You don’t have much time. Lunch was a hurried sandwich followed by two meetings and a mad dash to soccer practice. By the end of the day, your back, neck, and shoulders are killing you. You want to exercise but can’t quite figure out where to fit it in to the day. At the very least you’d like to work out to relieve your pain, but what poses are low-impact and portable?

Here are five exercises that anyone at any fitness level can do anywhere to relieve pain and build strength.

Wall sits

Wall sits fire up your quads (the large muscles on the front of your thighs) and offer an easy way to build stamina, increase motivation, and work the core. Place your back against any wall and slide down until your quads are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees don’t extend past your ankles. For an additional challenge, move away from the wall. When you bend your knees, hinge at the hips to as you bend, creating more of a fold over your thighs. You can rest your forearms on your thighs for support. Keep your knees in line with your ankles, and hold as long as you can. Keep your core engaged at all times for support and strength. This can be repeated whenever you have a spare moment!


Planks are one of the most effective strength building exercises that can be done with a minimum of fuss. You can either plank in a standard push-up position, with your core engaged and spine even and level (don’t droop in your back!), or you can lower down to your forearms. Strengthen the back of the neck by looking forward as you plank. Start with 20 seconds a day for three days, then add 15 more seconds a day for three days, and so on until you are holding a plank for over three minutes daily. You will see immediate changes in the front of your body, and your strong core will help support a healthy back.

Bridge pose

Bridge pose builds strength in the back of the body, opens the chest, and strengthens the back of the neck. Lie on your back with your knees bent. You should be able to touch your heels with your fingertips. Take a deep breath in and out, and on an inhale, lift your hips up towards the sky. Press the back of your head into the floor. You can leave your arms on the ground by your sides, or for more heart-opening, you can work your arms underneath you to join hands (careful if you have tender or tight shoulders). Keep your hips lifted and breathe. Knees should point straight forward. Don’t let them fall open. Lower on an exhale.

Quadruped leg lift

Start on all fours with your spine in a neutral position. Don’t let the belly sag. Engage your core and try to bring your shoulder blades towards the middle of your back (don’t let your chest drop forward through your arms). Inhale and stretch your right hand forward and your left leg back (toes flexed down). Hold for five breaths, and release to hands and knees on an exhale. Repeat on the other side, then repeat for a total of three times on each side. This helps develop a strong and healthy back from the base of your skull to the bottom of your spine. For more ab work, bring your elbow and knee to touch before you place them back down on the ground, pushing your belly button towards your spine and rounding your back as you do.

Overhead rotation

This simple move releases tightness in your shoulders that may be causing neck pain. Use a scarf or a belt. Hold the scarf or belt out in front of you, with hands separated (you will know how far once you start the exercise). Slowly raise your hands up and over your head, keeping arms straight. If you cannot do it without bending your arms, move your hands farther apart. As you move your arms, there will be one spot that is tight or wants to stop. Hold in that spot and breathe to see if it loosens a bit. Repeat this exercise from front to back three times, then from back to front three times.

Tell us: What exercises do you do when you don’t have time for exercise?

Image by Guy Sie via Flickr


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