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Training with Pain: When Is It Okay and When Is It Not?

atlanta brookhaven decatur dr. caleb overtraining pain management physical therapy training Aug 10, 2023

We’ve all had it at some point or another; pain while training. Most people either completely stop training in the presence of pain and rest or ignore the pain altogether hoping it will somehow go away on its own. Neither strategy is usually successful long term. The key is finding a way to train with the pain and modifying training as needed.

Think of pain as your body’s alarm system. It is very good at alerting you of both potential danger and actual danger. But don’t be confused; there is a HUGE difference between these two and our own perception of this pain is crucial in determining whether or not the way we’re training is helpful or harmful. 

The most important thing to remember is that pain DOES NOT ALWAYS equal tissue damage or injury and the presence of pain should not be feared, but instead, used to monitor training. 

The two most important things to consider when training with pain are the type of pain and the severity of pain.


Type of pain

  1. Usually OKAY to train with feelings of: achiness, pressure, tightness, heaviness, fatigue/tiredness, dullness, nagging, burning (muscle), soreness.
  2. Usually NOT OKAY to train with feelings of: sharpness, shooting, stabbing, zingers (nerve pain), intenseness.


Severity of pain

1-10 scale - I usually have people use this because it is widely known and everyone can place their pain on this scale (even if you’re someone with a “high pain tolerance”).

- Green light: 0-3/10 - This level of pain is completely trainable and usually requires no need for modification or adjustment 

- Yellow light: 4-6/10 - This level of pain is still trainable but usually requires some sort of modification or adjustment to continue training such as changing range of motion, lowering weight, lowering sets and/or reps, slowing down tempo, switching exercise selection, etc. 

- Red light: 7-10/10 - This level of pain is NOT trainable and should not be entered under any circumstances 


The major takeaway is understanding that it is not only possible to train with pain but you should continue training with pain (within reason as outlined above). When we are able to continue training while listening to our bodies, our bodies thank us by healing and becoming more resilient. 

Also, if you’re someone looking to get into training but don’t know where to start, or you’re dealing with any sort of injury limiting you from doing the things you love, give Athletes' Potential in Decatur or Brookhaven a call at 470-355-2106, or fill out a contact request form at the link below and we will reach out to you. 


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All the best, 

Dr. Caleb 


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 Remember, Movement is Medicine! 

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