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"Feeling the burn" can mean different things to different people, but situps shouldn't be painful or result in serious muscle pain. If you have a case of mild muscle soreness, it's usually OK to continue with your exercise plans, but if you experience severe pain, it could be a sign of an injury that requires medical attention. If you're not sure whether you should do more situps when you're already sore, talk to your doctor.
Mild Muscle Pain
If you feel mild muscle pain a few hours to a few days after doing situps, it's probably a case of delayed-onset muscle soreness. This type of muscle pain is common when you begin a new workout routine or try a new exercise. According to the book "Exercise Physiology," most fitness experts think that muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in your muscles. As you work out, your muscles may experience tiny injuries. The process of repairing these injuries is what builds strong, healthy muscle tissue, and while your body repairs the damage, you may feel some pain.
Severe Muscle Pain
If you experience pain when you're doing situps, particularly if the pain is severe or feels like something has torn, it could be a sign of an injury such as a strain or sprain. If the pain is in your back or neck, it could indicate that you're using improper form and relying on muscles other than your abdominal muscles to do situps. Rest, ice, compression and elevation can help with the pain, but if it gets worse after a day or two, it's time to call your doctor.
When to Exercise
If the pain is mild, it's generally safe to do situps. Try warming up first, then stretching your muscles. This can help reduce muscle tension and reduce your risk of injury, according to MayoClinic.com. If the pain gets worse when you're doing situps, abandon the situps for a day or two and focus on another type of exercise such as running or lifting weights.
When to Rest
If you've injured your muscles, doing situps can exacerbate the injuries. If you have severe pain that makes movement difficult or keeps you up at night, take a few days off from your workout routine, and call your doctor. However, don't resort to becoming a couch potato. Low-level physical activity, such as gentle stretching or taking a daily walk, can help you avoid muscle tension and keep you limber enough to start your routine when you're feeling better.