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Understanding Load vs. Capacity: Unraveling the Mystery of Injuries and Pain

Updated: Mar 29

"Why did I get injured? Why do I have pain?" These questions often echo in our minds when we find ourselves facing physical discomfort or grappling with an injury. The answers to these questions can be uncovered by taking deep dive into the intriguing concept of load versus capacity. To get a clearer picture, let's start by defining these two crucial terms:


Load: Load is the amount of activity or stress that we subject our bodies to. It encompasses the physical demands we place on our bodies, such as lifting weights, running, sitting for extended periods, or even daily activities like carrying groceries, bending, or walking.


Capacity: On the other hand, capacity refers to the body's ability to handle the stress and activities it encounters at any given moment. It's essentially the threshold of what your body can manage without adverse consequences.


Here's the key concept to grasp – our capacity is dynamic and influenced by the load we impose on our bodies daily. The human body is incredibly resilient and designed to adapt to the various loads it encounters. This adaptability allows us to become stronger and more more able to handle the activities and stressors we come across on a regular basis.


Now, you might be thinking, "If our bodies can adapt to load, why do we get injured?"


Injuries happen when the amount of load experienced by the body exceeds its current capacity, and it does so at a rate faster than the body can adapt to this increased demand. In essence, an injury is the result of pushing the body beyond its limits. It's similar to overloading a bridge with more weight than it can handle – eventually, something gives way. The same principle applies to our bodies. When we push them beyond their current capacity, they respond with pain.


Pain is the body's warning system, signaling that you have surpassed your current capacity. It's a red flag, telling you to slow down, take a step back, and allow your body to recover and adapt. Dismissing this warning can lead to more severe consequences, potentially resulting in an injury. Consider it as your body's way of saying, "Hey, slow down, you're pushing me too hard."


When you're injured, your body's ability to engage in various activities and cope with stress decreases. Your capacity has been temporarily lowered, and it's essential to acknowledge this change. Recovering from an injury often involves rebuilding your capacity through rehabilitation and rest, gradually working your way back to your previous level of activity.


So, in the grand narrative of load versus capacity, understanding these concepts can help you take better care of your body. It's not just about pushing the limits but doing so mindfully and gradually, allowing the body the time it needs to adapt and grow stronger. By listening to the language of pain and respecting the body's capacity, you can minimize the risk of injuries and continue to enjoy an active, fulfilling life.


Check out this Technique peek video outlining how to systematically progress your patients exercise program without overloading their capacity.



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