You are coming along in your training and you're starting to feel better! You have probably set some fitness goals and are actively working to achieve them. That is so awesome! So now is a good time to start talking about injuries and pain.
As a physical therapist, I work with injured people and their pain daily. So I have a different viewpoint of pain than many others that I work with, even in my own field. I have seen what works doesn't work with a variety of injuries and I have read research on a lot more. The bottom line is you will have pain in your life. It's going to happen, it's a part of living. How you deal with and recover from that pain is what we're focusing on.
As a physical therapist, I often talk to patients about their pain and I am happy to give them general advice. Here's the gauge I use:
If you can point to your pain with one or two fingers, that is bad pain that needs to be worked AROUND. If it is the palm of your hand or bigger, it's likely pain that you can work THROUGH. The pain that can be pointed out with a finger or two is likely caused by damage. Pain that is palm sized or larger is probably soreness that may be present from previous workouts or a previous injury that is healing. Keep this in mind when you feel strange things in your body and let it be a guide for you in your workouts and scaling.
Injuries are a common part of an active lifestyle. Let’s face it, you have probably injured yourself in the past doing things that you would not consider difficult. For example, stepping off a curb and spraining your ankle, bending over to pick up a piece of paper and hurting your back, or picking up your child and hurting your shoulder are all stories I've heard as a physical therapist. The only way that you can avoid these things is to sit on the couch and never move! (which leads to chronic diseases… so you are screwed there too!) The bottom line is, injuries happen. But what we do after and around the injury is critically important to our success along the fitness journey.
Let’s go into a little more detail here.
The dictionary defines an injury as harm or damage that is done or sustained. The key word is “damage”. With an injury, there is legitimate damage that is done to some of the tissues in your body, be it muscle, tendon or ligament, bone, cartilaginous, nervous or epithelial (skin). The body is an amazing machine and often has the capability to heal with time. However, if you don't give it the time to repair, the quality of the damaged tissue won't improve!
Now let’s go to the other side of the equation, injuries usually don't require stopping everything all together and sitting on the couch to let it heal! There is a happy medium we should be working in. Pain is an indicator of damage, so we should always be working in a pain-free manner. This means that you can work out, but modify your workout in either load, repetitions or movement to allow you to complete it pain-free. It may mean, if you have a knee injury for example, you don’t complete running, jumping or full depth squats in a workout, but rowing, burpees, partial depth squats to a target or step-ups instead. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!!! This may also allow you to improve in an area that has been a weakness for you. If you take the same example above, you will likely improve your rowing capacity by practicing and training with rowing more than running. This does not make you weaker, but stronger!
If you don’t know how to scale a workout…. I guess you better just stay home…. WRONG! Ask your coach! They are experts in this matter! They are trained to know how to help you best and to work with you to get a great workout without further injuring yourself!
Finally, for you that are too tough and like to work through an injury.
Consider the following...let’s say that you have a mild injury and continue to work through the pain with daily workouts. Eventually, this injury may become more and more noticeable and you will eventually have pain that is bad enough that you cannot work out. You MAY need 6-8 weeks to heal and recover, you MAY need a surgery to fix what is wrong which could mean that you are out even longer than that! Do you think you will decline after 6-8 weeks of not working out? (YES!) Do you think if you had worked AROUND your injury instead of THROUGH your injury, that you may have improved or at least been able to continue working out? (possibly) For that fact, please talk to your coach about your injuries and scaling appropriately! You can keep working towards your fitness goals despite an injury, you just need to be smart and check your ego at the door!
Finally, some injuries and pain are more chronic or overuse in nature. For example, a person that repetitively reaches for high objects on a shelf at work may start to have shoulder pain. Combine that with some of the CrossFit movements, and they may start to think that their shoulder pain is caused by CrossFit workouts. There are some exercises that they can do to prevent pain and promote better movement patterns. At CFBA, we frequently incorporate these exercises into our warmup to allow you to continue to move well and stay strong in some often-neglected muscles. This means that it is important for you to get to class on time and allow for a good warmup to continue to work in the way you need to achieve your goals.
If you are pushing your body to new levels, you are likely to experience some pain. Knowing what to do with your pain will allow you to continue your journey to reaching your goals. My hope is that this will allow you to better discern what pain is normal and ok, and what pain needs to be worked around. Again, please see me or talk to your coach regarding your pain and scaling needs! We are happy to help you with what you need to achieve your goals! We are so happy that you are a part of the CFBA family and so ready to see the goals and new heights that you achieve!