BY NINJA MASTER, MARK FISHER
At Mark Fisher Fitness, we’re a big believer in FUN. Not plain ol’ vanilla fun.
FUN with capital letters. We really believe ridiculousness is an important element of fitness (and life) success. We pride ourselves on an anything-goes, outrageous fitness environment where pants are accepted but strongly discouraged.
There is, however, one thing we do not joke about. And that’s safety.
For folks new to MFF, sometimes this can require a lot of patience. Not only are we conservative with weight until we can create solid technique, but we also strive to make Ninjas aware that pain isn’t normal. If exercise hurts beyond the normal discomfort of working out… something’s up. And we need to get the ouchie addressed ASAP.
I would be so much cooler if I was into House of Pain.
Instead I’m listening to the original cast recording of the Off Broadway musical Giant.
Fuck my life.
There’s no way to have optimal movement with pain, as your body will do whatever it needs to do to avoid hurting. Usually this means less than ideal patterns of movement, which often lead to overstressing ANOTHER part of the body until it too starts to feel pain.
We’ve developed a reputation as a go-to place for folks who’ve experienced chronic injuries. Thanks to our studies in the White Magic Mysticism of injury reduction and rehab protocols, we feel great about handling just about anything at this point.
To be clear, if you’re actually hurting, we need a physical therapist or other clinician to help you out and address the pain. But when it comes time to start moving again, we love helping folks inch back into the waters of fitness. We love teaching them better patterns of movement, and we love nurturing them through the very understandable fear that usually accompanies this process.
That said, you should know, pain is a mysterious bitch.
What IS Pain?
Part of the issue is that pain is still not completely understood. We don’t know why some people seem to be get beat up so easily, even when doing everything “right” from a training and recovery perspective. Conversely, some people do feats of epic stupidity and never to seem to feel banged up.
And here’s where it gets quirkier. Lemme blow your fucking mind for a minute. With SCIENCE!
Some people feel no pain, but seem to have major stuff going on.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study back in 1994 where they found that 82% of people NOT IN BACK PAIN had a disc bulge, protrusion, or extrusion (read: bad things) in their spine. And 38% had two or more. WTF??
Don’t you worry, shoulders are often fucked up too. In one study bySher et al in 1995, they found that 34% of 96 people NOT IN SHOULDER PAIN had a rotator cuff tear. And the participants older than 60? 64% had tears.
On the flip side, we’ve dealt with many Ninjas who are dealing with chronic pain but MRIs can’t find anything wrong with the problematic joint. And anyone’s who struggled with chronic pain knows how frustrating this can be. It becomes a major quality of life issue.
Pain is created by messengers in our nervous system; they bring us awareness when we have some tissue damage. Generally this is useful. But part of the problem is this system gets overactive in the case of chronic pain. Oftentimes these messengers get super sensitive and start freaking out more so than is appropriate. So our only sense of tissue damage is going apeshit.
You know that drama queen friend who just freaks the fuck out about everything? These messengers are a bit tense because of their history, so now they act like that friend. They’re often panicking and letting our brain know something’s up, but it’s disproportional to what’s actually going on.
So What The Fuck Should I Do?
Let’s be clear, you are ALWAYS better off erring on the safe side. Sometimes pain is NOT a muscle or joint thing. Sometimes it’s a MEDICAL thing. This is why we’re hard asses about having Ninjas see a clinician if they’re feeling pain.
But what if you do your due diligence and we can’t find anything wrong?
At that point, we need to do our good faith best to first understand what pain means and what it doesn’t mean. By no means am I ever a proponent of “pushing through,” but interestingly enough many folks seem to actually get relief just from understanding how pain works. There’s a large psychological component to pain, and many people will start to feel better just by appreciating there may truly be nothing wrong with them. They just have some overly protective messengers looking out for their well being.
Remember. Your body is designed to function perfectly in a world that no longer exists. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
Outside of that, provided the clinician has signed off on returning to exercise, you need to really ease your way back in. Don’t go nuts out the gate. If pain has kept you inactive, you need to slowly resume your former fitness activity and give your tissues time to adjust.
Furthermore, if it’s at all possible to work with a highly skilled coach, this is a key investment. Oftentimes people dealing with pain need to work with someone who can really keep an eagle eye on their technique so they learn to move better.
Although pain isn’t completely understood, it’s important that anyone working out addresses pain. Even if it’s not some major medical issue, it could completely derail your training and your quality of life. Safety first!!
Now here’s where you come in.
First off, if you know someone who’s struggled with pain and it’s cockblocked their health and hotness pursuits, share this article with them!
And then, I want to hear your thoughts! Have you had experience with pain? How did you handle it? What strategies did you use and how successful were you?
Drop a comment below!