Should You Exercise Through Pain?

Sports Injuries Physiotherapy

Should You Exercise Through Pain?

Pain is complex, and deciding whether a pain is ‘bad’ enough to get something done about it can be tough. Exercising can be a pain but can also cause pain. Contrary to popular belief pain is not always ‘bad’, as pain and tissue damage are poorly correlated. For example, migraines and muscle cramps can be painful but are not due to tissue damage/trauma.

There are certain things I ask my patients to determine whether they should be exercising through the pain, or resting. These include:

  1. Are there signs of severe injury such as swelling, bruising, locking, giving way?
  2. Can you easily modify the pain – does slowing down a little, taping or wearing different shoes change it?
  3. What is the pain response – how bad is the pain, does it go away immediately, does it last overnight? The longer it lasts and more intense it is usually a sign of a ‘bad’ pain.
  4. What is the pain producing structure? Different tissues respond differently to exercising.

Pain during an event can be different. Some would say “the pain of failing stays longer than the pain of injury!”

It’s always your decision whether to exercise through pain. However, as a general rule, if it’s more than 5/10 and is getting worse each time you do exercise, it’s probably time to get it checked out by a professional.