man holding back in pain

Every serious trainee experiences pain or discomfort from time to time. But as you’ve probably realised, not all pain is created equal.

Certain aches occur from regular training and go away within days. But sometimes, pain can indicate that you’re in trouble and should take a step back. Learning to differentiate between the two is essential for your longevity and progress.

Without further ado, let’s discuss two common types of pain, what each means, and how you should approach them.

What Is Tendon Pain And What Causes It?
Tendon pain is a condition known as tendonitis (or tendinitis) that has symptoms such as:

  • Pain around a joint
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move the joint through its full range of motion

If left untreated, tendonitis can develop into a chronic condition that can keep you out of the gym for a long time and stop you from leading a normal life.

Repetitive motions are typically the most common cause of tendonitis, but tendon pain can also result from impact to an area, such as from falling.

Joint Pain vs. Muscle Pain
Both types of pain can occur for various reasons, but muscle pain is typically less severe and often responds to rest.

In many cases, people experience muscle pain in the form of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which occurs when we cause a significant enough disruption in our muscles. Another cause of muscle pain can be strain, which results when a muscle is stretched beyond its limits.

Muscle soreness is typically dull, lasts for a few days, limits movement to some degree, and reduces our power output for a while. In contrast, strains and other muscle injuries cause more pronounced and sometimes sharp pain that takes much longer to heal.

Joint pain can be trickier to diagnose, and finding the best treatment isn’t always easy. The type of pain typically occurs because of two things:

  1. Structural damage to the joint itself
  2. Tendonitis around a joint

The latter is often characterised by swelling and pain that’s not at the joint but close to it, typically at the point where the tendon attaches to the bone.

Unlike minor muscle injuries and soreness, tendonitis lasts between two and four weeks, given rest. Tendonitis can also last for six or more weeks, especially if you continue to move the affected area. The primary reason is that blood supply is poor around our tendons, which slows down the delivery of oxygen and nutrients the body needs to repair the tissue.

How to Avoid Tendon Pain
One of the best ways to avoid tendon pain is to keep your training volume and intensity moderate. Doing so will limit the amount of stress you place on your connective tissues, reducing the risk of tendonitis.

If that’s not possible because you’re training for a competition or are doing a high-volume block, varying your training is a good alternative. Doing multiple exercises is an effective way to change the stress you place on your joints and connective tissues. For example, instead of only doing back squats three times per week, do:

  • Back squats on Monday
  • Front squats on Wednesday
  • Goblet squats on Friday

As a result, the risk of excessive structural damage goes down. Plus, you still get to do plenty of effective training.

November 22, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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