No Pain, No Gain? No Way. Differentiating Soreness From Pain.

The time of the "Gladiator-Mentality" is over.

There's a powerful movement of high-level athletes who are refusing to push and perform through their pain, and we should follow their lead.

It's time to learn how to understand our pain and prevent overuse injuries.

Defining Pain

According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP): “Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.” So let’s break that down a little further

  • Pain is always a personal experience. This personal experience is shaped by biological, social, and psychological factors throughout our lives.
  • Pain is not the same as nociception. Nociception is the neural coding to process actual or potential tissue damage. Pain is the subjective experience of actual or impending harm that is processed through a sensory AND emotional lens.
  • Pain typically serves an adaptive role, however, in certain situations it may limit function and social/psychological well-being, such as when the body is hypersensitized to potential tissue damage.

Pain vs Soreness While Exercising

Stiffness, Soreness, and Fatigue

Some pre- and post-workout soreness is normal. You may even have a bit of an ache when you start to move that will likely improve the more you move. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is a normal phenomenon where after working out you feel sore 12-24 hours and sometimes up to 3 days. The more sedentary your lifestyle is, the more likely you are to be sore. 

You may notice that the more you train regularly and at a similar intensity, the frequency and intensity of your post-workout soreness may drop significantly. This is likely because your body has adapted to the load and you don’t have the same level of post-workout soreness, this doesn’t mean that you didn’t have a “good” workout.

On the other hand if you are regularly training at a similar intensity and consistently noticing fatigue and soreness at a similar level or even worsening this may be a sign of overtraining. Read on to find out some great ways to manage your load and reduce the risk of overtraining

Our bodies grow through discomfort, they do not grow through pain.

Painful Movements

Pain is your body’s alarm system, like we discussed above, it’s your body’s way of processing a negative sensory and emotional experience related to perceived risk of tissue damage. This pain is likely described as sharp, with a more sudden onset, and can be localized to a specific area or region of the body.

Most commonly true pain, as you perceive it, is associated with structural damage, such as tears, sprains, strains, breaks, herniations, etc. and should be assessed and managed with the help of a skilled healthcare provider.

Pain with movement can be a sign of mobility restrictions most commonly seen as joint restrictions or muscular imbalances. Muscular imbalance can result from a sedentary lifestyle, postural load, training certain planes of movement more or less than others, previous injuries, or a lack of cross training.

It may also be a sign of hypersensitivity in the nervous system; this is commonly seen in people dealing with chronic pain or who have previously moderately to severely injured the region in question. Often times, overcoming this type of pain is a labor of love to retrain the nociceptors in the nervous system to stop signaling for pain in non-harmful scenarios

Don’t let your pain go unmanaged. Let us help you get to the root of what’s causing your pain and get you back to doing what you love.

Best Practices For Prevention & Management of Overuse Injuries

Increase your load in appropriate increments

It’s important to work with someone who understands the concept of periodization while developing your training regimen.

Shooting to increase your load by 10% month over month may be possible at the beginning of your training thanks to a phenomenon called “newbie gains” where our bodies adapt quickly to new loads, but subsequently that plateau will hit and stop you cold in your tracks.

Set goals that will challenge you, but that will also allow you to maintain that load without having to take significant time off to recover.

Cross Train

Training for your specific sport or activity will often leave you exceptional at moving your body in specific planes and directions. What we often see in the clinic is athletes who move really well in one plane are often left to the wolves in other planes.

The importance of cross training can not be overstated, and proper cross training doesn’t mean switching from running to an elliptical. It requires you to take a look at the movements you’re taking and challenge them from different directions. For instance, runners should incorporate some lateral movements such as skiing or rollerblading into their cross training. Paddle sport athletes work a lot in the cross-rotational plane with high repetition movements so incorporating cross training that focuses on stability, static postures, and unilateral movements such as yoga can be hugely beneficial.

Communicate with your healthcare providers

Any good therapist or counselor will tell you that communication is a two-way street. Not only do you need to be vocal and forward about your health concerns, you also need to follow the recommendations of your healthcare providers. While cutting your training load in half may take you out of competition for the season, it will hopefully keep you competitive for the rest of your life. For the collegiate athletes reading this, no college scholarship is worth a lifetime of pain and injury. Take the steps for recovery your provider recommends and hopefully you’ll come back stronger than ever.

Build healthy habits to recover properly

Daily Habits

  • Warm up properly
    • Global warm up – general cardiovascular exercise to increase blood flow
    • Regional warm up – dynamic stretches and movements specific to the area(s) you’re training
  • Cool down
    • Dedicate at least 10% of your total training time for that day to lower intensity movements, self myofascial release (foam rolling), and static stretches
  • Hydration
    • Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day
      • The more you sweat, the more you need to replenish
  • Sleep
    • Try to get at least 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night.
  • Eat nutrient-dense and healthful foods

Weekly Habits

  • Take recovery days
    • No one needs to be training 7 days a week at full intensity, even the highest level athletes.
    • Take at least one day a week to get some low-intensity exercise in, enough to get the heart rate mildly elevated but not enough to tire you out
      • Yoga
      • Easy to moderate level hikes
      • Walks
      • Stand up paddleboarding
  • Sit down and plan your load for the following week.
    • Based on your performance this week, does the load match what you are capable of? Do you need to adjust? Do it ahead of time so you’re not trying to tweak weight/time/speed while training.
  • Meal Prep
    • One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting the appropriate daily servings of grains, fruits, and vegetables is to plan your meals ahead of time.
    • When your foods are just as fast and convenient as fast food, you’re much more likely to make the healthier choices.

Monthly Habits

  • Develop a monthly self-care routine.
    • For anyone who trains at a high intensity, it’s important to put your body into someone else’s hands and get an external perspective on how the load is affecting your body.
    • Regular chiropractic care has been proven to reduce the number of days in acute pain and increase the length of time between painful episodes.
    • Deep tissue laser therapy is proven to help improve recovery times and reduce tissue damage and can be a fantastic way to quickly and effectively manage “hot spots” of pain and injury.
  • De-Load Week
    • Take one week out of your training block each 4-6 weeks and cut your volume significantly.
    • Staying at about 50% training volume will keep you active and healthy without overtaxing your nervous and muscular systems.
    • Recent research shows that a de-load period that decreases training load and training intensity may lead to mild muscular atrophy
      • To combat this keep your intensity at a similar level (base this on rate of perceived exertion), but cut the load in half, whether that’s sets and reps, time, or distance.
Muscle loss can occur during deloads, if the deload program allows a detraining effect to occur by removing the stimulus from the muscle fibers of the high-threshold motor units. ... If a deload involves dramatically increasing the number of reps left in reserve, it can cause atrophy. Yet simply reducing volume will not have the same effect.