What to Do If Exercise Hurts

Rest isn’t everything. While you may be tempted to stop exercising at the first bout of pain, minor injuries often heal as you continue to exercise. You can also feel pain or pain without any serious injury. So what if you are exercising and something starts to hurt?

This video summarizes the approach that many trainers, doctors, and physical therapists are currently using. Speaker Austin Baracky, physician and powerlifter, has written extensively about how pain during exercise is not something we should always worry about . He recommends a four-step approach:

  1. Assess what is happening and make sure there are no serious injuries. (Easy if you’re a doctor; others should seek professional help if we’re unsure.)
  2. Lower the weight you are working with until you find a weight you can lift without pain. So if your knee hurts when you squat 200 pounds, you can still handle it during your workout by squatting 100 pounds. Better than not squatting at all! If there is no comfortable weight, proceed to the next step.
  3. Reduce your range of motion to avoid certain pain-causing movements. Therefore, if your knees hurt in the deepest part of the squat, you can put the box behind you and only squat until you sit on the box.
  4. Consider a similar exercise if the previous steps did not help relieve pain. To avoid losing too much of your training progress, you’ll want to choose exercises that are as similar as possible to what you originally tried to do.

I started using this approach myself when I had aching pain somewhere, which is obviously not a serious injury. It’s an amazing feeling when you go from “it hurts when I do this ” to “Oh wait, I can handle this just fine if I take some weight off the barbell.”

For some bouts of pain, you may feel like new by the time the next workout begins; in other cases, you may face several weeks or even months of modified workouts as you recover. Be sure to see your doctor if your pain persists or if it bothers you for any reason. But you may be wondering what else you can do.


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