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Pain & Injuries from Working out

CautionThere is a lot of misinformation regarding exercising. One thing every athlete should know is when to continue pushing through and when to stop.

Have you ever heard of the “No Pain, No Gain” dogma?

There are different kinds of feelings you can gain from exercising. As you gain experience, you will start recognising good feelings from the bad feelings which tell you something is either wrong or about to be wrong.

Exercising should fatigue and tire you but too much of a good thing can become bad.

I will go through a variety of different feelings, tell you what causes them and what you should do if you experience them.

What exercise should cause – the good feelings

The goal of exercising is to become stronger. To do this we need to tire out and fatigue our muscles which causes tiny microdamages within them. When we rest, our bodies repair these microdamages and overcompensates for them by building our muscles bigger, and this is the time when our muscles grow – when we rest.

When you are just starting out with a new workout program or working out exceptionally hard, you are likely to start feeling fatigue and soreness in your muscles and maybe a bit of shaking which is all a good thing.

Muscle soreness is a good thing telling you your workout was efficient and you are getting stronger. I personally like this feeling and this is the part I like the most in my workouts, the sore, fatigued feeling in my muscles which tells me I have successfully tired out my muscles and I will become stronger.

This feeling will usually go away but in some cases it can last a day or two if you have worked very hard, but it will go away. You should always let your muscles rest 48 hours before exercising the same muscles again. Do note that you can exercise focusing on your other muscle groups during this time.

What you should absolutely not feel – the bad feelings

Weightlifter injures trapezius and screams in pain while doing dumbbell shrugYou should absolutely NEVER feel pain during your workouts. Should you feel pain I advise you to stop whatever you are doing.

But Matthew, I have heard I should always push my limits during my workouts to get stronger. What harm can it do anyway?

I am glad you asked that.

Pain is your body’s way to tell you something is wrong. Your body is basically crying for you to STOP. Whatever it is you are doing, find out the underlying root cause and treat it. The more pain you are feeling, the louder your body is screaming.

Pain is an early warning sign

When you feel pain, it basically tells you to slow down and be cautious.

It is an early warning sign something is about to go wrong. Like a herd of animals running away from a natural catastrophe.

But back to the question: what harm can it do?

Should you decide to push through your pain thinking ”no pain, no gain” you are treading on a dangerous thread. You are risking getting an injury – that is, if you haven’t got one already.

What to do when I feel pain?

There are plenty of different kinds of pains, and add in the various body parts and locations in your body – it is very difficult to tell what it is.

Willy Wonka meme Random guy on the internet is smarter than a qualified doctorThe easiest, and usually first thing people do is to go to the internet, start googling and maybe asking in an internet forum with other like-minded individuals who may or may not have any needed knowledge.

This is what most people do wrong. The best thing that could happen is someone will tell you to see a doctor. The worst thing that could happen is someone tells you bad advice without knowing your situation which could be even detrimental to you.

Do note however that your symptoms can go under a wide variety of conditions. Always take what you hear or read with a grain of salt and use your own judgement.

If you think you know what your problem is, good, but do take your time to see a doctor to make sure you are correct. Your doctor can give you a more thorough assessment on your condition in person than any articles or people on the internet.

Should you feel pain, ALWAYS consult your doctor. It is very difficult to assess your situation online even if the other person is a qualified and professional doctor.

Random people on online forums can not give you a realistic assessment of your situation.

Going to doctor

Okay, so you have decided to see a doctor and have booked a time. What next?

Before you do actually go to see a doctor, you should find out a few things out.

  • Where did you feel pain?
  • What kind of pain did you feel?
  • Where did you feel pain?
  • Was it sharp?
  • Was it concentrated on a small area or spread on a larger area?
  • How long did it last?
  • When did you experience it?
  • What were you doing during that time?
  • How often do you feel it?
  • What could have caused it?

You might be thinking this is a bit too many questions. But the thing is, your doctor has to ask a lot of questions to figure out what is causing it. Our bodies are very complex and our symptoms could be caused by a wide variety of things. So the more you know before seeing your doctor, the better off you will be and the better he can help you.

Googling can provide helpful information on your symptoms

If you are not exactly sure, you can try googling with searches relating to your pain and find out more. A lot of people are searching for information on all kinds of symptoms and pains on Google so you are likely to find more information if you know what to search for.

Searching information on Google will make you more prepared to see a doctor. It is easy to think it is the doctor’s duty to help you but the reality is, the more you know, the more your doctor is able to help you.

If you go to see a doctor and say you have pain in your knee when squatting but can’t describe what kind of pain you experience, which part of the knee you feel it etc he might not be able to help you much. On the contrary, you will likely hear something along the lines of ”knees are a very complex body part and it could be anything”.

There are times when I have gone to see a doctor without knowing anything about my condition, just telling I it hurts but the doctor could not help me because I did not know the answers to the questions my doctor asked me.

And then there are times when I have done a lot of googling on my issue and I even found out the underlying root cause myself even before seeing my doctor – which made seeing a doctor very easy and comfortable since I already had an idea what could be bothering me before seeing a doctor. I then went to see a doctor to confirm it is what I think it is and get treatment. Knowing my situation allowed me to give information to my doctor without him asking because I was already familiar with what my condition was and what are the common causes and symptoms behind it.

I made an appointment with a doctor but it did not help – what to do now?

Sometimes there are times when we see a doctor but it does not help us. What now?

The reasons for it can vary. Maybe he could not get enough information assessing you, maybe he did not have expertise in the right area or maybe he was not familiar with your condition.

If your doctor visit was not useful to you because your doctor did not have the right kind of knowledge, ask where you can make an appointment with a doctor qualified in your particular case. Ask to see a doctor who has experience in the particular area that is ailing you.

After visiting a doctor

Rehabilitation is the solution to treat injuriesEvery one of us likes to be lazy but it is not over yet after visiting your doctor. If your doctor or physiotherapist gives you exercises for rehabilitating your injury, do them regularly. Your injury or underlying issue won’t heal by itself if you keep waiting. It requires you to actively take action to treat it.

Do remember to ask your doctor his contact details so you can get back to him later should you have questions.

I have personally met a physiotherapist only to find out later he did not give me his contact information when I had forgotten what he had told me.

He had given me exercises to rehabilitate my muscles and personally showed me how to perform them. But later when I got back to home, I had already forgotten what they were. And since I did not remember his name, email or phone number I could not call him back and ask how to do them again.

Conclusion

Should you ever feel pain while exercising, you need to STOP whatever you are doing. You will risk getting an injury if you continue pushing through despite of your pain. Google if you must to find out more information on what is bothering you and book an appointment with a doctor or a physiotherapist.

Do not trust everything random folks on internet forums who may or may not possess doctor credentials tell you. Even for a qualified doctor it is very difficult to assess your situation without seeing you in person.

Share you experiences with pain and injuries below!

12 Comments

  1. Imad

    Hello, there.

    Great and informative article. I am very familiar with many of the things you mentioned here. No pain, no gain has become a universal advice for many people but sadly, a lot of them apply it to such an extent and they end up hurting themselves.

    There’s that pain you feel at the end of a workout session or the next day (This happens when you’ve been doing nothing for several months). But when I feel pain during the workout, I immediately stop to check what I’m doing wrong or why am I experiencing that.

    Consulting a doctor before consulting Google is the best option. There’s a lot of information on the internet, but sometimes a real examination is what we need.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    Regards,

    Imad

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Hi Imad,

      Good to hear you are approaching pain the sensible way. It is always best to be cautious and stop what you are doing when you feel pain during your workouts. Most people are fast to jump on computer (or smartphone) screen and search in Google – which is okay in moderation but ultimately the best and most important thing is to visit a doctor since doctor is the one who can give you an accurate and realistic examination of your condition. Google or not, a doctor visit is a must.

      I hope you found out the underlying reason causing you pain and got treatment for it. I wish you many years of pain-free exercising, Imad!

      Reply
  2. Laurie

    This is an important post, Matthew. A lot of people who are new to working out really overdo it in the beginning. It’s natural to feel enthusiastic about getting started, but if you feel pain, it’s a sure sign that you’re going too far. No one knows your body better than you, so pay attention to how it feels, and don’t worry about what others are doing or how much they are lifting. It’s a lot easier to prevent the injury in the first place than it is to deal with the aftermath.

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Good points, Laurie! You shouldn’t compare yourself to others but to yourself. There will always be people below and above your level but what matters is are you seeing progress forward from your current level. Exercising is a game of patience. Results come slowly over time and rushing ahead too fast can lead to unnecessary injuries. There is a fine line between overdoing and underdoing so it is good to pay attention to our bodies and how we are feeling.

      Reply
  3. Samuel

    Hey Matthew,

    Great article on working out! I can relate to this as i work out often, for me i work out because i want to be stronger and healthier. Before any workout, i will do some stretching of my muscles to prevent any injuries or sprains. I understand that you may have to push yourself at some point, but not to the extent that you will feel extreme pain, that will be harming your own body which is not good in the long run…

    Samuel

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Hi Samuel, Good job in taking care of you own body! Stretching is an essential part of injury prevention since having too tight muscles makes you more prone to getting injuries. Pushing yourself through and past your limits is an essential part of working out but not to the extent where you feel pain as you mentioned. Happy working out, Samuel!

      Reply
  4. Misty Marchione

    Hi,

    Within the last few months, I recently started lifting weights. I have definitely felt much stronger since doing so. I do like to push myself when I start feeling fatigued though. For example, if I am struggling to do that last push up, I will always go for one more. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but I am exerting my body. Do you recommend doing this?

    Reply
    • Matthew

      You should definitely push through that last push up. Doing so is what fatigues your muscles and makes you stronger. Fatiguing your muscles essentially causes microdamages in your muscles. Your body will repair these microdamages while you are resting and overcompensates for them. This is the driving factor which results in bigger muscles. This is normal and safe to do. As long as you are sensible in your training and do not experience any sort of pain, it is recommended to push forward.

      Do let me know if you have more questions and keep me updated on your progress, Misty!

      Reply
  5. Emmanuel

    Hey Matthew,

    I agree that if you feel pain you are in a risk of getting injured. One time I was exercising and felt pain, but kept on going because I wanted to be tough.

    This pain that I had resulted in a injury and I was out of the gym for a couple of weeks.

    Can you perform the same exercise that you got injured before or will it cause an injury again?

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Hi Emmanuel,

      I would advice you to avoid anything that causes sharp pain. The most important thing after getting injured is to get a doctor’s assessment, start rehabbing, take things slowly and cautiously. The last thing you want is to get injured again.

      Now, since I don’t know your particular condition, I can’t give you specific advice what you should (or shouldn’t) do. I hope you have already began rehabilitating your injury and are well in the process of recovering. The best advice I can give to you is to check back with your doctor whether it’s safe to continue doing the same exercise again. The last thing I want is to see you injured again. I wish you good recovery and hope you won’t get injured again. Best of luck to you, Emmanuel 🙂

      Reply
  6. Simon

    You don’t know how right you are mate – great advice!

    I’m currently experiencing pain in my left forearm and at the back of my left knee. Time doesn’t heal such issues so I’ll eventually have to visit a doc I’d imagine. But I work out regularly with heavy weights which means a higher risk of injuries.

    Do you recommend any multis or any supplements for the joints?

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Hi Simon,

      I would warmly recommend visiting a doctor as soon as possible so he can find out why you are having pain and you can start working on the underlying issue.

      As for supplements, I would highly recommend a varied and balanced diet. Ideally you should get all needed nutrients from your diet but if you find your diet is lacking in some nutrient I would recommend to alter your diet in a way which allows you to get enough nutrients or take vitamins which address the deficit. Your doctor will be able to recommend the best vitamins/supplements for you individual need should you need any.

      Happy working out, Simon!

      Reply

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