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When Is It OK To Push Through Pain?

Today we are going to address some of the basic aches and pains you might experience while exercising.

Here is the big question….


Let’s look at a few examples....

1) You are finishing up a dumbbell bench press set and feel a pop in your right shoulder. Afterwards, you notice a sharp, pinching sensation whenever you extend your arm overhead

2) You are halfway through a set of heavy deadlifts when you feel a “pop” in your lower back. This sensation is much sharper and keeps you from bending down.

Do you finish your workout and push through? Or go home and rest?


I am not a doctor and will not diagnose these hypothetical injuries. However, sharp, localized, pinching sensations OR stabbing, radiating pains are usually signs of impingement or tendonitis. If this occurs in a knee, elbow, or shoulder joint- ice, rest, and gently stretch the area as the inflammation goes down. FOCUS ON TRAINING OTHER BODY PARTS during this time of healing. Yes, your shoulder is injured and the pain is no fun. You can whine about it a little louder for the people in the back row, OR spend this period strengthening your posterior chain (for example) through heavy leg workouts. Reframe your mindset about your injury. The sooner you take a step back and rest, the quicker you can return to activity.

Let’s revisit the back popping now, shall we? Yeah, sometimes perfectly healthy backs will snap crackle and pop. Nevertheless, let’s say this pop results in a more severe injury. With any acute fracture, tear, dislocation, or strain, a more serious rehab and recovery protocol is needed. Take charge of the few elements you CAN control. You might have to put your workouts on hold for a bit, but you still have the opportunity to be diligent with your diet. Get plenty of sleep, take in extra micronutrients, and find other things to distract yourself during this period of healing.

NOW… Let’s move on to pain that can POSSIBLY be pushed through…

1) Muscular aches, joint stiffness, or nerve pain caused by chronic diseases or previous trauma. These are aches you’ve had before and possibly a byproduct of a compromised central nervous system or heightened sensitivity to pain.

2) Muscular aches, joint stiffness, and fatigue resulting from rigorous training, poor recovery, a sedentary lifestyle, or a lack of mobility.

Although the first example might be a bit more serious, the bottom line of both cases is to go slow and stay cautious. You know your body better than anyone, so listen to it and watch for warning signs.

Tight hips from sitting too long at work?

Do some body weight exercises to get the blood flowing.

Soreness from high volume leg day?

Again, don’t let that keep you from getting a workout in. Come on in and get moving to break up that lactic acid ruminating in your muscles.

Nerve pain from a previous injury or autoimmune disease?

Take it easy. Listen to your body and proceed with caution.

As coaches who have studied every injury under the sun, we’ve learned there are some pains you can push through and others you can’t. Regardless, if your CNS is compromised or if you’ve developed an acute injury, prioritize REST.

I hope this helps you next time you question whether to work around pain. Reach out if you have any further questions I can answer for you.


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