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Can you workout while in pain? ... Absolutely!

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

Have you ever worked out with an ache or pain?

Did you avoid exercise or workout because of pain?

Were you worried or even scared that you were going to injure yourself more?

What if I told you that you will not cause more harm to the area by exercising or moving.

Sounds crazy, right?

Well, it’s not!

First, I want to define the difference between pain and discomfort. Discomfort is a state of not being comfortable. Usually, when you get out of a position that is uncomfortable, then the discomfort will go away. Think about a time you tried out a free yoga class or pilates class, or any class that required you to get into a stretch that did not feel great. You were in the stretch and probably thought "This is the longest 30 seconds of my life". Right as the timer went to zero, just before you almost cursed out the instructor, you got out of the position and the discomfort went away. That is a perfect example of discomfort.Pain on the other hand is a bit different. Pain, unlike discomfort, may not go away after you get out of the position causing it. Pain may linger. Pain also may be more intense than discomfort, or may intensify after you get out of a certain position.

I hate to break it to you, but pain in general is not bad. It is a signal the body puts out when something may not be working the exact way it should be. It is letting your brain know, “Hey, pay attention to me!” With that being said, there is a time and place we should listen to your body’s signals and another time when we should just let it be. It often depends on the intensity of the signal the body is telling you. I use the Green, Yellow, and Red Light analogy as a frame of reference.

Green Light

I use a conventional pain scale like the one shown above. If you are working out in the movement and the movement is causing a 1-4 out of 10, then you are good to keep going. You are not hurting anything by continuing to move. It is often very normal to have pain while working out after sustaining an injury or dealing with the same injury for a long period of time.

Yellow Light

Again, using the above pain scale, we are looking at a 4-6 out of 10 range. Just like driving a car into a yellow light, this is your call but we need to be cautious. We could hit the gas to get through the light or we could press the brakes and stop at the light. Remember, you are still not causing any harm to the tissues in this range. We need to be mindful if the pain lingers well after the exercise or if the pain is progressing while in the exercise.

Red Light

We are now looking at numbers greater than 6. We should not be doing an exercise that is causing this much pain on the scale. We most likely are not hurting tissues still but it is getting into more threatening and unproductive pain. From here, we would find another movement or regression of the movement that would put us in a more productive pain scale.

To summarize, there is no danger in moving with long winded aches and pains or even post injury. Oftentimes, people will stop moving completely and avoid the gym because they are having some sort of ache or pain. I would never tell someone to stop going to the gym and lifting because as we move through life, we are lifting everyday and we use the same patterns in real life as the gym. When you get on and off the toilet, that is a squat. Are you having to pick your kids up and off the ground? There is a deadlift. Finally, if you ever have to put your luggage in the overhead bin on the plane, then you are performing an overhead press. In general, we do not move enough in our society as is, and being in the gym exposes us to movement and load which is what our body craves in this day and age.

If you're interested in learning more about movement and exercises to work through daily aches and pains, set up your FREE consultation with me!

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