While some pain after a workout is completely normal (and a sign that you’ve been beneficially challenging your muscles) other pain is a warning sign that you’ve pushed it too far.
Here’s how to tell the difference between good pain and bad pain after exercise.
Pain After a Workout: What’s Normal …
When you work your muscles, it can cause tiny injuries or ‘microdamage” to your muscle fibers and connective tissues. This can lead to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which typically occurs 12 to 24 hours after a workout. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS is a side effect of the repair process that develops in response to microscopic muscle damage.[i] It can cause not only muscle soreness but also swelling, stiffness, tenderness to the touch and temporary reduction in strength to the affected muscles.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness can be bothersome, but it isn’t dangerous. It will typically only last for three to five days, and the next time you do the same activity the muscle soreness will probably be decreased. Activities known to cause DOMs include:
- Strength training
- Step aerobics
- Walking down hills
Muscle soreness after a workout is especially common after you’ve done an activity you’re not used to, you increased the intensity of your workout, or you’ve done ‘eccentric’ exercises (such as walking downhill, which lengthens your muscle).
The good thing about such muscle soreness is that as you recover, your body will be better able to handle the positive stress next time. So, ultimately, it’s a sign that you’re growing stronger and more fit. As Dr. David J. Szymanski, assistant professor and the director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at Louisiana Tech University, told Running Times:[ii]
“Although DOMS is associated with something negative, it’s actually a physiologically positive reaction … Once your body is exposed to whatever made you sore, the next time your body will say, ‘I got it, I’ll protect you.’ It’s actually a beautiful thing.”
If you’re experiencing delayed-onset muscle soreness, try stretching, ice, heat or massage to relieve the pain. Rub on Relief can be very helpful in the interim, and research has actually shown that additional exercise is among the most effective forms of relief for DOMS.[iii]
Keep in mind that DOMS is temporary and will go away on its own. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not DOMS at all, but rather a sign of a pain that’s not normal following your workout.
Pain After a Workout: What’s Not Normal …
Muscle pain or mild achiness that shows up hours after a workout is typically normal. But the following types of pain during or after exercise typically are not:
- Pain with swelling
- Sharp pain that prevents you from moving a body part normally
- Pain in body parts you’ve previously injured
- Pain during exercise
- Pain that’s severe or so bad that it discourages your next workout (this could indicate an injury)
- Pain in your joints (especially pain that’s worse than what you normally experience)
If you experience any of the above types of pain, seek medical help — especially if the pain doesn’t get better quickly.
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How to Best Recover From Your Workout
The way you recover from your workout is every bit as important as the actual exercise. The proper recovery will ensure that you’re able to heal and repair the ‘damage’ that exercise caused so you’ll grow stronger and be able to work out even harder next time.
Among the most important elements are a proper cool down, stretching and hydration, which you can read about in detail here. However, perhaps most important is reaching for a bottle of Heal-n-Soothe, which is an all-natural inflammation fighter that promotes healthy muscle repair.
Heal-n-Soothe’s secret weapon for your recovery is its concentrated dose of proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes eat excess fibrin and scar tissue for lunch, helping every microscopic muscle tear to heal properly to deliver a full range of motion while reducing inflammation, tightness and pain. These enzymes work at a cellular level, ensuring your workout recovery starts from the inside out (plus, it also contains 12 of nature’s best anti-inflammatory compounds).
Written By: Updated: January 6,2014