Discomfort vs. Injury

Depositphotos_73429979_original-a1849044By Bentz Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT

Everyone who exercises has experienced muscle soreness during and after a workout. But, what’s the difference between discomfort and injury? How can you tell if your soreness is the sign of an effective workout or if it’s a sign that you need to seek treatment?

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is the body’s primary warning signal that alerts us to a problem. We are meant to react to it, this is why it grabs our attention. Some athletes tend to push through or ignore pain, which can be risky, as it can cause an injury or worsen an injury that is already present.

Discomfort during exercise is normal and is a sign that your workout is challenging you and helping you improve your fitness level. After all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Muscle fatigue caused by exerting or using your muscles is felt as a burning sensation and is very common in most types of exercise, such as a weight-lifting session or a hard run. Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is muscle soreness, tenderness or stiffness that hits one to two days after a workout and can last for up to three days before ceasing. According to Jacqueline Crockford, exercise physiologist and education specialist for the American Council on Exercise, you should seek medical attention if the pain lasts longer than five days, as this may be a sign of a muscle or tendon tear. It is important to remember that DOMS is felt only in the muscle, not in the joints or tendons.

Some signs of an injury are obvious, like if you fall off your bike and hear or feel a snap when you land on your arm. However, sometimes injuries are not as obvious, and what may seem like a slight twinge could actually be a precursor to a major injury.

Jordan Metzi, M.D., a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, says, if you feel a sharp, stabbing pain or ache during or after exercise, you should do the following: During the first 48 hours, ice the injury a few times a day or wrap it with a compression bandage and elevate the affected area. After the first two days, ease back into exercise, starting at about 25 to 50 percent of your normal workout volume. If the pain is not resolving itself or has gotten worse after seven to 10 days, check with your physician, as you may have an injury that could be made worse with continued exercise. Exercise should not cause extreme pain. If it does, you should stop immediately and consult with a professional.

Also, remember that rest days are an important part of any successful exercise program. Overtraining can cause pain and injury to the body. Muscles need time to repair and rebuild, so you should have a day or two in between training sessions, or work different body parts on different days. You should also be sure you are getting enough sleep, which helps repair your muscles. An experienced professional can help you create a customized training program that will help you reach your fitness goals safely and effectively.

Learning how to distinguish between normal muscle soreness and pain caused by an injury is important to your continued fitness success. Training smartly and efficiently will help you avoid injury and get great results.

Be Well Tips

Consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

Discomfort during exercise is normal.

DOMS can last for a few days post-workout.

Give muscles time to repair after a workout.

Get plenty of quality sleep.

Consult a physician if pain lasts seven to 10 days post-workout.

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