You've been training regularly and now something hurts. Recognising that ignoring it probably won't make it feel any better you head off to see your doctor because lets face it,
Most people don’t like pain.
It sounds like the obvious thing to do right? When you go to the doctor with pain you're looking for a way to fix it. Therefore the advice you get from the doctor is likely to be something to minimize your pain.
But what happens if you didn’t just want to get rid of the pain? You wanted to fix the underlying problem? Or you want to keep participating in your favourite sport while managing your injury?
If this was you, you might have been unsatisfied with advice designed solely to minimize your pain. So why has your doctor dismissed your concerns? Why can’t they understand you still want to workout even though you have an injury?
There are lots of answers – each doctor will have a different perspective. My opinion is that although this sounds simple, it actually requires specialist management. If you have musculoskeletal damage a general physician can manage your pain however they probably don’t have the experience to fix your injury or manage your workout problem while you recover. This would be the scope of practice of a physiotherapist or an orthopedic surgeon. So even though your GP suggests you stop squatting to fix your knee pain – it’s probably worth a second opinion from a specialist who has more experience with knees. This doesn’t mean your GP isn’t a good doctor - this level of management is simply outside their scope and requires someone with more time.
I’ve said before that autonomy is king. Even if your doctor says you should not exercise, it is still just one option. Talk to them about your goals and what you want from them as physician. Let them know you want to explore other options.
It’s your body, to do with, as you like.
The other side of the argument is there is a good chance that if you are injured, continuing to exercise will cause you more pain and possibly increases the risk of further injury. Although Australia is not America when it comes to litigation, there is still a concern that if I ‘permit’ you to exercise and you are hurt further that I will be liable for giving you poor advice. Or on a more personal note – that you will be upset that I didn’t protect you from further pain. So from a doctors perspective perhaps it is safer to just advise cessation of exercise altogether.
I have been an athlete for a long time, and a medical profession for hardly any time at all. To me there is a lot of difference between hurting and injured. More often than not when I train – it hurts. Pain is ok. It’s not ok when that pain turns into injury. It’s a subtle difference – but years of experience allow me to know my body and ease off before it gets injured (sometimes). I understand it is not common to be comfortable with pain – nor should it be. This variety of experience adds to the complexity of treating a person. You’re wasting your time telling me not to do something because it hurts. But the person next to me may not feel the same.
Communication is so important between doctors and patients but is also commonly one of the areas most lacking.
If your doctor isn’t aware of your goals and your lifestyle they may not be able to tailor advice to your needs. If you don’t agree with their management plan, it’s worth discussing it further. A good doctor will be willing to work with you. Not all doctors are good doctors. Some won’t be interested in the discussion or will not understand your specific needs. Some may not have experience with sports injuries and management. Finding the right doctor is just like finding the right coach or PT – go for the one who will help you achieve your goals.