Should You Train Through Your Pain?

We have all heard the saying: no pain, no gain. Seem reductive? That’s because it is. Entire textbooks, thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles, and (let’s be real) common sense would argue against this simplified statement. Now, I think we know what this mantra is referring to: the muscular “burn” that comes with rigorous exercise. And in this case, yes- you probably won’t make much progress in your chosen activity unless you experience a little bit of pain (ie, the “good hurt’). What happens when we take this too far? When does “no pain no gain” become detrimental? It is important to first define the pain you are experiencing before you determine if you should push through that pain. I have already described that muscular burn you experience with rigorous exercise. This is pain you can push through safely. The muscle fibers need to break down in order to be rebuilt stronger.  Other types of pain- sharp pain, dull pain in the joints, deep aches, tingling/electric-like feelings- are not so safe. This is especially for pain that is associated with anatomical changes such as redness, swelling, or joint stiffness. These indicate that there is something wrong with the tissues, and that pain is telling you that these tissues are not normal. Does this mean if you have any of these pains then you can not do anything that hurts? Not necessarily. If you have been told that you have a chronic injury or condition that causes your pain, it may be something you live with. You can still participate in activities, as long as they do not increase your pain level. If you pain is significantly increased during the activity, and continues to get worse over time, it is safe to say that you are causing more damage to your tissues. However, there is good news. There are ways you can decrease the stress and strain applied to these damaged structures in order to prevent deterioration of tissues and progression of disease.  First, becoming aware of your body and familiar with your pain is crucial. Simply knowing what results in increased pain, what reduces your pain, or simply what makes your joints and other tissues feel better. Listening to your body, knowing when something doesn’t feel right, and recognizing when you are approaching the “danger zone” of pain are probably the most important skills you can learn. Second, activity modulation. Just because some movements during your activity make your pain worse doesn’t mean you have to stop that activity. For example, if you love to dance but jumping makes your knee pain worse, focus on other aspects of dancing that don’t increase your pain. If it varies from day to day, practice jumping skills at the beginning of your good-day-practices.  Third, weight reduction. Your Body Mass Index (or BMI) is a general measure used to determine ideal weight to height ratios. While not an accurate predictor of overall health in certain populations, in the general population it is used to determine if someone is overweight or obese. A BMI of 25-29.9 is indicative of being overweight, anything above 30 is considered obese. Decreasing your BMI will decrease the impact on your joints and other tissues that are causing you pain, especially during high impact activities. When, determining whether you should train through your pain, consider what type of pain you are having, where you are having it, and if it is increasing or decreasing. If you are having pain in your joints that is getting worse over time, chances are you are doing more damage to your joints. However, by being aware of your pain, modulating your activities, and decreasing your BMI (if you are overweight or obese) will prevent further damage to your joints and improve your longevity in your chosen activity. If you want help with finally ending back pain for good, download our Free Back Pain Report, full of more tips for decreasing that frustrating back pain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed