Is exercise causing you pain or injury?

posted on November 13, 2019

There’s a lot of reasons why exercise may cause injury or pain for an individual, such as posture, biomechanics, poor form, weak muscles or poor programming. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the phrase ‘no pain no gain’ which is relevant in the sense of pushing through some level of discomfort as your challenge yourself physically, but this isn’t the same as injury pain.

A body that is able to move optimally and pain-free is a happy body, so pushing through exercises that are consistently painful defeats the objective of exercise in the first place. There is nothing to gain from exercising through injury pain.

When the body experiences pain, it can alter muscle activation (so imagine the painful areas try to do less work and other stronger areas activate to try and help). This can create compensation patterns in the body which can cause a cascade of issues.

These aren’t always obvious at first and it can sometimes take years of training before pain kicks in and you’re left wondering why you have lower back pain when you’ve been training to strengthen and protect it for the last 3 years.

This is why it’s so important to nail your movement patterns early on. You need to create a solid foundation of correct biomechanics to train upon because, unless you’re incredibly lucky, chances are you’ve got some sort of compensation pattern happening in your body which isn’t ideal to train on top of. Our bodies naturally fall into their own style of movement which is influenced by our lifestyles, so when we’re finally advised that one hip is twisted to the right and one shoulder is higher than the other, it can be really difficult to see or feel it because our body thinks that it’s ‘normal’. And correcting it can take a lot of time and discipline.

A lot of injury and pain can be avoided later in life by addressing imbalances in the body early on. Which is why I’ve recently started 1-1 pilates. I don’t live with pain, but as somebody who lifts weights, I need to make sure that my movements are sound so that injury doesn’t creep up on me later in life.

Pilates isn’t “exercise for old people”. Pilates is about addressing these imbalances in the body which absolutely comes hand-in-hand with weight lifting, except the two couldn’t have a more opposite reputation. Can you imagine the big muscular bloke from your gym going to a pilates class? Probably not. But if he wants to continue lifting weights for the rest of his life, biomechanics work really needs to be on his agenda.

I think some work is needed to change the reputation of pilates in the fitness (weight lifting especially) space which is why I’m going to be documenting my journey with pilates via my Instagram. I think as the ‘Instagram fitness’ generation gets older there will naturally be a shift bringing weight lifting and pilates together as imbalances start to come through for influencers of this generation.

So, if you’re experiencing an injury-type-pain from exercise then what should you do?

1.See a physio – my advice would be to see somebody who can really analyse your movement patterns properly and identify any imbalances or causes of injury. A physio is absolutely the best place to start.

2.Reduce the load and focus on your form – this can be a difficult one especially if you’ve been training for years building up strength. But it’s so important that the basics are mastered before load is added.

3.Film yourself, or get someone to assess your form – you may be able to spot the issues yourself.

4.Perform a different/more comfortable variation of the exercise – exercise doesn’t need to be completely off limits. Try and find ways to do the exercise without causing pain or discomfort.

Ultimately, whenever you feel pain when training then stop immediately but don’t despair. There is always a solution which some advice, time and commitment can solve.