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Don't Use Pain As an Excuse

by AOSSM April 20, 2011

By Dr. David Geier, AOSSM

One of the most common reasons patients give for not exercising is an injury or pain. People often use knee or shoulder pain or some other limitation as an excuse for not playing sports or being physically active. And while certainly musculoskeletal injuries can affect participation, rarely should these injuries keep people on the sidelines permanently.

Joint pain is unfortunately a fairly common affliction among the United States population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 approximately 30% of adults reported that they experienced some sort of joint pain in the previous 30 days. Musculoskeletal injuries are rarely completely incapacitating, however. While many weekend warriors cite old knee or shoulder injuries as reasons that they can't exercise now, with so many options available, even people with real injuries should be able to modify their routines and still get in a good workout.

For example, a female with early knee arthritis can still perform cardiovascular-enhancing exercise. She might not be able to run long distances six or seven days a week, but she might be able to run two days a week and swim or ride a bicycle the other days to decrease the repetitive impact on her knees. A male with rotator cuff impingement from overuse at work or in the yard might have to back off from tennis or baseball, which might aggravate his shoulder, but he could play soccer or another non-throwing sport. And for athletes who enjoy lifting weights, simply adjusting a few of the exercises might be enough to exercise in spite of a current injury.

For those who fear that they are making an injury worse, they should see a sports medicine physician. Most injuries do not need surgery, and often there are simple initial treatments, such as physical therapy, home exercises, taping, or anti-inflammatory medications. And while patients are often reluctant to go to the doctor for fear of being completely shut down from a sport or activity, sports medicine physicians usually try to encourage treatments and rehabilitation that get people back to sports and exercise as quickly as possible.

Finally, even if the activity is potentially detrimental to a joint, it might not always be that bad. Someone with near bone-on-bone knee arthritis is possibly making his knee worse running every day. Having said that, if he wants to keep running, the benefits of his overall health might outweigh the risks to his knee. Daily exercise can provide multiple medical benefits, including improved cardiovascular function, lower blood pressure, and weight loss, as well as improved sleep and mood. Even if he needs a knee replacement in the future, the medical upside to exercise is significant.

While aches and pains can be an obstacle to physical activity, they shouldn't be permanent barriers to all exercise. If you are worried about injuries or exercise modification discuss it with a doctor and know that being physically active is possible despite these pains.

What kind of activities can we promote to keep people moving no matter the aches and pains?

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4/27/2011 10:39:20 AM #

I would recommend non-weightbearing or lower weightbearing activities, such as, aquatic exercise, water classes, and biking.  Weight training is one of my favorite options, as long as there is supervision or oversight.

M.E. Anders United States |

5/11/2011 4:41:50 AM #

In my opinion a person that suffers for joint pain should not use this as an excuse not to practice sports. A sport activity practiced regularly beside of the fact that can cure depression and general stress can have a great positive impact on your body. (Link Removed) (Link Removed)

Mihai Dragos Turkey |

5/21/2011 11:28:40 PM #

Although joint pain does make it hard to exercise, people do not understand how much worse not exercising is to their over all health. I am a nursing student and have had some patients with arthritis or fibromyalgia, and I try to educate them on the importance of exercise. Sometimes, taking a medication to manage pain before exercising makes it more bearable. Exercise can be anything, household chores can be a form of exercise, and taking small steps will make it a little easier as well.

FJaafar United States |

6/5/2011 10:27:37 PM #

I did not know that 30% percent of adults were experiencing joint pain, but I like the way this article promotes physical activity.  I agree that even just a walk around the block or a less intense exercise is more beneficial than not doing anything.  Swimming and water aerobics are great exercises and they are easier on joints than running.  A sports medicine physician would be a good referral to someone who is experiencing pain and would like an exercise regimen that would be helpful, but not putting anymore strain on the joints.  Exercise has many benefits as this article states and it is important that people continue to exercise even if it is a less intense workout or for a shorter period of time than they used to do before.  

Nicole B United States |

7/28/2011 3:30:09 PM #

Being a physical therapist and (Link Removed) (Link Removed) therapy marketing</a>, body pains can indicate something serious that needs treatment.

If you feel joints and body pain, I suggest that you visit a physical therapist. We can also suggest exercises that you can do.

Ryan Raynolds United States |

11/16/2011 9:29:14 PM #

Aches and Pains are caused by many ongoing concerns but i agree . It should never become infront of trying to enjoy your life.


tmacintosh United States |

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