Pain: The good, the bad and the ugly
Have you felt sore when you have just started gymming?
Say, you have done legs a day before, you just can’t walk the next day?
If this sounds familiar, then you are experiencing good pain.
So can pain really be good?
Let’s get into this discussion:
There are two kinds of pain Good Pain and bad pain.
However, let’s start by discussing what exactly pain is:
As per Wikipedia pain is a distressing feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli. (1)
When a body part is stressed, the stimulus causes a minute electrical signal to be transmitted by our nerves to the spinal cord. From the spinal chord the signal is transmitted to the brain, where it gets perceived as pain.
Pain medicines either stop the transmission of the pain signal to the brain or work on the pain area of the brain itself. Others also reduce inflammation. (2)
Types of pain:
Pain can be categories in the following general types, as per the source:
1) Nociceptive pain
This type of pain is associated with damage to tissue. For example, when we touch a hot or sharp surface.
This is the signaling mechanism to warn our body of harm.
2) Neuropathic Pain
When the actual neurons which conduct the pain signal are damaged, any pain associated with that is called neuropathic pain. This could be caused by some diabetes, infection, etc. (3)
We will discuss pain involved with working out or exercising, and not disease associated pain.
So, let’s see what is good and bad pain:
(Ugly is the face you make when you are in pain 😀 )
1) Good pain
If you have used a part of your body which you are not normally used to using, during say an exercise routine or for whatever reason, you might be familiar with this pain.
This is sometimes known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. There are various theories about why this could be caused. First it was thought the this pain was caused due to acute inflammation, but research has proved that this might not be the case. (4)
As per one of the theories, the muscle undergo minute tears when they are used beyond what they are used to. This pain can be easily recognized, as it is felt from about 24 hours to 72 hours after using a particular muscle. This kind of pain is felt in the whole muscle itself and the muscle feels very tender.
This pain is not noticed when doing the exercise itself.
Repeat bout effect:
The mechanics of good pain work like this when the muscle is stress beyond its limits, microscopic tears are caused. After this, the body overcompensates for the strain by strengthening these muscles and associated systems. Thus when you perform this exercise again, the pain is comparatively very less or sometimes even non existent. this is called the repeat bout effect and is used by body builders in pushing the limits. (5)
Thus, to reduce the pain associated with DOMS, you should introduce new exercises or routines slowly, at a rate of about one, every week or two. Usually massages, stretching or ultrasound is not very helpful in preventing this type of pain. (6, 7)
From this we move on to:
2) Bad pain
If you are working out and find that you have been getting pain whilst doing any action, it is time to stop. This is an indicator of bad pain.
There could be various reasons why this pain could have arisen, for example:
a) You are using incorrect form in doing the exercise.
For example say you are doing a squat at the gym. If your knee starts to ache whist doing the routine, this would indicate bad pain.
For further information about a proper strength training routine you might want to see my post on “12 Things every Beginner should know about Strength Training”.
b) you could have stressed a body part beyond it fatigue limit.
c) Pain associated with any disease. However we will not stress on this aspect as it goes beyond the scope of this article.
If you continue with the age old advise of “No pain, no gain” you would definitely falter in this instance, as you would be subjecting your body to damage.
So, for any persistent bad pain, it is advisable to see a doctor to get it checked out.
There are two types of pain that you should be concerned about, good and bad pain.
If the pain occurs within a muscle, a day to several days after doing any exercise, that would most likely be good pain.
If it occurs whilst doing a routine, it usually means a bad thing.
Hope you liked this article.
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