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What Does "Pain Free" Mean?

Posted Aug 23 2010 5:12pm

As I announced a few weeks ago, Eric and I are currently training for a 5K. We have been doing our own version of the "couch" to 5k, alternating runs on the treadmill on days when we can match up our schedules with runs together at the track.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you may know- I was diagnosed with patella tendonitis in June 2009. Aside from a crazy sprint triathlon, I did not run for over a year after that in attempt to get rid of the knee pain. Even with PT, exercises, icing, and excessive amounts of rest, the pain only stayed away when I didn't run at all.

Earlier this summer Eric and I had probably our 100th conversation about my frustration over not being able to run. I find it hard to comprehend how people have literally recovered from surgery and been able to run and I am sidelined by a little tendonitis. Which brings me to my question of today's post...

How much pain will you tolerate and still say you had a "pain free" run?

When I was doing PT for my knee last summer they used to ask me how much pain I felt on a scale of 1 to 10. I always found this question to be a challenge, as I have to assume that I have never in my life felt a 10 or even close. At that point I think my pain was a 5, 10 being the pain someone might feel if they say, fractured a part of their knee or tore something. Now, a year later I'd say my pain is a 1 or 2 when I run, and usually is at a 2 after a run. This leaves me to wonder.

Is the reason why I am the one who still cannot run "pain free" because I have a different definition of pain than others? When Caitlin (who has had a lot of trouble with her knees, but now can run marathons) says it doesn't hurt her knee, does she mean AT ALL, or just compared to when things were really bad? Does she simply mean that she can tolerate the amount of pain in her knees or is it really NOT THERE AT ALL?

It's really impossible to know another's feeling of pain, so I have decided to assume that a small amount of pain is okay, as long as it doesn't get worse. I am on a strict regime of foam rolling, stretching and icing and I don't run on anything except a treadmill and a cork track. Hopefully that will allow me to run, within reason, I am not going to be doing any marathons any time soon :)

I'd love to know your thoughts. Just how much pain will you tolerate before you get concerned? Do you think your past history with sports/athletics influences how much pain you tolerate?

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