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No Pain, No Gain?

By: Dr. Daniel J. Lee, D.P.T

It wakes hard work to be the best you can be, but it also requires that you listen to your body in order to avoid injury along the way. In this article, I discuss some of the most common ailments that effect exercising individuals and how to protect yourself from injury.

Aches and pains are part of any intensive exercise regimen. A phenomenon known as Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) takes place after intensive exercise and is usually felt at its peak 48 hours post exercise. This burning, aching, deep soreness you feel is a result of the trauma your muscles incurred from the training. This is a healthy, normal response to high level training and is allowable as long as it does not affect your ability to function. If you notice that the muscle soreness does not diminish with cessation of activity, or in a 2-week period, you may want to consult your Medical Doctor or physical therapist to have the area examined.

Another common issue with hard training is the feeling of having “pulled” a muscle. For example, if you have joined a recreational softball team and have never played the game before, you may be at risk for injuring your hamstring muscle while sprinting to first base. What happens is that the muscle becomes rapidly stretched then tightens, resulting in tears generally along the junction of the muscle and the tendon. This type of injury can range from a sharp pain with no change to the skin or underlying tissue, to a serious tear in which the skin bruises and the muscle can be pulled up underneath. A good rule of thumb for a pulled muscle is, if there is no skin discoloration, you can walk, and it is progressively getting less painful throughout the week, it will heal on its own. If you do see discoloration or you cannot walk, it is recommended you get it checked out by a health professional.

Sometimes during exercise you will feel a sharp pain in your joint, most commonly in the knees and shoulders. This is usually a yellow flag that is telling you “Be careful, you are not moving correctly!” If the sharpness and joint pain persists during the exercise it is my recommendation to stop, analyze your form and resistance load, and then retry. If having proper form and reduced load continues to stress the joint find an alternative to the joint stressing exercise in order to prevent unnecessary breakdown of the underlying tissue. If this pain has been experienced before in the past, it is likely that a visit to your local physical therapist would prevent further stress and would provide input for improving your form.

While there are a myriad of possible injuries that can occur, the above listed are some of the most common. Below I have listed some easy, safe, and effective ways to prevent injuries briefly. My next article will discuss these steps in greater depth.

  • Dynamic warm-up. Simply put, this is a 5-minute long active stretching and muscle contraction session that emphasizes the muscles and joints that you specifically will utilize when performing your exercises. An example is a jumping progression if you are playing a sport like basketball.
  • Static stretching. Static stretching or stretching without moving has come under some fire recently. Some say it hampers performance, while others say it helps. Research has shown is that overstretching before power generating activities actually robs you of power. Save your static stretching for after the performance in order to limit your risk of injury.
  • P.R.I.C.E. If you do pull a muscle or injure a joint, remember this acronym. Protection Rest Ice Compression Elevation. This is the key to taking an acute injury and preventing an acute injury from becoming a long-term chronic injury. Do not try and “play through” an injury as this can cause an increase in the trauma and ultimately delay recovery.
  • Progress slowly. One of the biggest mistakes beginners to exercise make is to “go big” fast and furiously. Most of the time this leads to excessive DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) or a serious injury and derails the motivation to continue exercising. Start slow and know your limits. Working with a personal trainer who knows your history and personal goals is one of the best ways to progress without risking injury from over-exertion

Remember, the best way to protect your body and keep it going for a long time is to meet with a health professional prior to beginning your exercise regimen. This will allow the individual to examine areas of possible injury. Physical therapists specialize in evaluation of the human body mechanics as well as musculoskeletal disorders. An orthopedist can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications as well as authorize imaging such as a MRI or X-Ray.

Exercise hard and push yourself to achieve your goals! Listen to your body however, because lifelong fitness is a marathon and not a sprint. See you next month for another informative installment of PT Corner!

Dr. Daniel J. Lee, D.P.T is a Doctor of Physical therapy specializing in orthopedic manual therapy and sports rehab. Daniel is a monthly contributor to the FQ10 newsletter . Dr. Daniel can be reached at Water & Sports Physical Therapy at 858-488-3597 or at

Disclaimer: No information presented in this article can replace medical advice. Before beginning any program consult a physician. The author and publisher of this article are not responsible for any injury sustained from advice contained in this article.

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