Kyphosis (i.e., forward head posture) caused by slumping over your computer exacerbates chronic tension in hypertonic or tight muscles in the shoulders and neck. Mental stress and improper breathing are also contributing factors to the pain you feel. So what's the treatment for shoulder and neck pain? Try yoga. The benefits of yoga are too numerous to name here but suffice it to say this ancient art can relieve your pain by improving your posture, reducing mental stress, and learning how to breathe properly. Yoga poses such as the Standing Mountain pose in conjunction with shoulder shrugs and overhead arm raises, Angel Wings, forward bends with neck massage, and stability ball/foam roller supine stretching are excellent exercises to reduce shoulder and neck pain. You can see a description and demonstration of the aforementioned poses here.
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. Anaerobic exercises are also highly recommended several days per week to maintain if not increase strength of the muscles surrounding your knees. Bodyweight exercises such as supine, side-lying and prone single straight-leg knee raises are good warm-up exercises for each knee. Closed-chain isometric exercises can be good for aching knees. Try holding a squat against a wall for at least 10 seconds at a time and perform this exercise several times. Slowly perform calf raises off of a ledge (e.g., stair) for up to 15 reps for several sets using both or either leg at a time. Step-ups (e.g., stairs) is a superb exercise for strengthening the muscles above each knee. Perform resistance training exercises like leg extensions and leg curls to strengthen the quads and hamstrings, respectively. Be sure to perform up to 15 reps of leg presses to strengthen your quads.
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. Tai Chi and yoga are other options for stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees. 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.
The bones that make up the framework within your body are comprised of living tissue. Bones react to resistances placed on them by growing and strengthening much the same way that muscles do. This is because bones are made of dynamic living tissue with cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts that build up and tear down bone, respectively. As we age the amount of osteoblasts within bone tissue decrease which could potentially cause osteoporosis. Weight training helps to lessen the risk of osteoporosis by ameliorating the resorption of osteoblasts. In other words, exercise that involves lifting weights helps to slow or prevent bone loss.
Weight-bearing exercise can also improve muscle and bone strength which helps to reduce the risk of falls and the fractures that typically occur as a result. Exercises performed in the standing position (e.g., shoulder presses, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions) are ideal in developing good overall muscle and bone strength. The more the load placed on your bones, the more the effect of bone stimulation and growth.
Excellent weight-bearing exercises include running, jump roping, stair climbing, dancing, basketball, volleyball, tennis, skiing, skating, soccer, hiking, gymnastics, and of course weight training. These types of exercises tend to have the most effect on maintaining or increasing bone mineral density because they involve jumping or hopping. Short bouts of vigorous weight-bearing exercises tend to be more effective for bone strengthening than long-duration sessions. For example, a short sprint is better at stimulating bone growth than a long jog. Satisfactory weight-bearing exercises include walking and using the elliptical machine. Non-impact exercises such as swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi have very little effect in terms of bone stimulation and therefore are least beneficial for bone growth.
BOTTOM LINE: To maintain or increase bone strength, perform short bouts (i.e., 5 to 10 minutes) of weight-bearing exercise (e.g., jump roping, sprints) most days of the week. If you are older, perform walking most days of the week. Even the small gains in bone strength from walking can lessen the risk of fracture.
Many people who exercise may still incur injuries or lack stamina even though they are active. For instance, a runner may pull his or her iliotibial band (ITB) when running because of weakened core muscles or a weight lifter may lack the endurance to run up a series of steps without feeling quite winded. Avid bicyclists may lose bone density due to a lack of impact and resistance on the bone tissue. How can those who perform certain exercises (e.g., running, swimming, biking, weight lifting, etc.) reduce their risk of injury while increasing their overall performance? The solution is to perform well-rounded exercise programs which encompass resistance training, cardiovascular training as well as flexibility.
A comprehensive training program is necessary to enable your body to adapt and withstand multiple stimuli in order for it to perform at its peak level. Thus, runners should perform weight training exercises (i.e., overhead dumbbell presses, squats, lunges, leg extensions, etc.) to strengthen upper body and core muscles and to reduce injury risk. Weight lifters should run, bike and/or swim to increase their endurance and cardiorespiratory capacity. Cyclists should perform weightlifting exercises to maintain bone mass. All active people should perform stretching exercises to increase joint, muscle and tendon flexibility. Yoga can benefit any active person. No one particular exercise should predominate your regime. Instead, complimentary exercises are necessary in order to ensure moderation and balance.
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: