I have been asked this interesting question. Should I work through the pain? It depends upon different things:
Any pain should be paid attention to. A niggly knee when exercising certainly needs paying attention to. Just hoping it will go away is like hoping that all the traffic lights will be on green when we are running late. But when we get a pain, should we stop or reduce our activity until it is better? And here we hit the nub of the problem: sensitivity to pain.
Most of us have heard of or know someone who has ruptured their achilles tendon or torn a hamstring. I know of someone who’s quad ripped whilst crossing the road at a brisk walk. Before themuscles or tendons went bang, something was dreadfully tight! And equally I know people, myself being one, who feels every little pain in their body. If I stopped every time something hurt, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning! It is partly why I’m such a Z-health fan – it works and the pain is getting better. So I and people I know like me very much pay attention to niggly knees, shonky shoulders and crispy calves.
So some people are very much in touch with their body – kinesthetic. Whereas others are in their head – its all going on up there – and they are not particularly aware of their body. These are the people who should stop when it hurts. Because by the time the signal has filtered up to their noggin, things are pretty bad down there in the bod, and these are the people who will warm up for a bit of tennis, only to have their achilles snap, going off like a gun shot.
Everybody should move. One reason people don’t exercise at all is because it hurts – sometimes quite subtley, but if we never move our body unless to walk to the car or shove a supermarket trolley about a bit, again we end up completely out of touch with it, so nip across a busy street for a spot of lunch and, bingo, the quad snaps; there is a chance that if exercising regularly, we would have noticed that our quads have got incredibly stiff and, at the very least, done a bit of stretching.
A minor pain like stitch; if out running, then change the breathing cadence. 1 If this doesn’t work, or it is too hard to do, and the stitch is getting worse, then yes, we have to stop and bend over until it goes. Also, a minor pain, for the first time, whilst not being ignored, can be worked through.
Pain following an injury is inevitable. And the question to ask here is was the injury avoidable? So going down a ski slope and someone ploughs into the back of us, during the painful rehab, we have to know how sensitive we are to pain to know how much to tolerate without making things worse. If sensitive, then get on with it. If something of a rhinocerous, then better stop early. But if the injury was as the result of chronic tightness, eg a snapped achilles, then the rehab has to be done very carefully, and note should be made that we are not particularly in touch with our body, and, generally, when exercising, stop too soon.
The main question is, ‘How in touch with my body am I?’ Not feeling pain may mean that the body works well, after all. Perhaps doing a simple range of movement will help tell: if touching the toes results in, ‘Oof, hello Knees!’, or we can’t drop easily into a full, poo in the woods squat, then this gives a clue that all is not as good as it might be down in the bod, and just pushing hard through an exercise session will eventually end in injury, possibly distressingly serious. A ruptured disc in the back is seriously painful.
Basically, no pain should be ignored, unless it is a one off event. Unless competing, if feeling pain, this is not the time to try for a personal best or to increase the weight. The type of pain should be noted and an action plan formed. Provided we are doing something effective to help, then we can work through the pain. If what we are doing isn’t helping, or the pain is getting worse, then we really do have to reign the activity in or change the exercise. However, I think it very important that we rehabilitate ourselves and return to the exercise. Since the best and most joyous results come from pain free movement.
- We tend to breathe in and out when the same foot strikes the floor, so changing to the other foot will almost certainly relieve the stitch. Or we could run breathing in and out on every third stride. [↩]