The quick answer to this question is yes, you can work out if your chest is a little sore. In fact, it can be beneficial to work out when you have muscle aches, if that soreness is from previous workouts and not from injury. If you are sore to the touch or do not have your full range of motion, or have an injury or medical condition, then you should rest your muscles and consult with your doctor before attempting to workout.
The pain that you feel in your muscles a day or two after a work out is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, It is caused by small tears, or microdamage in your muscles and connective tissues and generally is felt after an intense workout or exercising muscles in a new way. It is a perfectly normal, and a sign that your muscle is adapting and strengthening. There is no need to stop your exercise routine, but ease up on the intensity.
Ease Into Your Workout
You should always warm up before exercise, and cool down afterwards. Do a light aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes before your workout. If you are a little sore, this will help get your circulation going and you will feel some relief from the pain. If your chest muscles are sore from DOMS, you can rest them for a few days and then use lighter weights than usual and perform fewer repetitions. According to the American Council on Exercise, you shouldn't feel the soreness again until the intensity of the exercise is increased. After your workout, cool down for five to 10 minutes with light aerobic activity and then do some stretching, focusing on the muscles that you exercised.
For immediate relief from the pain of sore muscles, use an ice pack wrapped in cloth to help reduce the inflammation. You can apply heat later; heat can be soothing and stimulates blood flow to the affected muscles. You can also take an over the counter NSAID such as ibuprofen or naproxen, but it is not a good idea to take them regularly. Always follow package instructions and check with your doctor before taking a pain reliever if you have health issues or are taking other medications.
In general, lower the intensity of your workout when you are dealing with any kind of muscle pain. Monitor your pain and if it does not resolve in a few days, seek the advice of your physician. Muscle pain that comes on quickly or is really intense could be a sign of injury and requires medical attention.
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