For many, confusion exists regarding how much pain to expect and accept during exercise when injured. Pain is complex and multifactorial. Not all pain is the same, and getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is important with any injury to ensure a great outcome. There are a few key points to keep in mind however when recovering from injury and for long term health.
PAIN vs PRODUCTIVE RECOVERY
Finding the sweet spot between pain vs productive recovery is important in making significant and lasting changes when 'rehabbing' an injury. When we perform work or load on an area of the body, there is an adaptive response to this load. This is a normal physiological response and is the way in which muscles and bone get stronger, and tendons improve their ability to absorb and release energy. This load may mean there will be a pain increase on that area of the body when we perform targeted exercise, since many injuries require a gradual increase in load on the muscle/tendon/joint/bone in order to adapt and lead to long term pain reduction. Check out the graph below which illustrates outlines the fact that we can be making progress despite pain continuing during rehabilitation.
One general rule I tend to follow is that a new load from specific exercise should not continue to raise the level of pain for more than 2 hours, or be worse that night or the next morning. You can obtain your own baseline pain score from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable), and avoid deviating more than 3 points on this scale. For instance your baseline pain is 2/10, during exercise this raises to 5/10, but comes back to 3/10 than night and 2-3/10 the next morning. This is an appropriate load. When this gets easier, with less pain, chances are you need to increase your load during exercise. If there is a significant increase in pain, we simply back off and reduce the load temporarily, perhaps have a rest day, or just reduce resistance/reps/sets for a short period. Build a strong, resilient body that can cope with the rigours of daily life and you can't go wrong.
As always, please get professional advice on your pain and injury prior to applying this info