Muscle Soreness vs. Injury Pain

   Monday, April 2, 2018

   Competitive Edge

As your Athletic Therapist, we ask about your pain a lot. We use your pain scale as a diagnostic tool, to help us create your individualized treatment plan, as a progression marker and as a guide to create the most effective rehab exercises for you. But there are two general types of pain you may be feeling, one good and one bad.

The type of pain you may be feeling that is actually telling us we are going in the right direction and that you are doing your exercises properly is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. This is the type of pain that you experience after a workout, the type of soreness that you feel in your quads after leg day or that makes your arms feel like Jell-O after an upper body work out. The rehab exercises we give you in the clinic are generally targeting one muscle group of individual muscle that may be weak or that may be firing incorrectly therefore the soreness you feel after doing your exercises may feel like they are in a very precise location. We do not want you to mistake this soreness for injury pain. This soreness is good and means you are doing your exercises properly and working the correct muscles we want you to.

The soreness that comes along with DOMS usually appears the day after you exercise that muscle and gets to its worst on day 2 after the exercise. This pain comes from tiny micro-tears in the muscle fibers. This is a normal process that must occur to build muscle. These small tears send messages to the brain that the muscles weren’t quite strong enough and they start to build more muscle.

On the other hand there is injury pain. This type of pain can range anywhere from a dull ache to a sharp stabbing pain and could feel very pin point or could feel like it is coming from a larger area. This type of pain potentially indicates that some type of tissue is damaged. This type of pain is sometimes associated with inflammation where you will see swelling or feel heat in the area. This is the type of pain we are interested in to keep our treatment plan on the right track.


Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the two but here are a few ways to tell the difference. Muscle soreness will get worse if you use the muscle that is sore. It will also feel worse if you stretch that muscle, it may feel very tight and you might have less range of motion than normal. Muscle soreness is usually not felt when you are at rest and not using or stretching that muscle. Muscle soreness usually comes on within several hours of the workout or exercise and is at its worst 24 hours after. After these 2-3 days the muscle soreness should subside. If your pain doesn’t fit into this category it is most likely coming from your injury!





















If you are struggling with an injury that just won’t go away, try something new. Book in to see one of our Athletic Therapists to get you feeling 100% and back to the activities you love. Call or book online!

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