Harden Up

**See below for disclaimer. I am not a doctor and don’t claim to be one. This article is based on my own personal experiences and is in no way intended to be used for anything other than entertainment purposes**

One of the best things I’ve done to aid in my own pain management and working through injuries has been removing the sentiment that pain is a problem and an injury is debilitating. I’ve shifted my focus on ignoring any immediate ‘pain’ feedback I may encounter and generally make simple adjustments to my movement and load in order to continue with a training session. Since adopting this new mindset and focusing on my training and achieving outcomes, I have had fewer ‘injuries’ from training and have been increasing both volume and intensity on a regular basis.

I’ve experienced my fair share of trauma to my shoulder joints, from being an active youth skateboarding, snowboarding, rugby and general dumb stuff. So to say my ‘joints have taken a beating’ would be an understatement. And for the longest time, I had fallen into the trap of letting my injuries define my abilities. There has been and will be a grinding and crunching in my shoulder during arm movement. I used to experience throbbing pain in both shoulders during random times over a day. No shoulder surgery, I always thought my doctor didn’t know anything when he always said to just “take some ibuprofen and rest a couple of days”, he was actually reinforcing the fact that I wasn’t in fact permanently injured. However, my old model of what injuries meant was incorrect and his advice fell on deaf ears.

I wouldn’t bench heavy or overhead press heavy for fear of making my shoulder worse. I commonly experienced pain both during workouts and in general daily life. It was a self limiting belief I placed on my own strength and abilities. Until I stumbled across the across the science and logic from Starting Strength, Barbell Medicine & Pain Science. Which have all helped re-frame my attitudes towards my old pain and injuries.

The dangers of the nocebo effect.

WebMD explains the nocebo effect in the context of surgeries and drug trials, where patients show negative impacts on recovery from the simply the knowledge of the risks  and manifest negative symptoms from pain pills – all from the power of suggestion.

What does this have to do with lifting weights? How many times have you heard people say:

  • Squats are bad for your knees/hips.
  • Deadlifts are bad for your back
  • Bench is bad for your shoulders
  • Not standing up straight will hurt your back
  • I injured my back whilst squatting/deadlifting
  • Everytime I [_____] my [____] begins to hurt

All of the above are negative information insights that are rarely based in science and have more to do with the psychosocial model of pain than with the body actually being hurt.

Understanding that pain is a complex thing that is generated by the brain from sense in the nervous system. Controlling the fear and anxiety that comes from a tweak while training is one of the best things I have done in order to reduce setbacks.

Pain isn’t necessarily a sign of structural problems and vice versa. There is a great article over at Pain Science that goes into the depths of what pain actually is and is definitely worth the read. With this in mind, most of the tweaks and twinges I have felt whilst working out have generally resolved themselves within a few weeks in the past. Recently, these have occurred less frequently and any issues I am coming across, (like my shoulder) I am making sure my movement pattern is correct and am setting up correctly for each movement and it generally subsides in the next set.

Don’t take this as a message to ignore all senses of pain, however if there has been no actual accident/impact to the site of pain I would first question the perception of pain and try to continue on as scheduled.

Don’t let the fear of pain prevent your progress, but also listen to your body and know when it’s time to back off. The body is an infinitely complex structure, not completely understood by science.

 

References:
https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-the-nocebo-effect-hurting-your-health#1
https://www.painscience.com/articles/structuralism.php
http://www.barbellmedicine.com

 

Disclaimer:

Information on the Wynn Strength Blog is provided for information & entertainment purposes only. Any medical information obtained from the Wynn Strength Blog should be reviewed with an appropriate health-care provider to determine its applicability to your particular condition. the Wynn Strength Blog and their writers are not responsible for errors or any untoward consequences arising from your use of this information.

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