3 Tips to Stop Body Aches and Pains: Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Exercise.
Tired of pain every time you wake up in the morning? Have you ever taken a minute to wonder why you have those body aches and pains? Everyone wants to take a pill and make everything go away but at some point you have to stop treating the symptoms. It is time to take responsibility to figure out what’s going on and what you can do to fix it. In this short read we are going to briefly explore where these aches may come from and look at 3 quick tips to ipmrove your movement and pain.
Tip 1: Clear Systemic Sources of Inflammation
Tip 2: Get Exercise (Systemic anti-inflammatory effects)
Tip 3: Get High Quality Movement Often
Why You Have Body Aches and Pains
Why You Have Body Aches and Pains.
If you have pain, you have inflammation. Inflammatory markers in and around the peripheral nerves make the nerve more sensitive and that increases the signals back to the brain that something is wrong. It may lead to increased electical activity in the area and creates muscle guarding and tightness. If a muscles stays “Turned On” long enough it is going to ache. Try making a fist and squeezing as hard as you can. How long can you hold that before it starts to fatigue and hurt…not long. Now imagine your back muscles staying in the same position all damn day long but you can’t “Turn-it off”. It’s going to ache.
Tip 1: Clear Systemic Sources of Inflammation
Dealing with the inflammation related to an acute injury, stress from exercise, or chronic postures is enough you don’t want extra factors increasing the inflammatory markers in your body. Things like: Diet and psychological stress can play a roll.
This is where the “Leaky Gut” and other food concepts come into play. The general concept is that if you are ingesting foods that you have a sensitivity to it will trigger an inflammatory resposne. Your immune system will have to create anti-bodies and histamines to try and help with that. It’s kind of like seasonal allergies but in your gut. We do not want our immune system constantly “on” because it is dealing with a gut issue. These inflammatory markers start to show up systemically or throughout the body which may increase sensitiivty of the peripheral nerves. The exploration of systemic inflammation on things like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, cardiac dysfunction and more is very interesting but beyond the scope of this read.
I think emotional stress plays two major roles in the how we deal with the inflammation and injury. Psychological stress may trigger increased levels of cortisol and other inflammatory markers that affects the body systemically which as discussed previously is no beuno. The other major factor is its function on the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the involuntary control system in our body. It can be broken down into parasympathetic (rest and digest) and sympathetic (fight or flight). I talked in great detail about the effects of the autonomic on mobility in my first article. If you are stressed out and in that constant extended, tight, sympathetic fight mode, you are for sure going to be producing some muscle guarding and inflammation. You get yourself into this nasty feedback loop that can be hard to break.
Tip 2: Get Exercise (Systemic Anti-inflammatory Effects)
There is no doubt that exercise at higher intensities is going to generate inflammation. That is how our body adapts and gets stronger to demands. Here’s what’s cool. In response to exercise your body then feed-forwards and has an anti-inflammatory dump following. Your body recognizes the need to clear the inflammatory markers created by exercise and triggers the immune system to release biomarkers to fix that. Here is a beautiful article from Cooper et al. exploring the role exercise has on sensory nerves and Neuropathic Pain. You want to read this one!
Pick Your Dosage.
We have all met those people that go to the gym crush it and they don’t get sore, don’t get injured and they’re ready to go the next day. I am starting to wonder how much of this is soley related to their immune system’s ability to clear inflammation.
If you don’t think your immune system is functioning optimally from a crap diet, autoimmune condition, low training history, etc. you are going to have to be careful. If you go crazy with the exercise and your immune system can’t handle the stress you generated you’re going to stay in that inflammed state. You need to create enough stress to trigger an adaptation response but not so much that the cooresponding anti-inflammatory response can’t handle it. It has to be “just right”. It is not the end of the world if you overdose yourself on exercise. It’s just going to take longer for you to recover and you’re going to feel sore and achy for a little while. When in doubt start simple. At the end of the day it’s about how you feel next year or ten years from now; not about the progress you make in the first week.
Tip 3: Get High Quality Movement Often
Think about the quailty movement you got today? Have you done anything to challenge your ability to move more than bending over to pick something up off of the floor. When is the last time you were in a deep squat, put weight through your arms, hung from something, or even got on the floor? If you don’t use it you lose it folks. Our body is designed to adapt to stress and accomplish that task as easily as possible. If the stress you place on it every day is sitting in the chair it will get real good at that. That means spinal rigidity, tight hips and backs etc.
Let’s say you’re real good and you go to yoga or crossfit for one hour a day. Is that enough? I am not sure honestly. I have a sneaky suspician that one hour of “good” movement is probably not enough to undue 23 hours of lousy movement. Just like a salad at lunch probably doesn’t make up for having cheesecake at dinner. We are also assuming that you are actually using different movement when you go to yoga or crossfit. If all you do is train within your current movement ranges you are just getting more efficient at that movement. For example, I sit with my low back in a flexion, abs inhibited. I have my lower thoracic spine in extension, with my diaphragm inhibited and no connection to the pelvic floor. My hip flexors are turned on pulling me forward holding up my spine causing my glutes to be inhibited. Now I go to the gym throw a few hundred pounds on the bar and back squat with the same posture and muscles. Did I accomplish anything? Or do I just get better at re-enforcing a compensated pattern. The compensated pattern is efficient in the short term because that’s what I do for the other 23 hours of my day. I think this increase in stress at one area due to a lack of movement at another is where a majority of injuries occur. Yes, in yoga too.
I am dead guilty of this. I can pretty easily get my barbell squat numbers relatively high. Yet ask me to do a pistol and I look like a clumbsy fool. Why? Becuase I can back squat with a wide stance to alleviate demands on ankle dorsiflexion and hip flexion, and keep my back extended to support a heavy load. I am efficient at that. In a pistol I have to move better. I now need hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion and a host of stability and spinal demands. Watch out 2017, I will get one.
What’s Important To You?
Is it important to be able to do a pistol? I don’t know.
Is it important to be able to back squat 400 pounds? I don’t know.
Setting goals is for you to decide but you need to have a reason to set them and a plan to accomplish them.
If you are a competitive athlete and the demands of the sport require you to move heavy stuff or heavy people then damn straight it’s important to be able to move 400+ pounds. I am no longer competitive in that sense but I sure want to be able to move furniture or push on a car that’s stuck in the mud without fear that I am going to get hurt. So yes, for me the ability to move an external load is somewhat important but so is rolling out of bed without hesitation. So my priorities of what’s most important is constantly changing.
What do you need to be able to do? Maybe it’s getting on the floor to play with your kids or grandkids or maybe it’s getting up a flight of stairs without knee pain. Whatever it is, pick a training paradigm that works to accomplishing your top priority goals. Remember to consider both the local and systemic effects of exercise, diet and inflammation, and always remember to move well and move often.
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Nick Sanders PT, DPT, CSCS, CIDN. Is the owner of PHYT For Function LLC.A hybrid physical therapy clinic and fitness stability where the anti-inflammatory benefits of manual therapy and dry needling are combined with the benefits of movement and exercise to treat chronic pain conditions and maximize performance and recovery for his athletes.
Cooper MA, Kluding PM, Wright DE. Emerging Relationships between Exercise, Sensory Nerves, and Neuropathic Pain. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2016;10:372. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00372.