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We are the sum total of our life experiences, and our bodies bear the scars of everything we do. Eventually the things we do (or don't do) begin to show themselves, as with my back pain. In some cases, as with weight loss, those changes are positive. But other times, as with injuries or chronic pain, they're negative.
When Workouts Hurt
Our workouts can leave us in pain, especially if we push beyond our body's capabilities and/or forgo good form in order to get one more rep. We add on a few miles to our run or walk so we can achieve an arbitrary numeric goal. We try to keep up with a friend who's fitter than we are.
When you're active, aches and pains are not uncommon. Some soreness or achiness is normal. But intense, lasting pain and injuries are not.
Subscribing to the "no pain, no gain" philosophy or constantly ignoring your body's cues to slow down can lead to repetitive motion and overuse injuries, including bursitis, tendinitis, and stress fractures. (Learn to spot the signs of overtraining.)
When you experience intense, sharp, sudden or throbbing pain in any workout, or in the hours or days following it, consider it a sign. You should never continue or push through sudden pain while exercising. It's your body's way of telling you that something's not right. And while some post-workout soreness is normal, learning to differentiate between reasonable muscle soreness and injury—and respond appropriate—is an important skill that will help you have more pain-free workouts.
Injury vs. Soreness: What Your Pain Is Telling You
In many cases, the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) treatment method or any combination thereof can alleviate discomfort associated with inflammation, some minor injuries and soreness in the joints and muscles. But there are certainly times when even acute pain requires professional input. You should contact your health-care provider if your pain:
Coping with Chronic Pain
When pain is a part of your daily life as with degenerative conditions or autoimmune diseases, the aforementioned treatments usually won't work. You can't just rest or stretch the pain away. Chronic pain may lead to depression and weight gain, and it can make everyday life exponentially more difficult. But there is hope.