Pain or Soreness? How to prevent injury

Are you sore or are you in pain?

Making the distinction can be the difference between injury and progress.

In any activity aches and pains will show up; it’s just the nature of physical exertion. Add in the stimulus of a CrossFit workout (which amps up intensity, full body engagement) and you can definitely ‘feel’ your workout a day or two later.

And while injury rates in CrossFit are on par or lower in relation to other sports, we strive to make it as safe as walking your dog. We know ensuring proper form and technique and building a solid strength and movement base over time will reduce the the risk of injury dramatically. Add to that a sufficient warmup and cooldown and you have a recipe for resiliency.

But what about those days when despite moving as perfectly as possible, you are just feeling beat up and sore? Should you take the day off (potentially missing out on that days progress), or push through the discomfort and continue training (potentially running the risk of injury)?

There are three ‘feelings’ we will look at:

  1. When completing the movement you get a sharp, burning or shooting sensation that immediately prevents you from moving how you typically would.  This is an instant ‘stop what you are doing’ message.  The first thing you should do is let your coach know.  Maybe your muscles need to be warmed up better, maybe your joint mechanics need a little greasing up, or maybe you need to switch up the movement/load.  We can help you assess this and put you on the path to the best workout for that day.
  2. Dull ache that is distracting, but not debilitating.  Starting the warm-up your quads are sore and stiff.  Squatting feels tough and you are not sure if this is normal muscle soreness.  Does the pain get better or worse with movement?  If it gets better then rest is not the answer.  Movement lubricates our tissue and blood flow helps clear out the junk from your previous workouts.  Reduce the weight, reduce the volume, move for quality and it will speed up your recovery.
  3. Dull ache that gets worse with movement.  You describe the feeling in your shoulder as a 4/10 pain and you did a lot of pull ups 2 days ago.  We start the warmup and as you work through your shoulders the ache goes to 5/10.  This would be an indication to change up the movement that day and solve the problem at hand.  Problems that get worse with movement generally have an underlying issue and could indicate overuse.  Let your coach know and we will help get you into an exercise that allows you to keep moving pain free.

These are general guidelines, yet they can assist you in safely mitigating painful movements, or even better, in avoiding injury.

If you’re unsure about whether you’re experiencing pain or soreness, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare specialist for further advice and help. We have a ton of practitioners within our community and can help connect you to the help you need.  This summary is meant to provide some assistance into movement choices, not as a substitute for a proper assessment.

Kyle Woeller is a coach and RMT at Alchemy CrossFit

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