Some aches and pains after a workout are normal; someone came up with the “no pain, no gain” phrase, after all.
Cardio and weight training stress our bodies in a good way by conditioning our bodies and increasing endurance. But pushing the boundaries of our physicality often comes with some level of pain. So how can you tell if that post-exercise tweak you’re experiencing says job well done or signals serious injury?
Don’t worry about:
- The “burn” from lifting weights. There is such a thing as good pain. The most common type is the “burning” muscle pain most often felt while performing an exercise such as weightlifting. Caused by the buildup of lactic acid, a natural byproduct produced by your muscles, the burning resolves as soon as you put the weights down.
- Soreness after workouts. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is a generalized ache that starts anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days post workout. DOMS is especially noticeable when you begin a new exercise that your body is not accustomed to, or if you have increased the intensity of your workouts. With DOMS, microscopic injury to muscle fibers and connective tissue occurs due to the stress of the exercise, causing the ache. The soreness usually goes away within a day or so.
- Pain that limits your range of motion. This includes any sharp pain that prevents you from moving or decreases your range of motion.
- Pain in an area of a previous injury or surgery
- Pain that doesn’t go away despite care (i.e., several days of rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories)
- Pain that is constant, worsens in severity or intense enough to cause nausea or vomiting
- Pain that is accompanied by fever and chills
The takeaway: Pay attention to your body’s cues after you exercise. If aches and pains are severe or persist, they could be the result of a serious injury, like a stress fracture or tear. If you aren’t sure, seek treatment from a medical professional.