My “blank” hurts. What should I do?

Inevitably, when someone begins strength training, they are going to experience some sensations they may not be used to. Here’s a quick guide, based on what I’ve seen first-hand – on what you might want to do to address your issues.

My Elbows hurt – Joints seem to take a little bit longer to adapt to strength training than muscles do. If your elbows hurt, my first suggestion is to decrease the amount of weight you are using, but keep going. If that doesn’t help, you can also take a little extra time to rest between arm training sessions – but don’t decrease frequency too much. If you address it early, you can prevent it from becoming a bigger issue.

My Back hurts – This one is tricky. How does it hurt? Are we talking spasms that make it so you can’t stand up, or just a general soreness/tightness? One thing that is goofy about the low back, is when it’s sore it doesn’t feel like a “good sore.” When your biceps are sore from crushing a workout, that tightness feels good. When your glutes are sore, you feel kind of badass, even if you walk a bit goofy. But when your low back is sore, we feel like – “oh no. something is wrong with my back.” More often than not, going back to the gym and hitting the same movements again will address the tightness. Increased bloodflow helps, but also, it seems there is a mental component to knowing you’re not, in-fact, hurt. This keeps momentum and gives peace of mind. When in doubt, lighten the load or change the range of motion.

My knees hurt – I’m not going to cite sources and pretend this is the most scientific advice, but I do seem to notice people will start talking about their knees more when the weather changes. We do know pressure changes can increase joint pain. It also seems pretty common in my line of work that people have arthritis in their knees (or maybe they feel that arthritis more than in other places). It makes sense to decrease the frequency of knee dominant movements like lunges and maybe take some weight off to let the inflammation subside. But what I usually have people do is mix up their squats and find a variation that allows them to keep working the muscles that support the joint without as much stress or sensation. An example would be doing box squats instead of normal squats. Or going narrow stance, toes forward. Or half-squats, really anything that checks the box of loading the tissue without causing discomfort.

My pec/shoulder hurts – When does it hurt? Does it hurt while lifting? Does it hurt when you are outside of the gym? Does it hurt between sets? I find that changing the angle of pressing motions or shortening the range of motion can keep us in the game without losing strength. The pec/shoulder pain if left unaddressed can lead to total system shutdown and the only option is to rest. Instead, address it by changing the movement and keeping things moving. If your bench press is bugging you, try doing blocks, or partial range of motion, or change your grip.

In summary, STOPPING is almost always wrong when you feel something off. I’ve seen people be smart, take their time, stay in the game, recover as quickly as a couple weeks. I’ve seen people STOP for fear of making it worse end up only getting weaker with more pain.

If you need help finding a variation for a movement that is causing pain, reach out. I can help. Yes, it could be form related as well. Or simply life-stress is high and we need to spend more time recovering.

When changing the exercise doesn’t work, GET CHECKED OUT by an orthopedic. Sooner than later. That’ll give you peace of mind. In my experience be careful who you go to, you want to find someone who doesn’t downplay the issue, but who doesn’t catastrophize the issue either. Find the Dr. who wants to keep you doing what you love to do.

What do I do when my “blank” hurts?

  • Lighten the load
  • Find a variation that doesn’t hurt that allows you to continue
  • Increase recovery / decrease other life stress
  • Get checked out
  • Don’t take too much time off – pain avoidance leads to weakness which leads to more pain

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