Feeling a bit achey following your workout can be sort of a badge of honor. Aching muscles that make a single stair difficult to conquer are a reminder of the hard yards you put in the day before. Did you crush your workout or did it crush you? And how do you differentiate between normal post workout muscle pain and an injury?
You're not exempt
Just because you work out on the reg, doesn't mean you won't experience some post workout pain. If you are trying something new that your body isn't familiar with you will probably experience some pain. Just remember that pain doesn't necessarily mean gain but it can lead to injury.
What sort of pain?
Is it dull and achey or sharp and sudden? If the pain you feel is stiff, tight or achey delayed muscle onset soreness (DOMS) might be to blame. If the pain is sharp, sudden or shooting you might have an injury that needs some attention.
It keeps hurting
Unlike DOMS, an injury doesn't ease up after a day or two. Everybody is different but you should reach your peak soreness between 24 and 48 hours after activity. If your pain is not decreasing after a couple of days there might be something more serious going on and if it's not improving it might be time to check in with your GP.
It doesn't feel better with rest or exercise
If your pain doesn't improve or gets worse with rest or gentle warm up exercise, stop exercising! DOMS should subside once those muscles get warmed up but if you are still feeling pain let those muscles rest.
Snaps, crackles or pops
You know your in trouble if your body starts making breakfast cereal noises. Have you ever been at the gym and felt a pop?It's usually a sure sign that something's wrong but when you are pumped up and preoccupied you may not notice or pay attention. A good rule to follow is "if you feel it pop, you should stop".
If you think you might be injured, schedule an appointment with your GP. Not only will they be able to diagnose your pain and rule out any potential injury, but they can also help create a specific plan to get you back on track (which may include massage).
And remember an injury doesn't mean you have to stop your fitness routine altogether but you may need to alter the types of activities you do until you recover so ask your doctor what alternative exercises might work for you.