It sounds counterintuitive, but exercise—strength training, in particular—is one of the best ways to alleviate joint pain. Why? Because in most cases the tissue causing the pain is muscle…even when structural abnormalities such as herniated discs and arthritis are identified by diagnostic tests. For patients with painful hips, knees and backs, the root cause often is a weakness or imbalance of strength between the muscles in the front and the back of the body…or in the muscles surrounding the painful joint. Strengthening the weaker muscles often can resolve the pain. Mitchell Yass, DPT, creator of The Yass Method for pain-free movement, suggests the following two strengthening moves to help with one of the most common pain scenarios—lower back pain.

Move #1: Hamstring curls. If you have access to a gym, use the seated leg curl machine. Position yourself so that your ankles are resting on top of the padded bar. Press the bar down with your legs, imagining your power coming from the contraction of your hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs). Once your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, slowly raise your legs back up until they’re nearly straight but your knees aren’t locked. Repeat for 10 reps for one set. Rest…then repeat. Do a total of three sets. Reminder: The weight should be heavy enough that the first eight reps feel doable but challenging and the final reps feel difficult.

Working out at home? Perform the same exercise with a resistance band in lieu of the machine. Make a loop with the band and anchor the ends of the band (knotting the ends together helps) between the door and frame. Sit in a sturdy chair far enough from the door to provide resistance for the band—the band should hold your leg off the ground when that foot is placed in the loop. Then proceed following the same moves as with the machine. Repeat for 10 reps for each foot for one set. ­Perform three sets.

Move #2: Hip extensions. Despite the name, this move works the gluteus maximus muscle—the outermost muscle of the buttocks—not the hips. Standing near a solidly built door, loop a resistance band behind your right knee and anchor the loose ends between the door and frame at knee height when standing. Facing the door, step back about two feet—far enough that the band has moderate tension. Place your hands on the door, and lean slightly forward. Once stable, shift most of your weight to your left foot and raise your right knee, bending it to a 90-degree angle with the sole of your foot facing away from the door. Extend your bent right leg back about 10 degrees behind the hip—imagine leading with your right heel. When you reach the band’s end point, return to the start position. Do 10 reps on each side for one set. Perform three sets. If you are doing this exercise at a gym, use a cable system to perform the exercise.

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