How to Manage Injury and Pain: Avoiding Pain
Managing injury and pain like an ankle sprain, sore shoulder, tweaked back or post surgery ACL repair is different for everyone. The approach depends on you, the sport you play, the damage, your pain experience, your athletic trainer or therapist and many other factors.
Although mostly unique, several important factors are the same regardless. One of them is avoiding pain during your rehab process.
Aside from "good pain"* inflicted by your trainer/therapist during soft tissue treatment, your rehab program should NOT cause pain. Things like strength exercises, stretches and mobility exercises should all be pain free. You should NOT work through pain.
* "good pain" is tolerable pain that feels good in a strange way. It subsides in seconds to a minute. And turns from very noticeable to dull and “far removed”. Good pain generally feels like something is changing for the better.
There are several reasons to avoid pain during your rehab process.
Working through pain, ignoring the pain you feel, can turn the temporary or acute pain into chronic or lasting pain. Hurting yourself over and over, which is what you do when you ignore your pain, can “carve” the feeling into your brain. Once etched into your brain, pain can be difficult to get rid of. Your pain can stick around, even when damage is repaired and injuries have healed.
Another reason to avoid pain during your rehab process is that pain can cause your muscles to “shut off”. An example of your body shutting off muscles is when your legs buckle or give out, after hurting yourself badly. I have experienced it once or twice, I think we all have. Something similar happens when you exercise through pain. When you hurt while executing your rehab strength program it can happen that the muscles you are trying to strengthen stop working and others take over. This can lead to bad movement patterns (using the wrong muscles). Which in turn can lead to more or different injury and pain.
Another, often most ignored, reason to avoid pain during your rehab process is emotional distress. Pain wears on you in a major way. Being in pain 24/7 can take the life out of you, it can make you lose confidence, depressed and sad. It can cause you to hate what you love.
I don't know about you but for most of my clients it is difficult to "be nice to themselves". For years and sometime decades, they've been OK with hurting themselves, with ignoring the pain they feel. Every High School, Club and College coach, trainer or therapist has asked them to be "mentally tough" - that's what ignoring pain is generally called.
Although hurting (yourself) when trying to become pain free seems very silly 🤔, it can be difficult not to. One of my clients said it well.
"Dude the idea of just smart training is really a change for me. Like if something hurts, just don’t aggravate it more is an entirely new concept to me! lol" - NFL Player
So, if an exercise, stretch or something else hurts share it with your coach, physician, chiropractor, athletic trainer, therapist or strength coach. Of course always kindly and respectfully.
Always remember, it's about avoiding pain when you're in pursuit of getting pain free. It's only logical.
Hey, I am a Dutch trained PT (not licensed in the USA), LMT and certified personal trainer. I have worked with many athletes from all over the world. Among which professional soccer players, Olympic level track athletes, IFBB bodybuilders, NFL and MLB super stars and of course high school, college, professional and USA national team volleyball players. Oh and also … , coach Jill is my wife.