My client was in to see me recently and told me about some knee pain she experienced in her last run.
While she was running, she felt a sharp twinge toward the outside of her knee. The twinge turned into a burn and by the time she saw me — a stabbing pain.
“Did you stop?” I asked her.
“No way. I’m training for a marathon, so I can’t. No pain, no gain, right?” she said.
I hated to differ with her, but no… wrong. All wrong.
We’ve been conditioned to think we need to push through pain in order to be successful – in so many areas of our life and of our health.
And while it’s normal to experience some strain and discomfort during exercise or even in our day-to-day life, pain should never be ignored.
In fact, as it turns out, pain is a warning signal that something isn’t right in your body. (I wrote all about it in “The Language of Pain: What Chronic Pain is Telling Your Body”.
The ‘No Pain No Gain’ Myth: 3 Common Misconceptions About Physical Pain
We’ve been conditioned to think of pain as weakness, and often ignore our daily aches and pains instead of treating our body with the care and respect it deserves. Here are 3 myths I really want to dispel for you today…
Myth # 1: I should be sore after a workout. That’s how I know it’s working!
We’ve all experienced that feeling of pain the day after a brand new workout. You know the one…Wobbly legs and arms and difficulty walking down the stairs or even getting up off the toilet!
So, is it absolutely necessary to feel this way every single time you workout in order to see physical gains?
Nope, it’s not!
DOMS (or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) typically kicks in 24-72 hours after your workout and is usually gone after a day or two. It’s caused by microscopic tears created in our muscles during a workout. As these tears repair, our muscles rebuild themselves and become bigger and stronger.
But it turns out that our “soreness factor” has very little to do with our actual results.
Jon Mike, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, and Ph.D. candidate in Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico commenting on the concept that soreness itself is not a good indicator of muscle growth and adaptation.
“There is great variability, even between people with similar genetics and even among highly-trained lifters [and athletes]”
It’s important to challenge yourself during a workout. However, if you are so sore that you can barely move after every single session, it’s time to back off a bit. You’ll still see results and you won’t be in pain!
Myth #2: As an athlete, I have to push through injury and pain in order to be successful
Remember my runner client? That twinge in her knee turned out to be a terrible case of IT band syndrome. She ended up needing to take some time off from running in order to let it heal and even had to cancel her race.
As hard as it is to stop training when an injury gets to you, it’s the best thing you can do to maximise your recovery.
When we choose to ignore an injury and avoid treatment, we run the risk (pardon the pun!) of it becoming a chronic injury. So not only will it take longer to recover, but we also increase the risk of having this same injury over and over again, which will likely lead to the cycle of chronic pain.
In addition to a longer recovery and more or prolonged periods of pain, our body will attempt to use other muscles to compensate for the injured one. This means muscles that have no business “doing the work” are doing it anyway.
Long story short this puts these other muscles at risk of injury now too!
Dr. Nathan Johnson, Associate Professor of Exercise & Sports Science at the University of Sydney says,
“If you’re feeling joint or musculoskeletal pain or anything associated with chest pain, then that’s an indication to stop exercising immediately.”
I more than second that advice!
Myth 3: My massage treatment needs to hurt in order to be beneficial
“Will it hurt?!” is usually the first question a new patient asks me at their first massage or bodywork session.
I completely understand the concern that my patients have around this and want to squash all the myths about massage being painful.
But first, let me explain what is actually happening during a deep tissue massage.
Deep tissue massage targets the deep layers of muscle and connective tissue. Applying pressure breaks up knots and adhesions in your body to provide relief in these tight spots.
The use of pressure in massage is necessary to break up these adhesions that are causing you discomfort. However, the amount of pressure is completely up to the patient.
If you, as the patient, feel like you want to scream in pain during treatment, a good Massage Therapist or Bodyworker will want to know AND should respond accordingly.
It’s OK to tell us to back off!
In fact, not speaking up can actually backfire. If you are in pain, your muscles will often tense up making them resistant to the massage and leave us back at square one.
Talk to your Massage Therapist and communicate what YOU need at your next treatment. Massage doesn’t have to be painful in order to be beneficial.
Better yet… learn some easy, but effective self-massage techniques (self-myofascial release) to take charge of your own health and body care.
Use pain as your guide
So, the next time you feel a twinge in your back (or knee or hip or anywhere for that matter), please don’t ignore it. Pain is a sign that something needs to be addressed.
The sooner you address it, the sooner you can get on with your life and start doing the things you love to do. And more importantly, you can do them pain-free!
If you’re done with painful workouts and bodywork, and ready for a better way to optimise your health…
- ABC.net News Australia — Exercise & Pain: Discomfort, ‘good pain’, and knowing when to stop
- The Daily Burn — No Pain, No Gain? 5 Myths About Muscle Soreness