All bodybuilders predict they will feel pain in the next training. It can be an itching in the shoulder when you lift your arm in a certain way, a strong biceps congestion for Scott’s bench high repetitions, or that sort of deaf pain placed in your lower back for a couple of days. Pain gets involved in all this situations, but it leaves the details outside.
Continuously moving kilos and kilos of steel damage the muscular fibres and, as we all know, the body reparation process is what Ronnie Coleman gets…well…Ronnie Coleman.
However, there is nuisance, and there is pain. To help us to distinguish temporary pains from dangerous pains, we asked Dr. Nick DiNubile, orthopaedic surgeon specialized in sports medicine, to explain us what those determinant decisions are.
‘Athletes learn to listen to their bodies, to know the difference between good and bad pain’. He says. ‘A Hard training is not always comfortable, but experience shows us how to work with pain and to stop when it is necessary’. We have here the answers to some decisive and peremptory matters related to pain. This article is not intended to treat or diagnose illness or injuries. In case of doubt, ask a doctor.
1. What kind of pain requires doctor’s attention?
All pains are important, but we have to distinguish pains that warn us about something serious and the temporary ones. ‘Every severe and sudden pain in any part of the body, specially related with what we do, demands my attention’, DiNubile explains. ‘Specially, if it is a strong pain or involves swelling, haemorrhage or a loss of movement in the articulation’.
But not feeling pain until the next day does not mean nothing happens.
‘Training is excellent at hiding certain nuisances because, once we have warmed up and endorphins have been poured into our blood torrent, we can workout hardly and the body will not tell something is wrong, especially if we have a recurrent injury’ DiNubile explains. ‘We can feel fine during training and by the night or the next morning, discover that something is going wrong’. DiNubile advices that if pain does not quickly disappears, comes back or ads weakness or nuisances, we should immediately see a doctor.
2. How can I distinguish between twinges and injuries?
Twinges, as many sort of pain, have different degrees of nuisance. ‘That congestion we feel during training or the slight next-day twinges which have a symmetrical character and are not too annoying, are not worth worrying’. DiNubile assures. ‘They are usually a sign of progress ‘. But delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a more severe version of the classic post-exercise nuisances, and they appear after high-intensity training.
They have to be felt, however, on both sides of body and in the middle of the muscular group. ‘If pain is stronger in the articulation area, it might be a tendon or articulation injury, especially if it is present only in one side’ says DiNubile. Despite resting is crucial for overcoming injuries, moderate activity can speed up recovery.
DiNubile suggests light aerobic activity in order to make the heart work. ‘A good blood flow acts as a cleaning system to eliminate waste muscular products and to clean the damage. Slight stretching, maybe a light massage or sauna are good ways to accelerate the recovering process ‘.
3. My A muscle hurts. Can I train muscle B or C?
We have to consider some things for this question. One is the experimented pain’s seriousness. Di Nubile suggest if we feel really uncomfortable, it is better to quit training for a couple of days. However, we can do weightlifting only if we pay attention to our body signs regarding the pain we feel.
‘Many exercises are compound movements that sometimes can damage the injured muscle’ Di Nubile assures. ‘If a particular exercise complicates us, we have to quit it until being heal and find a different way to workout the muscle’.
4. My knee hurts when I workout legs. What can I do?
‘If you show a slight wear under the kneecap, squats, scissors, and extensions can worsen it’ DiNubile warns. ‘You have to workout legs with intelligence’. In fact, kneecap pain syndrome is one of the problems that affect most athletes. DiNubile recommends going to a sports medicine specialist to know how to workout that area.
Generally speaking, he says: ‘Heels raises, femoral movements, adductors and abductors; help’. ‘It’s the quadriceps workout the troubled one’. Try doing leg extensions but reducing weight and the interval path, so you only use the last 15 or 20 degrees on the machine. If we do not feel pain, increase the weight and trajectory. Also make sure to stretch femoral and quadriceps.
5. My neck hurts and it is stiff. I find hard to train. What can I do?
It is likely you do not worry about your neck until it hurts. But if it does, you have to go to a doctor. Cervix vertebras are very delicate. The cause of most injuries related to weight lifting is to use more weight we can put up with, while training trunk. Once you can control your ego and lower the weight, the best way of training without compromising your neck is working unilaterally.
‘For instance, If you do press with both arms, you tend to pull with the neck’, explains DiNubile. ‘But if you workout each side individually, the neck gets more relaxed and even you isolate the muscle in a better way’. DiNubile also recommends a compound warm up by soft neck stretches, aerobics, and cutting down weight until being strictly training.
6. When we are injured, what is preferred: to use machines or to use free weights?
You may think machines, with its controlled movements and superior isolation, are better than dumbbells when training with injuries is about. But it is not necessary this way, as DiNubile says: ‘Machines offer a bit more control, a little more stability and more isolation, but we can also heal injuries with weights or resistance bands.
Even more important than weights or machines is the movement’s model. If you are doing a movement that worsens your injury, you have to find a way to change it. If your shoulder is wrong, doing military press in the machine or lifting dumbbells can make things go worse, while lateral raises may result acceptable.
Learn to distinguish which is the movement that bothers you, and try to work changing it until -once again- you are able to freely move with it.
7. My finger hurts and that compromises my grip. How can I train arms?
When we think about training biceps or triceps, press-ups and extensions come to our mind; but they are not the only way to workout your arms.
DiNubile says: ‘Certain machine’s models allow us to use our wrists to do press, which let the hands be relaxed and open’. If your gym does not have them, DiNubile recommends to bandage the finger together with its next one to have stability, although if it still compromises the grip, he suggest isometric exercises, pressing against any thing from the wrist and then bending the arm.
But, he warns: ‘If the injury is recent, any heavy exercise can produce more swelling. If the area is swelled and blue, you need to raise and rest your hand for a couple of days’.
How ill can we be?
The pain you feel is general and your nose is always sniffing. You take your temperature and you are feverish. Can you still workout? This is what Dr. DiNubile says: ‘Exercise is a medicine. Any gym addict can assure that.
But we have illness that no exercise can heal’. DiNubile suggests not to workout if we have temperature or we feel weakness or nauseas, and slow down even if we have a light flu. ‘When you are ill, you can not progress, although light training is worthy, since it will probably improve recovering’.
Analgesics can also eliminate muscular progress
Pain can be a strategy the body uses to tell us that some things are wrong, but have no need to tolerate it. There are pain killers, despite not all of them are suitable for the bodybuilders style adepts. If you got a headache, we have to take a drug with Acetaminophen, since studies have shown the muscle is not compromised, but it does not help fighting back swelling.
To alleviate it, Ibuprofen is the best option, despite it inhibits muscular development. If your articulations hurt, take Glucosamine (1500 to 2000 milligrams daily, in 2 to 3 dose) and Condroitine (800 to 1200 milligrams, in 2 to 3 dose), but wait at least 6 to 8 weeks to feel any relief.
Taking 2 to 3 grams of fish oil daily also helps keeping articulations healthy. Regarding twinges, you will have to put up them. Bearing pain is part of the professional bodybuilder learning process.