What do you do for neck, shoulder, hip, knee pain, or any other pain or discomfort that you have? Do you try to deal with it using pain relievers? Do you adapt by moving your body into different positions? Do you let it interfere with sleep, work, fun, or do you just stop doing what you really want to do? Or, worse yet, do you start asking friends, family, strangers,… what exercises or stretches you need to do to make it go away? May I gently, lovingly and poignantly make a suggestion to STOP IT and think about asking a different question.

As a follower of many groups related to health research, fitness, rehabilitation, pain, injury, and yoga I often see the question “what exercises can I or someone else do for this pain or this problem?” The problem I see with this question is that most often there is no real diagnosis, just a vague pain or problem that someone is looking to avoid or quick fix, instead of addressing it and fixing it. This fishing for advice isn’t acceptable for our kids, our pets or even our cars. Yet, often I see people go running to the pediatrician, vet or mechanic willing to do whatever it takes. But, when it comes to addressing our personal physical health and limitations you go to friends and WebMD . 

If a person has pain or problems with a particular range of motion or movement, don’t waste potential healing time by ignoring it. That is like driving around with your gas gauge beeping you are close to empty and waiting for it to stop running before filling it up. The “what should I do question?” is often implying that the person with the condition is wanting to heal their problem with exercise, rather than with a specific treatment plan for a specific problem. Including, accepting the timeline and limitations that might be required for healing. That is like wondering if you should fill your car up with water or gasoline? In order to get the car running again it requires gasoline. The right solution to a specific condition. Our bodies are similar in that certain conditions have specific requirements to heal with the best outcomes. And, like a car, depending on how far you want to go will determine how much gas is required.

Stick with me here. I absolutely believe in rehab and keeping people “doing” something but the trying to figure it out without a proper diagnosis is wasting potential healing time and increasing the risk of further injury. It is true, some things go away with time and sometimes the best treatment is time. However, often exercise and stretching at the beginning of a pain cycle or for chronic conditions is not a complete or sensible approach to a health problem.

If you are asking the question “what should I do?”, ask a professional, not friends on Facebook or WebMD. If you really want to know how exercises or stretches can benefit your individual problem consult someone who specializes in diagnosis and treatment. If you do not have full range of motion, without pain in a joint or body part, don’t exercise or stretch it randomly. Let that be an indicator that you have a problem that needs attention. Maybe there is a simple solution or you may have complicating features that need addressed. Trust your body has an amazing ability to communicate that it needs attention and give it that attention so that you can quickly be on the road to recovery and doing the right exercises, stretches and the treatment best suited for your individual version of a condition. Your health, comfort and healing are worth it and a better question might be “who should I see for this so that I know what to do to get better quickly and completely?”