“But don’t you need to go through the pain to get out of the pain?”

by / Friday, 16 May 2014 / Published in Movement Health
No Pain, No Gain????

No Pain, No Gain????


This question came after I suggested that a student in my Feldenkrais Method, Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class change the position of her arms for a particular movement. Throughout the whole class, she had kept her arms in a position that didn’t look comfortable for her. Several times I recommended changing the position, which she did and then would go back to the original position. After the class was finished, she seemed like she was in a bad mood so I asked her how she was feeling. She replied that the arm position she used was painful and now her shoulders were hurting. I asked her why she didn’t change the position to a more comfortable one as suggested and her reply was:


“But don’t you need to go through the pain to get out of the pain?”


This both saddened and baffled me. It was sad to realize that she had spent a good part of the hour suffering, even when there was another way. I was baffled because I just couldn’t understand the logic behind her belief.


To be sure, there are certainly some cases that may require tolerating some pain in order to recover lost mobility, such as after an operation or accident when a joint is being mobilized. There may be other instances when enduring pain is necessary but this was most certainly not the case.


Her assumption or belief that in order to get rid of the pain, she needed to push through it actually  produced more pain.

There are several reasons why it’s vitally important to find ways to move that do not cause pain.


  • First and most obvious, pain may mean that something is not right and you could be damaging yourself.
  • Pain over shadows other sensations generated from your movements. A simple example is driving a bicycle or car with the sun in your eyes. While that may not be painful, it’s uncomfortable and does make it harder to drive. As soon as you have a visor or sun glasses, you can better concentrate on steering. Imagine thinking that the only way shield your eyes from the sun would be to stare into the sun until it stopped blinding you.
  • You practice or reinforce the sensation of pain. Could you imagine if a chef always used too much salt. Eventually, you would find the meal bland if another chef were to cook your meal with a reasonable amount of salt. You also dampen your sensitivity, so yes, you could tolerate more salt (pain) but is that healthy?
  • Pain is a form of stress which can have negative effects on your health and well being. If pain is avoidable, why cause it?


So what can you do if you’re participating in a movement class, exercising or training and something you’re expected to do is uncomfortable or even painful? Here are some general strategies to keep in mind. Please note that they may need to be modified to suit your particular situation.


Stop, Breathe & Rest

Stop, Breathe & Rest


Step 1: Stop. Stop doing what ever it is that causes pain or discomfort. Give yourself a few moments to breathe, rest and notice if the pain subsides. If it does, go to step 2. If the pain continues, rest some more until it does, or stop completely and go to step 5.


Step 2: Begin doing what you were, but with less intensity, speed and/or force. If you feel good, continue on, if not stop again and go to step 1 and then to 3.


Step 3: Modify what you’re doing. There are usually many variables that can be changed so this may take some experimentation. You can modify your position (feet, hands, use pads for support etc.), intensity and frequency. When experimenting with these factors, find a pain free position or intensity and use that as your starting point for further exploration. If none of these work then go to step 4:


Step 4: Stop whatever’s painful and ask your instructor, coach or teacher for help. Ask them how you can change what you’re doing so that it feels safe and comfortable. If this helps, continue carefully and with awareness. If the pain or discomfort continues, go to step 5.


Step 5: Stop what hurts and do something else until the class is finished or just plain rest. See your doctor and/or qualified health care/movement practitioner before you go back. If the pain is very intense and accompanied by swelling or any other visible symptoms, see your doctor. If the pain is more like some soreness, discomfort or stiffness, you may not need to visit your doctor and can go to a movement practitioner such as a Feldenkrais teacher, massage therapist etc. However, if you have any doubts or are unsure, do see your doctor.  Click here if you need to learn more about when to see your doctor. The advice I’m giving you here is in no way a substitute for medical advice from a qualified professional.


Ultimately, you are responsible for your own well being. If something you’re doing or asked to do does not “feel right” then you need to change something and/or get some help. As a society, we’ve heard the calls to “Suck it up,” and “No pain, no gain,” and have learned to accept that we must push through or tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, pain begets more pain. For more information on the mechanisms of pain, read this blog post from Todd Hargrove of Better Movement.


Wishing you vitality of mind, body and spirit!


P.S. If you know someone who would also benefit from these post, please share. We’ll both thank you!

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One Response to ““But don’t you need to go through the pain to get out of the pain?””

  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing
    this article and also the rest of the site is extremely good.

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