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Thursday, January 27, 2011

"No pain, no Gain" is so 1980's

Recently I have been frusturated and somewhat amazed by what I call "exercise mania" among a certain group of athletes. I'm all about fitness-as I teach fitness classes myself and try to stay to a regular workout schedule. However, when the body is in moderate amounts of pain, it is time to take a break and let the body heal.

It seems that people have become very desensitized to their bodies. I see this occasionally at my job as a physical therapist. People have had pain for 4 or 6 months and trudge through it, continuing to do incredibly hard workouts....thinking that it will go away. After months and months of pain and ibuprofen, they go to the doctor and then are referred to me. And sometimes they don't particularly like what I have to say. I get bad looks if I suggest taking 1-2 weeks off from the hard core exercise and replace it with a gentle walk or swim.
Some people I run across in physical therapy want a quick fix. They want me to do something to them that will take their pain away--without them having to modify anything in their life. Its not a reasonable expectation. It is very refreshing to hear people say, "let me know what I need to do to help fix this and I"ll do it" instead of "Fix me".

A little about pain physiology--- there is most often chronic inflammation in an area and the goal of physical therapy is to find the source of inflammation and improve the mechanics which will let the area heal. The longer something has been inflamed, the longer it can take to heal, generally speaking. Chronic inflammation ends up with more pre-mature the sustained inflammatory checmicals accelerates degeneration.

I've discovered that there is a facet of the population that is addicted to working out. At all costs to their body. People who are willing to live in pain and put their bodies in continued pain to get a workout high without respecting and listening to their body.

Its hard to get through to this group of athletes who don't want to modify anything about their workouts. When I speak, its as though my mouth is moving, and words are coming out, but they don't really want to hear (or can't hear) what I'm saying. I explain it in the simplest of terms and even add on...."If you take it easy with exercise for 1 week, and your pain increases, then we'll know that you do need that level of exercise. Give me 1 week to see how your symptoms fluctuate." It works. I see it work lots with my athletic clients who agree to try it.

Lately I have felt like therapy bad guy--as if I took someones toys away by suggesting they stop exercising for 1 or 2 weeks. In the end, its their body, their choice on the rehab approach they want to take. Ultimately, my ideas are simply suggestions.

Please, readers--listen to your bodies. If something is hurting, take time to get it addressed...sooner than later.
And the "No pain, no gain" mantra is an 80's fitness/rehab philosophy. That is SO 20+ years ago. (there are many good by-products of the 80's including 80's music and Patrick, but this workout philosophy is not one of them....)

We know a lot more about pain now then we did then. Its not a good thing.



jlksbec said...

Thank you for this post. It's exactly what I needed to read at this very moment, as I've been in pain for over 3 weeks and it isn't getting better. It's worse and just tonight I realized something is really wrong, yet was still reluctant to go ask for help and stop my activity.

I read your blog regularly. Have for the past couple years and so enjoy reading of your lovely family and life in Alaska.


Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Thanks for your post!! I"m glad to hear my words were helpful....hoping your pain resolves soon--
and glad to hear you enjoy reading our blog! Its always fun to hear about new followers.
Best wishes, Zoya