This is a question I often ask my patients when complaining of pain after exercise. With the warmer weather, many of you may be doing things like gardening, swimming, or perhaps any number of extreme sports.
Here are some clues on how to tell the good from the bad…
When you work out more intensely than you normally do, or engage in a different type of exercise, you are likely to feel a mild to moderate burning sensation in those muscles. This may be from a weekend gardening marathon, or by increasing the distance of your running training.
This mild muscle burning pain is considered a good pain as it signifies stimulation and growth in the muscles. This pain normally starts within one day of the exercise and lasts a couple of days. Athletes know that this is a sign that they have trained well, but for non- athletes it can be a little more difficult to decipher.
Your soft tissues and you bones are living structures. They can be strengthened gradually with the right type of stress from exercise, but if you train too hard or incorrectly, they can fail. This is an example of ‘bad pain’
You may have experienced this type of pain in a sprained ankle or in sudden lower back pain when you lift something incorrectly. This pain can also result from chronic damage and can begin in the absence of any exercise or trigger. The tissue that may be damaged here could be a disc or a ligament. This pain is more likely to appear suddenly (although it can be gradual) and it may last more than a few days. It is important that if you feel this type of pain, particularly in you neck or back, that you have it checked ASAP, as the earlier it is dealt with, the better the outcome generally is.
4 ways to prevent ‘bad pain’
1. Do a warm up that is specifically related to the exercise or activity you are about to do. For example, a power lifter will not benefit from a 10 minute jog as much as he/she will from a warm up that resembles the power lift.
2. Consider exercising later in the day when you are usually warmer and less prone to injury.
3. If you are starting a new exercise or even about to embark on some landscaping work in your garden, pace yourself. You are better off doing too little than too much!
4. If you think you sprained or injured a joint or soft tissue, ice it right away – this can limit the inflammation that is triggered by the damaged tissue.