Many long ages ago, before Covid, I was running a 10k behind someone whose shirt said “Pain is temporary, but crossing the finish line stays with you forever”.
As someone who works with people suffering from chronic pain, I found it kind of horrifying. I thought of printing a shirt for my next race that said “There is literally always another race you can win, but tearing a tendon in your knee really is forever!”
Pushing through the pain is not always a good strategy. Pain is your body’s way of saying “Help, something is wrong”.
Just like you don’t ignore warning lights in your car (I hope!), a wise person doesn’t ignore pain.
“But sometimes you do need to push through it!” I hear you cry.
And it’s true that if you are training for a run, or holding a yoga pose, it may be worth it to push your limits. When doing things like physiotherapy, we do need to work through discomfort in order to heal.
There is a rule of thumb I use for myself and when working with my patients. Dull, achy pain or tired muscles you can work through. Sharp, stabbing pain, or any strong pain in the joints means you need to stop or change what you are doing.
We grow by leaving our comfort zone. We get stronger by working in the discomfort. By pushing our old limits just enough to expand them. Discomfort is an essential part of growth.
Pain can also lead to us growing and getting stronger, but it does so by motivating us to find better ways of doing what we want to do. Pain is a sign that we need to change something. Not that we need to keep hurting ourselves.