Pain vs Discomfort - How do you know the difference?

Oct 01, 2020

If your knees hurt all of the time, you might worry about what exercise is good or bad for your knees.  You certainly don’t want to make them feel worse with the moves that you do.

So how do you know when to keep going vs when to hold back?


Pain is personal and people have different tolerance for pain. That explains why the degree of pain is not always related to the degree of the injury.  Knee pain during movement is often sharp, shooting (I call that a stinger), or grinding.  It may linger if it is not addressed. It may improve with ice, rest, compression or, if it worsens with continued activities, a medical professional should be consulted.  Location of the pain in your joint will help identify the cause.  Pain in the front of the knee or inside the knee may indicate bursitis. Pain at the sides of your knees may point to injury to ligaments or cartilage. If your whole knee is painful, osteoarthritis may be the culprit.


Discomfort and soreness means your knee may be tender to the touch or feel a little achy after the movement or exercise.  Supporting muscles may feel tired, tender, or a “burning” sensation while exercising.  At rest, muscles may feel tight, achy, and sensitive to touch.  Onset of muscle  soreness often occurs 24-72 hours after activity and worsens with just sitting still.  It is appropriate to get moving again with dynamic stretching and exercise.  You could shift your focus to alternate exercises to give your sore muscles a chance to recover.


So how do you know during exercise if you are doing good or damage?

Sometimes we get so used to “guarding” the area that we are afraid to try new moves. A sharp pain is a signal to stop and you should not push through it. 

With discomfort, or pressure, try pursuing the exercise move.  Part of this is physical sensation and part is fear of pain.  I totally understand this desire to hold back for fear of doing damage.  With good coaching (thanks many physical therapists and personal trainer Tyler Budwey) who've encouraged me to push a little more within the “discomfort” range to a very positive outcome.

If you start to feel pain, try to reduce the range of motion or regress the move to an easier one so you begin to become comfortable, confident, and stable with the move.

In the Healthy Knees Formula program we help you to find that place where you are comfortable and confident in your moves to help soothe, stabilize, and strengthen your knees.  

~Coach Robin


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