We have all been sore after a workout, especially if we pushed our limits. Muscle soreness after a workout is healthy and normal, but how do you identify when discomfort has crossed over to pain from an injury?
Muscle soreness is the result of small and safe amounts of damage to muscle fibers. It usually peaks 24-72 hours after activity, and you may feel tender, tight, and achy. Muscle soreness usually eases with gentle movement and stretching, and its generally best to focus on other exercises during this time to allow the sore muscles to recover.
Pain is more often sharp and located in muscles or joints during or after performing an exercise. If there is an injury, the pain may linger even after resting, and you may make the injury worse if you try to “push through.” As a general rule, you should get checked our by a medical professional if you experience extreme pain or pain that doesn’t resolve in 7-10 days.
The American Physical Therapy Association published a great chart helping distinguish between the good muscle soreness that signals you are getting stronger, and the bad muscle soreness that signals an injury needing rest and attention.
|Type of discomfort:||Tender when touching muscles, tired or burning feeling while exercising, minimal dull, tight and achy feeling at rest||Ache, sharp pain at rest or when exercising|
|Onset:||During exercise or 24-72 hours after activity||During exercise or within 24 hours of activity|
|Duration:||2-3 days||May linger if not addressed|
|Location:||Muscles||Muscles or joints|
|Improves with:||Stretching, following movement||Ice, rest|
|Worsens with:||Sitting still||Continued activity|
|Appropriate action:||Resume offending activity once soreness subsides||Consult with medical professional if pain is extreme or lasts >1-2 weeks|
If you aren’t sure, it may smart to get an exam with someone like Dr. Michael Herb, who specializes in sports medicine at Absolute Wellness Center in Eugene. If treatment is appropriate, our clinic offers chiropractic medicine, sports medicine, physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and massage. More information on sports injury care is available on our website, or you are welcome to give us a call at 541-484-5777.
Source: American Physical Therapy Association: Soreness versus Pain