Healthy Tips & Advice

Good Pain vs. Bad Pain….How to tell the difference.

Posted on August 7, 2018

It’s that time of year again where our recreation, high school and collegiate athletes return to their sports after a long summer break.

As Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers we get asked all the time about “good pain”, is the athlete just “injured” or truly hurt?  

There is a lot of misconception about training or practicing to the point of pain.  The “No Pain , No Gain” mantra does not equal a successful athletic career.

While it is true that any exercise can cause pain, differentiating between the time to “push through it” and when to listen to your body is important.


Good Pain  

          After starting a new activity or practice, the athlete will experience some type of muscle soreness.  This typically occurs approximately 48 hours after the activity and is referred to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). 

          DOMS is short lasting and it is debatable as to exactly why it occurs.   Micro muscle trauma, metabolic stress and inflammation are some possible causes.  

Bad Pain

          Bad pain typically increases with activity and gets worse with time.  With DOMS, athletes generally feel better with activity, stretching and their pain begins to subside.  


There are some key differences between the 2 types of pain. They include:

          1)      Bad pain usually occurs rapidly, athlete will feel a pull, tear, or pop.

          2)      Bad pain can also be associated with increased warmth and swelling.

          3)      Bad pain may affect just one side where DOMS you most likely will feel soreness on both sides of the body.


Bad pain is your body’s signal that something has gone wrong and should not be ignored.   Pay attention to your body!


Still have questions or concerns?  Please feel free to contact one of our professional Physical Therapists.

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