You’ve heard it before. Pain equals gain. Well, it doesn't. Pain actually prevents you from making gains. You see, when you’re experiencing pain, your body compensates. This compensation leads to changes in muscle activation and development of poor movement patterns.
Muscular compensations can include weakness, tightness or simply pain. When one muscle is weak, another has to pick up the slack. When one muscle is tight, another has to relax.
Movement dysfunction occurs simply because, well, if it hurts, you’re not going to do it. If your knee hurts when you squat ass to grass, you’re probably going to squat shallow, to avoid the painful range of motion. This, over time, leads to you getting really good at shallow squats.
In an ideal world, when you’re in pain, you modify your activity. THAT’S NOT ALL YOU DO. After you identify and modify the known problem movement or activity, you actually do something about it. That's where corrective exercise comes into play. This is how you strengthen weakness, lengthen tightness and become more efficient with movement.
What happens when, despite the discomfort, you continue to push through the pain? You promote an environment where you continuously reinforce poor movement patterns and further facilitate muscular imbalances, both with regards to strength and tightness.
An interesting study compared individuals with back pain and those without, when walking and running. Guess what, those with back pain compensated. They did things that allowed them to walk/run relatively pain-free. But, is this a good thing?
I mentioned activity modification. That doesn't mean you change how you run, rather, you change how much you run if not eliminate it altogether. FOR A SHORT PERIOD.
What you should be doing is this: take time away from the problematic activity/exercise. Identify which muscles are weak, or even which movement is weak. Strengthen the muscles/movement. At the same time, identify which muscles are tight or which movement you struggle with. Mobilize that joint and lengthen those muscles.
How do you know if you’re doing it right? First off, you feel stronger in those muscles/movements. Really though, are you able to perform the previously aggravating activity without pain and compensation? That's how you know if you're on the right track.
Now, just because you're able to perform X movement without pain, doesn't mean you're completely off the hook. I’d recommend continuing with the corrective exercises while returning to the problematic exercise/activity for a while longer.
If you're tired of avoiding movements or exercises and want to unleash your full potential, book a session so we can identify your imbalances and set you on the right path.