Pain is a symptom. Symptoms are the feedback that the body generates when it faces problems with its delicate internal balance (homeostasis). Without symptoms like pain, thirst, nausea and fevers, it would be very difficult for us to maintain a healthy body in the same way that it would be hard to drive a car safely with no dashboard display.
How Much Exercise Should I do if I Have Pain ?
Pain is intrinsically unpleasant and that’s kind of the point. If the sensation of touching a hot stove or banging our skull on concrete was in any way pleasant we wouldn’t be able to learn what pain has to teach us about health and safety. In addition to the fact that it doesn’t feel good in the short term pain like back pain, hip pain and plantar fasciitis can be frustrating as hell in the long term because it stops us from doing things we enjoy.
Are we supposed to stop training when we have pain though or are we supposed to push through? There is some complexity here because the research shows that it definitely doesn’t pay to avoid pain too much ( through inactivity ) while at the same time overdoing things obviously isn’t a great plan either.
Not Doing Enough To Heal
If we ‘underdo’ it while our bodies are weakened or healing we risk compounding the situation. The risks of undoing it include reduced blood flow to painful areas, muscle wasting, stiffening up of painful areas and in some cases the mild depression that comes through inactivity. All of the above are seriously not what you want when you have a stubborn pains like knee pain, heel pain, hip pain or plantar fasciitis.
Doing Too Much To Heal
If we overdo it we stand to stress the injured or sore tissues and they don’t get the chance they need to heal. We are all aware of the wisdom in not running on a broken leg .. well the same principles hold for back pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and the like.
Developing a good understanding of how far to push our pain is a great skill to have and one that forms and big part of the puzzle of pain resolution in the long run.
A Golden Rule
I have a golden nugget of information for you that I have seen help a huge number of people free themselves from the uncertainty of how much to lift, how far to run etc.
‘If it hurts a bit more during or for a short time after exercise that’s generally speaking not so bad. If you have a significant increase in pain after a given exercise or movement that lasts more than a day or so that’s generally not a great sign’
This is a very loose guide and be mindful that there are exceptions to every rule but it should help to keep you out of trouble.
Shameless Service Plug
One of the services we provide at our clinic is prescription of custom foot orthotics or insoles. Going through the process of having their feet scanned and using the scan to prescribe orthotics for fallen arches helps a huge number of people to be able to keep moving and exercising even while their body is dealing with pain. Pains that respond well to orthotic prescription include plantar fasciitis, bunion pain, heel pain, ankle sprains, knee pain, hip pain, ITB problems, groin pain and back pain.
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John is one of those rare gentlemen who has continued to play competitive soccer well into his late 50s. He is in really good shape, which you need to be to play football at that age—good shape except for his left leg. His left leg is not in good condition at all. In fact, once you get to know his left leg a bit better, it becomes apparent that it’s miraculous that he’s able to run at all, Let alone the type of running required to play competitive soccer against younger men.