By Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW
As I begin to write this article…
- My CT junction (joining of the cervical/thoracic vertebrae) is stiff and causing a low-grade headache
- My SI joints (Sacroiliac) are stiff and giving me some discomfort
- My pelvis is slightly out of alignment causing some lumbar stiffness and creating some hypertonicity and discomfort in my left Glute Medius
- My Infraspinatus (one of the rotator cuff muscles) is hypertonic and tender in my left shoulder and causing some radicular discomfort down my left arm/thumb
My assumption is that your response to the previous statements is much like many people/clients/friends I explain my physical aches and pains to…
…”What?! But you workout all day long! How could anything be wrong with you?!”
Allow me one moment to clear the air here before we proceed…
…I do NOT workout for a living! I help OTHER people do that.
Thank you for letting me vent. I feel a little better now.
Onward. I’ve had hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations with clients and non-clients over the years that I’ve been in this industry about aches, pains, physical problems, etc. At the same time, I’ve had hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations with colleagues of mine who are Strength Coaches, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, etc. As such, there are a few conclusions I’ve come to realize that have influenced and informed my decision-making regarding my own wellness as well as the recommendations I make to my clients/non-clients.
1. Pain is not abnormal and is not necessarily cause for alarm. Most experience it in different ways and to differing degrees on a daily basis. Cut finger, stubbed toe, headache, muscle burn/fatigue from lactate accumulation, kink in the neck from sleeping on your side (which is not advisable, by the way), pulled muscle, strange ache or twinge in this or that joint…normal daily stuff.
2. Chronic Pain is not abnormal, but is cause for alarm. There is most definitely a difference between “common” pain (pain which is experienced by a vast number of people) and what is considered “normal” or healthy. Because a lot of people experience does not mean it is necessarily something you should live with or ignore.
3. You can work around and sometime through pain. No, I don’t mean “no pain, no gain.” I don’t really buy that. But I do believe that it’s important to keep moving and do everything you can to maintain or even progress during times of pain or to simply work (yes, work!) at getting rid of pain. Often there are several steps one can take to provide self-therapy and get rid of pain and pain cycles. Simply falling into the thinking of “I’m hurt so I can’t do anything” will often lead a person into a downward spiral of chronic pain and debilitation.
How can you differentiate between the two and/or make an informed decision about whether there is cause for concern or to go see a therapy professional? Here are a few questions that can guide your thinking:
1. Has it been happening for a while or did it just start bothering you?
a. If it is a strange/new/ discomfort that you haven’t experienced prior, don’t rush to worry or concern. Sometimes our bodies just hurt…and they will get better on their own.
b. If it’s been going on for several days to several weeks and is either not improving or perhaps even getting worse, it’s best to have someone take a look and assess the situation.
2. Is it severely limiting and or debilitating?
a. If it isn’t, it may not be a priority to get it looked at. It may dissipate on its own.
b. If it is causing constant problems or limiting daily activity, don’t ignore it. It may continue getting worse or start to cause other problems due to new compensatory movement patterns you utilize to work around this pain.
3. Are you a whiner/hypochondriac or the opposite…living in denial?
Be honest with yourself. Do you have a tendency toward one or the other personality type? If you aren’t sure, ask people who know you well. Both traits have pros and cons. The obvious issues here with whiners is that every single little twinge is reason for major concern when the reality is that is just not true at all. The person who lives in denial (I’m thinking of the movie “Monte Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” line “It’s just a flesh wound!”
) can literally run their bodies right into the ground with chronic pain and degeneration.
Everyone deals with gravity and physics. If you’re like me, you sit and work at a computer during the day a lot. It takes work to avoid losing the battle caused by gravity and physics. At Prevail Conditioning we strive to minimize pain, maximize movement economy, and create the healthiest and highest performing bodies we can for our clients. Part of that comes with a healthy understanding of pain and dealing with pain. Pain is normal. How we deal with it is a whole separate issue. Use this article as a jumping off point to dealing with some pain issues and questions. Don’t ignore it. Deal with it. Work at it/through it. Get it checked out when appropriate.
If you are in need of an Orthopedic Screen (head to toe joint, soft tissue, neural evaluation), Deep Tissue Therapeutic Massage, Functional Movement Screen/Corrective Exercise Program, or Nutrition consultation to improve tissue regeneration, contact us today to schedule your appointment so we can begin your journey toward better health and performance.