I received a text this week. It was two pictures of the shoulder with various muscles highlighted. The caption was “What’s the best exercise for these muscles?”

I texted back “I need CONTEXT.”

The reply I got back was a zoom out version of the same picture, suggesting if I took a more global look, I’d be more able to give the perfect exercise for the muscles. I mentally struck my head against the wall and called the person back. Of course, in this day of texting only, they didn’t answer.

So, I left…<gasp>….a message.

“B, I need CONTEXT, not a different view of the same picture! Context matters. Who does this question pertain to? Is it your 13-year-old baseball player athlete, or your 90-year-old mother? Are you asking for an exercise because they are in pain? Or has someone already evaluated them and told them they need strengthening exercises? Who evaluated them? Or did you just do a random internet search which concluded those muscles were weak? Maybe they’re not weak, maybe the nervous system is simply guarding to keep the person from injuring themselves and if the nervous system can feel safe, the muscles will work properly. But without context, I can’t tell you ANYTHING, especially not a best exercise.”

“Context matters!”

Much to my {not} surprise, I didn’t get a call back.

I ran into B a few days later. I tried asking some more questions and he wasn’t forthcoming with information so I told him I couldn’t help. I’m sure that in his mind he was thinking “Jeez. It’s not that hard! Just answer my question! Give me the best exercise so I can get on with my life!”

This is a common problem. People search for solutions when they don’t even yet know what the problem is. Sometimes they aren’t even asking the correct questions.

Let’s break it down a little. "Pain is your body’s request for change." If you keep barreling ahead with what you’ve always done, more than likely the pain will continue. And if you give it enough time, even without intervention, usually the pain will get better. Pain doesn’t always mean that something is weak, and it doesn’t even mean that there is tissue damage. It’s simply a polite request for change. Stretching a muscle that ‘feels’ tight is not always the right answer. That muscle may be tight because it’s your nervous system’s only way it feels safe. That’s why an assessment and proper context is so important.

"Pain is your body’s request for change." -Dr. Perry Nickelston

But if you can’t be bothered to be properly assessed and insist on finding your answers on Dr. Google and then asking a random strength coach “what’s the best exercise for….???”, it is unlikely you’re going to get a quality answer.

Friends: if you’re in pain or having performance problems GET ASSESSED by a professional and go from there. Please don’t text random questions that lack context to your friendly neighborhood fitness or medical professional.