movement, exercise, injury

Do You Move When It Hurts?

Does 'move it or lose it' hold water?

It's understandable that when we have an injury, we want to find a comfortable position and we want to stay there and protect ourselves from further pain. Let's face it; when we are injured and we move, it hurts! If we can get in a position that doesn't hurt, why would we want to do something that will cause more pain? Not to mention the harm that might come from moving while we are suffering from an injury. That just sounds terrible and maybe even a little dangerous. 

The types of injuries I will be discussing are those that have been x-rayed or imaged and there are no complications, fractures, or something on that level. I am discussing non-complicated musculoskeletal injuries, which are the most common type of injuries. 

The first thing to know is that short-term pain turns into chronic, long-lasting pain in only about 3-4 months. For this reason, our window to resolve the pain is short and we need to do everything we can to get on top of it and get it knocked out quickly and efficiently. So that it doesn't turn chronic and hard to get rid of. 

I am going to share some concepts with you that may surprise you a little bit:

  1. Movement is healing
  2. Motion is the lotion
  3. 'Hurt' almost never means 'Harm'
  4. Sometimes you need to change your mind

Let's address each of these concepts briefly.

Movement is healing

The easiest and fastest way to demonstrate this concept is by using the hospital as our example. Almost all of us have either experienced this ourselves or know someone that has. When someone has surgery, even major surgery like a knee joint replacement or abdominal surgery, for example, they have those patients up on their feet walking through the halls of the hospital. This doesn't typically happen the second week following surgery. This is happening usually on the same day of the surgery or the very next day. 

Research has shown clearly that injured workers that return to work sooner heal faster than those workers that are allowed to stay at home to recover. 

Movement is healing and the more active a person can be responsibly, the faster a patient is going to heal. What do I mean by 'responsibly'? Well, let's face it, some folks are go-getters and over-achievers. They want to get back to normal yesterday. Here is the warning; you can do too much too quickly. I encourage patients to get moving immediately by finding their baseline. What can you do right now that might hurt but you don't feel is too much? Find that amount of activity and do it until it becomes boring. Then add 10%. Do that until that becomes boring. Then add 10%. 

This ramping up of activity levels is much more appropriate and responsible than trying to bite off more than you can chew right after an injury has occurred. 

For those that have been in pain for an extended amount of time, maybe years, I will add that if you wait until you quit hurting to start moving, you're in a lot of trouble. Regardless of pain, a sedentary lifestyle is not going to do anything but worsen the situation. 


Motion is the lotion

I discovered this concept from Dr. Craig Liebenson several years ago. 

“Think of your body like a car; if you don’t drive that car, it rusts and gets stuck,” said Lori Denman, Rehabilitation Manager at Prowers Medical Center. “The same goes for our bodies.  Movement is the trigger mechanism to “release the grease” to our joints. The synovial fluids in our joints basically work like car grease; you need to move your joints in order for them to stay lubricated.”

Lori really sums it up in that statement. Motion is the lotion and when we rest, we rust. Being sedentary is not an option


'Hurt' almost never means 'Harm'

Many of my patients have expressed the idea that they are afraid that if they move when they hurt, they will cause more damage. They want to protect the injury and make sure they don't make it any worse. 

While this is very understandable, it isn't a real thing. Again, surgical patients hurt and they're still up and moving around the hospital immediately. 'Hurt' typically does not mean 'Harm' and once deemed safe by the provider, the patient should be moving and moving regularly to the extent they can move. That is how people get better. 


Sometimes you need to change your mind

What I mean by changing your mind really only pertains to those that have been in pain for a long, extended amount of time. They've backed away from activities they love, they've become more sedentary, and, as a result, have slipped into inactivity, depression, anxiety, deepened chronic pain, a belief they'll never recover and are doomed to misery, sleep disorders, and emotional mood swings. 

It's time to break the cycle by changing your mind. A great place to start is by reading several of our blogs that pertain specifically to chronic pain. Another great resource is a book titled Back In Control by Dr. David Hanscum. Some books really can change lives and for the right patient, this book can make a difference in your pain. 


Tips for Getting into an Exercise Routine

Getting yourself moving after a time of inactivity can be daunting and a bit of a challenge. You have to make up your mind that it's for the best, it's going to hurt, but it will make a difference and make you better. That's the first step; get your mind right. 

Remember when I said to start with what is appropriate and responsible. That's because it’s important to note that exercise can actually lead to joint pain, if overdone or approached incorrectly. Here are some tips to get into a normal routine:

  1. Start off conservative and progress as your body builds strength and increasingly begins to tolerate your new activities. If all you can do is walk to the mailbox, do that until you're bored. Then add 10% by walking to the driveway. When you are bored with that, add 10%, and on and on.
  2. Be well-rounded in your approach and incorporate exercises into your routine that focus on strength, cardio, mobility and flexibility. 
  3. Don’t worry about weight loss; through proper nutrition, consistent movement, more activity, and the right mindset, your body will typically handle weight issues on its own.

Your journey out of an injury will look different from everyone else. An exercise routine for an athlete will look different from someone in middle age just trying to maintain overall health. Take it at your pace. 

No matter what it may look like, the key is to MOVE. It's vital to recovery from injury and it's vital to keep pain from slipping into chronic, long-term, difficult-to-resolve pain. 



Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP is double Board Certified as a Fellow in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Orthopedics as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Professionals, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast ( Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at

Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020 & 2021. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Medical at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.  


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Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP

Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP


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