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Don’t Work Through the Pain


We’ve been brainwashed into working through pain. It’s noble. Remember the coaching adage, “No pain, no gain?” I’m the first to say there are some instances when you have to work through pain, like when you need to run from the saber-toothed tiger even though you sprained your ankle. Run or be dinner.

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world of self-inflicted activities which sometime result in pain and injury.

If your livelihood depends on working through pain, then in some cases, you do what you have to do. But when it comes to recreation and exercise, my recommendation is that with any pain–other than the soreness of unused muscles–you should rest. Unfortunately, we’re scolded for not working through pain. We’re humiliated and pushed out of exercise classes because of it. We’re told to ignore our natural, protective instincts in favor of toughness.

Early humans only lasted an average of 25 years. So if a cavewoman had to run on a knee with a torn ligament in order to stay off the menu, that’s what she did, but you may have to get your body to aged 90. You don’t do that, comfortably, by tearing yourself up and then working through painful, and sometimes destructive conditions.

When something hurts, figure out what’s causing the pain. Is it the burpees, or the three flights of stairs you take to your office? Is tennis hurting your elbow, or is it your 25 lb. purse? Figure out what’s hurting you, and give it a rest. Modify the exercise or stop doing it. Don’t go to that third tournament. Lighten up your purse.

Don’t work through the pain.

Every week I see patients who think they can do that, so take it from me: It doesn’t pay off in the long run.

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Dr. Barbara Bergin is a board certified Orthopedic Surgeon who has been taking care of the bones and joints of Austin, Texas, for over 30 years. She prefers prevention to treatment and takes a natural approach to both when possible. By informing her readers and patients through 1010ParkPlace and her blog,, she wants to prevent 100,000 injuries before she retires.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Work Through the Pain”

  1. I always love the humour you bring to such important topics! Thanks for this, I’m forwarding it to a friend who’s been persisting with running, despite how her knees are screaming at her. Esther xx

  2. I talked to a friend this morning who’s knee started bothering her four or five days after running a 5k race. Could that be related, Barbara? Thanks, Brenda

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