Today we’ll discuss the common saying, “no pain, no gain.” Like many other common sayings, people tend to state this as if it’s a fact. So, is it a fact? Well, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to reach a consensus, but I’ll give you some information that will both support this statement and refute it.
First, it’s important to gain more understanding about the purpose of pain. Pain exists to indicate that there is something wrong with our body. Nobody likes to be in pain, but it does serve a purpose. If we only seek to eliminate pain (with medication and injections) without fixing what’s causing the pain, we will likely not have long term success.
Often the source/cause of pain will be the main factor in determining if “no pain, no gain” is accurate. If we’re dealing with an overuse type of injury, we really don’t want to reproduce the pain with our activities. This would include such conditions as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), plantar fasciitis, any type of bursitis or tendonitis, or spinal strains. In these situations we need to assist the body in healing, and if we continue to do activities that trigger the pain, we will not have success in eliminating the pain. So in those situations, we do not want to cause pain and would not agree with “no pain, no gain”.
Conversely, sometimes we deal with stiffness or loss of mobility in the body. When we work on gaining back lost mobility, this is not typically a pain free endeavor. So if we are stretching or mobilizing a tight joint or muscle, it will be uncomfortable, and we’re ok with that. In fact, we expect that. So in cases such as these, we enthusiastically say “no pain, no gain!”
A third situation deals with trying to gain strength/muscle. When trying to build muscle we need to challenge the body so that it reinforces itself by building more muscle. We need to push muscles to the point of fatigue (“feel the burn”), and this typically results in some post workout muscle soreness. So if people are doing a muscle workout and they complain about being sore afterward, guess what we’re going to say? You guessed it, “no pain, no gain!” That being said, there is an appropriate amount of soreness that is good, as opposed to not being able to move for 2 days! But that’s a topic for another time.
So as you can see, sometimes this common phrase is accurate and applicable, but sometimes it is not. If you’re not sure, please ask Mason, Steve, or Brian, and we will be glad to give you an answer!
Mason Riegel, PT
Steve Bartz, PT