Anyone who exercises regularly is likely familiar with the quandary: You’re feeling pain, but the big race is coming up - or you’re feeling guilty about skipping a workout and don’t want to miss another.
Should you push through the pain and exercise anyway?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to a dilemma experienced by many athletes and fitness buffs and weekend warriors.
Evaluate your pain
It’s helpful to first think about the type of pain you’re experiencing, says Megan Wolf, a physical therapist at Beaumont Health & Wellness Center in Royal Oak.
“Muscle soreness and mild joint pain are often normal symptoms of performing a new exercise or making a regularly performed exercise harder,” she says. “Some of these symptoms can be eliminated or reduced with making minor changes to the position of the body while the exercise is being performed, the number of repetitions performed, or even the resistance being used.”
This type of pain is usually the result of small tears in your muscles or tendons. It’s OK to exercise through this kind of pain, and it might even help lessen the pain.
It’s persistent pain that should make you stop.
“Anything that would be described as ‘nagging,’ or something that occurs on a consistent basis, should cause you to discontinue your current exercise and seek advice from a health professional,” Wolf says.
Take it easy
If your pain has sidelined you, then you need to give your body some rest. Applying ice or heat is a good idea, and you should try to move and maintain your range of motion as much as possible.
As for specific types of exercises that you can do despite persistent pain, it all depends on what part of the body we’re talking about and the types or source of the pain you’re experiencing.
“As a physical therapist, I definitely encourage exercise,” Wolf says. “Our bodies are made for movement. However, the type of exercise I encourage people to participate in is unique to their current condition, type of pain and symptoms, and it also takes into account their past medical history.”
In other words, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.
“Yoga and Pilates are often excellent options for a maintenance program after completing a round of physical therapy, as they both target the entire body and are lower in impact,” Wolf says. “However, this is something that should be discussed with the physical therapist prior to discharge from formal treatment in order to review what modifications, if any, would be required for that specific patient.”