Understanding pain during and after your workout can be challenging: Is it pain or discomfort? Here are some tips from this month's MAC Blog Contributor, Fitness Professional, Nina Fanning to help navigate.
At some point, most of us will experience aches and pains during a workout, but if we stopped exercising at the first sign of discomfort, we might never work out at all! When you physically exert yourself, you might experience discomfort - hence the saying ‘no pain, no gain’. Can you recognize the difference between pain and discomfort?
Pain is an internal warning system woven into the body’s integrated systems. Mild soreness after exercise may be experienced, especially after beginning a new exercise program or routine, but knowing the difference between when to stop and when to push through is an important ingredient to a safe and productive workout.
It is helpful to know some terminology to better understand this concept. Muscular fatigue, muscular strain, and muscular soreness are just a few potential outcomes of physical exercise.
Muscle fatigue is a response to repeated or sustained muscle contractions. This discomfort will likely be short-lived and shortly subside when you stop the activity causing the sensation. Let’s call this good pain.
Soreness or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (also known as DOMS) may occur 24-72 hours after an exercise session. DOMS is the byproduct of a muscle-repair phase which usually occurs post-exercise. During this phase, the muscle fibers rebuild to improve strength and size. Treating yourself to a massage, acupuncture, and other body treatments such as a warm bath or extra stretching may help reduce some soreness.
The sensations of muscular strain can range from mild to intense. This may occur either during or following a workout and may persist for several days to weeks, depending on severity. Strains can occur in the muscle itself, or the tendon – the more rigid part of the muscle that attaches to the bone. Let’s call this bad pain. If you suspect a muscular strain, seek medical treatment especially if the soreness does not improve after 2-3 days. This type of pain may be indicative of a mild injury and any activity that reproduces this pain should be avoided.
Staying safe, preventing pain and reducing the occurrence of injury during exercise is possible with a few smart practices:
- Include a proper warm-up and cool-down.
- Gradually increase the resistance and repetitions separately.
- Use proper exercise technique.
- Seek guidance from one of our MAC Fitness Professionals.
Some instances of discomfort in the knees, shoulders, and/or back, for example, may be alleviated by using proper form, adjusting the range of motion, or adding mobility and flexibility movements to the program.
According to Jen Jasmin, RD, LDN, the Mount Auburn Club’s registered dietitian, a diet rich in certain foods may help reduce inflammation in the body. Aiming for adequate intake of colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein can help reduce the discomfort associated with a hard workout, and may also reduce the pain associated with more chronic conditions like arthritis and even some pain disorders. Staying well hydrated is also crucial to a speedy recovery and more efficient workouts in the future. Drinking enough water will ensure you stay healthy, active and can be at it again tomorrow!
Some supplements may also prove useful, but please seek the advice of your physician and/or a registered dietitian before adding supplements to your routine as they may interfere with some common medications.
-Omega-3 fatty-acid supplements: Look for DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) or EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), preferably sourced from fish.
- Curcumin: A phytochemical compound found in turmeric. Try adding a teaspoon of fresh or powdered turmeric to your meals (it’s a popular spice in Indian cuisine), to bone broth, or even to warm coconut milk to make a creamy turmeric “tea.” Supplemental curcumin can be found in capsules, tablets, or bottled beverages. Check the label to make sure the product includes a source of fat, as curcumin is not water soluble.
- Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): These supplements may be especially beneficial for those who have diminished digestive efficiency or difficulty digesting animal proteins.
- Tart cherry powder or juice: These fruits may promote speedy muscle recovery — specifically reducing signs of muscle damage and by lowering inflammatory markers.
In addition to the right nutrition, tried and true solutions like taking a warm Epsom salts bath can provide lasting relief. Simply add a cup or so of the magnesium-infused salt for a normal-size tub for muscle pain relief.
Always consult your physician before using supplements or beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional.
If you experience any symptoms of weakness, unsteadiness, lightheadedness or dizziness, chest pain or pressure, nausea, or shortness of breath contact your physician immediately as these are not normal signs of exercise fatigue and could be something much more serious.Questions about MAC's Fitness Department services? Contact Fitness Director, Jason Deranian.