Sore or Injured?
by Connor Hesselbirg, PT, DPT
Whenever you exercise, there is always some sort of discomfort by the end of it. People that do not exercise regularly begin to question this kind of sensation, as to whether they are sore, or if something is actually injured? Some may have heard the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain,” but I will explain exactly what that means and give you all an idea of when is the time to see a trained professional if something does not feel right.
Everyone has their own unique way of describing soreness. I like to refer to it as “good pain” you feel after a hard workout. Soreness is a sign that your muscles worked to their limit and may feel some stiffness and discomfort. These parts of your body may also feel achy, but don’t feel like something is actually wrong. Sometimes, after doing some small warm up or light activity can make these muscles feel better and ready to exercise again. If this sense of discomfort goes away after a day or two and your muscles feel back to normal (or very close to it), you have experienced DOMS (Delayed-Onset-Muscle-Soreness) which is a very common phenomenon that active people go through after working out.
When you exercise and try to make certain muscles stronger or faster, you create micro tears in your muscle fibers, which gives your body signals to repair these muscles so they are able to withstand the kind of exercise you recently put it through. This repair and recovery process is how our muscles get bigger and stronger. That is why there is discomfort in these muscle groups, but slowly starts to feel better and stronger within several days. As you exercise consistently and progressively load your muscles properly, DOMS should not be as intense and should not feel it as often.
Now, this soreness and discomfort can evolve into something worse if you do not properly rest or recover from it. Going beyond soreness is where the risk of injury increases. If you continue to train through a lot of soreness, those micro tears you create when training can be more than what your body can keep up with, and break down faster than it can rebuild. This sort of sensation becomes more deep, localized, and sometimes sharp. It may also feel like something is not working as well as it used to, or you may be compensating and are unsure why. What I have just described is considered “bad pain” and should not be ignored.
Running or training with “bad pain” can cause a chain reaction throughout the rest of your body as well. If you try to push through it or alter your body mechanics because of it, you can be overloading other parts of your body so you can be in less pain. However, overloading other muscles can lead to another injury, making recovery more complicated and possibly delay your return to healthy exercise.
Injuries can present in many different ways, so it may be difficult to figure out why something hurts and how to fix it on your own. If you are unsure on what to do, contact us at Finish Line Physical Therapy. We specialize in diagnosing and treating running and training injuries so we can get you back to exercising as healthy as before!