The Difference Between Good Pain and Bad Pain During Exercise

Posted May 16, 2018

Constructive Vs Detrimental Pain During Exercises

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘no pain no gain’. However, sustaining orthopaedic injuries seems too hefty a price to pay, even if you do want to look like Ryan Reynolds or Elle’s CoverGirl. Wouldn’t you agree? The secret to world-class performance is not in how many lunges you do but in how consistent you are. While exercising is a major step on the road to wellness, and its benefits are immense, too much of it can cause serious damage. Canada’s physical activity guidelines recommend children between 5 and 17, should have an hour of physical activity daily. As for those aged 18 and above, 75 minutes of vigorous activities or 2 and ½ hours of moderate-intensity activities, a week, should do.  That adds up to about 30 minutes per day!

The Causes Of Pain When Exercising

The parts of the body involved during exercises are the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. With an emphasis on muscles. Exercises stretch and cause small tears in muscles which in turn stimulate them to grow bigger and stronger. The importance of a high protein diet when exercising can therefore not be overlooked. Not only do they serve as fuel but they also preserve muscle mass by acting as building blocks. These small muscle tears and stretching cause a dull ache or slight pain during and after the exercise.  However, when too much stress is applied to muscles, bones, tendons or ligaments, the results are serious injuries. This can be because of starting vigorous exercises after a period of inactivity, overdoing a familiar exercise or doing exercises in the wrong form. Let’s take a look at good vs bad pain.

Good Pain 

Good pain is normally caused by three major reasons. The first is as a result of the muscles trying to adopt the changes experienced by the body moving from a state of inactivity to one of active. A buildup of lactic acid in the body is the second cause of pain, categorized as good. An oxygen deficiency in the body forces it to generate energy anaerobically. Lactic acid is produced as a by-product. This accumulation causes a mild burning sensation in the lungs and muscles. The last cause of pain when exercising is the remodelling of muscles. Exercises strengthen and remodel the muscles of targeted areas. This process promotes tenderness and soreness. Laughing, coughing, sneezing all become harder to do. Good pain is gradual, spreads over a large region and usually clears a few days after the exercise.

Bad Pain

Bad pain is as a result of an irritation of the muscles, bones or tendons. Another plausible cause is a stress fracture. Traumatised nerve roots can also cause great pain and discomfort. It is characterized by sharp, radical or localized pain. Numbing, pins and needles, inflammation, limping and tightening of muscles are other clear indications you need to seek medical assistance. Unlike good pain, which clears out after a while, bad pain only increases.

Examples Of Bad Pain

Exercises that target the core work on the oblique, serratus anterior and rectus abdominis muscles. Exercises like the Russian twist involve the obliques and are great for waist shrinking. They are responsible for lateral movement of the trunk. A mild burning sensation and decentralized soreness is nothing to be worried about. However, stinging pain in your abdominal sides, is a red flag and you should stop the exercise immediately. Injury to the rectus muscles, often caused by activities like planks and sit-ups, usually manifests as a sharp pain slightly below the navel. Back pain can result from straining the neck vertebrae during crunches.

Push-ups, swimming, and weight lifting work out the serratus anterior muscles responsible for arm rotation and protecting the shoulders. Damage to these muscles is indicated by acute pain on the chest sides or running down the arm. Most core exercises also affect the quadriceps and hamstrings, located at the front and back of the thighs respectively, say, leg raises. Serious damage is indicated by extremely sharp pain when extending the knee or lifting your leg. Difficulty in walking usually indicates a tear in the sartorius muscles of the inner thigh.

Watch out for the above indications when exercising. While you can push through good pain, bad pain should be taken seriously and treated, to prevent further damage. That said, even though pain might take away from the appeal of working out, inactivity is not an option either. By increasing activity by a mere 25%, according to a report by The Lancet, 1.3 million deaths will be prevented every year.

Remember to include a warm-up, including activation exercises as well as a cool down into your workouts to care for your body and mind.  I Promise it makes the world of difference in how you will feel!

Article contribution by Jane Sandwood and adapted by Karen Furneaux

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