When this question comes up, it’s either 1 of 2 responses:
1st - Typically from the CrossFit athletes - “No pain is too much pain. We just push through pain.”
2nd - “Any pain is too much pain. I stop when I feel any sort of pain.“
Those two responses are drastically different. Neither is very healthy. We know that the “no pain no gain” mentality is stupid and more often than not ends up in injury. However, you have to “Feel it to heal it”. So what is the correct response?
First, why do we have pain? Very briefly, the body gives us pain in order to tell us that there might be some harm being done.
Often, this is a great system - you touch a hot object, you get a pain sensation, and you remove your hand from the fire.
But, very frequently, the body gives us that pain signal when something that isn’t harmful happens - if you go on a long hike on the first nice day of spring, your body is going to complain for the next several days. There’s no real damage done; the body just was not conditioned to that amount of work and it is complaining a bit.
So what’s the right answer to that question- "How much pain is too much pain?"
At NorCal Physio, we believe that you should be able to move and exercise without pain. We also understand that being uncomfortable and being able to tolerate a certain amount of pain is necessary for growth.
Is there a balance between those two? And if so, is there a way that athletes can find that balance?
We believe there is a way to determine how much pain is too much pain. While this is a multifaceted answer, we begin this discussion by teaching a very easy 0-10 pain scale.
Yes, I understand that this pain scale is very, very subjective.
And yes, you probably have a high pain tolerance.
So use this as a personal guideline. No one else can feel, or can grade, your pain; so whatever you feel is how you grade yourself.
Watch the video for a great explanation, but the gist of it is this:
0-3/10: That’s discomfort. Push through it.
4-6/10: Warning zone, and entirely your call. Push if you want, avoid if you want.
7-10/10: Avoid for now. No, it’s not that it’s causing damage, but it is sending bad info to the brain and probably causing compensatory movement.
Obviously, there are exceptions.