Don’t let pain change your game


To me, running a gym is probably the most satisfying job in the world. I love helping people to live a better life by improving their health and fitness levels. However, sometimes getting a person in a ‘ready state’; to make improvements or changes can be challenging. More often than not there are mental barriers in the way. Many feel they might be judged in a gym environment; they fear the fact that others can see them; for some, it’s just too damn terrifying to even make it through the door in the first place. At SO51Fitness we do our best to dismantle mental barriers because we know they are genuine obstacles to health and fitness. We really care about each and every member and we foster a supportive and non-judgemental culture where absolutely everyone is welcome. I’m proud of the culture we have created in which not just staff but fellow members contribute to an inclusive community. 

But what about other kinds of barriers? What are doing to make sure that people who have managed to overcome the mental blocks, only to find there are tangible physical barriers in their way? 

One such barrier to effective training is pain. 

As fitness professionals, we are trained to accommodate and adapt exercises to work with any areas that cause unbearable discomfort but the deeper you delve into the world of injuries the more complex this becomes. One of the most common questions I get asked in the gym is “should I see a chiropractor, physiotherapist, sports masseuse or acupuncturist about x?” Of course, the first response to acute pain should be to seek medical advice. But for the kind of nagging pains that come with certain kinds of exercise, there are other options. I chatted to local chiropractor Sam Ogilvie from Back to Roots:

Each of the healing professionals listed above – sports masseuse, acupuncturist, physiotherapist, and chiropractor – want to help people experiencing pain, and a good therapist of any kind can help just by taking time to listen and observe symptoms. But each offers a different type of manual therapy that can be helpful in pain relief. This manual therapy is embedded in a wider approach. Clinical practice guidelines (developed by NICE) for the treatment of common musculoskeletal problems like lower back pain state that manual therapy should only be offered as part of a treatment package that should also include education and advice to encourage self-management, exercise-based and psychological approaches too. This is what is referred to as a ‘holistic’ approach that takes into account your biology (injury, general health, any other ‘co-morbidities’ like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.), psychology (how you feel about the problem, fear, anxiety, stress, etc.) and social aspects (who you have around you and how that affects your pain – family, friends, support networks, etc.). 

Overall, a good healthcare professional should answer the following questions:

1) What’s wrong with me?

2) How long will it take to get better?

3) What can you do to help me?

4) What can I do to help myself?

If someone can help you answer these four questions, and takes the time to listen to your story, they’re likely to be better able to treat you than someone who only does things to you and doesn’t encourage you to exercise and self-manage your aches and pains.

I asked Sam Ogilvie to talk me through her approach to patients.

 “My professional qualification is a chiropractor. However, I prefer to refer to myself as a musculoskeletal clinician (someone who can help people with aches and pains),” she told me. “This is because I don’t tend to do as much of the manual therapy as a typical chiropractor would do. My aim when working with clients is to get them back to doing important things to them, whether that be gardening, playing with their children or lifting weights in the gym – sometimes this needs some manual therapy to get us going, but sometimes it doesn’t. My approach is to look at people’s pain from a broad perspective and take a longer-term approach, rather than only one or two sessions.” 

Sam believes in the benefits of really getting to know the patients she sees. “I like to spend time with clients; my initial consultations usually take between one and two hours. I usually work with people for six to twelve weeks, sometimes longer. In this time, we can make substantial progress in pain relief as well as achieving goals and helping them be more in control of their aches and pains.”

I wanted to ask Sam particularly about problems that might be prevalent amongst readers, so I also asked her what the most common complaint she gets from female patients? Her answer was very clear: upper back and neck pain.

The prevalence of neck pain in the general population has been consistently higher in females for several years (up to ten per cent higher than males). However, getting a stronger upper body is not impossible, and can help with aches and pains in the neck and shoulders. And you don’t need to lift heavy weights to get stronger, either!”

So pain doesn’t need to be an obstacle to exercise; in fact, the right kind of exercise is sometimes the best way to treat pain. I will be bearing this in mind when I chat to SO51Fitness members over the festive season, and will be sure to suggest that they talk to another health professional in dealing with aches and pains. Once they have some guidance, we can be pro-active in tailoring our fitness offering to help members meet particular goals, including overcoming or learning to deal with particular kinds of pain. 

If you’d like to hear more from Sam, or are experiencing persistent pain and want to know if she could help, you can contact her via phone 07563604804 or email, or you can look her up on Instagram @samo_b2r You can also visit for more information about the company.

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