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Are Your Workouts Causing Pain? How to Find Out

Pain Point: Knees

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Common Culprit: Squats, Lunges, Running

How to Fix It: First, it's important to recognize why you are experiencing pain. Be sure that you are performing your squats and lunges properly, and running with good form. But even if you are using proper technique, you may still experience pain. Why?

"Since we sit most of the day, the knee joint becomes affected and often the meniscus becomes compressed only from one side (posteriorly)," says Dr. Yoav Suprun, DPT, a McKenzie physical therapist at Sobe Spine in Miami Beach. "As a result, many people feel knee pain as they get up (or after squats or lunges) that actually improves as the knee is more extended (as in walking or in running)."

Dr. Suprun recommends trying this move (before you work out, or if you are feeling pain): Start seated on a chair, extend one leg out straight in front of you and lock your knee joint as hard as possible for 5 seconds. Do 5 sets of 5-second holds. You may need to turn the foot in or out a bit as you do this but start with the foot straight, Dr. Suprun says.

Pain Point: Back

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Common Culprit: Bent Over Rows, Deadlifts, Cycling

How to Fix It: Again, check that your form is correct with any moves that add weight to your spine in a bent over position (such as deadlifts). Anytime you perform these types of movements, try to maintain the hollow in the small of the back accentuated inward, Dr. Suprun says. "Think of a little child sitting on your lower back as you do bent over rows."

Cycling is also a common cause of back pain. "The discs in the lumbar spine move backward when we slouch forward on the bike; and this mechanical change in the resting position of the spine can often start the stiffness followed often by slight pain or discomfort," Dr. Suprun says.

To alleviate and prevent pain, try this move before and after every activity that involves holding a forward bend: Create as large of a hollow or sway in the small of your back as possible by tilting your pelvis (as if pushing the belly button forward) and relax. Do this 15-20 times.

"You may feel stiffness or slight discomfort in the first 10 repetitions and then it often becomes easier," Dr. Suprun says. After 15-30 minutes on the bike, do 15-20 repetitions of this movement, hold for 2-3 seconds in the tilt, and relax.

Pain Point: Hips

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Common Culprit: Running, Jumping

How to Fix It: You run properly, you are very careful with your form during plyometric exercises, yet you still experience hip pain after some workouts. Why? The hip joint is being flexed all day (while you are sitting at your desk), which tightens the hip flexors and can cause misalignment of the hip joint itself.

Dr. Suprun recommends this exercise to help re-align the joint if you experience pain or before a workout to help prevent it: Place a pillow on the floor and rest one knee on it. Take a wide step forward with your other leg, as you would in a lunge. Move your hips and trunk forward until you feel a stretch in the hip flexors and/or groin area. Move into the discomfort/stretch and move out of it. Don't stay there. Apply pressure on and pressure off, slowly, for 10 reps on each hip.

Pain Point: Neck

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Common Culprit: Abdominal Work, Pilates

How to Fix It: Believe it or not, most neck pain is brought on by your daily habits and then may be exacerbated by your time at the gym.

"Often protrusion of the neck (such as when you are looking at a laptop screen) as well as flexion of the neck (looking down while texting or reading emails on your phone) is the main culprit to most neck problems," Dr. Suprun says. "In addition, watching TV in bed or reading with two pillows behind the neck can cause neck problems."

To help prevent further aggravation during your workouts, always try to keep your head 'in' as you do crunches, Pilates, or even when sitting on a spinning bike. A good way to visualize it: Think of creating a double chin (or think of a person with bad breath coming close to your face). Move the head inward in this fashion for a second or two and relax (do not protrude the head forward after, it will move forward by itself).

Pain Point: Ankles

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Common Culprit: Jumping, Balance Exercises

How to Fix It: "To resolve ankle problems, we often need to work on the range of motion that the ankle rarely is in, and that range is called dorsiflexion (moving your toes towards your shin)," Dr. Suprun says.

"When you jump, you force plantar flexion (when your toes point forward) on the joint, so to achieve improved range of motion for ankle, you should first warm up for 5 minutes on the treadmill or bike, and then do 10 reps of a Gastroc (calf) stretch."

Stand in a staggered stance with your right leg in front of your left and press your left heel down into the floor. Keeping your back leg straight, bend your right knee to deepen the stretch and then release it. Repeat 10 times (as shown in photo A).

Next, do 10 reps of this Soleus (a deep calf muscle) stretch: Bring your feet a little closer together, and instead of keeping your back leg straight, allow the back knee to bend as you stretch into it, and then release it (as shown in photo B). Just don't hold the stretch, Dr. Suprun says, as we are mobilizing the joint and not stretching a muscle.

Pain Point: Shoulders

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Common Culprit: Pullups, Pushups, Presses

How to Fix It: Shoulder pain is often a result of tightness and or limited range of motion within the joint. Dr. Suprun recommends internal rotations before your workout to help stretch the shoulder capsule and to help improve your range of motion in irregular directions.

Start standing and bring your hands behind your back. Hold onto your right wrist with your left hand, and then bring your right wrist up and over to your left. Hold for a few seconds and then relax and return to neutral. Do 10 reps on each arm.

Pain Point: Elbows

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Common Culprit: Tennis, Dips

How to Fix It: To help relieve pain and irritation and/or prevent problems that can arise from sustained positions that use the elbow (like your tennis match), Dr. Suprun recommends this elbow extension exercise: Bend your left arm, curling your fingers into your palm, and hold onto the bottom of your left elbow with your right hand. Then, extend your left arm as straight as you can, hold for a few seconds, and return to your starting position. Do this 10 times with your left arm before switching to your right.

Pain Point: Wrists

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Common Culprit: Pushups, Dips

How to Fix It:When you spend all day typing on your computer and texting on your phone, followed by heading to the gym for pushups and dips, it's no surprise you may experience some wrist pain!

To help counteract the nearly constant use of your wrists, Dr. Supra recommends this exercise: Place your right hand on the edge of a table with your left hand wrapped around your wrist. Lean your body forward (towards your fingertips) and maintain pressure with your left hand. Hold for a few seconds and then release back to your starting position. Do this 10 times with each hand.

Note: The information provided is not meant as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suffer from severe pain or symptoms be sure to seek the help of a medical professional immediately.


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