Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Sometimes it just needs a bit of time, and other times it needs to be taken seriously*. You’ve probably had that type of pain that just needed a day and everything went back to normal, but you’ve also had that pain that just got worse.
It can feel like a guessing game. So when should you take it seriously?
The intensity of the pain: Mild pain can be ok. We usually grade on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst). Generally, if it’s 1-2 then it’s probably okay. When the number starts to feel higher, then it’s time to see what’s going on. It could simply mean that you need to use different shoes but could also mean there’s some damage has happened.
Type of pain: Dull pain can happen. We often feel that dull pain when we’re resistance training. What you don’t want is sharp, achy, or bruised pain, etc. I have yet to encounter sharp pain that is good when training. It’s usually sharp to make you pay attention. Dull pain can be a warning sign but it depends on what’s happened. It tends to make people unsure if it’s normal since they’ve felt it after a workout.
How long does it stay: This one is tricky. If you’ve ever had a day where you trained hard (or were first starting), that “pain” can last for a few days. The after-workout “pain” tends to go away faster the more you workout. Warning pain tends to last longer after each training session. Sometimes it will hurt only after training, eventually, it’ll start hurting during and after the training sessions.
Where is the pain: If you can pinpoint the pain in a certain area, that’s not great. When it comes to muscle strains, you can sometimes follow the muscle fibers that are irritated.
This is not a full list, and there are exceptions. Since everyone is different, including their situation then some things will not be as I mentioned above. The best way is to get it checked when you’re unsure.
*There’s another category of pain where it requires a hospital or a GP visit. Some reasons are loss of limb control, extreme pain (sometimes injuries hurt intensely the first few nights but get better, this does not), unexplained night pain (some injuries increase pain at night because of your sleep position, this is not the same thing).