Knee Pain

Hurt vs. harm: why pushing through pain hurts in the long run

Every year, up to 85% of runners are forced to take time off because of injury.

We all experience some discomfort during training, and it’s okay to have some degree of achiness and soreness. It’s also important not to ignore your body’s pain signals when returning to your activity.

“Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong,” says Dr. Dale Macdonald, Sport Specialist and Clinic Director at Elite Sport Performance in Calgary. “The tricky thing can be discerning whether it’s something small, or something that truly needs attention.”

One of the most common questions patients ask Macdonald when they’re returning to an activity is, how to tell if they are reinjuring themselves. His simple answer is: be aware of sharp pain and avoid modifications to technique.

For example, if you are forced to limp or change your gait while running – or you feel a stab of pain – you should stop right away. On the flip side, if a run simply causes achiness and soreness, you are most likely fine to continue.

“Pushing through real pain is not okay,” says Macdonald. “That just increases the risk of a more serious injury that may stop you from enjoying that activity altogether.”

Macdonald, an avid runner himself, understands the joy of running, but also the disappointment of not running because you’re hurt. Still, he says, it’s a fine line between hurt and harm.

Macdonald teaches a yearly Smart Runner Workshop series to educate runners about running better and faster, while reducing the risk of pain or injury. Along with his colleagues, he presents the latest in running-related research in an engaging, informative manner.

Runners can apply this knowledge immediately to their own running and come closer to their true potential as a runner.