At Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, we often see people who are either exercising through pain or have stopped altogether because it hurts. Neither of these are good scenarios. If you exercise through pain long enough, the injured area will eventually break down and surgery is often the end result. If you just stop exercising, you have to deal with other negative effects that can occur, such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. So what’s causing your pain? Here are some of the common causes of exercise related pain:
Poor Exercise Technique
Poor exercise technique frequently causes pain during exercise. When muscles, tendons, and joints are loaded at angles that are not optimal, extra stress gets put on them. This might be ok once or twice, but if the technique isn’t fixed and the exercise continues, eventually those muscles, tendons, and joints will wear out and start hurting. We see this a lot in weightlifters and functional fitness athletes but also in runners and other athletes.
Increasing Frequency or Intensity Too Quickly
This is another common cause of injury. We see this most often in runners, but also in weightlifters and other athletes. Tendons, muscles, and bone adapt to steadily increasing stresses. So increasing your exercise frequency and intensity is usually a good thing, resulting in stronger tendons, muscles, and bones. However, if you increase too fast, the stress increases faster than their ability to adapt. Thats when inflammation, degeneration, and pain starts.
So how do you avoid this? When starting running, it is important to gradually build up your mileage. A common number is to increase your mileage no more than 10% in a given week. The same basic principles apply to strength training. Gradually increase the load. For full body exercises like squats and deadlifts, 10 pound increases each session may be ok as long as the technique is good. For smaller muscles, 5 pound increases may be ok. The key is to make sure you have maintained good technique and don’t have pain. If it hurts, don’t add more weight.
Muscles and tendons grow stronger and adapt as a result of the recovery process from exercise, not the exercise itself. If you don’t allow enough time for recovery, overtraining occurs. Overtraining can show up as unusually increased muscle soreness, overall physical fatigue, decreased performance, poor sleep, and sickness to name a few.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
No matter what the cause, a physical therapy program can help relieve your exercise pain. Your physical therapist will evaluate you and create an individualized program to meet your specific needs.
Manual Physical Therapy – Our physical therapists might use several hands-on techniques to reduce your pain. This could include massage techniques, or trigger point dry needling.
Strengthening exercises – Our physical therapists can select specific strengthening exercises that will target weak muscles that are contributing to your pain.
Stretching exercises– Our physical therapists may teach you specific stretches that can help relieve your pain.
Return to sport/exercise planning– Our physical therapists can help you modify your exercise routine to allow you to get to your goals without re-injury. Load modifications, mileage planning, recovery techniques, and video analysis of exercise technique can all help.
Physical therapy treatment may be able to help you remain pain-free and as active as possible. A physical therapist can create a customized program to treat your particular condition.