Aches & Pains

You get up to turn off the alarm clock, your joints stiffen, and your mobility is hindered. Getting up in the morning is hard enough, much less with a nagging ache or pain.

Most people have dealt with aches and pains upon getting up in the morning after a good workout, which are not only bothersome, but may also prevent us from having a productive day. However, For some it is a day-to-day occurrence and a constant reminder to become more active.

Truth is, most of these aches could have been prevented. If left unchecked, it could lead to muscle imbalances, and improper movement dysfunction. Whether it is from not stretching after an intense workout, living a sedentary lifestyle, or improper ergonomics at one’s work place that, in worst cases can lead to injuries.

“Most injuries probably could have been prevented. I put them into two qualifications. One is being in an unsafe position, so they could have prevented that. Another way injuries happen is if that person has an unbalanced muscle structure whether they are playing a sport, or during a recreational activity, and there’s not a good muscle balance or they have tight muscles,” explained Craig Cryer, Director of Physical Therapy/Sports Medicine at the Memorial Hermann Wellness Center.

Corrective exercise might seem foreign to most gym goers, but they serve beneficial purposes for most. Corrective exercise, as described by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), is a systematic process of identifying a neuromuscular dysfunction, developing a plan of action and implementing the corrective strategy. Simply put, the process includes identifying the muscle imbalances in your body that inhibit proper range of motion, followed by stretching the over active muscles, and strengthening the under active muscles from the imbalance.

Corrective exercise would be best to implement at the beginning of a workout program, especially if it is your first time back in the gym in a while.

“For a de-conditioned person, once you put them into an exercise program, they have a higher chance of getting hurt. If they are hurt, they can’t train. If they can’t train, they’re going to quit. If a de-conditioned client comes to you, you have to get them exercise-ready first. That is the first step of what you’re going to do with them, and then you can start to begin to implement a program for their specific goals,” clarified Bryan Caldwell, a strength and conditioning trainer, who holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Wellness and a Masters of Science degree in Physiology, from Oklahoma State University.

Corrective exercise will not shield someone from being injury-free. There are certainly some injuries that can not be prevented; even high level athletes who are fine tuned can still get hurt. Although in good shape, an athlete can still benefit from having a balanced muscle structure, as can those who are just getting back into the swing of things.

“For athletes, having a corrective exercise program implemented with their normal training program, will have the most success. I would say improving range of motion, for instance with a boxer, is something that is important. In training, you want to increase flexibility. You want to make sure a boxer’s core, and lower back are in place so he can stay healthy and not get hurt as much,” explained Caldwell, who has trained with World Class boxers such as Adam Richards, and Houston natives Juan Diaz and Rocky Juarez.

The first step in a corrective exercise program is to assess movement patterns, distinguish movement dysfunction, and muscle imbalances.

A common example of a muscle imbalance seen by trainers is having a posture with rounded shoulders. This widespread muscle imbalance is mostly found in people who have desk jobs and are sitting in front of a computer most of the day. This improper posture is typically caused from improper ergonomics at the work place by having your spine to go into flexion, and creates the impression of a hunched over back.

“When you have somebody who has a desk job, they sit there all day long. If their ergonomics isn’t right, their range of motion for their neck, shoulders, and their back is not going to be well,” said Leslie Lawson, Massage Therapist, and owner of Balanced Health Massage Therapy. “I call it Cumulative trauma. If you do the same thing over and over again everyday and your posture isn’t good, whether it’s your job, your sport, or how you sleep, you are going to keep those muscles extremely tight.”

Once the muscle imbalances are identified, the next step is to relax the over active muscles through some form of inhibition. This can be performed by inhibiting the muscle through self-Myofascial release through the use of a foam roller or by receiving a massage. This step is used to decrease the over activity of muscle fascia found in over active muscles.

Aside from having relaxed muscles, a massage could also extend other benefits as well.

“The massage helps to rid the body of toxins. When you increase the blood circulation to the heart, it opens our lymphatic ducts, and in doing so, it dumps those impurities into the bloodstream. Also, increase your water intake to help the kidneys filter it all out, but your going to see lactic acid build up in those muscles too so the massage helps to rid that as well,” specified Lawson.

Once the over active muscles are brought down to a relaxed state, the next step is to elongate the previously shortened muscle and connective tissue to increase range of motion in the tissue and joint. In this case, this includes stretching the overactive pectoralis major/minor muscle group, and the Latissimus Dorsi.

This can be done by performing various forms of stretching. NASM recommends beginning with a static stretch meaning to elongate the muscle to an end range and statically holding that position for a period of time.

Next step is to activate the under active muscles through isolated strengthening a technique used to increase intramuscular coordination of specific muscles and to isolate a particular muscle to increase force production capabilities. In this case the subject is dealing with under active rhomboids (middle to lower trapezius), rear deltoid muscle, and in some cases the Posterior Rotator Cuff.

“Every single issue is based on balance,” said Cryer. “Every muscle has an antagonist. If that antagonist is tight, or weak, then that muscle is not going to function properly,” explained Cryer, summing up the importance of achieving a balanced muscle structure.

Using the scenario of a person with improper posture and rounded shoulders, the process of activating under active muscles can be achieved by performing exercises to strengthen the rhomboids and rear deltoids. This can be achieved through scapula retraction by contracting the rhomboids and performing back rows. To increase strength in the rear deltoid, one could perform rear deltoid flys which would assist in stabilizing the shoulder girdle.

It is important to correct muscle imbalances in the proper amount of time, before adverse effects occur.

“If we don’t have proper range of motion, you’ll damage your joints, tendons, the ligaments, your vertebrae, your nerve endings there is so much that factors into it,” described Lawson.

Although it can be time consuming, it is a crucial step in getting the body to a balanced muscle structure. Having a balanced muscle structure can help with force output, proper range of motion, and relief from minor aches and pains.

“The reality is that we are an instant generation, a snap of the finger generation of people who want a cure quick,” exclaimed Cryer. “Usually comes in the form of a pill. Toughest part of exercise education is to convince clients this is the long term route. Yeah you can take the pill and the pain will go away, but it has a possibility of coming back.”

People who are looking to get back in shape and have not worked out for a while can benefit from having a clean slate in their muscle structure to steer clear from injury and complete an exercise program with minimal aches & pains.