Everyone’s heard the expression “no pain, no gain” thrown around somewhere and sometime in their life. Maybe you complained about some pain after deadlifting, and your trainer replied with the saying. Maybe your knee was bugging you during a basketball match, and your teammates or coach threw the phrase your way.
In all honesty, the quote isn’t meritless; in fact, it captures a scientific law: Wolff’s Law. Simply put, the law states that healthy bones adapt to the forces and loads placed on them. Bearing load is uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to get stronger. Still, Wolff’s law shouldn’t be seen as a categorical affirmation of the titular expression. Here’s a better way of understanding it.
The Traffic Light Analogy
The traffic light analogy is a simple way to understand how to apply Wolff’s law in your training. Each light represents pain on a 10-degree scale. The green light refers to pain between 0 and 3, and it means to keep pushing through the pain. This pain is typically the discomfort you experience whenever you’re exposing your body to a new yet difficult stimulus. This pain is usually healthy and means your body is beginning to adapt to a new stimulus.
The yellow light refers to pain between a 4 and 7. This is where what the pain means becomes murkier. In some instances, this can mean to push through the pain (speed up). For example, if you’re playing a competitive basketball match, you may push through some knee pain. In other cases, it means to hold back (slow down). For instance, if you’re recreationally playing, there’s no need to push through acute knee pain.
The red light refers to pain between an 8 and a 10, and it means to come to a complete stop. If you feel pain like this, it means something is about to or has gone wrong. For example, if you herniate a disc, you’ll feel a sharp pain radiate through your back and down to your glutes and possibly leg. This is a clear sign that you need to stop.
The titular expression is true of green pain and some yellow pains. Other yellow pains mean you should begin slowing down and lowering the intensity, and red pains mean stop. However, figuring out which pain corresponds to which light takes experience, and you can hurt yourself along the way.
If you’ve injured yourself, get in touch with us at Healing Hands Physical Therapy Centers, Inc. We provide sports injury rehab, as well as active living for seniors and physical therapy service Augusta, GA.