Don’t just carry on if you’re experiencing pain

Fit to Farm: This can lead to burnout, injuries, illness, and lower stress tolerance

Farmers have a culture of pushing through pain, but pain is generally not a beneficial thing to push through in terms of longevity in our health and performance.

I see all sorts of complaints in the clinic, ranging from sore backs, tense shoulders, headaches, and acute injuries. When we’re going through a busy time, it’s important to keep in mind some simple tools to help prevent, and alleviate, the symptoms of busyness.

Farmers have a culture of pushing through pain, but pain is generally not a beneficial thing to push through in terms of longevity in our health and performance. If we are in pain and negatively stressed, we’re more likely to experience burnout, injuries, illnesses, and lower tolerance to day-to-day stressors.

During periods of intense work, having uncomfortable sensations is normal. Pushing yourself to new levels is inherently going to cause discomfort, soreness, and fatigue. However, there is a big difference between pain that comes with normal fatigue/fitness development and pain that is a message from your body saying something negative is happening. This is a pretty obvious distinction all humans are capable of making when we really listen to our bodies.

The other thing to be aware of is the pain that comes because we are pushing ourselves too much. Ongoing fatigue, soreness that lasts longer than a few days past an intense period, headaches, trouble sleeping, new and sustained muscle tension are all signs of burnout, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Preventing negative pain is fairly simple. Pain usually appears with poor biomechanics/form. Taking an honest look (usually having some guidance) at your form during functional tasks on the farm can be beneficial. Are you lifting correctly? Can you add movement variation to your day to break up periods of sitting? Are you listening and dealing with body irritations as they arise (or pushing them to the side to fester)?

Besides checking your form, make sure you are intaking appropriate nutrition, hydration, and allowing for rest time. The basics of these are:

  • Eat majority whole/real foods (get rid of processed foods and high-sugar foods). Sugar/additives are highly inflammatory to our system and can create problems.
  • Be intaking two to four litres of water a day, and include electrolytes in your water during periods of increased energy output.
  • Co-ordinate high-intensity workouts with lower-intensity recovery days (two to four strength-based workouts, one to three cardio or longer lower-intensity workouts, and at least one recovery day a week).
  • Pay attention to your body. If you’re feeling off or extra fatigued allow for flexibility in your schedule to swap workout styles or take an extra recovery day. Your performance and health will be way better off for it!
  • We all need at least one recovery day in the week. Schedule accordingly.

Do not ignore pain. Find a reliable and educated health-care professional who can properly assess your movement, function, and pain site. Having a team on your side saves you inconvenience, pain, and money in the long run.

About the author


Kathlyn Hossack runs a clinical practice, Integrative Movement in Winnipeg, Manitoba and consults clients throughout Alberta on a regular basis. For questions or consultations email her at [email protected].

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