Trigger a Training Montage
October 28, 2007 3:37 AM   Subscribe

I planned to ask about finding low-cost help for depression. But I'm asking about joint pain instead.

I've got me a case of the crippling depression. And yeah, in every thread about treating depression on the cheap, working out is the first line of every other answer. Doesn't seem to matter what, so long as it's something.

Sounds great. I'm all for it. But the trouble is that I've not done much working out in awhile, and I've developed some persistent aches and pains.

The sharpest pain is in my right knee, but it's colonized my right hip and lower back as well. The discomfort is enough to make finding a tolerable posture to sit or lie in troublesome. I would like to get these pains sorted out before I begin anything too vigorous.

So I'm asking for some good stretches and exercises to get my back, leg, hips and knees ready to work. I haven't any money to spend on this project, so gym memberships, classes and the like are right out.

Thank you for your help.
posted by EatTheWeek to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total)
See a doctor about your depression and your joint pain, before you attempt an exercise program.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:54 AM on October 28, 2007

The cheapest treatment would be to see your primary care physician. Antidepressants are the most cost effective answer, and some work for pain problems as well (Cymbalta). You can waste a lot of time and effort trying home remedies. That being said, once you start treatment, changing behaviors and mindset might help. Good luck.
posted by objdoc at 4:23 AM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and I'm broke. Can't really afford a doctor run.
posted by EatTheWeek at 4:25 AM on October 28, 2007

If the pain is in your knee, it is unlikely to be a muscular problem, and therefore stretches/exercise will not help it heal (although they could help with the pain you're getting from twisting the rest of the leg around to accommodate the injury). I think that the only good recommendation is therefore to see a doctor/physio/whatever. However, given no healthcare, I think swimming or gentle walking is the only form of exercise that might help more than it harms. But seriously, it hurts just to sit still? I'd probably cut down on eating to get to the doctor in that case.
posted by jacalata at 4:41 AM on October 28, 2007

IANAD, and you would be much better served by seeing one.

You may have runner's knee, which, name aside, happens to non-runners, too, and can cause pain while sitting (in which case it's known as movie-goer's knee). The first link provides folk wisdom on diagnosing and treating the problem. If you have the problem, you will be much better off talking with a physical therapist to learn exercises to fix all your various imbalances, but strengthening your thighs and icing the knee are two activities that can't hurt (unless they do, in which case, obviously, stop doing them).
posted by backupjesus at 5:12 AM on October 28, 2007

There are probably some sorts of low-cost options for you to see a doctor and/or therapist, even w/out insurance. Remember, one of the symptoms of depression is pessimism. Getting youself some help when you're depressed can be extra hard because you have to leapfrog over the natural pessimism and lethargy that accompany depression. But someone on here is bound to know of some resources that may help.
posted by lunasol at 5:25 AM on October 28, 2007

You should be taking capsules of glucosamine with chondroitin, which you can get almost anywhere they sell vitamins and stuff. I know plenty of people whose joint pain has eased considerably over time due to it.

But that too costs money.
posted by hermitosis at 6:07 AM on October 28, 2007

Disclaimer: IANAPharmacist or a doc or anything...

For the depression, many consider St. John's Wort to be a suitable non-prescription medication for mild to moderate depression. It runs from about 10-20 dollars per bottle. It can take up to 6 weeks to see/notice an effect, if effective at all. Also, it can cause hypersensitivity to sunlight and is not recommended if you are taking MAO inhibitors and maybe birth control (but i am not sure about this last one).

Is your depression chronic? If this is a once-in-a-while type of depression, and you are typically in good spirits, I would just say "hang in there!" you WILL get over this. Medication should not be a first-resort attempt at getting better. Life gives us ups and downs and maybe you are just experiencing a downer...

That being said, if you are regularly depressed, medication is a good tool, but you also need to consider lifestyle changes too - positive thinking, positive environment, goals to achieve, healthy eating.

Good luck to you!
posted by bitteroldman at 6:08 AM on October 28, 2007

Your aches and pains might be caused by the shoes you are wearing. I know if I walk on a treadmill and am wearing the wrong shoes, I will feel like I was hit by a bus the next day. I mean the wrong shoes for you or what you are doing--I've had rather expensive athletic shoes turn out to be the wrong shoes and a cheap pair of heeless tennies turn out to be the right shoes. If you have the right pair of shoes you can walk forever. I found when battling depression I have to do at least 3 miles a day, 5 is better. That is what it takes for me-- you might need more or less. It really does help and your body will start to crave exercise after a few days--really! Go to a discount store like Marshalls or TJMaxx or whatever they have in your town and look at the shoes. Get something with good cushioning and arch support. You don't have to buy an expensive pair but make sure they feel good on your foot when wearing thick socks and ideally you should have more than one pair to rotate shoes each day you walk. A new pair of good walking shoes would be cheaper than medication, but don't rule that out either if you are really in the funk. With exercise and depression, getting yourself actually out the door and on your way is 3/4th's of the battle, so congratuate yourself when you pull yourself off the computer and get out the door and on your way. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 6:41 AM on October 28, 2007

You know what? If you can sing _at all_, you might consider joining a choir of some kind. Singing is breathing, and it's going to have a similar effect to exercise, if not quite as intense. Plus, there's guaranteed social interaction. It will get you out of the house once per week, twice if you end up in a church choir (if you're not churchy, maybe consider Unitarian Universalist or something). Performing is safe -- you're in a big group -- but still exciting.
posted by amtho at 6:44 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

amtho writes "Singing is breathing, and it's going to have a similar effect to exercise, "

Intriguing! Might want to try this myself. Do you have a cite?
posted by orthogonality at 6:53 AM on October 28, 2007

for your lower back, you might try crunches on an exercise ball (be sure to suck your bellybutton in, as if you were trying to draw your nads up into your tummy).

stretch your lower back by sitting on a sofa or chair with your legs shoulder width apart. sit up straight with your chin back and your shoulderblades pressing together and down. gently lean forward as if to put your head between your knees, but try to keep your back straight. go as far as you can.

for your hip, it's probably your iliotibial band. lie down on your side as if you were going to do leg lifts. draw your bottom leg up towards your body for stability, and move your back leg back about half a foot. then do leg lifts.

i don't know about the knee, never had those problems. you might just want to try ibuprofen three times a day and see if that helps.

until you get some relief from your pain, how about swimming? that's great exercise.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:15 AM on October 28, 2007

Easy does it for the joints. For the mind you might listen to The Positive Mind podcasts and chip away at your other problems.
posted by powpow at 8:25 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think in your case you have to find someone you know who is a doctor and ask them to give you at least a vague diagnosis of what exactly your pain is. Don't jog, at the very least. Swimming is least likely to fuck anything up more and most likely to help, but there's no way to know for sure until you know why you have these pains. Stretching might help; who knows? It's not a cure-all for joint pain. As far as I know stretching helps you avoid muscle injury and has little to do with joints. If you want to get a little physically active in the meantime, do pushups. Try to do 1-2 more pushups every day. Find a bar somewhere and do pullups. Etc. Do what you can.

Do you have a cousin, neighbor, old college buddy who's a doctor?
posted by creasy boy at 8:38 AM on October 28, 2007

orthogonality - I have no cite. No data to back it up. My assertion is based on intuition and serious personal experience.

It's important that I suggested singing in a group - while I suspect singing alone is pretty good, it's going to be hard to get motivated if you're not already motivated in general.
posted by amtho at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2007

Preface: I hate self-help books, but there is a classic of Cognitive Behavoiral Therapy that has been useful to me, the Feeling Good Handbook, and which isn't too sunny for a depressed person to read. It's a classic, if you can get yourself to read it.

As for exercizes and stretches: get yourself to a public library and find videos and books. You'll probably need visuals to do these correctly.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:53 AM on October 28, 2007

Sunshine and music both fight depression. Headset + music player + walking.
posted by theora55 at 12:23 PM on October 28, 2007

This is a good idea. I vote for walking. First, get good sneakers. You can find all sorts of discontinued models at T.J. Max. Got myself a nice pair of New Balance there yesterday for thirty bucks. Go to the drug store/pharmacy, and buy yourself a couple blue-ice packs that you can freeze and re-freeze, or use plain old ice if you can't afford that.

The goal for joint pain is: warm it up, cool it down. Start out with a slow walk. After you've been going for a while, maybe twenty minutes, find a slight hill and walk up it (ten minutes) and then back down. Ideally, you end up at home at this point and all warmed up. Put the ice packs on your knee and hip immediately. You can take an advil, too, the first few times, it won't kill you.

As far as stretches are concerned, I would walk on over to your public library and rent a yoga video. DON'T DO ANYTHING that hurts. It should not hurt. Stretches can most certainly help joint pain.

You also might want to consider getting a better bed. Sounds like you aren't sleeping well, and it might help with the depression as well. If you need an affordable new one, try
posted by Eringatang at 9:00 PM on October 28, 2007

I would suggest walking or swimming, and some advil with a small snack 30min to an hour before you start. It'll reduce inflammation and pain. Go as slowly as you can. It's not intensity or speed that matters, just that you're out there walking around.

Did you ever think that the joint pain and the depression might go together? There are physical illnesses that manifest themselves in both of these ways, for example, Lupus (SLE). If you can, think about getting yourself checked over.

In the meantime, good luck with your exercise.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:53 AM on October 29, 2007

I think taking analgesics before exercising is ill-advised with weight-bearing joint pain if one doesn't know the root cause. Exercise in spite of the pain may take you from a problem that can be corrected with physical therapy to one that requires surgery and/or may not be fully recoverable.

As the cliche goes, you only get one set of joints. I can tell you from personal experience that being told that you'll need a knee replaced when you're in your 20s (and re-replaced every decade or so) is not fun. (More testing showed I didn't need the replacement -- but those few weeks were a personal low point.)
posted by backupjesus at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2007

I would suggest the Alexander Technique, on the grounds that it could have theraputic benefits as well as prepare you to exercise in a healthy way. You say you don't have any money to spend on this project, but, well, i'd advise that you think of it as something other than a project...
posted by criticalbill at 8:59 AM on October 29, 2007

I agree with backupjesus, don't take anything before you walk, take it after if you feel like you need it, while icing it, while staying off it.

And I thought of a stretch for you. Start sitting. Cross your legs so that your right foot is just above your left knee. If you can do this without pain, then you can probably do this stretch:
Stand up, grab onto something at waist to chest height, like a mantleplace or a dresser, with both hands. Put your right foot back in place over your left knee, just like it was when you were sitting down. Then, slowly lower yourself like you are going to sit down in this position, only until you feel that good, stretchy feeling, but not pain. Hold for a count of five. Repeat on the other side.
posted by Eringatang at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all very much.
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:18 AM on October 30, 2007

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