Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Listen to Your Body: If It Doesn’t Feel ‘Good,’ It Probably Isn’t

Image of Three soldiers running on blacktop road in the country. Army Pfc. Victor Vasquez and Spc. Christian Kerkado-Colon run with Spc. Alexander Haydon as he finishes the two-mile run portion of the Army Combat Fitness Test at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, July 26 (Photo by Samantha Tyler, U.S. Army Materiel Command).

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Pain Management

Whatever you call it – training, working out, exercise, PT – some level of intense physical activity at regular intervals is part and parcel of being in the military.

This could include anything from rucking several pounds of combat gear, running, or playing sports to lifting weights.

One of the keys to a service member’s ability to stay physically fit and avoid undue long-term damage to their body is knowing the difference between “normal” aches and pains and what may be signs of something more serious.

“There are several indicators that your body will give you when determining whether you are experiencing normal discomfort or ‘good’ pain, in a way, versus pain that needs to be addressed,” said Air Force Capt. Kameryn Corcoran, a physical therapist at David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

Some of the key indicators, she said, are:

  • Pain during activity
  • Duration, or pain that continues after ending an activity
  • Pain that limits the duration or intensity of your activities

“These are the things you want to look for when thinking about whether to push through or stop,” said Corcoran.

Running injuries, specifically, are usually recurrent or nagging aches or pains that start and progress without obvious injury, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Stoll, a physical therapist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Florida.

Stoll said these injuries normally fall into two categories: training errors or overuse, and lack of preparation.

“The first category can result in aches, pains, and declining performance and can be signs that you’re overloading and need a couple days off to recover,” he said. “The latter can cause plantar fasciitis, hamstring tightness, patellofemoral pain syndrome, ‘runner’s knee’ or IT (iliotibial) band syndrome. Others may develop hip or back pain with running due to stiffness of the leg muscles or trunk.”

While these types of conditions are not usually a sign of serious injury, they can and should be dealt with to prevent the symptoms from worsening and to optimize continued performance, said Stoll.

It’s essential to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” pain. Good pain or soreness is a normal response to pushing your body past its current level of tissue load tolerance. Stiffness and aches after working out can be completely normal, said Corcoran.

“If you push past that soreness and overload the capacity your body has at that point, that’s when you start to get closer to a risk of injury,” she said. “Often, I’ll tell patients to adhere to a 10% progression rule. If you’re increasing your activity more than 10% per week, you are at risk for overloading your tissues or structures at a rate faster than what they are able to adapt or recover at properly.

If any pain persists longer than three to five days, it’s likely a good idea to consult a medical professional as this may be a sign of potential injury.

In terms of pain levels, “Try not to overthink it,” Corcoran said.

A good analogy – and a simplified version of the Defense and Veterans Pain Rating Scale – is to think of a stoplight.

“Green light is if you’re experiencing pain between a zero and a three. If you’re between a four to a six, you’re more in the yellow light range and you should start to slow down and think about what may be causing your discomfort – technique, posture, etc. Seven to 10 means you should stop and potentially seek medical attention, especially if it’s acute pain,” said Corcoran.

Signs that an injury or pain may be serious include sharp pain that prevents your normal range of motion or prevents a part of your body from moving altogether, pain associated with a significant amount of swelling, deformity or bruising, or pain that lasts past the five-day threshold, especially if a person hasn’t put any stress on that part of the body since the pain began. You should also seek help if the pain is constant, gets worse or keeps you awake at night.

Regardless of whether or not the pain is something serious, giving your body time to recover is always recommended.

“The key to building strength is the time during which your body is recovering,” Corcoran said. “That’s when your muscles rebuild. That’s when your structures get stronger and adapt."

If you’re not allowing for that recovery time, she said, we’re breaking down our body without getting the positive benefits.

In the event that an injury is serious, the quicker the intervention, the higher the likelihood of a quick recovery.

A sprained ankle for example, can turn into chronic pain or may place undue stress on other parts of your body surrounding the ankle due to overcompensation if left unaddressed.

“We can get you back to full function a lot faster than if you ignore the signs of overtraining and push through the warning signs,” said Corcoran.

When it comes to running, Corcoran recommended changing your running shoes every three to six months or every 250 to 500 miles, depending on how frequently you run.

“Running is a high impact sport, so you want to make sure your body is ready for that impact and you’re loading it in a way in which it’s able to adapt properly without exposing yourself to an increased risk of injury,” she said.

You also may be interested in...

Yoga Shield: Building Mental and Physical Resiliency

Article
8/9/2022
Airman teaches yoga to a variety of Airmen in Springfield, Ohio, so they learn mental and physical resiliency.

Airman teaches yoga to decrease stress, enhance resiliency

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness

The Need for Speed Requires Intense Training

Article
7/18/2022
 Military personnel conducts routine ops in US 3rd Fleet

Tom Cruise has nothing on real military pilots and their training.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Education & Training | Physical Fitness

Tips for Enjoying Outdoor Activities as Summer Arrives

Article
6/27/2022
People biking on a trail in protective gear

Biking, paddle boarding, swimming, and hiking are good ways to get outside in nature in the summer.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Summer Safety

Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Nurse Powerlifts Her Way to Winner's Podium

Article
4/19/2022
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class. Photo used with permission from DVXT Images. (Photo: Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Public Affairs)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Holly Vickers competed in the United States Powerlifting Association’s Virginia Beach Classic on March 26, 2022, taking home the top spot for her weight class.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Pins in Your Ears: How Acupuncture Can Help Relieve Your Pain

Article
3/22/2022
Dr. Arnyce Pock, associate dean and medical acupuncturist at USU, oversees graduate nursing students at USU performing battlefield acupuncture for pain management, in February 2022. The course is intended to train health care personnel who are not physicians or acupuncturists, such as advanced practice nurses, to provide BFA to patients for pain management. (Photo: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences)

Battlefield acupuncture is a modified version of ear acupuncture that can be used to treat any type of pain. USU trains health care personnel to perform the technique.

Recommended Content:

Pain Management

Caring for Recruits' Injuries is Key to Success at Basic Training

Article
2/23/2022
U.S. Marines wait for instruction from their Senior Drill Instructor after concluding a motivational run at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, on March 11, 2021.

Injuries at bootcamp can end a military career before it starts. That’s why trainers and drill instructors take countless precautions to ensure trainees stay fit and healthy.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Readiness Capabilities | Injury Prevention

Why Today’s ‘Gen Z’ is at Risk for Boot Camp Injuries

Article
2/8/2022
Military personnel during boot camp

Today’s military recruits are more likely than ever to sustain a serious injury at their initial military training. Here’re some tips for how to prepare before shipping out.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Readiness Capabilities | Injury Prevention

A Healthy Mind and Body: The Psychological Aspects Weight Loss

Article
1/27/2022
Marines with 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, participate in a regimental run to celebrate St. Barbara’s Day at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 13.

It’s essential to dispel the belief that weight loss is a reflection of willpower or discipline – basically, that you can’t lose weight because you don’t want to or you’re not trying hard enough.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Weight Management for Lasting Health

The 'BodPod' Measures Body Fat and Fat-Free Mass

Article
1/27/2022
Meagan Loughanne, a health educator at Aberdeen Proving Ground Army Wellness Center, Maryland, conducts a BodPod assessment on Sgt. Abdel P. Moluh. This simple and effective assessment provides clients with an accurate measurement of their body fat percentage, fat-free mass and fat mass in pounds. Based on the client’s goals, the health educator will provide tailored education and coaching.

The BodPod is an egg-shaped machine that will give a detailed analysis of your body composition in five minutes, including measuring your fat mass, your fat-free mass, including blood, organs, and muscle.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Mobile Apps

Ask the Doc: The Dangers of Yo-Yo Diets and How to Avoid Them

Article
1/26/2022
Senior Airman Thomas McMurray with the 387th Expeditionary Support Squadron Force Protection prepares for a bench press at Al Mubarak Air Base, Kuwait, May 13, 2021

Find out what you can do to avoid "yo-yo dieting" or "fad diets" such as Keto, intermittent fasting, Paleo? And what are the dangers of these types of diets?

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Ask The Doc

Six Immediate Health Benefits You Will See If You Lose a Little Weight

Article
1/14/2022
A soldier assigned to the 256th Combat Support Hospital, Twinsburg, Ohio, drinks water from a gallon-sized jug during Combat Support Training Exercise 18-03 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, March 26, 2018. The 256th CSH implemented a goal setting competition, dubbed Dandy Camp, to teach and encourage soldiers to monitor their total carbohydrate intake during the field exercise. The overall goal of Dandy Camp is to educate soldiers about healthy eating choices and encourage soldiers to set and meet goals for themselves.

Losing even a little weight now can have a major impact on your health and quality of life. This long list of benefits might help motivate you to adjust your habits to achieve a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Women's Health | Heart Health | Nutritional Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Sleep

Dietary Supplements: Educate Yourself First Before Trying Them

Article
12/28/2021
Photo of a dinner plate with food and dietary supplements next to it

Operation Supplement Safety is your one-stop guide to dietary supplement information

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Weight Management for Lasting Health

Ultra-Endurance Military Athletes: What Motivates Them?

Article
10/25/2021
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Duane Zitta on top of a mountain

For some, sports are a way to stay fit, for extreme endurance military athletes, it’s a way of life and a way to challenge themselves physically and mentally.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Ask the Doc: Am I Running Too Much?

Article
10/21/2021
Marine Corps recruits run in formation

Doc talks to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Stoll, a physical therapist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, about the causes and cures for pain resulting from running.

Recommended Content:

Pain Management | Physical Fitness | Ask The Doc

Tips for How to ‘Train Right’ and Avoid Injuries During Sports and PT

Article
10/13/2021
Military personnel in physical threapy

Physical training, recreational activities, and sports are key to service members’ health but musculoskeletal injuries due to sudden incidents and repeated stress or overuse are the biggest health problem in the U.S. military.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: October 28, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.