Monday, November 17, 2008

Pain Free

In my job as a physical therapist, I spend my day helping others become "pain free". My job is to get them funtioning again after surgery, trauma, or overused due to repetitive strain. The focus often drifts towards the amount of pain they are having, at rest, during normal day to day activities or...during their sport or fitness routine. I am always amazed how people can become frustrated and discouraged that they can have pain and swelling for more than a few days after any of the above. Do they realize that surgery involves cutting tissue? not to mention they use drills, and all kinds of hardware in the operating room. and a trauma has caused damaged body parts. I have learned over the years to avoid asking things like" how is the pain today?" or do you hurt? Pain is subjective. Every one's interpretation and perception of tolerable pain is different. I see it everyday. This perception of pain for some can hinder and hold them back, slow down their progress if they have a low tolerance to pain. For others, with a high tolerance, they progress well, but their are times that high pain tolerance can get in the way. These are the ones who do too much too soon and cause more swelling and irritation which in the end, can hold them back. Having a high pain tolerance is not always a good thing because it can often enable someone to push themselves over the edge.

As athletes we deal with some level of pain during training or racing. Lets face it, some workouts hurt. (Sickly, they are the ones I usually like the most) The training enables to train the body to be more efficient at working at those levels that hurt. I tell my athletes when trying to run a 5k, it should hurt. It hurts if you are running 5 min pace, or 8 min pace, it is relative to where body is with dealing with lactate. Athletes are also goal minded and driven. If an injury starts creeping up, it is easy to brush off in order to keep the training going. I can't stop, I have to get this run in, my race is only 4 weeks away. We get good at dealing with pain. The result of too much of this mindset can without doubt lead to an overuse injury. And wow....those last 4 weeks heading into the race, you know have some nice forced rest.

However, the workouts we do, does cause muscles soreness, and strain to tissues. It is part of adapting to the training. If every time a workout was skipped because of something was sore, then that would lead to a lot of inconsistent workouts and little gain int fitness. It is a fine line to know when to keep going or when to rest. It takes a little common sense and not always a Masters in Physical Therapy to figure it out. If it hurts during the workout and the pain is getting more intense causing limping or altered gait, its probably a good idea to stop. If it hurts just walking around the house putting laundry away, feeding the dog, sitting in the chair.....its probably time to think about backing off. If it doesn't hurt working out and is a little sore when you're done but goes away the next day, you are probably ok. If it hurts for a few weeks and you keep training, and it starts to hurt more and you keep training, its probably a time to stop. You need help! :)

It is easy for me to give this advice to athletes and clients, and I myself have remained pretty much injury free during 18 yrs of racing....until this summer when I was a dummy and lost all common sense. I am happy to say though that for the first time since Aug 2 (Steelhead), I am pretty much pain free from my bout with being a stubborn athlete. I had ignored all the signs going into Steelhead and wound up in a twisted mess that has taken until the past week or so to unwind. The toys above are part of our living room furniture, and I finally feel like I am not walking with 1 high heel on.

So be smart this off season. Get yourself strong. Listen to your coach and do the core strength. Get flexible. (I have been spending a few evenings a week with Rodney Yee, yoga master since the yoga classes seem to only be offered when I am working) and then keep up with it. Most of all use common sense and listen to your body.

1 comment:

Jennifer Harrison said...

GLAD you are feeling pain free! Yeah...! :) Jen H.