Chronic, niggling pains can be more frustrating for a person than a straightforward fracture of a bone or even an ACL tear. At least in those scenarios you know definitively what is wrong and there are tried and tested medical procedures to follow that result in you recovering completely.

Unfortunately, for many athletes, they can start feeling pain in their teenage years or early 20s and slowly keep seeing new issues crop up season after season. Nothing ever quite goes wrong enough to stop them from having to play for a week or two but it’s enough to affect their ability to perform at 100%. What’s worse is that when they see someone about it, they aren’t always given a solution.

Welcome to the world of chronic pain – a muddled mess of confusion and neurological pain science that is only in its infancy. For some cases, it can be as simple as releasing a muscle here or there and the pain vanishes. For most however, the improvements are short-lived and because the person wasn’t given any clear diagnosis or solution at the time, they are left unsure of what to do and figure they should just keep running through it. This usually doesn’t go very well.

My advice if you’re in this situation would be as follows:

  1. Rule out anything sinister with your GP, particularly if your pain is constant or wakes you up at night.
  2. Go get yourself assessed by a physical therapist or similar. If you’ve already done that but it didn’t work, either go back to them so they can re-assess the situation knowing their first diagnosis was incorrect or seek a second opinion. For me, I always want to know the exact cause of a person’s pain and the route I have to take to get them to a fully functional body that can move fearlessly and pain-free.
  3. Chronic pain never takes just one session to eradicate completely so be ready to commit to a few weeks or possibly months of dedicated rehab – it will be worth it and improvements will be evident within a few sessions.
  4. Get strong. You’d be amazed how many people could reduce or eliminate their pain by following a simple strength plan. As Mike Boyle has been heard to say ‘you have a case of weakness’. In my opinion, the strength plan should cover the whole body and be functional for best results because if you practice movements that you do in daily life, you should see a nice transfer from the gym to home life (and to the field/court). To hear a much longer and more convincing argument for doing strength training to eliminate pain, I encourage you to read the well researched website of

‘In this article, I will spell out why strength training really matters to ordinary people, and how to do it.

While I hope anyone who’s ever spent time in a gym will find this helpful, it’s mainly written for people with chronic pain and stubborn injuries who are wondering: Where does strength training fit in to a recovery plan?’

For some idea of what decent, good or great numbers look like for a lifter, you can check out this example from T-Nation. However, you will find multiple different charts if you keep looking.

In case the internet has fooled you, there isn’t just ‘one best exercise’ for any injury concern. We move in three dimensions, we need to train in three dimensions. Even just linear and lateral isn’t enough, we should also be doing transverse (horizontal) plane work. A recovery plan should be individualised for a person’s specific weaknesses. This is where a professional in strength and conditioning comes in. Who you choose should be able to handle a person in pain to avoid exacerbating your injury. Ideally, if they understand anatomy well enough to be able to adjust exercises to help your condition then you could get positive results faster. Otherwise, the strength coach should get advice from the person’s injury consultant so they can combine forces for the client.

Find the right professionals and be persistent!

Don’t despair if you are used to being injured and think you will always have to go through pain! You simply haven’t followed the right path of diagnosis and rehabilitation yet. If you want to use TOP to see if I can help you specifically, you can book for a consultation or injury screen and performance assessment right now.

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