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Cramps, shin splints, and chest pain: what to do when running hurts

Your back, knee, hip or shins feel achy. Cause: Because running is a repetitive activity, it can stress bones and joints. As a newbie, it's easy to let enthusiasm drive us to run more miles before we're ready, which can lead to overuse injuries. Cure: Ramp up your mileage slowly, and back off if your body aches.

Running, or any exercise, will cause you to feel some pain. That's part of improving your cardiovasuclar fitness and the muscle-building process. But, how do you know the difference between normal aches and true pain, which can be the sign of something more serious?

Normal aches and pains include things like muscle soreness, some minor twinges here and there in your joints and, after a particularly long or hard run, some difficulty getting moving or stiffness. These types of aches will generally go away on their own either during a short break or after not running for a few days. If these pains persist for more than three to four days, they may be a sign of something wrong.

Some examples of pain that are not typically "normal" and should be taken seriously are:

  • sharp, stabbing pain, especially if it doesn't let up if you stop or walk

  • throbbing pain in your legs, particularly if it persists while resting

  • shortness of breath after you've rested for a few minutes

  • any sort of tightness or constricting feeling in your chest

More: What Effect Does Running Have on Your Heart?

Also if putting your full weight on either leg causes real pain in any joint, you should consider that pain outside of the norm. You know your body best so pay attention to what it's telling you. Most runners know when an ache or pain is not normal for them.