Should Pain Be Normal?
Most of the population has experienced pain in their life. However, should it be normal to have pain on a daily basis? Should exercise cause pain?
Most people automatically brush it off as something that is a typical part of life. Although, I'd say that, "no pain, no gain" is the furthest from the truth. Living and exercising should not equal pain, but society has created an accustomed lifestyle in which this is acceptable to obtain. As a result, practicing poor habits will create permanent dysfunction and pain.
"Practice Makes Permanent."
1. Daily Life should not cause pain. After meeting with various populations, fitness levels, and injury histories you become familiar with the "go to" pain markers. Low back and shoulder are the first two that come to mind as the most nagging body parts. Surprisingly, some people have consistent routine pain without ever injuring either one of these areas. Weeks turn to months and months turn to years in which the pain slowly progresses. It becomes something that is part of their daily lives. It defines them. Before you know it, this has turned to a chronic problem that requires costs of surgery, rehab, and lost time at work. Chances have it, if the onset of the problem was acutely approached, it could have impeded the chronic advancement.
Ensuring you're in a proper position must be established to rule out the positional contributor to pain. Although we all appear to be neutral and symmetrical, we really are extended, torqued, and asymmetrical. Slight asymmetries are expected, but undesired when it turns to overuse and overcompensation. For example, most people don't understand how to shift into their left hip, which is essential for normal gait mechanics. However, we will always have the ability to get from point A to B even with the "inability" to walk. While walking, asymmetries are corrected through muscular chains of compensations. Furthermore, these chains of compensations battle 3-5x body weight of ground reaction force coming through a poorly centrated joint. Now add a sub-optimal pelvis position that has to find the ground through forced compensatory patterns to avoid tripping on the floor. Still confused where the pain is coming from?
This is just one point of dysfunction that creates globally disbursed pain throughout the kinetic chain. If your are tenaciously in a compensatory defensive mechanism, it's no surprise it is accompanied with pain. Learn how to turn off the mechanism and and turn on pain free living.
"Local Dysfunction → Global Pain"
2. Exercise should not cause pain. For those that aren't interested in being positioned properly, don't feed your patterns. Don't continue to damage something that's already broken. Learning how your body works and what needs to be accomplished during your workouts can save you in the long run. Modification is one word that comes to mind that is required in order to allow proper progression in the weight room. Exercises must be modified to fit your patterns, life style, and movement limitations. One example that can be utilized for almost any exercise would be "raising the floor." This is appropriate for lower and upper body exercises which avoids creating more dysfunctional pain. For example, most people don't have the mobility, stability, and biomechanics to reach the floor in a traditional dead lift. Although, the goal is to reach the floor overtime (unless the hips are biomechanically restricted), than bring the floor to you. Learning a proper hip hinge is one of the most valuable tools to achieve success inside and outside the weight room. Deadlifting from risers will still promote the benefits such as: hip strength, hip stability, scapular stability, and core strength/stability.
A quick example of an upper body exercise is a chest press performed from the floor. Due to scapular and gleno-humeral restrictions, some people cannot reach their elbows to the floor without pain. Although performing the exercise with the elbows neutral to the rib cage is desired, it should not be forced. A quick modification of adding a rolled towel to "raise the floor" will reinforce proper shoulder mechanics. Typically, the pain will dissipate immediately and a new neuromuscular patter of a proper gleno-humeral joint (shoulder) mechanics can be developed.
These are just two examples of some modifications that can be done to fit your biomechanical needs. Modifications can be added to any exercise with the goal of not feeding your patterns. Don't allow society to persuade you to follow the dysfunctional crowd. Pain should not be something that is part of your life and it should definitely not carry over into the weight room. If you are experiencing pain, I encourage you to really look at areas of your life that may be the cause. If it's a constant pain, position needs to be established. If it's in the weight room, modifications may need to be added to better fit your anatomy. Help teach your body a new pain paradigm.