Know Your Body: Are You Injured or Just Sore? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 03, 2015

Know Your Body: Are You Injured or Just Sore?

It’s normal to experience soreness after resuming athletic activity, but there may be a greater issue at hand if the pain persists.

It’s normal to be sore after athletic activity,
but if the pain persists there may be a more
serious problem at hand.

Whether your doctor instructed you to exercise more or you’re just trying to get back into shape, you may have noticed it’s taking a while to bounce back after 20 minutes on the treadmill than it did when you were younger.

While it’s normal to experience soreness after resuming athletic activity, there may be a greater issue at hand if the pain persists for days on end. You’ve probably heard the overused maxim, “No Pain, No Gain,” but there is a point when you should take your pain to the doctor to see if it’s an injury—not an aging body—that might be the cause.

But what’s the difference between having an injury and being just plain ol’ sore?

It’s normal to experience some level of discomfort after athletic activity; this is known as “good pain.” To improve the performance and strength of your muscles, you have to increase levels of pressure on them. Since they’re not used to extra weight and pressure, you’ll feel sore and pain in these areas. However, the pain should only last for a short period and should probably feel its worst during the activity itself.

In addition, if you put too much stress on your body in a short period, your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones will eventually start to fail. So even though you might not feel sore right after your workout, jumping right into an intense regimen may cause pain a few days later as stress accumulates in your body.

Warning Signs of Injury

It’s true that everyone has a different tolerance of pain, but there are some signs that pain might be the result of an injury as opposed to just feeling sore:

  • Immediate and large swelling in the part of you’re body that hurts
  • Sharp pain that prevents you from moving a body in its usual range of motion (this might cause you to limp or be unable to turn your head)
  • Body part looks deformed (if your finger is sticking out at a 45 degree angle, go see the doctor)
  • Pain persists long after your workout
  • You’re not able to sleep it off
  • Basic functions such as walking hurt
  • Tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes, which may indicate nerve problems 
  • Nausea

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, there’s a chance that you’ve overworked your body and you should seek a doctor’s opinion.

Preventing Injury

In order to prevent an injury or even prolonged soreness, you can try the following to get your body ready for a workout:

  • Warm up before exercising by riding an exercise bike or jogging in place for five to ten minutes. 
  • Cool down afterwards to bring your heart rate back down slowly by walking for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Stretch before and after you work out to increase flexibility and reduce risk of injury and soreness. 
  • Gradually build intensity, duration and frequency when starting a new workout. 
  • Know your weak spots and pay close attention to areas of your body you may have injured before; you’ll want to respond to soreness or pain in these areas quickly to avoid causing more harm to your body
  • Stay hydrated and eat well: Drink plenty of water before and after you work out. Also have a small meal or snack 2-3 hours prior to your workout to fuel your body and have a healthy carb and protein snack afterwards.

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