SS 147 – Soreness Vs Pain- What’s Ok and What’s Not?
Episode 147 Show Notes
Grant and Heavey focus their discussion around muscle soreness – what causes it, how it can be prevented, how it’s different from pain, and what makes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS.
[00:48] Wild, Wild West
Much of the West Coast is experiencing wildfires with the exception of Colorado. Heavey’s house in Colorado is inundated with smoke making the place super hazy due to all the fires.
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[03:10] Does Running Make You Shit Blood?
Grant hates running for personal reasons and he’s quite happy he has another reason to hate running – it makes you shit blood. How true is this?
Okay so Grant reads this Deadspin article about rectal bleeding. The writer says he started running this year and when he began to increase his running to run a half marathon, he started having rectal bleeding. He got scoped, but nothing was found. So he was wondering how common this is and whether it will go away.
Then as Grant read further down the comments, he found how common it was. Now, Heavey isn’t quite sure about this. He’s done his fair share of running in his life and has never heard of this.
With that being said, there is a lot of bleeding that comes up with running. For instance, people that do the longer distance running have to put something on their nipples because they can bleed from chaffing, Heavey has never heard of butt bleeding.
[04:35] The Study on Shit Running
Now, the writer mentions a study that was done. In fact, it was a real-life, scientific study referenced on the PubMed. They studied 109 runners and surveyed their bowel function as it relates to running. 16% of the group reported to have shit blood. That’s nearly one in five. Worse, 62% had to stop to take a shit and 12% had to shit while they’re running.
Can Grant now get away with not having to exercise? He claims anything that makes you shit blood is not healthy. Heavey mentions that as they learned a few episodes back, it makes sense that you’re going to live longer if you drink more.
[06:30] What’s the Heck with Muscle Soreness?
One of the biggest reasons Grant hates running is the soreness he gets. Everytime, his leg muscles just get sore. He describes it as the worst feeling.
One of the show’s listeners submitted a question about muscle soreness. Joe, also a nutrition client of Heavey’s, asks what the difference is between soreness and pain. He says he has brought a lot of people into their barbell club and as soon as they felt soreness in their lower back after a couple of deadlift sessions, they thought they did it all wrong and tweaked something and that they had to stop lifting. Then they’re shocked when they feel fine a couple of weeks later.
[07:35] Pain vs. Soreness: Can You Tell the Difference?
Grant doesn’t remember having any muscle soreness when he went to Heavey’s gym. In his mind, he just knew the difference between pain from injury and having muscle soreness.
Heavey agrees with Grant on this. Growing up playing sports and being generally active, he has developed awareness of knowing whether or not what he’s experiencing is muscle soreness or pain due to an injury. His guess is that these people Joe might have brought to the gym haven’t worked out in their life.
Soreness is painful. They’re experiencing this pain and they’re having trouble distinguishing it from something that actually could be a real injury. When Heavey feels something that’s sharp or biting or something affecting a specific joint, that’s when he starts to wonder if he messed something up.
But muscle soreness, though it can be severe, feels more like a more nagging thing. For instance, if you have a real muscle pull in your hamstring, it will be a sharp feeling at a specific point. But if it’s just sore, your hamstring just feels tight and awkward to walk.
[09:45] Why Our Muscles Get Sore
Studies done on some individuals have found that muscle soreness is one of the major contributors, especially to newbies, in maintaining motivation to train. Coming up, it’s one of the major deterrents for people to get started. This sucks, says Grant, since this is something that doesn’t dissipate over time. But it gets a little less extreme.
When you first start working out, one of the major contributors to soreness is novelty to your movements. If you’re doing a movement that’s something you’re not used to, then you’re going to get sore. But if you’ve been doing it, say three days a week for three months, you’re going to be sore from it but not anything like the first time when you did it.
[11:42] Soreness Going Both Ways
Grant agrees with Heavey about soreness as a key component to people who exercise. This can work both ways. For one group of people, they just don’t want to feel sore and so they avoid it. Another group of people may think if they don’t get sore, they didn’t get a good workout. But once you get over the soreness, it doesn’t necessarily mean you stop getting a good workout.
[12:23] The Murph Workout
Heavey cites “Murph” as an example of this where you do a load of different movements. You’re running the mile, doing 300 squats, 200 push ups, 100 pull ups and running the mile again – whew! Plus, it’s supposed to be with a weighted vest. Heavey has done this without a weight vest a couple of times.
He thought he couldn’t function as a human for a full week after doing that and that nothing else has ever produced greater soreness in his body. But he is pretty sure he got very little out of that in terms of progress toward any goal he was trying to accomplish.
The soreness is something that many people chase. But they should understand that doing the Murph is a challenge and it should be something people do for that reason alone, not that it’s going to make you a fitter person because it’s not.
[13:35] Are You Chasing Soreness?
Grant adds that people chasing soreness will eventually realize that it’s setting them back because it’s going to reduce the time they train next.
Just like with taking performance-enhancing drugs. They don’t make you faster or stronger. But they recover faster, so you can train again more often and quicker. It’s that training that makes you stronger and faster and better, not the soreness. They’re recovering faster because they’re taking those performance enhancers.
[14:31] What Causes DOMS
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS is your body reacting to some activity you’ve done but it reacts more strongly to novel activities, which are things that are new to you.
For instance, Heavey has never regularly played golf. And when he did, he got super sore since swinging the club was a new movement for him. It’s not something his body was accustomed to. Novel movements are not necessarily bad but they do contribute more to soreness.
Another thing that can contribute to DOMS is accentuating the eccentrics. This means slowing down the lowering element of the movement. For example, you’re doing slow squats all the way down or lowering from the pull-up bar. Doing these things are more likely to increase your soreness.
[15:40] Soreness Can Set You Back
Again, this doesn’t mean you’re getting fitter or bigger muscles. No research supports this whatsoever. But this could make you sore. And if you’re constantly doing this and in search of soreness, like Grant said, it’s going to set you back. Either you’re going to have to train fewer days or you won’t be able to push as hard in your next training session. You’re going to be too sore and you won’t be able to move like you would otherwise.
[16:17] The Mechanism Behind Muscle Soreness
Heavey says there’s a lot of theories thrown around regarding muscle soreness but we really don’t fully understand the whole mechanism for this. There is no research that has shown one specific thing that contributes to muscle soreness. What we know though is that exercises that accentuate the eccentric movements increase soreness.
[17:03] What to Do to Get Rid of Soreness – Time & Movement
There’s so much research done on ways to mitigate soreness, but not much value has come out of this. In fact, it just disproves every method of reducing soreness. A bunch of supplements claim they can reduce the soreness, but Heavey believes what actually works is time. Within a couple of days, you’re going to get less sore or it’s going to totally go away. Worse, soreness can last in three or four days.
Heavey also points out this common scenario where oftentimes we see people that bust out in the gym and go straight to work and sit behind the desk for eight hours straight after lifting. This is something that can increase soreness since they’ve reduced their movement.
If you’re someone who does this, Heavey suggests that you at least get up and walk around a few times throughout the day after you’ve lifted. Then this could help mitigate some of the soreness.
[18:42] The Catch with Anti-Inflammatory Medication
We all know these drugs can reduce soreness but there’s a catch with this. It’s inflammation that causes the benefit from exercise. So inflammation isn’t bad per se. It’s something that happens in the body and when it’s happening in response to exercise, the body adapts to become faster and stronger.
But when you’re using anti-inflammatory medication, you may feel less sore but at the same time, you’ll be reducing your body’s capacity to repair itself from the exercise you’ve done. So you’ve reduced the results you’re going to get from that training.
[19:50] Stretches and Foam Rolling to Reduce DOMS
Research has not shown that specific stretches can help reduce DOMS. But Heavey believes any form of movement including stretching or using a foam roller will help mitigate soreness.
[21:38] Protein-Carb Supplement Actually Works!
One supplementation that may actually work to help reduce muscle soreness is protein-carbohydrate. Its supplementation while training has been shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness. (ex. protein shake and banana, or whey protein after exercise) In this research, they were doing a whey protein + dextrose type mixture which is just a little sugar they mixed in with their protein shake)
[22:40] Pilates Made Grant Sore! Why???
Grant recalls doing Pilates was one of those times he was extremely sore. This was at the peak of his fitness and he just found himself destroyed the next day. Interestingly, no weight was involved but just plain holding and pulsing. Heavey explains the reason for this – novelty.
[23:58] Go Slow with Rhabdo
Lastly, Grant and Heavey point out it’s a different case with Rhabdo (short for rhabdomyolysis), where the soreness becomes unhealthy because this is an injury that requires medical attention. Check out Episode 120 where they did an episode on Rhabdo. It’s a condition characterized by excessive muscle damage that compromises kidney function and is possibly fatal. If you find yourself having dark urine and there’s excessive swelling (real, serious swelling that doesn’t go away) on any muscle group in your body then check into an ER.
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