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Find the Dysfunction behind Pain

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Heather D’Errico, MA, CFSC, CSCS

Today I read an article about the old adage of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) not being as affective for treating injuries as we once thought.  The article explained that many research studies are now showing that icing an injury keeps Insulin-like Growth Factor hormone (IGF-1) from being released to the injured area and IGF-1 has been shown to aid in repairing muscle damage.  For years we have believed that we want to reduce inflammation with the RICE methods but the inflammation is the body’s natural response that signals the release of cells the work to repair damage. 

For most people this theory sounds crazy, if we shouldn’t ice our injuries then what the heck are we supposed to do?  I think that it’s time as a society that we stop putting Band-Aids over dysfunction and understand that we need to address the root of our problems (in all areas of our lives but for this article I’ll be referring to its application in the gym).  For example, people come to the gym and will perform an exercise and if they feel pain or discomfort they say something like “this exercise hurts my knee let’s do something else” and skip on to another one.  Rather than avoiding the issue that you are feeling pain or discomfort with a certain exercise let’s figure out WHY that pain/discomfort exists.  We really need to revert back to our 3 year old selves and ask ourselves WHY more often. 

Here is an example that I hear all the time and it drives me crazy as a strength coach- “I can’t deadlift because it aggravates my back”.  When a client tells me that my first thought is going to be WHY is it aggravating this individual’s back.  In most cases people experience back pain when they perform their deadlifts because they do not know how to properly hinge at the hips and are utilizing the wrong muscles.  Deadlifts aren’t the problem it is an absolutely crucial exercise for any program whether you are an athlete or general fitness client/adult ninja.  The problem lies within your inability to perform a movement pattern so rather than ditching the exercise learn ways to improve that movement pattern first. 

I’ve also heard this a lot with squats “I can’t squat because of my knees”.  In the bowling world I hear that all the time and my response is if you can’t squat then you shouldn’t be bowling.  In reality bowling places more torque and stress on the knee than performing a squat correctly.  Therefore you need to have a strength coach assess and correct your squat because when done properly it’s going to help your knees not harm them.  The issue that people want to determine what exercises are good for them and which aren’t is a whole other topic I’ll rant about another day.

Bottom line here:  As a society we need to stop avoiding our issues and address them. In the realm of weight training icing and popping pain killers isn’t going to fix the problem creating pain it’s only going to mask it.  Aches and pains exist for a reason- a compensation caused from a dysfunction or weakness somewhere in the body. 

What can you do if you have a nagging ache or pain instead of icing and popping pain killers?

  1. See a doctor to have them rule out any serious medical concerns
  2. See a physical therapist for injury specific rehabilitative exercises
  3. See a knowledgeable strength coach and have them asses your mobility and movement patterns with a Functional Movement Screen
  4. Functional strength training to address asymmetries, mobility, and movement patterns

Next Level Strength and Conditioning

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