“Is it OK for me to do _____ right now?” Patients often ask that, or a variation of the question such as “I’d like to do _____ this weekend, but I wasn’t sure if I should avoid that or not.”
Rules for Evaluating Pain Response
In general, assuming that you have not underwent any kind of surgery, injection, fracture, etc that might have special precautions, if you don’t have additional pain 20 minutes or so after an activity, you should be fine.
Most problems seen in therapy are mechanical pain, or a combination of mechanical and inflammatory pain. Many times as part of rehabilitation, patients will be asked to undertake activities or exercises that create or increase pain. This increase in pain generally should not continue after the event, or if it does, should not last more than about 20 minutes after the activity has been completed.
Not unlike muscle, most other tissues of the body respond to repetitive loading and overloading. With appropriate stress, tendons will strengthen, joint capsules and connective tissue in muscle will lengthen, and bone will thicken. Pain during an activity that does not last longer than 20 minutes after is consistent with mechanical loading of shortened tissues. Cyclical loading of shortened tissues will prompt your body to remodel (lengthen and strengthen) those tissues to adapt to your activities – thus reducing and eventually eliminating your pain.