No Pain, No Gain?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HEALTH -

You’ve fi­nally started to ex­er­cise; you’re full of hope and en­thu­si­asm; and, as ex­pected, you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some aches and pains af­ter your work­out. But you no­tice, af­ter a few days, the pain is not sub­sid­ing and you re­alise this isn’t the nor­mal de­layed on­set mus­cle sore­ness (DOMS) nor­mally felt in the days fol­low­ing a hard work­out. (It’s day seven and the pain just isn’t go­ing away.) This pain may be a sign that you have an in­jury and not DOMS. But then, what is the dif­fer­ence be­tween DOMS and pain?

To an­swer this ques­tion we must first look at what ac­tu­ally hap­pens when we ex­er­cise. Ev­ery­where we turn we hear that ex­er­cise is good for us, help­ing to reg­u­late glu­cose, in­sulin and lep­tin, im­prove heart func­tion, mood and sleep; but the process our mus­cles go through to adapt is of­ten over­looked. Mus­cles are the struc­tures re­spon­si­ble for move­ment and pos­ture and there­fore a key el­e­ment to our over­all fit­ness and abil­i­ties.

A healthy body re­quires healthy mus­cles and ex­er­cise is how we achieve the best from our bod­ies. Dur­ing ex­er­cise there is an in­creased blood flow to the mus­cles to help sup­ply oxy­gen (aer­o­bic) which is re­quired to pro­duce the en­ergy the mus­cles re­quire to work. When the mus­cle work ex­ceeds the oxy­gen sup­plied, our mus­cles be­gin to work anaer­o­bi­cally, which leads to the pro­duc­tion and buildup of lactic acid. If the body is not able to keep up with the de­mands of the mus­cles, fa­tigue can set in. Work­ing a mus­cle can also cause mi­cro­trauma (small tears) to the mus­cle fi­bres but it is this process that leads to the in­crease in mus­cle bulk, as these small tears lead to the for­ma­tion of new fi­bres that are larger and stronger.

De­layed on­set mus­cle sore­ness is an achy painful feel­ing ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter vig­or­ous or stren­u­ous ex­er­cise and usu­ally lasts be­tween 24-72 hours. Have you ever had that great feel­ing af­ter ex­er­cise, only to wake up un­able to move and then, once mov­ing, un­able to stop? Pain from an in­jury may start dur­ing a work­out or im­me­di­ately af­ter, of­ten de­scribed as a sharp sen­sa­tion and, al­though ag­gra­vated by move­ment, can also be present at rest. With an in­jury you may also be able to pin­point the area of pain and even no­tice lo­cal swelling but with DOMS, the pain and dis­com­fort may be widespread and felt in the mus­cles of the arms or legs, and al­though in­flam­ma­tion may be present, it is not eas­ily ob­served.

An in­jury may be the re­sult of a sprain or strain, whereas it is thought that DOMS is the re­sult of small tears in the mus­cle caused by a work­out, but there are those who doubt this ex­pla­na­tion. How­ever, we do know that ex­er­cis­ing mus­cles causes small tears and this is how our mus­cles grow and strengthen. There are many the­o­ries that try to ex­plain the pres­ence of pain and stiff­ness in DOMS: • Mi­cro­trauma to the mus­cles causes the stim­u­la­tion and ac­ti­va­tion of the pain sen­sors in mus­cles caus­ing the sen­sa­tion of pain. • Cal­cium col­lects in the dam­aged mus­cle caus­ing a re­ac­tion that leads to in­flam­ma­tion, re­sult­ing in pain. • The build-up of lactic acid, a toxic waste prod­uct, was once thought to be the rea­son for DOMS. This the­ory has been sci­en­tif­i­cally dis­proved and it is now known that lactic acid clears from the sys­tem within an hour af­ter ex­er­cise and there­fore has no bear­ing on pain.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is du­ra­tion and in­ten­sity. Pain from DOMS will grad­u­ally de­crease and some­times even eases as we move around, stretch or do a light ex­er­cise rou­tine. But pain from an in­jury can be ag­gra­vated and in­crease when do­ing these same ac­tiv­i­ties.

As we progress through our ex­er­cise pro­gramme the DOMS sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces and recovery of­ten takes less time. The key to avoid­ing this prob­lem is to plan a grad­u­ated ex­er­cise pro­gramme that al­lows you to adapt slowly. So, don’t give up but err on the side of cau­tion when start­ing an ex­er­cise rou­tine. No pain, no gain is not al­ways the best way.

Are we sup­posed to hold this po­si­tion for two sec­onds or two min­utes?

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