One in four Americans struggles with chronic pain, and for many, the pain is concentrated in the head, back, and neck. When you're in constant pain, even small pleasures can feel too challenging to indulge. Maybe your pain has even caused you to give up on your health. Or perhaps you're convinced that exercise is only going to make things worse. Don't throw in the towel just yet, though. Exercise almost always figures prominently in the journey from pain to good health. Here are five beginner-level workouts that will give you immediate relief, while strengthening your muscles so that you steadily feel less pain.
Virtually any yoga class is going to offer you some powerful pain relief, but if you want to get the most out of yoga, it's time to master this pain-busting sequence:
1. Begin in child's pose, holding the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
2. Stretch into the serpent pose, holding again for 30-60 seconds.
3. Continue into the downward-facing dog position, keeping your shoulders loose and avoiding tensing your neck.
Then reverse the sequence, repeating the entire procedure at least twice.
If you're itching to get relief from your pain and are also eager to burn some extra calories, meet your new best friend: walking. Walking loosens up your hip flexors, helps re-align your spine, and offers you gentle and steady muscle-building exercise that doesn't require you to break a sweat or strain injured muscles. Aim for 30-60 minutes of walking on flat, firm surfaces each day.
3. Gentle stretching
Gentle stretches are easy to incorporate into your yoga routine, and can immediately loosen tense muscles. Try the following method:
1. While standing up straight, shrug your shoulders up and down. Then roll them forward, and then backward, five to 10 times each.
2. Move your head to the side as if you're trying to touch your shoulder with your ear. Bring it back to the center, and then repeat on the other side. Repeat five to ten times.
Squats are perfect beginner-level exercises because you can work with just your body weight and still get a fabulous workout. Keep your back straight, relying only on your thighs, then steadily move into a sitting position—without the chair of course. You may not be able to get all the way down, but by doing three to five sets of 10 squats a few times a week, you'll steadily get closer. Squats can boost strength, improve spine alignment, and help loosen up tense hip flexors—a common source of low back pain.
5. Bench presses
You might think bench presses have no place on a list of easy exercises, but this weightlifting routine targets several muscles implicated in back and neck pain. You can easily do bench presses with two dumbbells, so don't worry about investing in a bench or going to the gym. Keep the weight low, and focus on proper form, keeping your back and head straight. Aim for three sets of 5-10 reps.