Don't Let Pain Keep You From Being Active 
 By Dr. David Geier 

Are you one of the many people who want to get in shape or lose weight, but have an old injury or daily pain?

Maybe you want to run the Cooper River Bridge Run but have lingering knee pain from an old football injury. Or maybe you want to join a women’s tennis league in the Lowcountry, but your shoulder hurts with each serve. Maybe you just want to lose a few pounds to look good for beach season.

One of the most common reasons patients give for not exercising is an injury or pain. People often use knee or shoulder pain or some other limitation as an excuse for not playing sports or being physically active. And while certainly musculoskeletal injuries can affect participation, rarely should these injuries keep people on the sidelines permanently.

How common is joint or bone pain? Joint pain is unfortunately a fairly common affliction among the United States population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 approximately 30% of adults reported that they experienced some sort of joint pain in the previous 30 days.

Musculoskeletal injuries are rarely completely incapacitating, however. While many weekend warriors cite old knee or shoulder injuries as reasons that they can’t exercise now, with so many options available, even people with real injuries should be able to modify their routines and still get in a good workout.

Try modifying your activities. For example, a male with early knee arthritis can still perform cardiovascular-enhancing exercise. He might not be able to run long distances six or seven days a week, but he might be able to run two days a week and swim or ride a bicycle the other days to decrease the repetitive impact on his knees. A female with rotator cuff impingement from overuse at work or in the yard might have to back off from tennis or softball, which might aggravate her shoulder, but she could play soccer or another non-throwing sport.

And for athletes who enjoy lifting weights, simply adjusting a few of the exercises might be enough to exercise in spite of a current injury. Have your injury or pain checked by a doctor.If you fear that you could make an injury worse, you should see a sports medicine physician. Most injuries do not need surgery. Often there are simple initial treatments, such as physical therapy, home exercises, taping, or anti-inflammatory medications. And while you might be reluctant to go to the doctor for fear of being completely shut down from a sport or activity, sports medicine physicians usually try to encourage treatments and rehabilitation that get you back to sports and exercise as quickly as possible.

Finally, even if the activity is potentially detrimental to a joint, it might not always be that bad. For example, if you have near bone-on-bone knee arthritis, you could possibly make your knee worse running every day. Having said that, if you want to keep running, the benefits to your overall health might outweigh the risks to your knee.

Daily exercise can provide multiple medical benefits, including improved cardiovascular function, lower blood pressure, and weight loss, as well as improved sleep and mood. Even if you need a knee replacement in the future, the medical upside to exercise is significant. While aches and pains can be an obstacle to physical activity, they shouldn’t be permanent barriers to all exercise. If you are worried about injuries or exercise modification discuss it with a doctor and know that being physically active is still possible despite these pains.