T Nation

Irritating Aches and Pains


36 years old. I'm getting very frustrated with all my aches and pains. Just when I start making some real progress, something starts hurting. I've been a lifter for about 20 years now and been a Marine for going on 14 years, so my body has been conditioned to take some abuse. I just got over a mystery shoulder pain that kept me from doing any bench press for about a year, now my forearm (elbow) burns like crazy on any sort of curl or grabbing movements (probably tendonitis). My knee is also somewhat painful, but feels OK once I start working it. Should I just power through the pain? This is getting rediculous. It's like my body is telling me "you're not allowed to bench over 225lbs or squat over 250, or grow arms over 16 inches". My heart and mind are willing, but my body is holding me back. Overall, I'm in fantastic shape, but everything seems to hurt.


My advice is to read some of Dan John's articles about training, recovery, life, etc. He seems to understand these issues quite well. For example, I remember reading in one of his articles about nagging injuries, illness, etc that always seem to crop up just when you seem to be making progress. His opinion is that these problems are usually caused by an imbalance in your life, often a lack of recovery (deficiency in diet, sleep, etc).

Looking back on the times that I've had nagging injuries or illness, I can say that they occurred during periods where i was working a lot and pushing hard in the weight room and not paying attention to sleep (5-6 hours). See if this applies to you. And take a fish oil supplement if you aren't already.



I'm currently doing a full body routine 3X's a week (heavy, light, heavy rotation) with 20 minutes of cardio on off days. Perhaps I should back off a little and lift only 2X's a week at least until I feel less constant pain. My wife just bought some fish oil, maybe I'll try it.


Wrong, at the age of 36 your body is fed up with the abuse.

That's just a nice way of saying you didn't take it to a doctor, isn't it?

No. Listen to your body for once.

Let me enlighten you. You're getting on a bit. You're not the young stallion you used to be.
You can either adapt, or crash and burn.


One good thing though, your wife is pretty smart. Start popping those capsules asap. Also, get some glucosamine, MSM and chondroitine.

These sups are not miracle workers. They take a couple of months to kick in.

And I'd reduce the load for at least six weeks. Evaluate after that.

There's something missing in this picture. Could it be your brain?

Start using your brain man.
And read everything there is to read on this site about injuries.

Live to fight another day eh ,-)



You make great points. I just hate the thought of slowing down. I havent' met my goals yet. No, I didn't hae a doctor look at my shoulder. My Dad had shoulder surgery last year and he was DOWN HARD for about 10-11 months. The pain went away and I'm back doing bench press, but now the pain has migrated to my elbow. Just as I had finally broken through a major platau in my arm work.

Engaging the brain here...perhaps I should drop the heavy lifting as you suggest and focus on higher reps for a while to recover. It's the summer anyway, so this is a good time to work on getting the body fat back down to 10% and focus more on cardio. It's hard when reality doesn't match your goals. But I don't want to be the old, fat guy with broken knees and blown-out shoulders who says "man, I used to bench 500 pounds and squat 600".


Im 38 and recently have had similar issues to you following a similar workout.

I changed my program back to how I used to train in the 80's/90's - higher volumes with lower weights. My body has responded accordingly. I generally now dont go under 8 reps (once a week or so on a compoud exercise I will go lower). My joints feel much better and my physique is responding much better to this type of training.

Just my 2 cents


Okay pal, time for a little heads up reality info:

First of all if you are Bench Pressing at the age of 36 you are asking for shoulder problems. Bench Pressing is not a good movement unless you are built for it (big chest short arms).

Ditch it, you don't need it.

Do Dumbbell Bench Pressing or Push-ups with feet elevated or with weightd for chest.

Secondly, if you don't take the proper supplements you are a huge train wreck waiting to happen.

I'll give you my list you can google each to see what it does for you:

Glucosamine (1,500 mg)

MSM (300 mg)

Boswella Extract (1000 mg)

Wobenzym (12 caplets)

Fish Oil (No less than 4 grams per day)

A top notch Green Drink. I like Green Magma but there are many good ones available.

In addition to this make sure you take a good multi vitamin. I like Twin Lab or Life Extension.

Thirdly, you need some serious active recovery.

I get a massage once per week. Yea, it's expensive, but training is a priority so I spend the money.

I get in a cool pool three times per week. And a hot tub three times per week. It's time consuming but I do it anyway.

I make sure that I get no less than 8 hours of sleep a night. This is a BIGGIE! Don't underestimate the power of sleep to heal your body and mind.

I'm 49 and I've never been stronger and in better shape. If I get an injury I work around it and do everything I can to heal the injured area. And I don't let it get me down emotionally. There are many people who would like to see you fail at whatever you are doing. They are negative, nasty and for the most part never did anything with their own body. Don't you join them by getting down on yourself!

Smile man....life is good!

Finally, as I get older I get just a tad smarter so that makes up for an aging body, at least in part.

Don't quit you have many more good years of training ahead of you, if you do all of the above .....and more.

Like I told my wife just last night: They are going to have to carry me out of the Gym...

I'm going to lift heavy, hard and often. And I'm going to run, bike, swim and continue to do all of the things that got me where I am today!

I'm not giving up EVER!

You do the same!


Best Of Luck,



wow zeb, i'm ready to run thru a wall now!


Zeb has some really good advice. If you have the notion that a lot of people do that you don't "take pills", then get over it.

Plain old vitamins, minerals, fish oil and other similar things can have a dramatic impact on the ability of the body to stave of injury over time.

Anyway, it also sounds like you are one of those very driven people that might not be good at realizing the value of backing off once in a while.

If you aren't doing a great job on recovery and/or nutrition, you'll certainly need to back off a bit from time to time. Figure out what your body can take, how it adapts if given some more food, and work within the limits it gives you.

Sometimes you might have to work a bit smarter, but you shouldn't have to stop, or stop making progress.


So what exactly does fish oil do? My plan is to do a 2X's/week full body program vice 3X's. I'm also going to drop the heavy days and stick mostly with higher reps as part of a recovery program. The one heavy exercise I will keep is deadlifts. I love 'em and they feel great. I'm going to increase cardio to get the bodyfat back down to around 10%. I do tend to push hard and not listen to my body (that's how I ruptured a disk in my back several years ago). I also hate the idea of popping a bunch of pills every day, but I'll give it a try. My diet is great and my wife is a wonderful cook. Dropped over 60 points on my cholesterol in the last 3 years (it's at 143 now) through healthy eating. Anyway, thanks for all the responses.



I'm going to butcher it, but fish oil contains some essential fatty acids that generally most people don't get enough of.

When we don't get enough of them, our bodies tend towards an inflammatory response more than it should. So, things like sore joints, tendons and so on are more likely.

There are other benefits, but just this one should strike home. You'll find that glucosamine and so on have similar effects. They allow your body to preserve or rebuild things such as cartilage, so that over time you don't experience as many problems.

Maybe someone with a bit more serious knowledge would like to chime in...


I think you did a great job vroom!

Well said.


So what exactly does fish oil do?

This article explains many of the benefits of FFAs, like those found in fish oil. They do help with your joints, along with a ton of other stuff.

  • TF



Ok, I understand that fish oil may be good, but I'm not about to swallow the whole "miracle pill" claims in this link. That is an advertisement for Flameout. I will give it the benefit of the doubt, but if fish oil REALLY did everything this link said it "MAY" (as in MAY prevent this, and MAY increase that, those are weasel-words) then it would be a major supplement that everyone knows about. I've been in the fitness business long enough to know that if some "expert" says smoking banana skins will reduce body fat, people will do it without asking questions. I quit reading the link when it claimed to spot reduce fat in the abdomen (only liposuction will do that). I'm willing to give it a try, but that link was an advertisement with exaggerated claims.


PGJ, everybody takes fish oil. Follow the references or do some digging on pubmed.

It's not a new breakthrough substance, but it's generally a health item not a bodybuilding or fat loss item per se.


Agreed. I can go with that. But that link claimed everything from increasing muscle mass to spot reducing belly fat. Sounded like something Suzanne Summers would sell.


I agree with everything I have read. I believe the older you get the kinder you have to be to your body. I will give you an example. Every time I do maximum lifts I tweak something. So my latest change is to keep my maximum lifts in the range of approx. 3 reps. that extra 5 or 10 pounds could be the problem. Good luck


That's my problem. I'm trying to build muscle by lifting heavier weights, but every time I make progress I hurt myself. I understand that I'm not 22 anymore, but it's really frustrating. I swear my body is simply rejecting my wishes. "Oh, you want to bench 225 for reps...well how 'bout we just pop your shoulder out a little...see how ya' like that. Maybe throw in a little sharp elbow pain". My body needs it's ass kicked by me...show it who's in charge around here.


If it hurts don't do it, Change the angles, lighten the weights, and Pay strict attention to form, maybe shorten your range of movement. I use Dumbbells when possible. That may help your wrists and elbows. I will give you an example. I was having trouble with benches and dips. I can work my chest with dumbbells on an incline doing a screw press. My shoulders and knees are my weakest. But with some thought I swear I still get an awesome workout. I just have to be realistic.
Hope that helps


The thing that bothers me most right now is that the ONLY bicep work I can do that doesn't kill my elbow is machine preacher curl. Everything else feels like a knife jabbing into my eldow. I love barbell curls and I was up to 115lb for reps when it really started hurting.