Running: how to differentiate "normal" post-workout pain from an injury?

29 April 2021

Running: how to differentiate "normal" post-workout pain from an injury?

Running: how to differentiate "normal" post-workout pain from an injury?

If you are a runner you must have felt some pain at some point in your life, either because you run just for recreation, competition, short distances, long distances, alone or in a group...

If you haven’t had a pain experience you should know someone who has, but what everyone needs to know is that not all pain is a sign of injury and, therefore, it’s important to distinguish pain from possible injury from pain considered normal in training. Knowing this, we can prevent future damage or avoid stopping running for any pain.

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The pain has to be seen as a warning that something is happening: if you have an overload in some region and that could turn into an injury, the pain will be an alert to give more attention to the region, before that overload become a more serious injury. Or else, the pain will appear after a more intense workout, a change of training, an increase in distance or some other stimulus that happens and generates the so-called “late muscle pain” normal of training - this is called “good pain” .

But then how do I know if a pain is a warning of possible injury or the normal late pain of training?

We will leave you with a simple table below that will act as a quick guide to try to help you differentiate between these two types of pain:

Pain from possible injury
Workout pain
Pain at a specific point

Diffuse pain

Pain only on one side

Pain equal or similar on both sides

Pain that lasts a week or more, always in the same place or approximate regions

Pain that lasts less than a week and passes soon

Pain that interrupts a workout

Pain that normally allows you to perform the workout

Pain that sometimes improves when the body is warm and worsens when it cools


Remembering that each body reacts differently to different stimuli, a training that may be light for one person may be more intense for another, a training that causes overload and possible injury to one person, may not cause anything to the other.

Therefore, it is important to maintain an adequate physical preparation so that risks are minimized and, in addition, always seek specialized help from a physical trainer and / or a physiotherapist for a safer practice.

By Mário Bernardino, Physiotherapist at Academia Bodylab

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