Frontier Movement, Health and Healing in Action

Working with Pain

Those of us who have attended many fitness workshops are well aware of the number one rule governing the whole spectrum of bodywork. That rule is: Pain is a sign to stop. Period. It matters little whether we are talking about aerobics, personal training, NIA, Pilates or yoga—pain is a sign to stop.

I am not talking about the pain of working a muscle hard, I am speaking primarily of joint pain and old injury sites in particular. This concept is deeply reinforced by the entities that certify trainers for all work with the human body. Trainers also fear losing clients if old joint pains surface. The Hippocratic oath taken by new doctors states “First, do no harm.”

My research points to a more singular motivation driving this pain-is-a-sign-to-stop theory, and that is liability.

Take a close look at the real first concern of a gym hiring a trainer—lawsuits. Precedent has been set as lawsuits have been settled for millions when training clients are hurt. Doctors have the same concern as is reflected in their insurance rates. Rapid and thorough healing have been trumped by liability concerns. It matters not whether your injury is a slight nag in your knee or a decapitation; the prescription is always six to eight weeks of rest.

Modeling on what trainers, coaches and doctors have taught us, we defend these “injured” shoulders, knees, backs, hips, necks, ankles, elbows, and wrists by being careful what we do with them. We immediately stop when pain arises. Too much tennis, the “tennis elbow” flares up. Too much lifting while working in the yard and our back pain returns. Doing squats in the gym we feel a stabbing pain in our “trick” knee. In yoga class our wrists hurt from planks or downward dog pose.

I have come across many people who have quit these activities entirely due to these recurring pains. Rest and some type of pain medicine and/or muscle relaxers are the main choices for relief. For the more serious pain, cortisone is often recommended. But let us be very clear on this point; these modalities do NOTHING to actually heal the joint. They only produce SYMPTOM RELIEF. Or far worse, some MASK our pain so that we do not properly feel what we are doing with that joint as we continue to perform with it. When we resume any of these activities and we eventually arrive at the same level of duration or intensity of work, we will have the RETURN of SYMPTOMS.

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Sherri Greenberg
Stephanie Swann
Trainer, Massage Therapist
Blake T. Prince
Deep Tissue Massage Therapist
Nicki Anahata Musick
Yoga Instructor

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