If you need more evidence that training while injured can be detrimental, new research suggests that the adverse effects on movement quality can linger even after an injury has fully healed.

Learning motor skills when pain is present can lead to less-efficient adaptations in muscle activation and movement accuracy. University of Queensland researchers in Australia found that these modifications to motor skill patterns may continue after pain is no longer there. In other words, people continue to use inefficient movement patterns and do not fully recruit targeted muscles, even though movement compensations are no longer necessary.

The investigators concluded that “learning [motor skills] in the presence of pain may underpin the development of suboptimal motor strategies,” and that these may persist beyond the pain—a finding that could have “critical implications for the design of sports training programs and chronic pain rehabilitation.”

The study was reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2019; 51 [11], 2334–43).