Center for Health & Wellness

When To Workout With Pain

Yesterday, a good friend of mine and personal trainer, Tim Arndt, called me to voice his frustration because a doctor had told his client to stop working out due to low back pain. Tim is the owner of Tim Arndt Fitness and he blogs and podcasts on topics focused on simplifying fat loss and strength training. Tim worked very hard to design a weight loss workout for this client that did not irritate her low back pain. So, I can certainly see why he was frustrated. This brings up a very important question that I get a lot at BC Chiropractic Clinic: “When is it okay to workout after an injury?”

Pain can be very debilitating and it is the body’s way of letting us know that there is something wrong. However, physical activity is pivotal in ¬†recovering from many conditions and injuries that cause pain. The different qualities and severities of pain are almost as varied as the conditions that cause them. In general, if pain is severe enough that a patient cannot get around comfortably and safely then he or she cannot workout.

That being said, it is in the patient’s best interest to return to some sort of workout routine as quickly as possible. What I tell patients in this situation is, “If it recreates your pain, don’t do it.” I use “recreate” because there is usually some sort of soreness that goes along with working out, but this is normal. It is important for us to understand that just because we are injured does not mean we are incapable of physical activity. If one area of the body is injured we can still work the healthy areas in ways that don’t aggravate the injured one. Physical activity increases blood flow and releases endorphins, which helps with healing, pain control, and our sense of well being. Furthermore, there is a physiological process called neurogenic overflow that takes place in the body when working out. Meaning, injured areas get stronger from simply working the areas around them. For example, doing curls with one arm will actually strengthen, to some extent, the opposite bicep.

Finding a workout that does not recreate pain can be easier said than done. However, this is usually because patients simply do not have the biomechanical knowledge or the familiarity with enough exercises to devise a workout that won’t make their conditions worse. Dr. Karis and I always try to help our patients by giving them exercises that will help them get stronger without irritating them. However, working with a qualified personal trainer that has open communication with your doctor will not only help you recover faster but it will also keep you on track with your health and fitness goals. If you have questions about how to find a good personal trainer talk to your doctor, Your doctor may be able to recommend some he or she trusts for patients. I recommend Joey Hogan at No Limit Personal Training. Tim is excellent, but he is in Spokane.

Remember, these are only guidelines for workout readiness. Always consult your doctor before starting any fitness routine.