Q: Should I exercise when I have aches and pains?
A: Muscle soreness or discomfort that occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise is normal, particularly if the exercise involved a high amount of eccentric work (e.g., downhill running, resistance training, landing after jumping) or activities you are unaccustomed to performing. The proper response to this type of pain is rest followed by continued moderate exercise and stretching. There are, however, occasions when the pain or discomfort is more troublesome and indicative of a real problem. The following guidelines or basic warnings signals can help you determine if the pain you are experiencing warrants cessation of exercise and/or medical attention:
- Joint pain or discomfort. Joint pain of any degree of severity or type should not be dismissed or ignored. Pain in the ankle, knee, elbow or wrist joints is especially concerning because these joints are not covered by muscles and, therefore, the pain is rarely muscle-related.
- Localized pain or discomfort. If the pain occurs at a specific location, it is likely an early indicator of some type of injury. If the pain does not occur in the same location on the opposite side of the body, consult a doctor.
- Persistent pain or discomfort. If the pain persists for longer than two weeks or gets worse, see a healthcare professional-especially if the pain doesn't respond to standard treatment methods (e.g., rest, ice, over-the-counter pain medications)
- Swelling in or around the area of pain. Swelling is a classic sign of an injury and should never be ignored. It is not uncommon for swelling in or around a joint to cause pain and stiffness.
- Disturbs normal routine. Pain that disrupts your sleep patterns or interferes with work or activities of daily living is also a strong indicator of a more serious problem.
The bottom line is that you should generally avoid trying to push or work through pain. The "no pain, no gain" mantra is outdated and inaccurate. Pain is the body's way of communicating to us that a problem exists and a potential injury may be on the horizon.
Source: Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, ACE's Chief Science Officer; ACE FitnessMatters, Jan/Feb 2005.
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