By Richard Stoneking, PT
Everyone has heard the saying “no pain, no gain”. This may be true in terms of healthy individuals AND when it refers to muscle burn with exercise we prefer to say “no gain with pain”. Be sure to differentiate between “pain” and delayed muscle “soreness”. This is not true when one has been injured. It may be better said that only those who exercise with pain are those who have no brain. When performing your rehabilitation program, you should only exercise in a pain minimized range. If there is always a bit of pain present, as is true after an injury or surgery, then you should never do exercise that increases your pain response to greater than a 3 on a scale of 1-10 (10 represents severe pain).
The pain increase is the bodies way of letting you know you are overdoing things. The soft tissue involved is becoming over stressed. Think of it as a chain only being as strong as its weakest link. Quite often the weakest link is the soft tissue. This is tissue like tendons and ligaments. Therapeutic exercise is utilized to promote healing, increase metabolism, and introduce gentle controlled loads so that these tissues can adapt to normal forces. It is important to give plenty of feedback to your health professional or doctor so they can monitor and make any adjustments to your rehabilitation program.
There is another aspect of pain. Pain is a subjective feeling which we have all experienced at one time or another. We know that when we sustain an injury or have surgery we generally feel pain. However, if there is no presence of pain, we may think that there is nothing wrong. This may not always be the case. The body has a mechanism to tell us if we are exercising too hard or over stressing our bodies- pain. Just because pain is not present, does not mean that we are entirely healthy. For instance, if one is sedentary or deconditioned, they may not have any pain response, but then one day we begin to experience back pain or neck pain because of lack of muscle endurance. For this reason, many people move into pain patterns without any apparent reason or trauma.
To sum it up, exercise should be performed without significant pain increases. Periodic maintenance exercise can prevent non traumatic pain patterns from occurring.
Stoneking Physical Therapy and Wellness Center is in Ewing, New Jersey