fitness · Guest Post

Hurting When You Move, Hurting When You Don’t


I have recently had a number of experiences that have brought into sharper focus the state of the aches and pains in my 47 year old body.

While I don’t identify as a person who suffers chronic pain, I do have Rheumatoid Arthritis, poor foot structure and scoliosis, all of which impact my day at various points with painful things.

It used to be the case the case that my default solution to these things was not to do much in the way of vigorous activity. I grew up with a message of “don’t do that, you will hurt yourself”. I don’t really know where this came from. I sometimes blame my mom but it could just have easily been the doctor or some other way that wormed into my brain. Maybe it was because middle school gym class was really socially traumatic for other reasons and my arthritis was a convenient escape from that whole mess.

Which ever way that happened, it took me a long time to get out of it and I’m glad I did. Now my attitude is, “do the thing until you can’t do it any more”. This has really changed my attitude toward my body and the sensations I encounter inhabiting it. For instance, when I am exercising regularly, I am always sore. My legs are sore from horse riding, running, and biking. My arms are sore after Spring Board class. My back is sore all the time. But the soreness has a certain quality that is tolerable, pleasant even. It comes with a sense that muscles are rebuilding stronger than they were before. It seems like the joints are working better because they moved. I don’t feel like I need to “rest” and I don’t feel like I’ve hurt myself. . .until I do hurt myself, or get sick and that brings me to my next observation.

This fall, I have experienced one really bad head cold and now just recently, after tripping over my dog, one strained ankle. In order to recover from these things, my activity level dropped off quite a bit. I notice that I am still sore but in different ways. The soreness that arises in me through lack of physical activity is a stagnant soreness. Things feel swollen and stuck. Part of it is my attitude toward it. I know that pain in my back isn’t about my ride, it’s about my imbalances making themselves known. It is a grey and dreary sensation that signals degeneration of my skeleton and the discomfort that may be waiting for me if I ever stop moving, or if I really can’t do the thing any more. It makes me want to lie on the couch and never move again.

Brains are such strange things. My experience of activity begets a desire for more activity but my experience of inactivity doesn’t make me long to put on running shoes again, it makes me want to hide in my bed and sleep. It puts into perspective why it is hard for people who have chronic pain to start moving, even when the evidence is overwhelming that it is good for them and it will feel better. The “I moved!” pain is so much better than the “I’m stuck!” pain.

I suppose I have to keep reminding myself of that and go running later. Also, watch out for the dog.

Bad. Dog.
Bad. Dog.

5 thoughts on “Hurting When You Move, Hurting When You Don’t

  1. I often wonder about my own pain compared to others.
    I have palindromic arthritis, so most,y it’s ok, with flare ups that hurt.
    But I am generally extremely stiff in the morning and after being still.

    When exercising a lot I also have that general overall used soreness.
    Recent,y I’ve dropped my activity down as I am fatigued, so I’m mainly doing gently yoga, and I actually feel better all the time.

    I start to wonder if perhaps the thought of always doing more might just be pushing me in the wrong direction…

    Interesting thoughts that you have sparked!

  2. This is really enlightening to me, and I have a question for you if you don’t mind! I would say I started getting in better shape about 2 years ago, doing running and some weight-bearing exercises. I have been pushing myself to get 10,000 steps each day (thanks fitbit!) over the past week, but I started to get nauseous on the treadmill 2 nights ago. I tried to push myself through it but it just got worse and I actually felt really, really terrible yesterday. Sadly this makes me feel really weak and silly, because I don’t feel like I exercise that hard, but I don’t know the line yet between pushing myself in a “good” way, and pushing myself in a way that will cause me to hurt myself/spend a day on the couch due to headache and nausea. How do you find this balance? What are some body signals you listen to that tell you, “This is a good pain, keep going!” vs. “You need to rest now!” ??

  3. This is interesting. It seems that pain, like everything else is pretty relative and thoughts about it (like everything else) begin in the mind and go from there.

  4. Getting older and knowing how hard to push our bodies is a perplexing thing! I just started a weekly one-hour tennis clinic with my friend Patti. I used to play a lot but it’s been 10 years since I picked up a racket. After just one class, which was a blast, I seem to already have tennis elbow. Now what?

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