Pain - The Body's Warning System

A gorgeous January day for running, walking or biking in the warm Florida sun! 

Pain is one of the most primal signals that our body sends to alert us that something is happening, and its discomfort prompts us to take the action necessary to make it stop.

In most cases, the pain is signaling the presence of harm and the risk of injury.

However, there are the people who subscribe to the old-school saying of:

‘no pain, no gain’

a mantra that can get people into trouble if taken too literally, as not all pain is sending the same signal.

While it is fair to say that everyone who exercises regularly does so to improve their overall health status, it is also pertinent to recognize that a positive health status or outcome cannot be achieved without safety being a primary objective.

First things first, identify the pain.

If you begin experiencing pain, your immediate priority should be to obtain as much information as possible about it.

For example, ask the following questions:

  • Is the pain is joint, muscle or bone related?
  • Does it hurt at the onset, during or after you finish exercising?
  • Is it localized within one spot or it is radiating anywhere else in the body?
  • Next, on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being barely detectable to 10 being immobilized), how intense is the pain and is it a stabbing pain or a dull ache?
  • Finally - is the pain constant, pulsating, or only experienced through certain movements or positions?

If the pain is significant, you should stop exercising immediately, rest and seek the advice of a health care provider.

On the other end of the exercise spectrum are athletes who are reluctant to admit they are experiencing pain for fear that they will be put on a modified training program and will fall short of reaching their goals.

However, keep in mind, if you are experiencing anything more than discomfort during a training session, you likely are not executing to your fullest potential and already run the risk of missing your goal target as well as increasing your risk for further injury.

It is also helpful to make sure you can recognize the difference between pain the normal muscular burn and ache that occurs when an exercise becomes difficult.

This may sound obvious, but to a complete beginner it may be new territory and they might never have experienced the sensation of ‘good’ pain.

For athletes who like to push hard, have a high pain tolerance and may be uncertain how hard they are supposed to push, it can be helpful to have a few guidelines about what is considered safe to work through and what to avoid.

As a rule, movement that causes a 'stabbing' pain or pain that is clearly not muscular should be off limits.

Pain above a 5 on the scale mentioned above should also be discontinued, as above a certain threshold, athletes will struggle to pay attention to their form, which can lead to more serious injury.

Remember, pain is your body’s natural warning system. Pay attention now to avoid larger problems later.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!

Contact her, or find out more about her monthly online program, at:!


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