“No pain, no gain” is a famous mantra in the fitness community, but it’s important to know where to draw the line. A little soreness usually means that you’re pushing yourself and building muscle, but not all pain comes with positive results. In fact, if you don’t know how to recognize bad pain, you could be causing potentially serious injuries.
Read on to learn the difference between good and bad pain so you can feel empowered to push yourself to the limit, without crossing the threshold into harmful territories.
Why Do You Get Sore During and After Exercise?
In order to recognize good pain, you need to know why it happens in the first place. Soreness is usually caused by delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This phenomenon is completely normal and usually occurs between 24 and 48 hours after strenuous physical activity, according to WebMD.
While you exercise, your muscles contract, causing microscopic tears in your muscles, as well as inflammation associated with these minor injuries. The soreness you feel after an intense workout is actually your muscles being repaired and growing back even stronger. However, if the pain is severe or lasts for more than a few days, there may be a more serious underlying injury.
How to Recognize Bad Pain
It’s important that you’re able to recognize when bad pain occurs. That way you can seek treatment, adjust your workout routine, and consider pre-and-post workout supplements that empower your body to heal faster. As a general rule of thumb, when you feel pain, it’s a good idea to back off and allow yourself to heal. This is especially important if the pain is caused by an injury.
Typically, good pain isn’t focused in one specific area, but spread out. For example, it’s normal for your legs to be aching after climbing a large flight of stairs, but if just your right ankle is in pain, that’s a sign of a strain or other injury. An immediate jolt of pain is also a bad sign, as good pain tends to manifest slowly over time. If you feel sudden pain, you should stop what you’re doing immediately.
Good pain can be unpleasant, but it’s usually fairly mild and tolerable. If the pain is overwhelming, it’s probably not caused by delayed onset muscle soreness. Shooting pain and numbness may also be signs of an injury. You should also pay especially close attention to pain in the joints, especially the shoulders, knees, and ankles.
Embrace Proper Techniques
No matter how much exercise you do in a week, it’s crucial that you take the time to learn proper techniques. Once you develop bad habits, it’s difficult to break them, so be vigilant. Make sure you always stretch and warm up before a session, and then give yourself plenty of time to cool down and rest afterward. Nourishing your body with proper nutrition between your workouts will also help in muscle recovery and reducing discomfort.
If you feel like you’re performing exercises correctly, you may want to talk to a professional trainer for advice and guidance. The potential risks just aren’t worth the rewards. Once you know that you’re exercising properly, you’ll feel much more confident and inspired to push yourself.
How to Treat Bad Pain
There’s no single best method for treating a sports injury. Everyone’s body is unique, and injuries can take countless forms. In most cases of mild injuries, simply taking a break for a few days and resting up should have you feeling better. That said, even a minor injury can lead to complications, so be sure to speak to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned.
If simply relaxing isn’t cutting it, you may want to try the PRICE method:
PRICE is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll want to protect the injury with a bandage, cast, or splint, stop using it, apply ice every few hours, wrap it (snug but not too tight), and keep the injured area lifted, if possible. Be sure to talk to your doctor about pain relief options if you’re struggling with pain management.
Once the injury has subsided, you may require rehabilitation. Harvard Health Publishing recommends two days of rehab for each day of inactivity due to injury. During the rehabilitation phase, your injury may be vulnerable, so it’s critical that you only perform the proper rehab exercises recommended by a qualified professional.
Prevention Is the Key to Sustainable Exercise
There’s no denying the many physical and mental health benefits of exercise. At the same time, even a minor injury can cause major complications. One injury can lead to another, causing a snowball effect that can be tough to overcome. The best approach is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Be mindful before, during, and after each session. Over time, you’ll become more in tune with your body and how it reacts to various levels and styles of exercise. When in doubt, tap out! An extra five minutes isn’t worth months or even years of pain. Work smart so you can work hard. That’s how you keep your active lifestyle sustainable.
If you have ongoing joint pain or are dealing with arthritis, osteoporosis or other health concerns, be sure to check with your primary care doctor with any concerns prior to starting a new workout routine.