Strength and endurance sports are demanding on the body. Regular training improves our performance. To achieve this, athletes push themselves to their physical limits in order to expand them where possible. This process is often accompanied by a certain feeling of pain. However, if these limits are clearly exceeded or exhausted for too long, injuries occur. When should you fight against pain and when should you listen to your body?
“No Pain, No Gain” is an English proverb which means “no gain without pain”. What is behind this wisdom? Is there such a thing as good pain? Especially in sports, pain should be interpreted correctly. A sports physician explains the different types of pain.
Dr. Dominic King is a sports physician at the renowned Cleveland Clinic in the USA. In a recent article, the physician explains the pain caused by sports. “A certain amount of pain is acceptable, but you shouldn’t ignore pain during sports,” the specialist explains. If the pain gets worse or does not improve, the exercises should be paused and a doctor should be consulted.
According to Dr. King, there really is such a thing as “good pain”. The slight burning or stinging sensation in the muscles after exercise is often due to slight inflammation or micro-fissures in the muscles or tendons. A missed workout can also increase the amount of lactic acid in the muscles. This type of pain is usually harmless. The muscle repairs these cracks during the recovery phase. In the process, the muscles gain in strength and size. The microtrauma caused by training is a natural physical reaction that stimulates the muscles to grow. However, such pain should always disappear on its own after a few days.
A certain level of pain is acceptable
Often the muscle ache does not occur directly, but only a few days after the performed exercises. This often happens when new or unfamiliar physical activities are performed, during which the muscles contract and lengthen at the same time, such as climbing stairs or hiking in the mountains.
“Unfortunately, there is no treatment that actually shortens the length of time muscles are sore and weak after exercise,” adds Dr. Mark S. Schickendantz, a sports surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. Hot and cold compresses can help temporarily relieve the pain.
According to sports physicians, this answer is somewhat tricky and depends on the situation. There is nothing to be said against doing a light workout for minor pain. Some physical activity can sometimes even relieve the pain. But you should not overdo it. “There is only a fine line between muscle building and injuries,” warns Dr. King. For medium and severe sore muscles, you should wait with strenuous exercises until the pain subsides.
“The cornerstone in the treatment of sore muscles is rest,” Dr. King emphasizes. Stretching before and after exercise and a good fluid intake can help prevent sore muscles. But the absolute best way is to start low and increase slowly, advises the sports physician. Recurrent pain associated with sports is often due to incorrect exercise, incorrect posture or incorrect technique. Therefore, the exercises should ideally be supervised by an experienced trainer. This helps to prevent injuries. This is especially recommended for people who have had frequent sports injuries in the past. (vb)
What pain says during sports
If the pain is strong, persistent or sudden, this indicates an injury. This can be the result of a single or repeated overloading of a muscle or tendon, for example. “This is a signal that you are overloading a muscle or tendon,” says Dr. King. In this case, he advises you to stop. It is also important to ensure that the pain does not hide a more serious injury, adds Dr. Schickendantz. The following pain should be clarified immediately by a physician:
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