Quit Ignoring Your Pain
As an adult personal training coach, I hear this phrase (or one like it) far too often: “It hurts, but it’s okay.”
As a coach and athlete, I spend a lot of times in gyms, and I see people try to lift and exercise through shoulder pain, knee pain, wrist pain, and more on a daily basis, continuing with the same exact repetitive exercise even though their body yells in pain with each rep.
As an athlete, I completely understand this. I’m a culprit myself. I ran over 200 miles, including 2 major races, this past Spring with almost constant knee pain that I finally realized was patellar tendinitis.
As a coach, I know better, and I aim to help people take action against their pain.
Pain is your body’s message to you that something is wrong. Think about it like this: If you were stranded on a desert island, you would probably build a fire and signal for help. Seems extreme, but you’re limited and that’s your best and only way to communicate your needs. When you experience pain, your body is building a fire as if to tell you, “HEY. SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT. HELP ME.”
If you ignore your pain, you risk making the matter worse. If you ignore it repeatedly, you risk compromising the structural integrity or long-term health of the joint, ligament, tendon, bone or muscle that has the issue. We know this, so why don’t we heed it?
One reason: We normalize pain. We think that as we get older, our joints are supposed to hurt. This is wrong. Your body is not supposed to be in pain. Our bodies are made to move, to run and jump and dodge and lift heavy things. Pain means something is wrong.
Another reason: we’ve been conditioned to ignore pain and believe that rewards come from pushing through it. If you were an athlete growing up, you may notice that you have this tendency to an even greater degree. We need to remember that there’s a difference between difficulty and pain and therefore, grit and detriment.
Grit is pushing through fatigue up a long hill during a run or finishing out a difficult set of squats in the gym, and it’s necessary to achieve the desired training stimulus. Detriment is choosing to push through a sharp, constant, or foreign pain that acts as a warning sign. Unfortunately, there are no rewards for this, but there are often consequences.
Tendons don’t regenerate on their own. Bones will crack further if you keep up the stress. Joints are not supposed to hurt.
If you’ve been dealing with pain, here’s my advice to you: If you’re experiencing pain in a certain joint, muscle, tendon or bone, get it checked out by a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist. Stop normalizing it, and stop doing things that hurt it until you figure out what is going on. I promise you – more than pushing through it, this is your first step towards better health and athleticism.
— Coach Emily