Do you exercise through muscle pain or joint pain when you have it? Are you suffering from chronic pain or acute pain that persists on a daily basis? Should you exercise through muscle pain or joint pain thinking that perhaps it’ll pass or you’ll feel better after? No, this isn’t an advertisement for a pain reliever.
This is an issue that I am somewhat on the fence about, when is it okay to exercise through muscle pain or be seen by a professional such as a chiropractor, acupuncturist, osteopath, or, orthopedic surgeon. I personally have mixed feelings about how people experience pain and the pain sensory mechanism. Have people become too coddled or weak due to inactivity, sedentary lifestyles, and yes, entitlement so that if they feel even an ounce of discomfort or pain they wallow in self-pity and complain endlessly? Or, is it valid and needs to be addressed ASAP by the appropriate professional.
Given the right variables some things will work themselves out or heal given enough rest, massage and or a hot Epsom salts bath. Not everything is an emergency situation. I have clients that suffer from a myriad of orthopedic issues from hip immobility, degeneration to low back pain associated from sitting too much at a computer and not moving in general very much during the day. I’ve come to the conclusion that based on a variety of issues from mental, emotional or physical that people experience pain very differently. Some seem to have more tolerance for discomfort than others. Is this a good or bad thing I wonder?
I personally have had various muscle pulls, injuries from athletic adventures and SI Joint dysfunction that I have had to rehab over the years and, at times still suffer. As a health and fitness professional I personally know how to exercise through muscle pain in my workouts as well as have various compensations that happen all over the place to keep me doing what I love but, this may not be the best thing for me to do all of the time.
Of course I don’t always just ignore them in hopes that they will go away, I take it easy when I have to, work other muscle groups if needed as well as have had numerous visits to chiropractors, osteopaths, sports massage therapists, and other sports therapists to help with recovery and healing. I’m not adverse to doing these things nor do I think people should just ignore a real chronic pain issue or, injuries.
I do however think that some pain can be worked through as it’s simply a signal to change form such as, when doing a squat, you might feel some discomfort or ‘pain’ in one position so instead try to generate the force or energy through a different area or part of the body, move away from it to a place that feels better for you with no pain or physical restrictions. Perhaps push through the back part of the body rather than the front. Usually it’s just that the form is not right for you specifically due to structural variations. I’ve heard of doctors telling people not to squat but, really what should they do when they go sit on a toilet or get into a car? These are squats, a squat pattern, should you not do either then? I can understand not doing heavy weighted squats at the gym but to simply not do something that is a primal pattern that you do on a daily basis seems quite silly to me.
Let’s take a look at athletes and what they do when they injured. They work with a rehab specialist to create more mobility in the injured area. What does that mean exactly? Well, guess what.. it means that it’s painful and there is a lot of discomfort going on there for sure but, they do it anyway so they can heal and get back to their sport. The body is an incredible healer and will heal itself if provided with the right healing mechanisms including mobility, rest, massage, hot baths, sleep and yes, movement.
Next up, have you heard of those who have lost limbs and have the ‘Phantom limb pain’ feeling pain where there is no longer a limb? There shouldn’t be anymore pain there, right? That’s the logical thinking but it happens that they still may feel pain in the lost limb area due to pain sensory in the brain and, perhaps the spinal cord. There are various thoughts on this including that the pain from the previous limb is still associated to be there by the brain. So is pain actually just in the brain not where you think it is felt? Interesting concept.
The point to all of this is that being in ‘pain’ shouldn’t be the reason you stop exercising or you stop your workout routine for longer than a few days or a week. If you’ve pulled a muscle or there is inflammation then it’s a valid reason to stop for a short bit to ice it, get a massage, rest more, maybe do some relaxation therapy or even yoga depending on the degree of pull or injury. To stop all movement/exercise should not be a viable option because if you stop to think about what you have to do on a daily basis such as, taking care of your kids, going to work, making food, grocery shopping, walking, showering and all the other chores you have to do you don’t stop ‘movement’ at all.
You’ll find that if you move or exercise in the right way you’ll usually feel better by creating mobility in your joints and muscles as long as you know what to do, have a good personal trainer or physical therapist you’ll be moving correctly and will heal sooner rather than later with movements like bodyweight movements or, mobility work.
There are of course daily habits you should incorporate into your life to stay out of pain which includes exercise in general. There are various types and forms that you can do which can help with your ‘pain.’ I have clients who have come to me with back pain and after doing the programs I create for them they have remained pain free because of certain core strengthening exercises they do as well as stretches and or mobility drills.
The worst thing you can do for your body is to stop exercising/moving/workouts however, it must be done in the right amount for your individual needs. Extremes are not good but moderate exercise as well as walking are what you should keep in mind. So, should you exercise through muscle pain? That’s definitely an individual judgment call you’ll have to make for yourself but in my opinion don’t stop exercising for too long or you may find that you are worse off than you thought you might be. Just be sure to find the best healer to help diagnose you or treat you so you can get back to what you love to do as soon as possible, could be that you need a deep tissue massage or chiropractic adjustment.
Jenn YoungJune 5th, 2017
Thanks for this article! I always question whether I should muscle through muscle pain. I find that most times I do feel better after doing a light workout when I feel too sore. But, like you said, it’s an individual thing. The key takeaway is to never wait too long to do the next workout because you probably will find yourself back at square. Thanks again!
Sculpted PhysiquesJune 6th, 2017
You’re welcome! Yes, for sure it can be hard to decide if you should work around the pain or not but it’s always a good thing to at least walk to move the body because it helps to stretch especially, if it was a leg day. 😉
Kat SJune 8th, 2017
I think that for me, sometimes changing the form of exercise is good. Sometimes I will go to swimming if I have some muscle strain and also yoga is good for creating balance. As you taught me, stretching is important also to help in this area. I try to always stretch and get warmed up before and also after. I think it makes a difference. The point is to keep moving!
Sculpted PhysiquesJune 10th, 2017
Yes, exactly! So glad it has made a difference. Keep up the great work!