How To Make a Comeback When Something Hurts

This week, we posted about dealing with those nagging little injuries that we all run into in our athletic careers. Naturally, our first reaction to these pains is to look for a diagnosis.

An internet search often lands on something grave. Or we connect the pain to some anatomy around the spot that hurts, which is sometimes accurate, but often not.

Or we go the extra mile and get it checked out by a doctor, where we get tested to identify this thing that we’re feeling.  

All this time and worry usually leads to a prescription of rest and maybe some pills to mask the problem.  

Instead, save this as “What to Do If Something Hurts” for those pains that pop up…


The first step in the rehab process is to compensate for the physical, emotional, and mental damage caused by this painful thing.

It’s a tall order, but it’s essential for healing.  

Taking time away from provocative activities (best known as rest) is key to a cure, but rest alone is not a great option.

The problem is fighting the urge to return as soon as possible. Instead, compensate to maintain activity levels while not aggravating the injury. 

Things like movement modifications, avoiding specific painful stimuli and positions, and workload modifications facilitate the physical and psychological needs to get past an injury.

You can check out our Scaling Guide for some ideas, or here is a framework for graded exposure to ease back into your thing.



Many injuries will heal on their own with time, but some things can help the healing process. For example, addressing impairments and gradually introducing load can get you back quicker and better than before.

That’s where those Crossover Symmetry exercises will help you progress back to your old self again.  Start with a goal movement, regress it to the point you can perform it without pain, and then gradually increase the stimulus until you’re where you want to be.


Ultimately, some issues may be ongoing or permanent and require being smart with training and activities to continue pursuing goals and fulfillment in life.

Whether it be adaptations around permanent limitations, or short-term adaptations to stay invigorated while long-term healing runs its course.

For example, it’s very possible to be strong, athletic, and look great naked without doing squat snatches or muscle-ups.  You can go out and enjoy 18 holes of golf (and for most shoot the same score), without full swings off the tee box. And even for something as shoulder intensive as swimming, a great swimmer can be made by drilling mechanics, body position, and carefully prescribing volume.

As the US Marines like to say,

“Improvise, adapt, and overcome…”

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