Is Your Exercise All Pain and No Gain?

We all know exercise and physical activity is vital to maintaining a healthy ability to perform everyday tasks and live life to the fullest.  However, exercise done wrong can actually cause pain and thereby reduce function.  This may be due to preexisting issues, overuse, or improper form (improper posture during activity may be the worst culprit.)

“Often people don’t realize their activity is to blame,” reported Emily Roy, a physical therapist with the Sports Medicine Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital in an article for the Harvard Health Letter.

In a search for better health, many people engage in common activities which can bring great benefits when performed correctly, only to find themselves experiencing symptoms that could be avoided by using good form.

Here are some tips for common activities to help you stay moving and avoid pain.

  • RUNNING – Avoid tension by relaxing the muscles in your jaw, throat, back of your neck, and shoulders. You may also shake your arms, shrug your shoulders, or move your head in “yes” and “no” motions to stay loose.
  • CYCLING – When you lean forward to reach the handlebars, keep your shoulder blades down and back, creating a slight arch in your back.
  • YOGA – For neutral positions, keep your chin toward your neck. Don’t try to turn your head too far.  Use blocks, straps, and alternate poses when necessary as you gain flexibility and strength.
  • SWIMMING – Alternate your strokes to give various muscles a rest and keep them balanced. Also, alternate sides for breathing periodically.
  • GOLF – Lower your chin as you look down at the ball. Alternate sides for carrying your golf bag.
  • HOUSEWORK – Raise one foot by placing it on a small stool or book to take strain off your back when ironing and use a “fencer’s stance” by placing your weight on one foot, then stepping forward and back with the other foot when vacuuming.
  • GARDENING – Pull your chin back as you look down. Take regular rest breaks.  Lift with your legs.

Of course, prevention is the best medicine.  Gentle stretches before you begin activity, warming up, staying hydrated, incorporating strengthening exercises (especially for neck, shoulder and core muscles) and staying within your limitations are all ways to prevent your exercise from becoming a source of pain.  If you are working with a coach or trainer, alert them to any pain you feel during the activity.  They may give you suggestions for improving form or give you an alternative move that is more suited to you at that time.

Remember, just because you cannot do a certain motion today, doesn’t mean you never will be able to do that action.  You may need to drop back and do something else to build the muscles involved, and then try again at a later date.

Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about what exercises or activities you are interested in doing and get tips for good form and posture.  If you don’t have a chiropractor, you can click here to find a TCA member doctor near you.  Your chiropractic physician can provide information on proper biomechanics for the activities you enjoy, as well as recommend exercises to help strengthen your body, improve flexibility and prevent injury, so you can go out there and get moving!



“Is your workout giving you a stiff neck?” Harvard Health Letter – part of Harvard Health Publishing division of Harvard Medical School – Published: September, 2017.

“Housework and Back Pain.”  Healthy Living. American Chiropractic Association.

“Neck and Shoulder Pain.”  Runner’s World.  September 21, 2001.