The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.” It is more than data received from the body. The reason we perceive physical pain is not always simply due to tissue damage. Pain is complex. One thing is for sure, everybody hurts…sometimes. And it seems more of us are in pain more frequently.
When we are in pain, we don’t want to move. The more it hurts, the less you move. The less you move, the more things hurt. It's a vicious loop. Maintaining regular movement is absolutely critical to a healthy, functional body and a fulfilling life. Not only that but studies suggest that exercise can provide pain relief equal to medication in some cases.
Your body was meant to move but how do you do that when you are experiencing musculoskeletal pain? Of course, it's imperative to be checked out by a medical professional; pain can be a sign of underlying pathology. Second opinions are also a great idea. You want to be cleared for exercise so that you do not exacerbate any injuries or medical conditions. If your doctor or physical therapist tells you that you can proceed, you should!
I am asked about pain in some form every few weeks. A certified personal trainer (CPT) cannot diagnose or treat medical conditions. But a CPT can help you get moving if you are ready, able, willing (and cleared!) Here are a few important things to keep in mind.
Just when you are hitting your stride.
You step wrong off a curb. Your knee does something funny when crawling into bed. A muscle strain. A broken toe. Any number of injuries and accidents can take us away from regular exercise. And for some reason, when that happens, the balanced eating also tends to fall away. I’ve been there. It’s rough.
One - LISTEN to your doctor or medical professional. Doing too much too soon will delay or alter your healing. Take it from me, the woman who continued to teach Jazzercise with a broken toe. In hindsight, I delayed the healing process by weeks.
Two - Move when/as much as you can without doing further damage. Lower body injured? Work your upper body and core. Do floor work if you are able. Find ways to keep moving but listen to your body and do NOT work through pain in the injured area.
Three - Feed your body well. I know it’s easy to reach for those comfort foods when you are physically hurting and upset. Eat some cake or fries or whatever it is that you crave but find balance. Your body deserves nutritious foods. Adjust your caloric intake to match reduced activity levels, if necessary.
Four - Talk to someone if you start to feel down or stressed. For many of us, regular workouts or daily walks are not only for physical health but for mental health.
Five - Practice gratitude. Studies have shown that being grateful has emotional, social, career and health benefits. Focus on what you CAN do. You are awesome! Even if you do break your toe on a table leg. (I don't recommend it!)
After you have healed, it can be hard to get back into the good habits you previously established. Make a plan, write it down, and start. You may not be where you left off and have to regress a bit in your fitness program and that’s okay. Re-assess your goals. Be aware of your self-talk; be kind to yourself. Keep moving. If you need some help getting back on track, I'm here!