"No pain, no gain.” You’ve no doubt heard this body-building phrase many times before, and you’ve probably even said it on occasion. It sums up a lot of people’s views on what it takes to improve the physical condition of the body. In other words, if you’re not willing to push yourself to the threshold of pain, you’ll never see an improvement in your muscle definition and tone. The problem with this phrase lies in the fact that too many people apply it to their daily work activities, too. And that’s where misapplication of these four little words can lead to some really big problems.

Chances are you have a pretty good feel for what your own body can and can’t do. If you’re like me, you rely on this innate sense to guide you through your daily tasks. But I’m willing to bet you’ve ignored your body’s better judgment and decided to push it just a little bit harder than you should by picking up that extra 20 pounds because you don’t want to make an additional trip to the truck or by trying to pull that piece of equipment in place by yourself rather than asking for help from a coworker. Many times, this choice results in an injury, which could lead to a long-term disability.

There are plenty of motivations for these decisions, but they’re all bad. Maybe you feel the need to “be a man”—or if you’re a woman “be able to work as hard as a man”—but these acts of bravado will eventually catch up with even the most physically gifted of workers. Or maybe you put yourself in harm’s way in the name of speed. In a rush to meet a deadline, it’s easy to make a poor decision and try to complete a task without assistance or without the proper equipment.

So how do you fix the problem? You have to stop misapplying the “no pain, no gain” maxim to your daily work tasks and abide by a new proverb: “work smarter, not harder.” I think you’ll agree that it may not be as difficult as you imagine to avoid certain types of chronic pain disorders and permanent injury if you just follow the advice outlined in this month’s cover story, “Stop Hurting Yourself,” on page 42. Managing Editor Matthew Halverson tracked down an ergonomics guru and a professor in the department of occupational and environmental health at a major university to shed some light on this topic and show you some easy ways to avoid injury by simply adjusting your work position when performing certain tasks.

So the next time you’re performing a task that puts your body to the test, take a little time to brainstorm a new, less strenuous technique instead of putting up with the pain. And the next time your innate pain alarm goes off, listen to it—it’s there for a reason. You just might find that all those nagging aches and pains and injuries you’ve been suffering from in recent years slowly disappear.