If you live an active lifestyle pain is unavoidable.  Stressing our muscles and joints to a certain degree is how our bodies get stronger and more resilient.  However, there’s a lot of room for over-stressing and over-doing.  That’s why pain is your body’s ultimate protective mechanism and shouldn’t be ignored.  It’s how your body tells you that the demand placed on it is more than its current capacity.  To ignore this would be like ignoring your check-engine-light and taking a cross-country trip.  You’ve always wanted to do it and no little light is going to stop you.  The light won’t, but a damaged engine will.

Check engine light in yellow on automobile dashboard

Signs that you need to make a pit stop and find the root-cause of your pain:

  1. Pain that is stabbing and sharp in nature.
  2. Nerve symptoms: shooting, burning, numbness, tingling
  3. Pain that restricts activity and range of motion
  4. Pain that has become chronic
  5. Pain after hearing a pop and/or followed by inflammation

Traffic light

Minor tweaks and twinges may simply require activity modifications in order to get the green light to go.  These things include:

  1. Improving technique and form (it’s important to get together with a coach or trainer to help you work on these issues because you’ll likely not be able to catch them on your own).
  2. Peeling back and grading your exposure to activity especially if it’s a new activity or you haven’t done it in a while.
  3. Warming up and cooling down before and after vigorous exercise.
  4. Adding variety of movements to prevent overuse.
  5. Scheduling rest and recovery in your week so your body can adapt and heal.

If minor tweaks and twinges aren’t corrected with the above recommendations then something more is going on.  Historically it will evolve to something more chronic if not addressed appropriately.  At this point it is not advisable to “push-through” the pain because you’ll simply continue to dig a deeper hole for yourself.

What happens if we ignore pain and continue to overuse our bodies?

Here are some examples of what happens if we continue to push through the pain in different scenarios:

  • If you’re a runner with shin-splints you could then develop stress fractures.
  • If you’re having trouble with overhead workouts because you feel a “pinch” in your shoulder you could tear a rotator cuff muscle.
  • If you have a stiff neck in the mornings and are starting to lose range of motion you could develop nerve pain down the arm.
  • If your lower back is always sore you could develop a disc herniation.

Hopefully, this gives you a frame work to better understand pain as your body’s protective mechanism.