Should You Workout When Hurt?

should I workout while hurtInevitably as you go through life, you’re going to have some injuries.  I don’t know anyone who has been pain/injury free all the time.  Some people seem to be more prone to injuries than others, but it will happen at some point.  So then the question is, should you workout when hurt?


First I just wanted to provide a little disclaimer.  If you think you may have a serious injury, GO TO THE DOCTOR!  I see people post questions in groups on Facebook or on different forums all the time asking if this or that pain is a serious injury.  Asking people who aren’t doctors and who can’t see you in person is not a great way to get a diagnosis.  So if you do have some sort of injury and you’re worried about making it worse or wondering if you should be working out, then please, go see your doctor and get a professional to look at it.

Should You Workout When Hurt – What I Do

So again, if it’s serious, go see a doctor.  If you’ve already seen a doctor or are confident it’s not so serious, but still have some nagging pain, then there are a couple ways to handle that I think.

Personally, I evaluate the type of pain I have.  If I have sharp, intense pain, then I stop completely.  That typically means you’re doing some damage.  If that’s the case, the more you do, the worse your injury is going to get.  Your body is sending you a message that it does not like what you’re doing.

On the other hand, if the pain is more dull and achy that could mean you just have some inflammation.  Maybe you pulled a muscle, or maybe you just have muscle soreness.  In those situations, I tend to continue to workout, but I might have to modify some moves as to not use whatever muscle is sore.  Many times the muscle that hurts just needs a little rest.  For instance, right now I’m doing a P90X Body Beast Hybrid that involves quite a bit of lifting.  There are many pull-ups to be specific.  I’ve noticed that my left elbow has been sore after my workouts, which is probably just a little tendinitis.  So I took a couple days off of pull-ups and now my elbow feels just fine.  All it needed was a little rest.

Again, you are the judge of pain, and if you have doubts, the best thing you can do is get a professional’s help and see your doctor.  I have been through enough injuries to know what’s serious and what’s not, but that’s just because I know my body.  Also, if you do decide to workout, and notice the pain gets worse, that’s a sign to stop doing that particular workout until your body is healed.

What About a More Serious Injury?

But what happens when you have a more serious injury?  Well that case is a little different.  For me, I’ve had a couple serious injuries to deal with so I know the situation well.  In high school, I ended up breaking my femur in half.  Thankfully the tumor that hollowed it out was not cancerous, but after a 6 hour surgery and a week in the hospital I was pretty worn down and unable to put any pressure on my left leg.  So obviously, right away I had to get my strength back and energy levels up.  That had a lot to do with just getting sleep and getting off my pain meds that made me tired.

Recovering the Bad Leg

My leg was broken, so obviously I wasn’t able to do anything like running or squatting, etc.  But there were small things I could do.  I had exercises that my physical therapist gave me to do, and I did them every single day.  They really weren’t fancy, doing leg lifts and some stretching with resistance bands.  But over time it helped to strengthen that leg.  So when you are injured, there are typically small things you can do to get that area of your body back to normal.  Don’t dismiss those small things, because they can have a big impact.

Working the Rest of Your Body

If your bottom half is broken, then work the top half.  That’s exactly what I did.  I had to lay off doing legs for a long time, but nothing was wrong with my upper body.  So I would crutch into the gym and with the aid of my lifting partner, I would work my upper body.  There was nothing wrong with it, so I worked hard to maintain that strength.  That’s exactly what you can do.  If your leg is injured, do upper body workouts.  If your arm/shoulder is hurt, then do some plyometrics or do a leg workout.

So ultimately, you need to be safe, but you typically have different options when you’re hurt.  See your doctor, let them tell you what you should limit, and then go to work!  Either do your rehab or work a different part of your body and you can continue to progress while something heals!

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