE: In addition to performing exercises you like such as the bench press (which precipitates anterior shoulder tonicity), be sure to include exercises you need such as the pec-dec flye (which encourages anterior shoulder flexibility) as well. In addition, be sure to work the core muscles (e.g., glutes, abdominals, lower back and hamstrings) of your body to lessen possible muscle imbalances which may precipitate joint pain and injury. Strengthen weak muscles (typically upper back, abdominals, hamstrings, glutes and abdominals) and stretch tight muscles (typically anterior shoulder, chest, abdominals, lats, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves). Heeding this advice will save you years of needless chronic pain due to muscle imbalances.
Utilizing foam rollers has become very popular lately as a means to increase flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The technique is known as self-myofascial release (SMF). Additional benefits include enhanced muscle recovery and increased movement efficiency. SMF is ideal for people who tend to have poor posture and/or employ repetitive movements daily which increase muscular stress. Poor posture and dysfunctional movements over time tends to cause adhesions or scar tissue within muscle tissue which can lead to muscular imbalance. Thus, the primary benefit of employing SMF is to alleviate soft tissue adhesions (also known as "trigger points" or "knots") in order to restore optimal muscle function. The pressure of the body against a foam roller can inhibit muscular tension and thereby allow hypertonic muscles to stretch more optimally.
It is recommended that you should use SMF as a method to warm-up your muscles prior to working out before dynamic stretching. Investigate particular sore areas of the body while lying on the foam roller and then spend between 30 seconds to a minute on these spots without movement. The objective is to relieve possible trigger points. Be sure to slowly roll over the lengths of each muscle.
To summarize, the benefits of using a foam roller are the following:
Knee pain is usually the result of stiffness brought on by inactivity or immobilization of the knee joint. Many who suffer from osteoarthritis complain of joint stiffness and pain. Knee pain is especially felt when bending over or squatting. So what can one do to alleviate stiffness and the accompanying pain that results? Losing body weight will certainly help to reduce the load placed on the knee joints. Each pound of body weight lost subtracts four pounds of pressure on the knee joints. Performing joint movements will certainly help lessen joint stiffness. Exercise will help to lose body weight and increase joint mobility. As a result, exercise can also bring relief from pain. The key is to perform exercise on a consistent basis (i.e., at least 3 times per week). Since exercise initially tends to cause knee pain, most people would rather avoid it. But this is a mistake! Not being active will only exacerbate stiffness, pain and immobility.
So what exercises should you do to bring about relief from knee pain? Any low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, biking, walking, and water aerobics are ideal. Aim for 30 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Strength training is also highly recommended. Try Tai Chi, yoga and exercises like leg extensions and leg curls. Stretching every day is essential to reduce joint and muscle stiffness. Perform quad, hamstring and calf stretches daily. Be sure to hold each stretch up to 30 seconds and repeat two to four times. Refer to the exercise portion of this blog for how to perform certain stretches. Most importantly, listen to your body and know your limits! Never push through bad pain! Apply an ice pack to an aching joint for up to 15 minutes to reduce inflammation. Taking a nice hot bath may also relieve sore joints.
What I've found with the majority of my clients is that they're not getting enough sleep. It becomes very apparent when, for instance, a client feels sluggish and yawns during the exercise session (!). Not giving your body and mind the needed recovery time via sleep is a recipe for disaster in terms of losing body weight. In fact, I would go so far to say that the time working out in the gym is virtually wasted if there is a lack of sleep. In essence, sleep is what the body and mind need to recover from the day's events and to feel refreshed and more energized upon waking up.
Getting adequate sleep (e.g., 7 to 8 hours) is just as important as nutrition and exercise in staying healthy and fit. There is a growing body of research that indicates that lack of sleep is a contributing factor for the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our country. Hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and cortisol are affected by sleep quality and quantity. Not surprisingly, all of these hormones are also involved in governing appetite. Thus, there is a correlation between lack of sleep and increased appetite. In other words, inadequate sleep makes you feel more hungry, especially for high-fat, high-calorie foods during the evening.
What can you do to increase the amount of sleep you're getting? Start by watching less television at night and restrict the amount of time spent on the computer.
Need more reasons to get more sleep at night? Here's eight benefits of getting more shut-eye:
Knee pain is the most common complaint for people, especially among overweight and/or older adults. In the case of overweight people, the increased load-bearing that's needed for the knee joint can cause knee pain. In the case of older people, knee pain can be a result of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. In either case, the result is usually inflammation caused by joint aggravation. Inflammation is what causes joint pain. Swollen tissue presses against nerve endings, causing the sensation of pain. Accompanying the inflammation is stiffness and local tenderness at the joint.
The management of acute or chronic knee pain entails the acronym PRICE:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be used to manage knee inflammation and pain (e.g., Aleve, Advil, Motrin). In addition, Tylenol can be used to control knee pain although it is not as effective in reducing inflammation.
Set up an appointment with a doctor or orthopedist if PRICE and OTC medications fail to lessen knee pain in a week. X-rays and/or CT scans (to detect possible bone fracture or dislocation) or an MRI (to detect possible ligament or tendon injury) may be warranted depending on the nature of the pain and range of motion of the knee joint. In addition, fluid may be drained from the bursae, fluid-filled sacs which cushion the joint, to lessen inflammation and joint pain.
Knee pain as a result of osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic condition since inflammation is persistent due to cartilage degeneration. Activity usually increases knee pain and prolonged sitting results in stiffness. Treatment entails either taking OTC or prescription medications. Joint injections of hyaluronic acid (e.g., Synvisc-One) can relieve chronic pain from OA. Severe cases of OA may require narcotic pain medications or knee joint replacement.
After treatment, you can prevent further pain by:
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide so it's really not at all that surprising that researchers have been studying its effects on the human body. As such, much information has been discovered regarding coffee's benefits and possible negative effects.
The Pros of Coffee Consumption:
* Type-2 diabetes
* Some cancers (e.g., oral, colon, skin, esophageal, pharyngeal, breast, prostate)
* Asthma attacks
* Heart rhythm problems
* Liver cirrhosis
The Cons of Coffee Consumption:
For your information, the following is the average caffeine content per cup (in mg):
The benefits of caffeine are numerous in regard to your workouts. Caffeine can lessen reaction time, increase mental alertness and improve mood. Taking caffeine prior to a workout can increase endurance, allowing for more reps, sets and longer sessions. This increase in volume can lead to larger muscles in the long run. Caffeine's effect on the body is via the central nervous system (CNS), causing an increase in your pain threshold. End result: it becomes easier for you to push through those extra reps, extra sets, and extra cardio intervals.
Caffeine may also increase muscle strength due to those extra reps performed. Another benefit of caffeine is its characteristic of increasing lipolysis, or fat breakdown. The fat can serve as a much needed fuel source during hard training, allowing for more calories to be burned. Caffeine taken post-workout can increase glucose uptake from the blood into your muscles. This means your muscles can recover faster and glycogen recovery in enhanced. An increase of glycogen into your muscles enhances muscle size due to its hydrophilic (water-pulling) effect.
More is not better when it comes to caffeine intake. Overindulging in caffeine can cause insomnia, overexcitabilty, restlessness, muscle twitching, etc. If you experience any of these symptoms, level off the amount consumed. In this case, less can actually be more--smaller amounts may be more effective in promoting increased endurance, strength and muscle mass. You need to consume an amount relative to your bodyweight (i.e., 3-6 mg per kg bodyweight) at the right times (i.e., pre-workout, post-workout). The full effect of caffeine can last 2-3 hours and diminishes within 12 hours. Caffeine in liquid form (e.g., coffee, energy drinks) will be absorbed within the body faster than in pill form.
There are commonly-held beliefs regarding caffeine that are myths:
MYTH: CAFFEINE CAN SOBER YOU UP
Caffeine does not sober you up but rather makes you become an alert drunk.
MYTH: CAFFEINE MAKES YOU DEHYDRATED
The reality is that caffeine does have a mild dehydrating effect within the kidneys but the increased urination is mostly caused by increased fluid intake.
MYTH: CAFFEINE IS ADDICTIVE
Caffeine is not addictive in and of itself--rather it's the morning ritual of drinking coffee that makes it seem addictive. Nevertheless, caffeine is a drug which, when taken in large amounts and then stopped, can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability.
The benefits of massage far outweigh any risks involved. One should not think of massage as merely an indulgence. Getting regular massages is a smart complement to weight training as it facilitates the recovery process and helps to maintain joint and muscle flexibility.
A recent study has found that post-exercise massage decreases inflammation and could enhance muscle growth. The decrease in muscle soreness that occurs after a massage is indicative of massage having an effect in reducing inflammation. There is also evidence that massage may boost mitochondrial activity within muscle cells. The mitochondria are the energy factories within cells. Healthy muscle cells contain more mitochondria in order to allow more oxygen to be utilized for needed energy. Thus, massage is beneficial for muscle recovery (by reducing inflammation) and muscle growth (via increased mitochondrial activity).
Here are more of the benefits of massage therapy:
Because yoga incorporates stretches it has been found to be quite healthy for the body and for the back in particular. For instance, yoga can reduce back pain symptoms and improve functionality. The benefits of yoga are largely attributed to the physical benefits of stretching and strengthening muscles.
Here are just some of the possible benefits of yoga: