“Pain will leave once it is done teaching you.”– Bruce Lee
Pain has a negative association. Obviously, who wants pain? I want to convince you that pain is one of your biggest allies. Like a good friend, it has some bad news for you, and you don’t want to hear it. But your buddy, pain, really does mean well, so listen to what it has to say.
Pain is an alarm or notification from your body letting you know something needs your attention. This is good. “Thank you, pain, for letting me know.” What makes pain bad is when you ignore it. Let’s think of pain as a fire alarm in your burning, hot body. The goal is not only to disable the alarm but put out the fire instead of leaving it to burn (are you only focusing on the “hot body” part of what I said?).
Minor pain lets you know a weakness exists and needs some protection and strengthening before it gets worse. Major Payne is a classic movie. Major pain is a louder alarm, probably the remnants of some minor alarms being ignored for too long.
Instead of being defeated by the pain, become fascinated with it. Again, appreciate how cool it is your body is letting you know. Figure out what your body is telling you. If you don’t listen, it inevitably will start screaming at you.
Disclaimer! My gratitude towards pain is directed towards common injuries to muscle and joints (e.g., neck, back, knee, elbow, hip pain). This excludes obvious and traumatic causes of pain (e.g., broken bones from falling) or more rare or mysterious cases (e.g., fibromyalgia).
Let’s make the distinction between good pain and bad pain.
The only good pain is the feelings commonly associated with exercise (i.e., muscles burning, aerobic demands, mental discomfort).
Acceptable pain is soreness; we don’t want it, but when training, it will be there from time to time. I do my best not to train sore muscles because they are in recovery mode and I want them to recover as fast as possible.
Bad Pain (but a Good Friend)
You know what bad pain is. It overrides everything. It is sharp, throbbing, pulsing, shooting…you get it. It is your body stepping in and saying something is not right. Listen to that instinct.
Pain is subjective. It can be anything from a 1 (’tis but a scratch) to a 10 (get to a hospital). Regardless of the level, a response is required from you. Unfortunately, some people suck it up and ignore pain leading to more serious injuries or greatly limiting performance. Others let pain create fear and guarding, causing psychological pain in addition to physical pain. To all of these people, I say, “STOP IT” (slap)!
I’ll acknowledge that your pain is real, no matter your response to it. It’s nobody’s place to say how you should respond to pain (other than me telling you to respond to pain with action). I know, it’s exhausting, it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, it’s defeating, but I’m betting you’d prefer to have less pain and would trade almost anything to be pain-free.
I’m confident there is a solution somewhere out there that will allow you to live a pain-free life or, at the very least, lessen the pain to something more tolerable. Keep looking until you find the solution.
In summary, if you have pain, deal with it. Pain is not something you deal with, it is something you haven’t dealt with and need to because ignoring won’t go well in the long run.