The slogan “no pain no gain” may once have motivated you to exercise. It is useful for athletes and military training. For the rest of us who are exercising to be healthy and well, pain is a sign something needs to change. If you still have this slogan rolling around in your head when you think about exercise, take a moment to look at it a different way.
Pain is a signal from your brain. Your body is constantly telling your brain what is happening and the brain takes all that information and decides what to do with it. The pain signal is there to help stop you from doing something that could cause more problems down the road.
When you ignore pain with exercise your body sends a signal to the brain that the pain signal is not working to make you change what you are doing. The brain needs to keep the pain signal going or even send a larger one. What makes it even worse is when you get angry at your body for being in pain. This just heightens the level of the “problem” your brain is trying to help you fix.
So what to do when you have pain? Listen to your body and change what you are doing. Sometimes that pain is trying to tell you the body has been still for too long, and needs more movement breaks. Sometimes it is that you have been moving for too long and needs shorter bouts of improvement. Somethings it is that the movement is too intense and it does not have the strength to support that movement right now.
As many patients tell me, their pain changes with the weather and other conditions. So now what? Again, listening to your body is the answer. It is always trying to tell you something, but it wont always be the same thing. Your body is in a constant state of change because inside and outside conditions are in a constant state of change. Do you expect your body to be able to do the same thing all the time? Do you expect it to get stronger, improve function, and shed pounds in logical, predictable way?
This is where mindfulness is so helpful. It lets you listen to it now, each moment, not compared to past or future. It is the openness and curiosity of mindfulness that really allows you to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It helps you not push through pain and exercise based on what it used to do or what you think it should be able to do, but what it can do now.
This is how to exercise when you have pain. Listen to your body each moment and know that the pain is a sign something needs to change. When you listen to it, the pain signals are much more likely to calm down and allow you do move more easily and more often.
Keep Moving, Be Well,
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These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.