Your body is strong. Your body is adaptable. Structural issues, posture habits, and even persistent pain aren’t an end all to movement.
But is pain ever... gain?
The phrase "pain is gain" is typically used the most in settings where athletes are training for some type of extreme body conditioning or endurance exercise. Although I can't speak to the merits of "painful gains" in that context, I can speak to my experience providing massage therapy to those with persistent pain. Those who aren't pushing their body to an extreme but are simply trying to get through their days and nights with less pain.
Persistent pain can lead to fear or hesitation of movement. There’s a history of pain that becomes associated with many things, notably specific movements or activities.
So, our body will naturally “guard” from those movements or activities, which are perceived as a threat to more injury. Our fears and anxieties often create secondary issues, muscle tension, and emotional stress that prevents or slows our recovery.
In these cases an approach that is slow, kind, informed, and gradual is key. More pain is likely not going to lead to gain.
If a movement almost always induces more pain, that is a clear signal to back off, adjust, modify, or seek professional assistance. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, or other body or movement professions, may be of assistance to help change physical or mental habits associated with painful movements.
Each time you have a safe, pain-free victory, you can change the story your brain has been reciting over and over. Eventually, that story gets better and better, as we decrease fears and hesitation and improve range of motion.