Video: If My Back or Joints Hurt, Should I Work Through the Pain?

Video presented by Grant Cooper, MD

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Video Transcript

People with spine and joint pain often ask their doctors if they should be working through the pain, if they should be working out, should they be taking it easy and, in general, the answer is that joints need movement, spines need movement in order to nourish them, in order to keep the muscles around them strong and limber to take the pressure off them so they don't see the same forces, so it is very important that we stay active and that we keep on exercising and at the same time, while we accept a little bit of muscle pain as we get the muscles stronger, we really don't want to work through spine or joint pain. So, if you're doing an exercise - say for your knees or you're strengthening your quadriceps - and you are having pain in your knee or your hip while you are doing these exercises, you want to back off of those exercises.

What we want to do is work around the pain. We want to stay active. We want to make sure we target the appropriate muscles and get them stronger, but we want to do it in a way that's not going to provoke more pain and then slowly we can see whether or not we can re-introduce some of those other exercises, but we always want to be cognizant that we want to work around the pain - not through it.

Sometimes it is hard for a patient to distinguish, "Is this muscle or is this joint pain that I am experiencing?" And when that's the case, it is definitely important to ask a qualified professional - physical therapist, a chiropractor, a medical doctor - to get some guidance to make sure you are doing the right exercises and not causing more harm.