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.
Should You Keep Training When You Have Pain?
Pain is fundamentally unpleasant, and that’s kind of it’s whole point. If the sensation of touching a hot stove or banging your skull on concrete wasn’t unpleasant you wouldn’t learn what pain has to teach you about health and safety. In other words we are not supposed to do a lot of the stuff that hurts because its bad for us.
Where the whole topic starts to get complicated is with the fact that things like intense exercise can hurt just as much a burnt finger … but they’re good for us right !! And even more complex still because research shows that when you have back pain ( for eg.) it’s way better to keep moving through the pain than avoid it. To retrieve some simplicity lets just agree though that if we are truly injured (like broken leg injured) we aren’t supposed to push through.
The basic question people often pose to us is in the context of foot pain, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, hip pain, knee pain etc. ‘Shall I stop training / using it or should I rest it ?’
To Train Or Not To Train
If we ‘under-do’ it while our bodies are weakened or healing we risk making our situation worse.
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:
If we overdo activity our painful or injured areas may not get the chance they need to heal.
If you are aware of the wisdom in not running on a freshly sprained ankle you know what we mean. To some degree the same principles hold for back pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis, foot pain, heel pain and the like.
Developing a good understanding of how far to push our pain .. or not is a great skill to have and one that forms and big part of the pain resolution puzzle.
A Golden Rule
We have for you a golden nugget of information that has helped a huge number of people free themselves from the uncertainty of how much to lift, how long to train, how far to run etc. and here it is…
‘If it hurts a little bit more DURING or for a SHORT TIME after exercise that’s generally speaking not so bad.. maybe even good. If you have a SIGNIFICANT PAIN INCREASE after a given activity or movement that lasts MORE THAN 24 HRS that’s generally not a great sign and you should back off.
This is a very loose guide and be mindful that there are exceptions to every rule but it can definitely help to keep you out of trouble. This rule is however definitely not a substitute for face to face professional advice and care.
The truth is that it can obviously be a little hard to know for sure how much to push a given pain unless you have a great deal of experience with that kind of pain .. which hopefully you don’t. Having a practitioner who has treated a wide range of pains over a long period of time is essential. Having that right practitioner is like having a mechanic for your car .. for most of us it’s way easier than trying to figure it all out for yourself.
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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.