The benefits of exercise range from improved posture to improved heart function. Every body has a different threshold for pain, and muscle soreness is inevitable. Some studies show that our minds often give in before our bodies do- In order to make physical gains with any workout program, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
When pushing your body to its limits, its important to understand the difference between an injury and muscle soreness. Our bodies pain receptors act as a signal, we need to learn how to listen and respond to what our body is telling us. Muscle fatigue, a reduced range of motion, tearing, tweaking, spraining, pinching and pulling are some of the signals our bodies give us to let us know what’s going on under the skin.
The small muscle tears that occur while strength training take 24-48 hours to heal and are considered fully healed from 48-60 hours post workout. Muscle soreness usually sets in around 24-48 hours. During this time your muscles may feel tender to the touch, tight, achy, and tender. Movement may be limited, however moving may decrease soreness, consider alternative exercises or classes to avoid over training.
You may experience pain, during or after exercise. The pain may be sharp in your muscles, joints or tendons and it may linger for a few days post workout. Pushing through your threshold of pain could result in injury. Many practitioners say that if pain does not subside within 7-10 days, you should consult with your medical practitioner, physical therapist, or chiropractor to get a diagnosis. It is always important to alert your trainer or instructor of any pain or discomfort you are feeling during your workouts and post workouts.
According to ClassPass here’s how to know if you should tune out or tune into a sensation you feel during a workout, and what to do when your intuition tells you that plowing through isn’t the best option today.
Knees. Knees are the least physiologically stable joint in the body. The only thing buffering the tibia from the tibia is the kneecap and some (often over-worked) tendons and ligaments. If you experience a dull pain in your kneecap or the area immediately surrounding it — especially if you’ve been jumping or cycling more than usual — give yourself a couple of days of rest and a good stretch of the hamstrings and quads. Also take a look at your choice of footwear.
If the discomfort comes on gradually during a workout, you may be able to move through it, but keeps tabs on your pain and limit jumping and sharp movements when possible. It may be worth having a professional assess your gait and set you up with a pair of sports shoes that provide the right kind of support for your knees. A dull pain can often be soothed with rest and icing, and is probably not something to worry about in the long run if you address the discomfort right away.
If you feel a sharp, stabbing pain, or a popping or crackling feeling in your knees, stop immediately. These may be symptoms of a bigger issue, like bursitis, a broken cyst or a torn ligament. Rest at once, icing for 15 minutes at a time if necessary, and get checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
Shoulders. Muscle fatigue comes on easily in the shoulders and upper back, thanks to the posture we tend to hold during our smartphone-computer-desk-bound days. While working out these muscles with resistance or weights is beneficial and important, it can often mean that fatigue will come on suddenly, almost like a wave of tired heaviness. Following a workout like this, you may experience the same heavy weighted feeling or a decrease in your range of motion.
Check in with the level of discomfort: You’ll probably be able to tell if the sensation has more to do with exertion than injury. If you’re feeling up to it, this is the kind of sensation that you can move through. When we use our muscles, we create micro-tears in them; the soreness is the feeling of rebuilding. For the next day or two, try a lower-impact workout, or modify your regular class routine with something more lower-body focused. Then resume as normal.
However, if you feel a sharp pain, particularly where muscles and bones connect in the tops of your shoulders or where your scapula attaches to your ribs in the back, stop. Don’t push through. Stretch the area to whatever point is comfortable, rest, and see a doctor as soon as possible. These sensations could be symptomatic of a larger tear or a dislocation. If one shoulder is noticeably at a different height than the other, perhaps because of a slip or a tear, see a doctor immediately.
Back and Spine. The muscles in your back are some of the largest in the body. Like the shoulders, they work all day long to keep you upright. When they tire out, they may become tight or heavy-feeling, or like they’ve been shortened. Perhaps you just don’t have the same range of motion; perhaps lifting even the lightest thing feels taxing.
You’re likely dealing with fatigued muscles that just need a break or maybe a massage. Use a foam roller to work the muscles from top to bottom, and add some gentle rotational twists to unknot the sides and the muscles holding your spine upright. You may wish to take a few minutes to lay backwards over an exercise ball to release tension. There’s a good chance this will help restore some oxygen to your tired cells and provide enough of a boost to push through that last bit of workout.
If you experience pain – sharp, stabbing, shocking or shearing – or any kind of intensity in the spine itself, stop. Take a few moments to stretch out what you can and check in: How is your range of motion? Can you stand? Can you walk? Can you bend without pain? At this point, it may be wise to tap out of your workout for the time being, and if the pain persists, visit a clinician for their opinion. Your spine and the muscles surrounding it are important to your whole body’s functioning. It’s not worth compromising them just to get in your last six reps.
Wrists. Wrists are tricky joints. Because they tend to take a lot of weight (i.e. about half our body weight in a push-up, and all of our energy upwards in a pull-up), and because they require precise alignment to do their jobs efficiently, wrists can be quite prone to injury. How many young people do you see using push-up stands in class? Lots, right? You may be one of them! And it’s not because they’re weak: Wrists just tend to be a sensitive, overworked joint, especially when our form isn’t perfectly perfect.
Almost never should you ignore wrist pain and push through. Doing so can lead to sprains, fractures or even changing the alignment of the bones in your hand and arm. When you feel discomfort in your wrists, it’s advisable to modify right away: Drop to your elbows, use a pair of weights or push-ups stands to support and align your arms, or stop to stretch them out by stiffly flapping your hands towards and away from the floor, engaging at the wrist. If the modifications help, you can continue with the workout. If not, check in with your doc sooner than later to assess if there is something more going on.
Injury Evaluations or Consultations
We have been very lucky to find amazing partners in the health and wellness field that have similar philosophies and approach to fitness as we do. It never hurts to get a free injury evaluation before it becomes a serious injury. Here are our recommendations of who you can trust: