Strengthening exercises should not be painful. However, it is not uncommon to experience discomfort afterward. This may be after a few hours or even the next day. Individuals who are used to exercise will recognize this as the ‘healthy’ muscle ache indicative of a hard work-out. However, those not used to such sensations often confuse it with re-injury or aggravation of their back pain. In fact, in those with chronic or recurrent pain, any sensation in the back area will immediately be interpreted as ‘my back pain’, even though the cause may be completely different.
Learning ‘good’ from ‘bad’ pain is essential for making progress. This may have to be taught by a therapist or other practitioner. Adequate warm-up, controlled exercise with slow resistance increments, and sufficient stretching along with modalities such as heat and ice will minimize discomfort from your workout.
Performing exercises correctly is essential in maximizing their benefit and reducing risk of injury. Isolating muscle groups improves exercise specificity, and avoiding excessively heavy resistance will augment this. Individuals at the gym lifting those enormous dumbbells by swinging their arms and arching their back are giving the arms a poor workout and risking back or shoulder injury. By using lighter weights with smooth, controlled movement of the arms, you will build more muscle, increase endurance, and avoid damage. As a rule, think posture first and form second. Once you start to compromise either of these it means the weight you are using is too heavy!
Bad Pain Indications
The following are indicators that you are doing more harm than good with your exercises:
• Sudden sharp pain that occurs during exercise.
• Pain that radiates or spreads beyond the exercised area.
• Pain that fails to subside after resting the muscle for 2 to 3 days.
• Pain that persists and prevents you from making progress in your program.