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Smart ways to relieve nagging chronic pain

February 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Many people experience chronic pain in various parts of their bodies, whether they're a desk jockey or an athlete. We have some moves that may help alleviate some of the pain.

"You see it commonly when people are exercising or overuse injuries, but sometimes it could be as simple as sitting at your desk all day, having poor posture," says O'Real Cotton, a physical therapist at Propel Physical Therapy in Woodland Hills.

Cotton is talking about those suffering from chronic pain. He said some of the most common pains areas are: the spine, low and mid back, neck, shoulder and feet.

But surprisingly, pain location isn't the source of the problem.

"You may come in with an elbow problem, and after assessment, we may realize your hip is the problem," says Cotton.

If pain is chronic, there's usually a lot going on in the body. It's not a question of stretching or strengthening one particular area. The first move you should make is assessment.

"It may be a situation where you need to change your whole workspace," says Cotton.

Get a better chair, adjust desk height or just try having a better posture.

Try setting a timer and see how long it takes for you to slouch.

While there is no one-size-fits-all exercise, there are common movements that provide relief.

"I believe in moving through the movement," says personal trainer Paul De Bellis.

De Bellis says static stretch is out. Instead, move to increase circulation and mobility to the area.

Try a forward lunge on a chair to release tight hip flexors, which in turn helps low back pain. Add a rotation as well as side-to-side swings for spinal extensors and hip areas that are often tense as well.

A step-and-reach combo gets the whole package: hips, pelvis and spine all the way up mid to upper back, neck and shoulders. Take the move sideways and backwards to increase flexibility.

Extra weight, high heels and over-exercising are all causes of foot pain, often starting with tight calves. A slant stretch and step movement can help. The opposite footsteps across stretch all aspects, including hips.

Then follow up with a foot roll with a tennis ball or frozen water bottle.

Finally, two tennis balls placed on either side of the spine at mid back can release tension above and below and have a positive effect on shoulders as well.