“Since push presses hurt my shoulder I’ll just squat instead.” “Running increases my knee pain so I’ll ride the bike”. Have you ever said a phrase similar to this? I know I have. However, this is not necessarily the best solution. What I’m NOT saying is that you should push through pain. Ignoring pain completely can lead to more problems and injury. However, most overuse injuries are caused by some type of dysfunctional movement pattern or muscle imbalance. In order to prevent your injury from becoming chronic or recurring it is vital to correct the underlying movement dysfunction. How do you correct this dysfunction? For starters, you are not going to correct anything by always substituting alternative, pain free movements. For example, if you have knee pain during squats and every time you show up to the gym on squat day you perform shoulder presses instead of squats you are not doing anything to actually address your problem. Now you may get really strong arms (not a bad thing), and your knee pain may temporarily go away, but a shoulder press will not correct your motor control and movement during a squat. A better solution is to first seek out help from a physical therapist, or at least a knowledgeable coach. A physical therapist will be able to diagnose your injury, assess your movement and provide you corrective exercises to restore normal movement patterns. Instead of subbing out squats for shoulder presses, you can perform the exercises given to you by your physical therapist instead of performing loaded squats. By doing this you are giving your injured knee the rest it needs but also correcting the source of the problem. You may need to keep up with your corrective exercises in order to maintain these new movement patterns, but you have broken the cycle of the rest, repeat, re-injure.
I also want to point out that doing corrective exercises is not always fun. I would much rather put a heavy barbell over my head than do bridges, side steps and romanian deadlifts on the side, BUT I’m helping myself much more in the long run by doing these corrective exercises. Another thing I want to point out is that corrective exercise can be HARD. Seriously, set up a tabata of side steps, barbell bridges, kettlebell swings and single leg RDLs. If your glutes aren’t on fire by the end of that then you either didn’t try hard enough or have some impressive glutes of steel. You can also try mixing in your correctives with any type of cardio. Performing correctives while fatigued is also going to significantly benefit you as form breakdowns mostly occur under fatigue.
In summary, avoiding painful movements entirely will not improve your pain in the long run, nor will the true source of pain actually be addressed. Seeking advice from a movement professional will allow to gain the knowledge and tools you need to knock out pain once and for all.