victoryA friend of mine asked me to write a blog about chronic pain and working out, a very common problem. I was working out every day and started to get a dreadful pain on the top of my left foot. It felt like someone was driving a ten penny nail into that bump where several bones come together. It. Really. Hurt. I had to relace my shoes (didn’t help for long), started taking lower impact classes and seriously considered giving up.

I went to a foot doctor. She injected my foot with cortisone and told me it was arthritis. The cortisone was supposed to help for 14-21 days. It didn’t help for 3. I was really sad. It hurt and nothing worked.

I decided to get a 2nd opinion from a sports doc (one with a GOOD reputation who worked on the Cincinnati Red, Bengals, and local college sports). His verdict: no arthritis, my Achilles tendon was shrinking (as is normal after age 30) and so I should stretch it every day and that would end the pain.

I did that, it worked. My foot has not bothered me again.

I learned something. Something VERY important: if you are getting pain from workouts, investigate muscle first as the culprit. It may be something else BUT muscle is often the cause of pain.

Your muscles can shrink and get so tight that they hurt tremendously. All you have to do to reverse that is to stretch them out, and doing it before you exercise is the way to go.

Also, forget heat on your muscles. Icing might help but stretching does help. And you need some good advice about stretching, too.

In order for stretching to be effective, you have to stretch the right muscle the right way for 30 seconds or more, more than once a day. Holding the stretch for 10 seconds will do precisely nothing for you.

You have to be regular about it as well. Do them every day as the part of your warm up you can’t live without. Pretty soon you will be amazed at how that pain vanishes! Oh, and it’s free, too.

I would urge anyone who has pain from exercise to see their internist and discuss that pain and ask about stretches.

I just got a fierce low back pain which popped up after exercise. I saw my internist, who sent me for one session to a physical therapist who gave me a set of stretches, advice on how to do them, proper timing and sent me home with a paper about them. Sure enough, my pain is finished now. The stretches were the answer.

Please don’t think that stretches are the answer to every pain you get, I am sure there are poor souls out there with dreadful problems which should be attended to at the highest levels BUT for a lot of us we need stretching and professionals can help us with that.

And knowing that tight muscles cause severe pain can be great when talking to your internist. He or she will be able to tell if it’s something worse than tight muscles but knowing that tightness is a major contributor to pain will help them help you.

Good luck. You want to stay out on the exercise floor so you can look buff for summer! Stretching isn’t just some weird little athlete’s ritual, it’s necessary.

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