Pain when we exercise or get bodywork, why does it hurt and is that okay?

When we unravel distortions, adhesions, the shortnesses, the felty scare tissue arrangement that happens after trauma, the patterns that are shaped by the psychology into the body, we ask ourselves, “I don’t know whether I’m going to do Yoga/Pilates or if I’m going to do training or do stuff on a roller or do bodywork,” any of those things that go into changing the fascial system. How is that going to proceed and is it going to be painful?

Firstly I need to address what pain is. Different people will have different interpretations. Pain is sensation accompanied by the motor intention to withdraw.

If you’re not trying to get away from it, it isn’t pain. It’s just sensation. (Myers, 2012)

This varies from person to person and situation to situation and day to day. If you come into the clinic having drank 4 coffee’s, I give you X amount of pressure, your going to report that as painful. If you come in having drank a green tea that keeps you calm and I give you that same amount of pressure, you won’t report that as painful.

Pain is sensation accompanied by the motor intention to withdraw. This is where I first see it, right on the edge of the eyes, before they’ve even said, “No” or “That’s too much” or “That’s okay, I can take it” because a lot of people are in that kind of “No pain, no gain kind of thing, so go right ahead. Get right into my shoulder. I want to feel the pain because I want to get the benefit.” The pain and the benefit are not directly related. (Myers, 2012)

Pain is the motor intention to withdraw, accompanying the sensation. If you understand that me scraping my fists across your chest is going to result in a more open breath, you will take much more of that sensation and you won’t report it as pain.

When you first come to me and I put my fists in your chest and I’m going to tear the fascia off you, or that’s what it’s going to feel like, tear the fascia off your sternum, which is a place where it very, very commonly gets stuck down both biomechanically and emotionally, if I come in and move that, there are sensations associated with that. There’s going to be a burning. The burning is from the free nerve endings that are stuck in-between the fascial layers, so when I get the fascial layers to start to move on each other, it stimulates these free nerve endings that were bridging that gap and that will result in a feelings of tearing. (Myers, 2012)

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We don’t like the word ‘tearing’. We prefer the word ‘melting,’ but in point of fact, if you go in there physiologically, it is a tearing. It is a tearing of the connections between the tissues, but it’s a good tearing because it will result in motion between those two surfaces.
Can you feel that pain when it’s going? Yes. Can that be experienced as pain? Yes. Can you, with some training, with some experience, stop regarding that as pain and just feel it as sensation? Yes. Those of you that do Yoga know that you get into … That sweet sensation, sweet soreness. It’s painful. (Myers, 2012)

When you first go into Downward Dog, somewhere in your calves in your hamstrings or your butt, you’re going to feel a pulling, which if you go deeply into the pose, you could call pain.
If you go deeply into training and you come up against your physiological limits, you’re going to come up against this thing we call pain. There is no way around that. You can’t extend yourself beyond your current capabilities without going into the unknown and very often, the sensations that you get in the unknown are going to get reported to you as pain. (Myers, 2012)

I’m not in the no pain, no gain category. There are three types of pain. Pain coming into the body. I stubbed my toe. That’s pain coming into the body. There’s pain stored in the body. Pain stored in the body is often not felt as pain. It’s felt as fatigue. It’s felt as, I can’t do that. It’s felt as just incapacity. You don’t often feel the pain you’re storing in the body. You arrange your body, so you don’t feel that pain.
Sometimes when you come into training that requires you to do something different, a Yoga/Pilates pose, an exercise, or you go into bodywork (massage) and somebody opens that tissue, the pain that’s stored in the body comes out. That’s the third kind of pain, is pain leaving the body. I’m willing for people to go through the pain leaving the body because as it leaves, it leaves energy, awareness, and function in its wake. You do want to take the pain in the body and have it come out.

The pain that you feel just before you tell the truth. You’ve been lying to your spouse. You’ve been lying to your boss. You’ve been lying to your parents about this, that, or the other thing and now you’re about to tell the truth. You know it’s going to feel better on the other side, but there’s this, pain of actually bringing this thing up.
It’s useful pain because after you have done that, space. Psychic space opens up. Bodily space opens us. The space for movement opens up. That kind of pain leaving the body, I’m more than okay with. I’m in favor of. When you have a traumatic area in the body, when a bone has been broken, when you have a psychological trauma to a body, there will be pain stored in that and you feel that pain on the way out. (Myers, 2012)

I don’t believe that you can get traumatic pain out out of the body without feeling that pain as part of the leaving process. Again, that can be really disturbing, upsetting and can be very emotional, but it’s really important that you go through that process.

Body movement with Pilates/Yoga, manual therapy with massage/Sports Therapy, these are things that really not only work on a personal level, they start to work on a collective level. I think that’s really important I really do believe that my job as a Movement Therapist is to lesson the collective pain of clients by getting some of that stuff out. I promise, you will feel so much lighter on so many levels.


Myers, T. 2012. Anatomy Trains, 3rd edition. Churchill Livingstone.

Myers, T. 2012. Anatomy Trains website [Accessed 10th August 2016]. Available from:

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