As you already know, this past Saturday Dr. Dave hosted his seminar focused around pain, rehabilitation, and recovery. Needless to say it was a very informative and enjoyable experience! What stood out to me was his warm, approachable demeanor. Along with his lecture, Dave gave practical demonstrations on how to manage pain using participants from the audience. The personal interest he showed in just a short time by getting to know a little bit about each participant left an impression on me, which leads me to my first takeaway.
Pain is both an emotion and sensation that is influenced by physical, psychological, and social factors. It comes as no surprise that pain can be caused by physical factors. If we sustain an injury, we will feel pain. However, what goes on in our mind and in our interactions with others can play just as large a role, if not larger. After all, our brain is what interprets pain. Someone who suffers from depression, who is coping with the grief of losing a loved one, or who is grappling with anxieties of day to day life is more likely to experience the sensation of pain. The same is true of the narratives that we tell ourselves, as well as those that we are told by others. So, what can you do if you are experiencing pain inside or outside of the gym?
Look at the context. Your life is more than the WODs you do inside the gym; that includes the good and the bad. True, your pain can be the result of poor technique or overtraining. But, you need to look at all of the possible factors in your life that could be contributors to your symptoms, which includes your training volume, work load, relationships, habits, and hobbies. Remember, pain is not only a sensation but also an emotion. You may need to ask a trusted friend or family member to help you take an objective look at your circumstances or listen to you talk through your problems. Keep in mind that us coaches are always here to help you overcome your obstacles and stay on the path to success in your fitness journey!
Make a plan. You may come to realize that you need some help crafting a strategy to manage your symptoms. This could come from a coach, a physical therapist, or a doctor. When seeking help, bear in mind that physical activity that you enjoy is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. If their advice is to stop entirely what you enjoy doing, then find someone else. That is not a strategy to manage and overcome your symptoms; it is hiding from the problem and it won’t fix anything. They should work with you to lay out a specific plan to modify and then progressively work back up to where you want to be.
Put your plan to action and modify. Presumably at this point you’ve sought help to look at your circumstances, determine the underlying issue, and make a plan to tackle the problem. That plan will likely include some modifications. The goal is to modify the symptomatic movement so as to reduce or eliminate the subsequent pain. This will build confidence and help you to overcome your symptoms. Really, the word ‘modification’ is interchangeable with any action we take to overcome the problem and maintain a happy and pain-free life. What might some of those modifications look like?
- Reducing load, volume, or range of motion
- Incorporating tempos to movements that are symptomatic
- Focusing our attention on a specific muscle group while performing a symptomatic movement (the more muscle we can incorporate into the movement, the more control we will have and we will be less likely to experience pain.
- Talk about your thoughts, feelings, and problems with a trusted friend or family member.
We will all at some point along our fitness journey experience some sort of major or minor pain. The key is to remain positive and remember that you can overcome it, especially with a good plan and a strong support system. Get fit, stay healthy, and take care!