A method to approach pain and exercise

February 18, 2020 | Evolistic Health

Before we get into this article, I need to make something clear. I am not talking about the pain you experience when your muscles are working hard. Nor am I referring to broken bones, torn muscles/ligaments or any other chronic injuries that need to be seen by a medical professional.  

I mean more acute pain. Like niggles in joints or pain you experience during a specific movement. For example, an ache in the shoulder during the bench press, at a level of 4/10, 10 being the most pain you have ever experienced. 

Having said all that, if you have been, or plan on taking up exercise as a regular activity, you will likely experience pain at some stage. 

The two most common things I hear and see people doing when they experience this kind of pain in the gym are: 

  1. Get up and leave. This can be due to many reasons, but most likely one of either they are scared of making it worse, or they are too frustrated and give up. 

  2. Push through the pain. 

There seem to be two types of people. Those who will always go with option 1, and those who will always go with option 2. Option 2’s tend to be a bit hardcore and think without pain, there is no gain, whereas option 1’s are on the conservative side. 

In my opinion, neither of these options are the way to go. We know that exercise is extremely good for us, but not if we are pushing through pain. I believe we should always look to modify the exercise in some way that rids the pain. Although some knowledge of anatomy and basic biomechanics can help with the modifications, they are in no way necessary for you to reap the benefits.

So, here is a list of things that you can modify if you feel pain when exercising, whether that is running, weights, rowing, powerlifting etc. They can be applied to almost any activity, you may just have to think outside the box using the principles I give you. I’d recommend trying the following in the order that they are listed. 

  1. Modify your technique: This should definitely be your first port of call. It is up to you how you go about this, but if you are versed in the area yourself you may know what to change. For example, today I was bench pressing and I was experiencing a little niggle in my left shoulder. This happens frequently enough if I go too deep for my range of motion. So on my next set, I stopped the bar an extra inch above my chest, and the pain went away. If you are less experienced, film yourself and try to get help from others in the gym, social media, personal trainers etc. Most people are very willing to help you out, including Evolistic Health!

  2. Modify the tempo: If you have tried modifying your technique, or don’t know how to, this is your next post of call. The speed at which the exercise is moved is commonly referred to as the tempo. When I say “modify”, I really mean slow down the tempo, especially on the way down. This is because the faster you move the bar or dumbbell on the way down, the more likely you are to increase the forces on your joints. Reducing the tempo on your way down will likely reduce or get rid of any pain. 

  3. Reduce the weight and/or reps: I was going to add these two in as separate points, but I could not talk about one without mentioning the other! So, if you are experiencing pain in the latter reps of your sets, e.g. in the 8th, 9th, 10th reps of your 10 rep set, it may just be a case of reducing your reps to 6! If this is the case, I would definitely advise you to do this before reducing the weight. If you are experiencing pain straight away, e.g in reps 1-4, it is probably best to reduce the weight. Try taking 10% off of the exercise at first, and go from there!

  4. Change the exercise: This is the last resort, but not a bad option to end on! Find an exercise that causes no pain and you are good to go! There are thousands of exercises out there, so there is bound to be one that will work similar muscle groups, and cause no pain.

This is just a few of the many ways that you can work around pain, and we are confident in this helping you guys a lot! If you would like some extra help, please don’t hesitate to contact us at contact@evolistichealth.co.uk

Remember, there will always be something you can do to work around the pain. Don’t just give up!