The simple exercises series
This series is meant to give simple guidance on what exercises to do if you have a problem with a certain part of the body.
It is important to get professional advice if you have a serious problem with any part of the body, or a serious underlying condition.
However, there are simple exercises you can safely do for a range of problems often relating to a injury of some kind. If in doubt you should consult your physiotherapist or medical practitioner.
How to do your exercises
It is very important to do the exercises well if you are to get the benefit and improve your condition.
- Do them regularly if you are going to do them at all. The tissues of the body respond to regular, repeated stresses to change how they behave. To achieve this you will need to repeat the exercises a certain amount of times every single day.
- Do each exercise individually. If you try and do two movements at once, neither movement will be done well or to the maximum degree. This cuts down the effectiveness and may stress your joints more than you intend.
- Go to the end of each movement. There’s no point waving a joint around in the air as joints usually have problems at the end of their available movement at the time. Make sure you move each joint to the end of the movement if you can.
- Do the movement slowly and steadily. Jerking or moving quickly can be painful and strain something, as well as not permitting the part to relax as the movement progresses.
- Pay attention to pain. This is a difficult one. Pain can mean that the painful area is damaged and you should not move it until it has healed more, but it can also be much less important. If your joint is stiff, you will need to stretch it and cause some pain if it is to loosen up.Good pain is not too severe and settles down quickly. Bad pain is severe and takes a long time to settle down after. If you cause pain on exercise, and you may have to to succeed, make sure it is good pain.
- Make specific times to exercise through the day as this makes it more likely you will actually do them.
How many should you do?
Difficult question again. This depends on the type of condition you are suffering from.
- Stiffness and no pain. Physiotherapists classify this kind of problem as non-irritable, meaning the problem can cope with a lot of physical stress, producing little pain which settles quickly to normal. You can push this kind of condition fairly hard and often, such as 10 movements/stretches every two hours (if necessary), going right to the end of the movement.
- Stiffness and pain. Here more care is needed, as the joint may be irritable so that exercise stirs up the pain. A good rule is: if the exercise does not cause significant pain for a significant period of time, then you have it about right. You will be likely to feel some pain as you do the exercise and this is to be expected.
- Pain. Significant pain can stop you wanting to move your joints and muscles, causing weakness and loss of movement. Appropriate movement can help pain, range of movement and muscle power.Here we need to be careful to strike a balance between putting enough stress on the joints and muscles and increasing the pain. A few movements a day may be enough for a very irritable joint.
Pay attention to feedback from your body
When you have done your exercises, how was it? If your pain is bad and lasts over 10 minutes or so you may have overdone it. If you have some discomfort but it is bearable and goes off quickly that may be the right level of input.
If you have no sense of strain or stretch at all when doing your exercises you may be doing nothing at all. You should be able to adjust the level of your exercises depending on how your pain or stiffness problem behaves. If in doubt get the opinion of a physiotherapist or other manual therapist.