Published On: Sat, Mar 16th, 2013

Natural Remedies For Seniors: Trade Painkillers For Exercise

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Natural Remedies For Seniors: Trade Painkillers For ExerciseMuscle pains, backaches and sore shoulders affect nearly all at some point in our lives! Traditionally the doctor might have told us to rest, take a muscle relaxant and wait patiently for the pain to subside. New studies however are finding that doing a few basic exercises can be more effective at reducing pain than popping a pill!

In a special report from Harvard Health, people who started a routine of muscle strengthening exercises and stretches after injuries (some as serious as whiplash), healed more quickly and were less likely to develop chronic pain than others who relied on medication alone.

As our understanding of the importance of exercise in maintaining physical health increases, medical professionals are more apt to recommend physical therapy as an alternative to painkillers. With that in mind, it’s always top priority to consult with your doctor before beginning a new routine of exercise, then when you get the go-ahead, start out with a coach or trainer to assist with technique and ensure that you aren’t risking injury.

Swimming and gentle stretching exercises have proven to be helpful in alleviating common aches and pains — here’s more:

Swimming and stretching for back pain
One of the best places to get a muscle and overall body workout is in the pool! A Japanese study of 35 patients with lower back pain used aquatic exercise therapy and showed surprising results. All participants were treated for their injuries and conditions accordingly by their physician; then began aquatic training. They worked abdominals, legs, gluts as well as back, hamstring and calf muscles. Seven patients exercised once weekly, nineteen patients were in the water twice weekly and the remaining nine patients exercised three or more times per week. Amazingly, 90 percent of participants in the study — those that worked out in the water at least twice per week, showed overall improvement after six months.

Aside from serious injury, most back pain will subside as normal activities are resumed. Adding regular exercise to your routine will help prevent further injury and strengthen back muscles.
These stretches will help with back pain:

  • Knees to chest – lying on your back, bring one knee up and gently pull into your chest, hold for five seconds and repeat 5 times per side.
  • Backstretch – lie flat on your back, hands above your head, behind neck. Bend knees and roll them slowly to the side keeping feet on the floor. Hold for ten seconds and repeat 3 times per side.
  • Pelvic tilt – lie flat with knees bent and tighten stomach muscles pressing the small of your back into the floor. Hold for five seconds and repeat 5 times.
  • One-leg stand – standing tall, bend the right leg behind your body and hold at the ankle with your right hand. Steady yourself holding the wall or a chair with the other hand. Repeat 3 times per side.
  • Lunges – kneeling on one knee with the other knee bent at 90 degrees, face forward and lift the back knee in gentle lunges. Repeat 3 times per side.

Resistance bands for shoulder pain
It seems the older we get the more we feel shoulder pain, sometimes due to a weak rotator cuff — the muscle group behind the shoulder that stabilizes the joint. Whether your shoulder pain is from an old sports injury or repeated motion from years performing specific work-related tasks, a few simple resistance-band exercises can ease, and may even prevent further shoulder pain. Hold an anchored band and rotate raised arms away from the body using a rowing motion — high resistance isn’t necessary, your goal is to strengthen the rotator cuff building endurance and giving increased stability to the shoulders.

Many retirement homes offer a fitness center and pool on the premises — if it means recruiting a friend or two, take advantage of the pool, make use of the gym and with the advice of your doctor or physical therapist, gradually build your strength and you may be able to bypass painkillers in favor of exercise for your good health.

Featured images:

Written by Alice Lucette, a Canadian blogger. Alice often writes on topics related to seniors communities, her latest articles were about retirement homes in Toronto and assisted living in BC.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon of Flickr.

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