What Is Pain?

Coach Aryan
August 27, 2021
Athlete Photo

What exactly is pain? Everyone has their own definition or interpretation of pain. One person might define pain as a tightness or soreness in a muscle, but to another it could be when they have a limb detached. In CrossFit we take our bodies through some vigorous activity and it can be normal to have some aches, pains and discomfort. “Push through!” we can be told, but this can be dangerous, especially if you aren’t listening to your body as carefully as you should be. The pain that I am talking about is when you physically can’t perform a movement because of a sharpness, shooting, or numbing feeling. This is your body screaming, “hey dummy, pay attention to me!”Many of us have a hard time differentiating between aches and soreness, workout discomfort (also known as “the suck zone”) and true pain. However one views pain or perceives pain, a good rule of thumb that I recommend is that If it doesn’t feel right and it limits your ability to perform a movement then something is wrong and it should be addressed. If this happens to you, don’t delay, do something about it! Ask your coach or email me. Use your resources! Help yourself by avoiding the movement that causes you the discomfort and pain, use lighter loading, modify, or in worst-case scenario, just REST! We’re conditioned to “push through pain” because “pain is weakness” but if your body is sending you the signals to slow down, take it easy and rest, then listen to it. The aftermath of ignoring these signs usually results in more time spent away from the gym and at times serious injury. Learn yourself as an athlete and learn to listen to the signals your body is sending you. That can be as drastic as sharp, shooting pain and as simple as weights feeling heavier than they tend to on strength days. These are all signs that your body is trying to tell you something, so listen up and obey! Another great example we see is the whole working out while you're sick thing. Although this may not be a direct source of pain, the oncoming sign of sickness is an important body signal that should be listened to. This old adage of “sweating out your sickness” is dumb, unquestioned tradition that holds no truth. When your immune system is working extremely hard to fight off a virus, the last thing we want to do is add the intensity of a workout to re-direct your immune systems focus from fighting an infection to regulating your body during a workout. Imagine a burning fire (sickness) unable to be tended to because the firefighters (immune system) are too busy saving cats from trees (non important task like working out).You may believe that the pain you’re experiencing will just go away, some of you may be right, but for many it may not. I suggest that if the pain is persistent for more than a week and a half and it’s limiting your abilities and movements during your workout, then you need to get it checked out. The longer you wait and the longer it goes untreated then the longer it will take for you to recover from it. Again, I can’t stress enough to use your resources! You are lucky to have coaches that care about your health and well being. They do not want you to continue to work out through an injury and risk making the problem worse. Talk to them, talk to me and address it as soon as possible!Here is a recap of my rules to follow when addressing pain…

  1. Mobilize and stretch the painful area if and only if it doesn’t cause you more pain. Soreness is not pain.
  2. If it’s your upper extremity that is causing you pain, then focus your workout on your lower extremities.
  3. If a movement hurts…then don’t freaking do it!
  4. If you are worried about the pain then 9 times out of 10 something is wrong and you need to get it checked out.
  5. It doesn’t hurt to ask! Regardless of your definition or interpretation of pain, if you have a question then please ask, regardless of how dumb you may think it is. Being silent gets you nowhere.
  6. If you are injured, rather than focusing on all the things you can’t do, focus on what you CAN do. Alter your mindset and put everything you have into getting the most out of your current situation. Ask your coaches or me to modify, but don’t use it as an excuse to sit out!

No one likes pain and no one wants to be injured, but at times it can happen. You can decrease your chances of injuries and reduce your pain by addressing your issues (mobilizing) before and after (stretching) class. Listen to your coaches (and me!) and do what you need to do to be able to do the things you love. Look out for yourself this year and make it your best one yet.

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