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Experiencing pain when exercising? Here's how to manage it.

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Have you ever heard of the phrase" no pain no gain"?

How about, “What’s the worst that could happen? It’s already in pain!"

Well, we have all worked through some form of pain before during exercise or even play, and depending on the degree of pain, we probably knew that something was not right.

Oftentimes, the pain comes back during certain situations or movements, and we cross our fingers hoping that the pain would disappear so that we can continue with our daily activities, but in reality, this does not solve the issue.

"If it hurts, just rest."

How many of you have heard this advice before? It could come from a friend, your parents, or even a doctor! While they have your best interests at heart, this advice to stop doing what you were doing before can actually be detrimental to your recovery.

As a sports person myself, my initial reaction would be to be upset that I would have to stop doing what I love for the pain to go away. And though I would stop for a while I would soon find myself working through the pain to get back to that activity.

I know that this advice often goes unheeded because it’s difficult to completely stop doing the things we love to do! So, rather than laying on the blanket advice to simply "stop", it is important to understand what pain is to manage it better.

So what is pain?

Our body is made up of hundreds of nerves that are connected like a highway and communicate with our brain. This communication between nerves and the brain goes both ways. Our nerves contain sensors that send messages to the brain about things like touch, movement, and many more. In places like our muscles and joints these sensors are specifically referred to as nociceptors.

It is helpful to think of our brain as a control centre whereby information is constantly being flooded to it. It is responsible for processing all the information and decides which information to send back to our nerves.

When the brain decides that the information it has received is pretty important, it will send a pain message back to our nerves. As mentioned earlier, this is completely normal, and it is meant to protect us.

Conversely, if our brain decides it is not alarming, no pain message will be sent back to our nerves. This may explain why you have no clue how some of your bruises happened.

Pain is complex and numerous factors can influence each person’s unique pain experience. Chronic pain is when pain lasts beyond its healing time and it preoccupies other areas of the brain that deal with things like thoughts, emotions, focus, memory, and concentration.

The good news is that we know both learning about how pain works and exercise are two ways we can calm our alarm system back down.

When do I experience pain?

Traumatic vs overloading

Pain can occur due to a traumatic event or overloading.

  • Traumatic events would refer to big falls, getting tackled in a game or tripping over a big rock.

  • Overloading can occur from too much load or consistently engaging in the sport with poor technique.

What should I do when i experience pain during activity?

Follow this chart!

There are various ways to overcome pain such as taking painkillers, taping and hot or cold modalities.

I won’t deny that these tools are helpful to help us manage pain, but are temporal in nature. In the long run, we need to understand that pain occurs for a reason, which is to protect our body. By blocking pain we may be causing more harm than good to our body.

When should I seek help to manage my pain?

If you still find that there is a constant 2/10 pain when you’re exercising/working out, that’s still not normal. It is important to seek help when you find that your self-management techniques are not improving your pain.

If your pain persists over a period of time, contact us to make an appointment today!

Written by Diyanah Yusoff, Physiotherapist


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