The “no pain, no gain” mantra frequently dominates the exercise industry. It is often thought that if an exercise doesn’t hurt, then it’s not providing any benefit. This is true in the sense that if we do not challenge or stress the body, the body will not be forced to adapt, i.e. “Use it or lose it”.
The concern with the “no pain, no gain” mentality is that it often causes people to push their bodies to the point of injury. It should be remembered that one of the primary roles of pain is to inform us of danger or injury.
In an exercise environment, both good and bad types of pain are common, and they can also occur simultaneously. It is important to be able to differentiate these types of pain in order to maximize the benefits that are achieved from exercise and to avoid injury.
Be aware of your body
The first step to achieving this is understanding the difference between exercise and activity. Developing an understanding of, and having awareness of, your own body is fundamental.
Pain is an individual experience. There are physiological mechanisms and pathways that facilitate how the ‘pain’ signal is generated and how it travels throughout the body, however, how we perceive and respond to these signals is specific to the individual. Only you experience your ‘pain’.
An experienced therapist/instructor can help and guide you to differentiate between good and bad pain, but in the end, it comes down to you understanding your body.
Below are some guidelines to help you differentiate good and bad ‘pain’ during or after exercise/physical activity.
- Joint pain
- Sharp/stabbing pain
- Electric/lancing pain
- Pain located in areas of chronic or acute discomfort
- During -> Feeling that muscles are working and fatiguing
- 24-72 hrs post-exercise -> Feeling like your muscles have been working, without impeding your normal daily activities
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