If you have ever been to a physiotherapist for your pain, you have most likely been sent home with a list of exercises – that you probably never end up doing, because who has time for that?
Trust me when I say that we are very aware of how little time our patients have, yet we still give them home programs. Let us talk about why.
Why are weak muscles painful?
When muscles function, they produce waste products that take time to be filtered out. When we expect a certain muscle to do an activity that it is not strong enough for, we force this muscle to work very hard for extended periods of time. This means that we are creating a lot of waste products and not giving the muscle time to filter it out. These products then start building up within our muscles. It is this build-up that we experience as pain.
Over days and weeks and months of this cycle, our muscles become so tired that they start to become tight in an attempt to exert less force. This tightness contains trigger points, that are small nodules in the muscles that are themselves painful, but also refer a dull aching pain to the area around it.
How does strengthening help with this?
The effects of strengthening can be classified into short- and long-term effects. The immediate effect of exercising a muscle that is tight and painful, is that by using this particular muscle, we are increasing the blood flow within the muscle. This increased blood-flow speeds up the process of filtering the waste products out of the muscles.
The contraction that happens in the muscle with each exercise, encourages the muscle to relax more when the exercise is over – and helps it to release some that tension that it has been holding on to.
The long-term results take place once your experience of pain has decreased, and the muscle is back to normal functioning. This is where we start to prepare the muscle for the activity that you will require of it in your daily life, for example: If you expect your neck muscles to carry the weight of your head when you are working for 10 hours straight, we must make these muscles strong enough to carry more than the weight of just your head. That way, they will not get tired as quickly and you will not enter the pain-cycle as easily as you did before.
Tips to increase consistency and compliance with your exercises
Set Realistic Goals: Setting achievable goals can help to stay motivated and committed to an exercise plan. Work with your physiotherapist to set realistic goals that are specific, measurable, and attainable. Celebrate your progress along the way and adjust your goals as needed.
Create A Schedule: Create a schedule for your exercise plan and stick to it. Consider scheduling your exercise sessions at the same time each day or week to establish a routine. Use a planner or calendar to track your progress and hold yourself accountable.
Enlist A Support System: Enlist family members, friends, or a support group to help keep you motivated and accountable. Share your goals with them and ask for their support and encouragement.
Make It Enjoyable: Choose additional exercises that you enjoy and that align with your interests. This can make exercise more enjoyable and fulfilling, increasing your chances of sticking to your plan.
Monitor Your Progress: Keep a record of your progress, noting any improvements or setbacks. This can help you to stay motivated and adjust your plan as needed.
Communicate With Your Physiotherapist: Stay in communication with your physiotherapist about your progress, any concerns you may have, and any changes in your condition. This can help ensure that your exercise plan is effective and tailored to your needs.
With this, I am not saying that you do not deserve a massage after a long day, because you definitely do! What I am saying is that if you would like to be able to continue with your daily life without having to make an appointment with a massage therapist or physio every week – the answer you are looking for is strengthening!