Pains you should never ignore when exercising

There’s a temptation when exercising to ignore pain. After all, aren’t little niggles just part of the deal when it comes to getting fit? Although…


Pain when exercising

There’s a temptation when exercising to ignore pain. After all, aren’t little niggles just part of the deal when it comes to getting fit? Although it’s perfectly normal to ache a bit after a challenging workout, it’s important to observe the difference between discomfort, which is acceptable, and pain, which is not.

However, there are times when you should ignore ‘no pain, no gain’, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Most importantly, if you experience chest pain with or without unusual shortness of breath, you should consult a doctor as an emergency, but there are other less immediately serious problems which require swift attention too, especially if you don’t want to end up with a serious injury. These are pains you must never ignore:

Sharp pain – sharp or stabbing pains are an immediate indication that something is wrong. Sometimes, sharp pains are a one-off; you’ve stretched too far, or the weights are too heavy. Rest for a few days, and if the pain doesn’t recur, remember the lesson not to overreach yourself, but don’t worry too much. Sharp pains which happen more than once can indicate tendon or bone damage, so do consult a doctor if it becomes a regular issue.

Painful swelling – pain accompanied by swelling is never something to ignore, as it suggests inflammation and our body working overtime to divert blood and other substances to the site to heal it, hence the puffiness around the joint. Again, rest should help, but if the swelling returns as soon as you start exercising again, it’s time to take advice.

Pain in a specific area – localised pain suggests a specific problem, especially if it is a common occurrence when carrying out a particular range of movement or a particular exercise. It differs from a generalised ache in its intensity, and usually stops when you stop moving it. Recurring pain like this must always be investigated. Last summer, when I had my stress fracture the discomfort was localised to my hip joint and felt particularly painful when going upstairs- I knew that this needed investigating as the pain was too intense to ignore.

Pain that gets worse, or turns from discomfort into pain – this can be quite a difficult pain to identify, as if you’re exercising over the course of an hour or so, you might expect to experience sore muscles or tired joints. It may help to think of it on a pain scale rather than thinking of it as discomfort; once it reaches a five on a scale of one to ten, stop.

Pain you can hear – if a sharp pain is accompanied by a popping sound, you’re most likely looking at a tear or even a partial dislocation. However, for those of you with arthritic or pre-arthritic joints, pops and cracks can be quite normal, and not painful. Again, it’s important to listen to your body and know what’s normal for you.

Low-grade sports injuries can creep up on you and become more serious, so it’s worth visiting the LBH MRI scans unit like I did to speak to a specialist so that you can get back to your best as quickly as possible. I know from personal experience, the frustrations of having a serious sports injury and the importance of getting it checked out. My stress fracture was only diagnosed after an MRI scan, as the cracks in my bone were too fine to show up on an X-Ray alone.

Post written in collaboration with HCA Healthcare.

Do you tend to ignore pain or get it checked out? Have you ever had an MRI scan?


  1. Great ad informative list! I’v definitely got to a point in my running career (career? You know what I mean! Lifecycle or whathaveyou) that I know not to b e an idiot about running through injuries. It’s worth far too much hassle at the end of the day. Hope you’re alright xx

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