Everyone understands pain, soreness and fatigue on some level, because we’ve all had them. Problem is, some people don’t quite know the difference between the three, and sometimes misrepresent the state of their bodies. This is concerning because to continue exercising under certain conditions is dangerous, such as when pain or fatigue is present due to an underlying or developing injury. It is imperative to understand one’s body and what the signals it sends mean.
Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor or physical therapist, and my intention with this post is to create some body awareness and help people understand how their body may be feeling, and whether or not their expression of those feelings are in tune.
Call it Pain
Pain is typified by, and this probably is not news to anyone, sharp, short and sudden sensations that accompany a certain activity. Pain draws our attention strongly and immediately to certain areas of the body.
Now, pain is different in type and intensity for everyone, and being in tune with one’s body is important for reading into it. I know which pains, when throwing or pitching, are incidental and aren’t telling me anything about the health of my arm or body. These I largely ignore, because experience has taught me that they never manifest into anything pathological. Pitchers commonly have little pains here and there that are just a natural part of the violent act of throwing. Listening to one’s body and having experience with it is important, because one cannot become consumed with every little ache or pain that crops up. It’s too stressful.
But some pain is an indicator of present injury or developing injury, and these need to be attended to. These are usually stronger and don’t go away in a day or two, and may not respond to pain medication, therapy, ice, or other treatments. If they do respond, then they will probably work themselves out with therapy, but they should not be ignored, and the activity should be backed off.
During my rehab I have had little pains appear at different times and in different places. Some of them I ignore, and they go away, and others I have had to back off my throwing or training until my arm could catch up and recover. The key is understanding your body, and listening to it, and always being prudent about things. Hammering away is not going to solve things when your body needs rest.
Call it Soreness
Soreness is present usually after a hard workout following a long period of inactivity, or an unusually stressful workout. Its not the same as pain, though some people will claim that a part of their body “hurts” and they need to rest. Soreness can indicate a developing injury, but more often it is probably the result of a new and taxing physical stimulus. Soreness is typified by that burning feeling that encompasses larger areas of the body, and is usually very general and not pinpoint in nature.
I have found that the best cure for my soreness is to keep the exercise regular. If I am sore after a hard workout I won’t take off until it fades away, which could be up to a week, but rather will continue my regimen. The soreness seems to get flushed out by this and usually recedes much faster than if I were to rest it.
After a start early in the season I will be sore, but will still lightly throw the next day and then increase my workload the subsequent days. Rest is probably indicated when one can barely move from it, but other than that I have found that getting some exercise, or throwing a little for pitchers, is usually beneficial.
Call it Fatigue
Fatigue isn’t like the other two, because there isn’t usually a concrete sensation to go with it, other than aches and deadness. Sharp or burning sensations aren’t there, but rather the muscles just don’t want to go.
For pitchers this is a situation that calls for rest, because the arm is depleted and it just needs to recharge. The hazard with throwing hard when fatigued is that mechanics get sloppy, and biomechanical laxity can cause more stress on all of your soft tissues. You always want to be strong enough, when throwing hard, to maintain the highest quality mechanics possible. Throw through fatigue too hard and too often, and some pain and soreness are going to appear, making things worse.
Call it Correctly
The important message here is to understand what your body is telling you, and to know it well enough to take the appropriate action. All too often young pitchers will say their arms hurt when they are sore, or are sore when they are hurt, and the indicated paths to recovery for both are quite different. Little pains and big pains are different, and should always be monitored, but may or may not lead to injury.
When rehabbing from an injury there is often accompanying pains and tightnesses and sorenesses, and they, like all others, have to be analyzed to see if they are part of the healing process (which they often are) or a sign that progression is beyond the limits of the body. But overall, people usually have an intuitive sense of when something is wrong, but over-analyzation of every pain can make for one neurotic and sleepless athlete. The key is learning to know thyself.