Should I be exercising if I’m in pain???

One of the regular questions we receive in the clinic, particularly in the Good Living with Arthritis: Denmark (GLA:D) program, is whether participants should exercise or attend the class when they are experiencing pain.

In relation to aches and pains that are not traumatic or acute in nature, the answer is “definitely yes”.  However, prior to commencing any exercises, it is best to have the cause of the pain assessed by one of our physiotherapists to ensure exercising is safe for you.


Should I be exercising if I’m in pain??? - Enhance Physiotherapy


Once the cause of your pain has been assessed and you are reassured that it is safe to exercise, the best way to guide your levels/intensity of exercising whilst in pain is done using the following three body responses to the exercise:

  1. Pain levels DURING the exercise

Pain levels should go up slightly but need to remain in the “acceptable” range.  This is generally between 3/10 to 5/10.  Any lower and your body won’t be challenged enough to make a positive change. Any higher, and you may risk causing an inflammatory response or worsen the underlying cause of the pain.

  1. Pain symptoms in the following 24 hours AFTER the exercise.

Pain levels should return to the pre-exercise levels within 24 hours.  It is okay, and often anticipated, to be a little sorer the following morning, but this should subside by the time you are up and about with your daily activities.

  1. How the pain levels TREND over time.

In isolation, an increase in pain can be alarming and especially when you are just commencing exercises with your pain.  However, by keeping track of your pain levels over time, the general trend should point towards you improving your pain levels.

A great example of trending pain is from one of our participants in the GLA:D program, who was initially skeptical about exercising whilst in pain.  This is a very common concern.  However, as can be seen, the trend over the 12 sessions (6 weeks) of the program is downward.  Remarkably, this was in conjunction with a significant increase in the participant’s loading capacity with their exercises.

Should I be exercising if I’m in pain??? - Enhance Physiotherapy

So if you are suffering pain, book in with one of our physiotherapists and start your road to recovery and return to function.




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