“I think I slept the wrong way,”
“Is this supposed to hurt?” “My back feels stiff today. Can we stretch first?”
These are very common statements / questions I come across while training my clients. That’s where I tend to pop the question – “Is it a Good pain or Bad pain?”
Most people are able to differentiate between muscle soreness – which sets in post a work out and an uncomfortable pain – that pain which does not allow you to move freely.
Here’s what it should be:
Muscle Soreness = Good
Pain = Bad
Exercise is known to have all sorts of benefits but at the same time any experienced professional will tell you – your workouts will cause you some discomfort. The fact is if we have any desire to change our body for the better, we are going to spend some time being sore. It’s inevitable.
However, if it’s not soreness – for e.g. if somebody say’s I slept wrong (whatever that means) that’s where we take a pause and recheck. Pain is emotional and how it’s felt is largely due to individual interpretation. The more you think about it the more you may convince yourself that the pain is real. So that’s when we decide if we are in a position to workout that day or not. Or whether we focus on other ‘functioning’ areas, which we can further develop on.
Understand What It’s About
A lot of clients come in lately with a complaint of acute pain or are diagnosed with rotator cuff injuries, IT band injuries (which rolls down to knee pain) and fatigue post workout (which can have several reasons, sometimes it could be due to Vitamin D deficiency too). This can be categorized as Acute Pain. These issues were earlier limited to athletes but now the pursuit of athletic excellence has reached such extremes that most of us end up exercising with loads our bodies are not able to tolerate.
Acute pain is one of the biggest reasons why you should incorporate a dynamic warm up before working out.
A dynamic warm up includes moves that prepare your body for activity by turning on the muscles that aren’t working and also ensure the muscles you target are actually the ones that do the work.
In acute pain, clients usually get ‘injured’, healing takes over, pain goes away, and we are back to normal (usually 3-6 months).
The Old Nagging One
There is a separate category of people who have an history of pain for eg – Herniated disc, Spondylitis, an accident among other reasons. The injury has healed long back but the brain still thinks there is threat and hence still outputs pain. It’s somewhat like stubbing your toe, you stub your toe and forget about it until you stub it again only to know it exists.
In such a scenario, it is easier to associate pain with exercise apart from muscle soreness or acute injury. Lack of knowledge or the myth that my pain will increase with any activity, issues arising from herniated disc, trigger points, muscle imbalance, and failed treatments are some of the reasons that can further heighten this fear or threat.
For someone who is resuming workouts post an injury, it’s best to take a combined approach that takes into account your:
Biology (nerves, muscle, joints),
Psychology (beliefs, thoughts, fear) and
Social life (work, culture, & knowledge)
With a strategic approach of mental conditioning, sports physio, strength training, flexibility and exercise consistency, you will find a way to recover faster.
The Bottom Line
You need to listen to your body. Don’t exercise through pain or being in pain. By understanding different types of pain, you will know your body better and be more responsive to its needs. If you are not familiar with the types of pain, seek expert advice on each of these areas – be it your trainer, your physio, your sports nutritionist or your lifestyle coach. This approach is sure to keep pain at bay.