Post-workout pain: What’s okay and what’s not

By: May 24, 2013
pain after exercising

Feeling the burn after a workout may be a good thing, but working out shouldn’t be a regular source of pain.

We’ve all heard the saying “no pain, no gain” and those who work out hear it on the regular from their trainers and others at the gym. We expect some pain or discomfort when we work out hard, but have you ever stopped to wonder what pain is normal and what isn’t following a workout? Here are some post-workout pains that are okay and some that you need to worry about.

Feeling nauseous when you start a new workout or exercise at a greater intensity than you’re used to is normal and often just a sign of dehydration. In some cases, you may even vomit from an intense workout. Taking a short break and a drink of water is usually all it takes to start feeling better.

When to worry: If the nausea persists more than a few hours after the workout then you may be battling some kind of bug. See your doctor.

Like nausea, a headache when you work out hard or change your workout routine is normal and often goes away within a few minutes of drinking some water and taking a short break.

When to worry: If the headache persists more than a day or two or is the most intense headache you ever had, then it could be a sign of internal bleeding in the brain, issues with a blood vessel, or even a tumor. See a doctor right away as this could be a medical emergency.

Burning Muscle Pain
The term “no pain, no gain” actually came from the burning pain that you feel in your muscles after a good workout. That burn and fatigue is normal and is the result of protons building up as a result of overworking our muscles. To make the pain go away, just stop what you’re doing and rest. It’s a sign that your muscles are in need of a break.

When to worry: If the burning is really intense and persists for more than a day following the workout, then it could be the sign of a serious underlying medical condition. See a doctor.

Your muscles need blood to keep them moving when you’re exerting them with exercise, leaving less blood flowing to your brain during a strenuous workout. If you feel lightheaded; lean forward so that your head is closer to your heart so that you can encourage the flow to where you need it.

When to worry: If you continue to feel lightheaded for more than an hour after the workout there could be something more serious going on. And, if you lose consciousness/faint, you should see a doctor if there’s a chance that you’ve injured your head or another body part on your way down.

A Stich in Your Side
Running, aerobics, and any other exercises that tug at the connective tissues holding your organs in place is normal and will usually pass if you stop the exercise for a moment and massage the area.

When to worry: If the cramping doesn’t seem to be the usual “stitch” type of pain or if it becomes more intense over time. See a doctor to rule out appendicitis or another underlying condition.

Feeling the infamous burn after a workout may be a good thing, but working out shouldn’t be a regular source of pain. Take the time to learn to workout properly and be aware of any symptoms that don’t seem quite right.