I do not believe that there is any one good answer because it will depend a lot on the individual.
As a MELT instructor, I would also see whether any of the MELT techniques are helpful, if only using the balls for hands and feet. The intensity obviously has to be adjusted to suit the client but it is also conceivable that you have to drop the workout altogether.
Honestly, and this is from personal experience and from what my clients have told me more so than any textbook information: walking. Lightly walking (and working up to a moderate pace) on a treadmill is low enough in intensity to prevent increasing the discomfort but enough stimulus to get those endorphins flowing and ease the pain a bit. I usually start, or recommend to start, with a good treadmill warm up in this case before continuing on with the scheduled program.
I totally agree with Brittany. As much as you think it’s the last thing you could possibly do, movement seems to be the best answer. A nice good walk, pushes the whole system into pump mode and after a little while everything comes good. Walking, I would say, not too slow. Just try it, you have nothing to lose.
This is a question that I have gotten from time to time. From research that I have done, there is no definitive proof that exercise helps. But from the experiences of clients, I have found that there a few things that seem to influence the effectiveness of exercise for this issue.
One, the exercise needs to be at an intensity below the persons high intensity range. By this I mean, if your high intensity heart rate for a workout is say 145 bpm, then you should begin to find a good intensity for you by starting at least 25% lower. For this example start at around 110 bpm and see how it feels. If the discomfort gets worse, reduce intensity or stop exercising for a short break and then resume at a lower intensity. If the discomfort is unchanged, try small increases until you get a change. If the change is worsening, stop or reduce intensity. If the change is an improvement, hold that for a bit or for the work out. You can keep experimenting and find out what works for you.
Two, start with exercise that you are accustomed to doing. Don’t try running if that isn’t something that you are already doing.
Three, music seems to make a difference. But it appears to be something that is individual in nature. The one common thing is that it seems to be music that makes the person feel happy and energized. As opposed to irritable, sad, combative, etc.
Four, faking being energized or happy also seems to be helpful. I can’t explain it, but that has been a frequent comment from the people who have given me feedback.
As I can’t experience this issue, I may not be as attuned to some of the possible ways these things work for some people. There is one thing that I also recommend from my work with athletes who are injured during competition. A rhytmic movement of a limb (arm/leg, hand/foot) seems to help at least cope with intense pain. Especially a leg. Rolling the leg/arm side to side in slow tic-toc fashion seems to be soothing. This has worked well with injured athletes and some of the people who wanted relief from menstrual discomfort. My theory is that the rhythmic movement is hardwired in us, like rocking a baby. Which by the way has been shown to lower BP in the parent as well as sooth the baby.
Yoga can be very helpful, (I am personally WAY past needing it, but I did use yoga therapeutically a lot in the past for this).
Restorative yoga is often helpful at this time.
I would say to focus on longer holds, to allow the body time to stretch. Also focus on breath work, with attention to elongating the exhale. Gentle twists will help to ease tightness in the back, and help to promote fluid movement, but take care not to go to far in the stretch. Seated postures, crouching postures, supine postures are all good. I would take care with prone postures, or use a pillow under the hips to ease the back.
I agree with the general recommendation to avoid inversions.
Postures I would use would include the six movements of the spine, which includes cat and cow, thread the needle, and kneeling side bends. Also pawanmuktasana (called wind releaving pose), happy baby, seated spinal twists.
Upavistha konasana and badha konasana work for some people, while others hate them, or feel self conscious doing them in a class. Same with garland pose, called Malasana… but that one is more advanced, and not for anyone without extremely healthy knees.
Seated spinal twists can be great also.