No pain no gain is the the worst advice out there. Pain is a varied and, at times, confusing phenomenon. It is important to understand when pain might be harmful, when you need to do something about it and when you just need to shut it out and push on.
What is pain?
Pain typically takes two forms; chemical and mechanical.
Mechanical pain results when you cut yourself or receive a blow or when you break something. Here, your sensory nerves, the ones that sense touch, have been directly affected or damaged by a force of some kind and you consequently feel pain. It tells you that potential damage has been done.
Chemical pain is felt when the body releases specialised chemicals that flood the affected area to tell you that you need to address something. This is also the first stage of the healing process. It is common to experience both types of pain in combination. The burn of lactic acid building in your muscles during an intense physical effort is another type of chemical pain.
Pain is Personal
Pain is a funny word and we all have our personal pain scale. It starts with very mild discomfort which is any feeling that you dislike such as having a stone in your shoe. The extreme is “the worst pain imaginable” which might be associated with terrible pain such as having broken a limb, or worse.
Good Pain Vs Bad Pain
It is important to distinguish injury related pain from the pain experienced during an intense effort and from the soreness that follows a workout.
During exercise where you are pushing the limits of your physical fitness you can experience great discomfort that could be described as kind of pain. The brain is a wonderful lifeguard and will absolutely not let you come to great harm during exercise. You can potentially push yourself through great discomfort and this is often what distinguishes good athletes from the truly great ones and a a great session from a new personal best.
Somewhere in the middle
When you do a new workout or change something significantly in training it is not uncommon to experience a painful reaction which is called DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. As it sounds, the soreness, which can sometimes be quite marked, is not felt during exercise. It can take up to 48 hours for your DOMS to show and a further 48 hours to go away. This is a positive reaction to good training, but you don’t need to inflict this on your body every time you train.
NOTE: if your DOMS is severe enough to significantly disrupt your daily life or lasts longer than I have described, you probably over exerted yourself relative to your current fitness level. Next time, dial it back a bit.
Any pain that appears during activity or shortly afterwards that affects your ability to move or function normally is likely to be bad pain. You should modify or stop what you are doing to address this pain immediately. Joint pain is also something to be taken seriously and not something that you will run-off or ignore without causing it to worsen. With bad pain, you may also experience swelling and or redness. you should always consider applying ice for ten minutes and avoid movements that aggravate your pain. Give it up to 48 hours to calm down with further ice therapy and think about getting in touch.
In summary; pain is your friend, listen to your body and take action, use Ice to relieve bad pain and think about what you might do differently next time.
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