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When It Hurts

I am not a doctor, but a fitness professional. I cannot diagnose or treat any illness or disease. The content offered on this blog is for informational purposes only.  Please consult with your physician before embarking on a new fitness regimen. If you believe you have or are at risk of sustaining an injury during exercise, connect with a medical professional.

You’ll often hear instructors say (and I’ll admit, I’ve said it), “Discomfort is ok. Pain is not.”

That’s all well and good, if you know what the heck it means! Pain and discomfort are sensory responses to stress (physical or emotional) put on the body.  Stress is not always bad! In fact, we need a little bit of stress to keep our muscles and joints in optimal condition.  Too little stress and body tissues atrophy, but too much stress and body tissues begin to degenerate.

So, how can you tell the difference?  Let’s start with what pain and discomfort are. Pain and discomfort are sensation. Sensation is a communication tool between your brain and your body. Just like any message you read or hear, it’s important to understand how to receive the information being sent, and more appropriately, translate the message correctly. For most of us receiving the message is easy. We feel sensation and know that something is uncomfortable. However, just because something is uncomfortable does not necessarily mean you’re in dangerous territory.  This is why correctly translating discomfort and pain becomes very important in exercise.  Here are some helpful tips to understand the difference.

Some common indicators of discomfort (i.e. proceed with caution):
–  Sensation dissipates quickly after ending a posture or exercise

– Sensation feels dull and builds with the volume and duration of exercise

– Sensation is not overwhelming your ability to breathe or speak

Some common indicators of pain (i.e. stop):

– Sensation presents itself quickly, overwhelms your ability to speak, breathe or maintain alignment 
– Sensation is sharp, shooting, tingling or electric

– Sensation stems from improper form
– Sensation lingers for several hours or days after exercise
– Sensation is seems spread down your back or extremities

Of course, caution is always best when you feel concerned about an exercise.  Giving yourself the benefit of the doubt if you are nervous about engaging in a posture or exercise that seems far outside your limits.  Exercise and your Yoga practice will always be there for you, and common sense can be your best defense against an injury.

Practice safely and respect your edge, yogis!

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