Should you push through pain?

It’s a question we have all asked ourselves when we have an injury: Should I push through the pain, or will it cause damage? The answer can vary depending on the source, intensity, and duration of your pain. Here are some guidelines on when to push through pain, and what to do if you can’t.

Push through pain when it’s not from your injury

First, you should consider the source of the pain. There are many things that can cause pain when we’re active. Muscle soreness, lactic acid buildup, and even the work of breathing are can all contribute. Experiencing some general discomfort with activity is normal, and you can push through it without aggravating your injury.

Pushing through your pain

You should be more cautious when experiencing pain that you associate with your injury. In the clinic, we often refer to this as ‘your pain’ to differentiate it from other symptoms.

There are lots of reasons you might feel your pain during activity. These include the amount of load on the injured body part, sensitization of the nervous system, and inflammation levels, to name a few.

Pain is extremely complex, so it’s best to follow some simple guidelines when interpreting it.

Experiencing low levels of pain for a short time will not slow injury healing, and is usually nothing to worry about. As a general rule, it’s okay to push through pain if it’s below a four out of 10. This is based on a scale from zero to 10, where zero represents no pain and 10 represents the worst pain you can imagine.

If your pain gets worse than a four out of 10 and lasts for more than an hour after an activity, you should consider changing what you’re doing. Intense pain for a prolonged period may mean that the injured structure has been irritated, which can interrupt the healing process.

High levels of pain can also change the way the body uses the injured structure. This can make the body part weaker and less coordinated, slowing your recovery.

Manage pain levels while staying active

Changing how you perform an activity can help to keep pain at an acceptable level, without having to stop the activity. In physiotherapy, this is called ‘activity modification’.

Most activities can be modified to make them better for your body. Modifications might involve activating new muscles to unload an injury, changing posture and technique, or performing targeted exercises before you perform a painful activity.

Phyx Premium provides you with access to more than 10 Modifications for each part of the body. You’ll get step-by-step tutorials on how to improve activities like sitting, climbing stairs, and lifting, with new activities added regularly.

Your Phyx Premium account will also include a progression of clinical exercises specific to your injury, and progress tracking. For a limited time, you can claim a free telehealth session with a physiotherapist when you subscribe to Phyx Premium.

*Offer ends 31 May 2020, use code FREEPHYX at checkout


While you can push through most pain without causing damage, you may want to avoid causing intense pain that lasts for hours. Use 4/10 as a rule of thumb, and change the way you do things to manage your pain levels. Lastly, the best way to push through pain is to not have it in the first place. Download Phyx and select your first body part to start preventing injuries before they happen.

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