How much pain is too much pain during exercise? Learn to control it.

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How much pain is too much pain?

Exercise is very important, but when physical activity also comes with its fair share of aches and pains, how do you know when to push through the ‘good pain’ and when to stop? How much pain is too much pain during excercise?

Regular exercise is the most important aspect of the treatment and management for knee OA. It has been shown to help reduce pain and control weight. Interestingly, even an 8% reduction in weight can noticeably reduce pain.

When you have a joint affected by arthritis, it can feel risky just to move it—after all, you don’t want to exacerbate the pain!

The thoughts that can run through my head, when I am experiencing pain during excercise, are:

“I am afraid that I may injure myself if I exercise.”

“If I were to try to overcome it, my pain would increase.”

“Simply being careful that I do not make unnecessary movements is the safest thing I can do to prevent pain from worsening”

Unfortunately, this tendency to fear exercise and its effects on pain levels can cause people to avoid the activity their joints need. Even when they are affected by arthritis, your joints are made to move; keeping them immobile will only cause more pain and less mobility. So how much pain should you endure during exercise? Is it okay to exercise with pain?


My Physio suggested that I think of

pain during exercise

as being like a rattlesnake ……

Pain: Taming the Rattlesnake

Pain during excercise - How much pain is too much pain?

RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate

Rest Ice Compress Elevate

Chronic and Acute Pain

Many people who have arthritis or a related disease such as osteoarthritis may be living with chronic pain. Pain is chronic when it lasts three to six months or longer, but arthritis pain can last a lifetime. It may be constant, or it may come and go. Chronic pain can make it hard to perform daily activities like cleaning the house, dressing, or looking after your kids. However, there are ways to effectively manage chronic arthritis pain. Follow these tips to help you feel better and learn from people who have experienced chronic pain from arthritis. 

Pain is personal. While it’s something you feel physically, your emotions and thoughts play a significant role in how you experience pain.

Pain is your body’s warning system alerting you to harm. Your brain interprets pain signals from your nerves (usually starting from those closest to the source of harm) based on their intensity and location, as well as your surroundings, previous injury experience, your beliefs, your emotional state, and many other factors. You feel the pain after your brain has processed all of this information. This is why each person’s experience of pain is unique – even between people with the same disease or injury.

There are different types of pain:

  • Acute pain is short-term pain that protects you and prevents more damage to your body by changing your behavior. For example, after an injury the pain usually goes away once your body has healed, or the unpleasant stimulus has been removed.
  • Chronic pain (also called persistent pain) typically lasts for more than three months and is not always associated with damage. People who live with chronic diseases, like osteoarthritis, often live with chronic pain.

Chronic pain, in particular, may affect all aspects of your life. It interferes with sleep and raises your stress levels, which may make the pain feel more intense. It may also take a toll on your mental health, making you feel angry, depressed, anxious, and frustrated.

Take a look at this article showing 11 Tips for Living with Chronic Pain

Acute Chronic

Exercises to manage pain

Below are some great activities to help manage OA pain and symptoms: 

Mild, low-impact aerobic exercise

Pain Advice and Tips

Explore this site which gives pain advice and tips on how to move with musculoskeletal pain.
Get help to do the everyday things that are important to you

Moving with Pain

Tips For Everyday

Try these exercises to help reduce pain

Making your joints stronger can be a key element for helping to reduce your arthritis pain. These can be hard and uncomfortable at first, but implementing the ‘Taming the Rattlesnake’ thinking will protect you and help you to exercise with more confidence. 

Below is a video gallery of a series of videos. Click on the right hand list to find other videos that may alleviate your specific area/joint of pain: neck, back, hand. knee, thumb,

Pain Relief - How do pain relievers work?

Some people take aspirin or ibuprofen to treat everyday aches and pains, but how exactly do the different classes of pain relievers work? What do you take for effective pain relief? 

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Pain Story
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