To Your Health
December, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 12)
Pain: Putting the Fire Out
By Dr. Perry Nickelston
Back pain, neck pain, knee pain, foot pain - wherever the pain is, it's a pretty powerful motivator. In fact, depending on the severity of the pain, you may be willing to do just about anything to get rid of it. That's why so many people rush to the medicine cabinet and pop a few pills at the first sign of pain. Here's a much better idea: Try these simple exercises that can actually help reduce pain caused by common overuse conditions.
Keep in mind that jumping right into exercises and stretches in a quest for relief from pain is not always the best course of action. The difficult part is learning what exercises you can do on your own that are safe and effective. Often, the simplest of movements can have a profound positive impact on alleviating your pain. Here are some of the more common pain syndromes and injuries, along with simple exercises to help reduce symptoms. These exercises may be done on your own or in conjunction with recommendations from your health care provider, but either way, you should consult with them first to make sure you're pursuing the right strategy to get rid of your pain (and get rid of it for good).
Why It Hurts: You wake up at night with numbness and tingling in your hands. Sleeping through the night is almost an impossible task. You may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which nerves from your neck traveling into your hand can become compressed in the wrist. The goal of therapy is to open up space in the wrist to take compression off of the nerves, alleviating symptoms. One of the primary causes of carpal tunnel is constant flexion (forward bending) of the wrist, as one would do typing on a keyboard.
What You Can Do: Here is a very effective exercise you can do on a daily basis for quick relief. Extend (straighten) your arm out in front of your body with your palm facing up. Straighten your fingers, keeping them close together. Bend your wrist backward and try to point your fingers toward the floor, and with the opposite hand press down on the palm side of your fingers to bend (extend) your wrist slightly further. Hold this stretch for 2 seconds, return the wrist to a straight position, and then repeat the entire movement for 10 repetitions. Exhale when pressing down. Apply gentle pressure on the pressing-down movement with approximately 2 pounds of pressure. This exercise will stretch the soft tissue of the forearm and wrist, helping to alleviate tension around delicate nerves.
Why It Hurts: If you experience sharp pain on the outside of your elbow when trying to twist open a jar or grasping something with your hand, it may be tendonitis of the forearm muscles. This injury became known as tennis elbow because players would get elbow pain after hitting repetitive backswings in tennis. The constant impact trauma and overuse inflamed the tendons and caused chronic pain. A common culprit of elbow pain is muscle knots known as trigger points in the forearm, which can refer pain to the elbow.
What You Can Do: Here is a simple technique to help reduce trigger point inflammation. You will need a tennis ball to perform this self-massage technique. Stand sideways against a wall. Bend your arm 90 degrees at the elbow with the thumb facing up. Place the tennis ball between the top of the forearm and the wall, with the opposite hand press against the inside of your forearm, putting additional pressure into the ball. Move the forearm back and forth in a circular motion on the tennis ball, searching for tender spots. Spend between 30-60 seconds on each tender spot until the pain begins to fade; then search for other tender areas. Do this massage three to five times per day.