Understanding the Difference Between Soreness and Pain

Understanding the Difference Between Soreness and Pain

When you experience a lingering soreness in your muscles or a painful stiffness in your joints, it’s important to look for critical warning signs so you can determine if it’s a common ache or something far worse. Most people who have been injured, simply don’t understand the difference between the sensation of being sore and being in pain. The inability to recognize signs of soreness and pain can mean pushing your body to the point of injury or exacerbating an existing injury. Generally, muscle soreness is an indicator of a tear in the tissue that will recover after some time. Pain, on the other hand, can be a sign of a more serious tear or injury.

Characteristics of Soreness and Pain

It can be difficult to tell the difference between soreness and a more serious injury, especially when you’re trying a new exercise or workout. Muscle soreness is normal post-workout, but pain is not. If you feel pain and it persists after 3 days, there’s a high chance you may be suffering from a sprain, strain, or injury.

Common signs of soreness:

  • Typically begins 24-48 hours after first workout
  • Muscle feels tender or tight
  • Muscles feel relief after movement
  • Stretching helps dramatically
  • Soreness goes away within 3 days or so

Common signs of pain:

  • Begins immediately after working out
  • Sharp or stinging pain in muscles
  • Stretching does not help
  • Pain is localized in one area
  • Difficulty maintaining normal physical activity
  • May last for a few days, weeks, or in severe cases, months

Preventing Sore and Painful Muscles

Whether you’re performing a physical workout or simply stretching, it’s important to listen to your body. In some cases, pain will resolve on its own, and in all cases, you can control the recovery time of soreness if treated correctly and quickly. When working out, always take adequate time to give your overworking muscles a break. There’s no one, right rest time, but paying attention to signs of nagging aches and soreness can help you judge the length of severity and recovery time. When stretching, don’t overstretch. 30 seconds per stretch is more than enough time to stretch the area and reduce your chances of overstretching the ligaments. Unless you’re under the careful supervision of a licensed PT or chiropractor, don’t overdo it!

Treatment

Depending on which muscle is hurt and the severity of pain and soreness, you can take preventative actions from the comfort of your own home. With a new injury, ice can greatly reduce common symptoms of inflammation and pain. Follow the steps of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and re-evaluate how your body feels every 2 hours or so. If you’re still hurting and pain worsens after 2 weeks, we recommend seeking advice and treatment from one of our expert physical therapists.

Contact us online or call us at (732) 812-5200 to book an appointment with our ProFysio team!

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