I often get this question from people in regards to knowing when pain is okay and when it is not. Most people especially want to know when pain is a bad thing when they are exercising. The challenging part to this answer is that people have different perceptions of pain meaning they feel it differently and at different levels. Pain is a subjective measure so it really comes down to how that person is perceiving the pain. From my experience, I have met a lot of people that have difficulty differentiating between muscles stretching or contracting and pain. It’s important to try to understand that difference in order to know whether pain is good or bad.
When you are feeling pain, try to think about it in a descriptive way in order to decide if it is good or bad. Below are three ways of describing pain and what they mean:
1. Sharp pain = could indicate an injury or poor form
2. Dull, achy pain = muscle soreness or tightness, arthritis
3. Burning pain = muscle contraction when occurring with exercise
If you are experiencing burning pain, that means the muscles are working as they should and you are fatiguing them. Nothing to worry about with that unless it persists. Dull, achy pain is also not as big of a concern as it likely indicates muscle soreness, particularly after exercise. If you feel sharp pain, you should avoid this. It may mean modifying your exercise or stopping it completely. If you get sharp pain and it continues to persist, it would be appropriate to see a medical professional at that point to have it looked at. Here are some tips for you if you are feeling pain during activity or exercise:
- Check your form and make sure you are doing the exercise correctly
- Modify exercises to avoid painful positions that may be exacerbating an injury or arthritis
- Pay attention to how long the pain lasts and when you feel the pain as that can be a good indicator for the cause of it
- If you are feeling sharp or intense pain, do NOT keep pushing through that pain as it is likely an indicator of an injury or impairment. Pushing through it will only make it worse
- If you feel muscle soreness or dull, achy pain, it’s normal for it to last 1-3 days but you want to avoid excessive soreness with every workout as it is an indicator that you may be challenging the muscles too much
Hopefully this helps you next time you feel pain or discomfort when you are exercising or doing some type of activity. It’s difficult to know when to stop and when to push through it and most people worry about doing more damage by pushing through. The best thing you can do if you aren’t sure is to ask! Feel free to reach out to me or another medical professional if you have questions about this or need exercises modified for you at FitandTonedWI@gmail.com. Hope you have a great week!