IF It Hurts When I Move, SHOULD I Keep Moving?
As a physical therapist, I encounter this question on a regular basis. We experience a painful movement, and to avoid feeling this again, we avoid the movement. This makes perfect sense, right? Absolutely. But is this the correct response? Not always.
The response to this question is more complex than it may seem. Gone are the days of "Rest and Ice For 4-6 Weeks" and in are the days of "No Pain No Gain". We want results today, and we are willing to go to either extreme to get this instant gratification. However, relief is most likely not located in either of these extremes. Moderation coupled with a biomechanical change may be just the ticket to get you back doing the things you love. And please, do not keep "testing" it to see if it's "gotten better on it's own"!
If there is one fact that is spared controversy, it is that pain changes the way you move. Therefore, if you have experienced pain, it is probable that you have developed compensatory movement patterns. If you woud like to get back moving, it is best to get evaluated by a Physical Therapist to ensure it is not the movement itself that brought you the pain in the first place. We are creatures of habit, and rarely will we explore various ways to accomplish a familiar task. We take the same route to work, cycle through our preset radio stations, we eat a select variety of foods and all have our favorite outfit. And when it comes to activity, our bodies tend to follow the path of least resistance; we will use the easiest and least taxing means to accomplish a movement. If we do this repeatedly, and cause a repetive strain to a certain area of our body, we must cite the movement as the fault, not the particular body part experiencing the pain.
Does this mean that you should stop moving until you are able to be evaluated? Absolutely not! Keep moving in painfree ways until we can address your concerns and get you moving how you want to be moving, painfree. Of course, there are some circumstances (acute muscle strains, ligament sprains, etc) that may require a period of rest and ice longer than 24-48 hours before returning to normal activity. And of course, there are some circumstances that will require immediate medical attention, including fractures, ligament tears, tendinous ruptures, etc. Please contact your primary care MD or visit the urgent care/ED if you are experiencing a high level of pain following an activity.
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Written by Jessi Reardon PT, DPT