How to Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad Pain
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Have you ever given thought to the meaning behind the statement: No pain, no gain?
A great many people take this statement literally, and unfortunately, the end result can be orthopedic injury. It is of utmost importance that we listen to what our bodies tell us both during and after exercise. There is in fact "good pain" and "bad pain". The following information will hopefully help you to tell the difference.
The most common type of good pain is clinically referred to as "delayed onset muscle soreness," or DOMS for short. This occurs as the result of challenging a muscle or muscle group with exercise. One to two days after exercising a soreness will be felt in the belly of the muscle. It can be quite tender to touch and tends to be spread out over a large area.
One such example that I recently encountered involved a trip to the batting cages. It had been years since I had swung a bat. I was in the batting cage swinging for a mere fifteen minutes. Starting the next day, my entire rib cage and my abdominal muscles felt incredibly tender and sore. I had not used these muscles in that fashion for some time: sneezing and coughing were quite painful for the next week.
With this type of soreness the muscles actually remodel and become stronger and more efficient. If I had gone back to the batting cages once the pain had subsided, the pain response would have been much less pronounced the second time because of the adaptive changes of the muscles. In this case, "No pain, no gain" holds true.
"Bad pain" comes in many forms. The most common type of bad pain that I see in the clinic involves joint pain. When pain occurs in a joint (such as the knee) rather than in muscle (the quadriceps), it is the body trying to tell us that something is not right. Do not try to work through joint pain while working out. If it occurs each time that you exercise you should have it checked out by your doctor. If your pain is sudden and sharp, stop whatever you are doing and have it assessed.
Another type of pain that should be brought to the attention of a health care professional is radicular pain, or pain that shoots from one area to another. Pain that shoots down your arm or leg may be spinal in origin. Pressure or trauma to the nerve roots as they exit the spinal column tends to be manifested in this way.
As a final note, it is always a good idea to be assessed if pain is recurrent, or if you cannot decide if the pain you are experiencing is "good" or "bad." Pain can very often be brought under control and even eliminated with proper guidance from your doctor or physical therapist.
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