3 myth about no pain no gain: Exercise through pain and injury – from a physical therapist - Be My Healer
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By Sophie Xie / March 18, 2016

3 myth about no pain no gain: Exercise through pain and injury

3 myth about no pain no gain

“I don’t feel any pain doing this!” my patient told me, look absolutely skeptical.

“That’s good!” My usual reaction.

“Well, if I don’t feel anything, this is not doing my any good. Right?” The patient went on. “You know: no pain, no gain. That’s what they all say.”

And that’s when I normally laugh and respond with “If that’s true, I’m really in good business here. Cuz I know LOTS of things that cause pain.”

This scenario happens way too often in my practice as physical therapist.

Well the saying may hold truth in many circumstances in life where character building is both beneficial and necessary. It does not hold true if it has anything to do with physical pain and injury.

Myth #1: Pain is signaling that you are working the right part that has the problem

exercise cause muscle pain

If the pain you feel is the same pain that causes you trouble and dysfunction, then it’s called concordant pain. If we can re-create your concordant pain, we have, mostly like, found the mechanism that causes the pain. This means that, if an exercise reproduces the same pain you are concerned about in the first place, the exercise is irritating the same injury, not at all making the injury any better.

Exercise should not cause your pain. The only way to know if a particular treatment (exercise, stretch, massage, etc) is “working the right place” is to re-check the painful motion AFTER the treatment to see if the pain is still there. This is called a comparable sign.

Myth #2: If an exercise is good for me, I don’t care if it causes me pain right now.

You should care. Milk may be good source of calcium. It may also kill you if you fail to inform me your severe allergic reaction to dairy products.

No exercise is absolutely a must on your way to feel better.
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When someone introduces you an exercise to do (or other treatment) for your pain or injury, they are making assumptions that their recommendation is going to improve your condition is some way. If the recommendation is made by a medical professional, such as a physical therapist, the recommendation is based on theory and clinical judgement.

However, if you try the exercise and it causes you pain, it means that your body is been irritated by the exercise (or treatment) in some way. Repeat irritations can make your injury flare-up big time, or becomes worse. You should speak up so that the treatment can be adjusted or terminated. If you are on your own, the least you shoulder do is to stop and re-read the instructions. (Or google the internet for some clarification)

Myth #3: When I am building muscle, the pain I feel is the muscle “burning” and getting stronger.

muscle burning exercise

Muscle soreness from over exercise is different from acute damage or inflammation pain, and people should learn to differentiate them. Yet, this does not mean, in any sense, that muscle soreness is a “good” thing.

After a full day of intense exercise, your muscle is as sore as a jar of sauerkraut. (Both have some fermentation going on.) Is your muscle going to get stronger this way? Maybe. However, more definitively, your muscle is suffering from some less obvious damage. Repetitive trauma, or overuse injury, from over-exercising, is brewing pot for muscle tissue problems, such as muscle nodes, muscle imbalance, muscle stiffness. In a long run, these muscle tissue problems will transfer to chronic muscle pain and nerve entrapment.

Strengthening does not have to happen in that intensity. Exercise your muscle until they are tired. Then rest and give them time to replenish oxygen and nutrients. Load them, stress them, but not break them.

Is pain absolutely bad on the road to recovery?

No. In some cases, pain is hard to avoid.

For example, in certain individuals whose muscle are so very stiff and noded-up, massage therapy may need to go beyond comfort for treatment to have real benefits.

Also for those who are fresh out of an orthopedic surgery, and need to regain joint range and motion, pain is tough to avoid. However, it does not mean that more pain is better given the same treatment. More importantly, we only help patient in these situation within their pain tolerance, for extreme pain can engrave fear like nothing else.

Final Thought


Final thought: Good new. Getting better does not have to be painful. Keeping yourself in check to follow through with all the exercises, stretches, heating and massages can be really tedious and time consuming. That, I admit.

Let’s keep pain as it is: our body’s way of telling us that something is not done right for our body and mind.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful. If you have physical pain, injuries or weakness, try my consulting service today for FREE, and receive my personal attention on your concerns today.

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