Should You Train When In Pain?

Should You Train When In Pain?

November 14, 20235 min read

So, let’s say you tweaked your neck sleeping. You go to work where you sit most of the day and your neck seems to tighten up more and more throughout the day. Should you go home and rest or should you go hit that evening workout up?

You know how someone somewhere once said “I regret that workout, said no one ever”? This kind of relates. You may have aches and pains, you may have injuries but, because of our bodies response to exercise through increased endorphin release or natural pain killers, exercise could be just what you need to get back into that positive emotional state. Thereby leading to more release of our body’s natural pain killers. Even if only for a brief period of time, you’ll get some level of pain relief. This can help you break the vicious cycle. This doesn’t mean you won’t need some sort of modification to your workout. If your neck hurts, you need to be aware of what may make it worse and possibly avoid or change that movement.


Let’s take a step back and actually look at this as coping with pain. If you remember in our last blog, there are several factors that can affect how we perceive our pain and depending on our emotional state among other factors, just imagining a movement may cause you pain. This level of pain can lead to increased levels of stress hormones which may even cause increased levels of anxiety and even depression over time. At BFP, we help folks with and without chronic pain get strong, fit, and feel confident everyday! The key is to work around pain until you have the confidence to try some of the movements that may have caused pain in the past. You start slow, then work your way up. We know that active strategies are more effective for managing pain than passive strategies like stretching and resting.

Simple things like walking everyday can desensitize the nervous system. In one study done in female office workers, they found that the workers who were put on a strength program or even an all around exercise program, decreased pain symptoms to a greater degree than those who did not exercise. The strength training group was a little better than just the exercise group.

In another study, a group of folks with low back pain used the kettlebell swing as a means of exercise and reduced low back pain symptoms by 50%! Does this mean the kettlebell swing is the best exercise for low back pain? No, but it is a possible option!

If you remember from the previous blog focused on pain, we mentioned that pain can lead to increased sympathetic nervous system stimulation or the fight or flight response. This can lead to increased tension in certain areas of the body and make things even worse! One way to combat this is by spending time stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Instead of fight or flight think rest and digest. This can be done many different ways but one way is through proper breathing. Not just breathing right but taking time to sit still and just breath. This will contribute to many areas in life, safe exercise being one of them. To learn more about that here’s a great video from Mike Robertson:


When dealing with upper body injuries, some folks will advise you not to lift overhead. When done correctly, lifting overhead can be very healthy for the shoulders. Sometimes, the tool we use makes a big difference. Or, you may need to focus on 1 arm at a time. Check this video out for options to work around shoulder pain in the overhead press:

The same tends to go for bench press as well. Check out the video below to see just a few ways you can work around pain and still tighten and tone your upper body:

LOWER BODY INJURIES: With lower body pain or injuries, we have several ways we can train around them. The key here is communication and determining what:

doesn’t cause pain or increase pain

what makes you feel confident

Here’s a great example in the video below if we are having issues in the barbell back squat:


Often times when folks have low back pain, deadlifts can be a key player in helping them rehab their back. This may not be the case for everyone though. Sometimes, until our technique is on point or the injury has healed, we may need some alternatives. Here’s a video on a few ways we help folks modify this movement and still hit their goals!

Even Bent Over Rows can give people issues at times. Check out how we work around that below:


Make sure that every session you come in to work with a Coach, let them know how you are feeling. How’s the pain on a scale of 1-10? Does it normally feel better after exercise? Are there any specific exercises that increase the level of pain? What movement have we substituted before that makes you feel strong, fit, and confident? How the movement makes you feel is very important for your emotional state. Remember, we want a positive emotional state! As always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in the comments section below!


Coach Joe

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Breakaway Fitness & Performance

Breakaway Fitness & Performance focuses on strength training, weight loss, and a healthy lifestyle in their blogs.

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