Being sore is a good thing! Think of it as proof that you pushed your body past the norm, which is what brings about growth. Being injured, however, is not a good thing AND can do long-term damage if ignored. So, the question is, how can you tell the difference? First, you can start off by asking yourself a few questions.
- Is the pain sharp or dull? Soreness will typically present itself with a general achiness and often times tenderness when touched. An injury may be sharp and can grow stronger when moving the muscle or joint.
- When did the pain start? Soreness will typically show up 2-3 days after a workout, with the third day sometimes being the worst. Injury will not improve after the 3rd day and will most likely grow worse with time if ignored.
- Does it improve with activity? Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is believed to occur as a result of microscopic tears that happen in the muscles during exercise. The soreness you experience may lessen if you stay active. In the case of injury however, additional activity may only serve to increase the pain and/or cause more damage.
If you suspect an injury, work with your trainer and doctor to ensure additional damage is avoided. If you can, skip the anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen. Your body will heal through soreness without assistance and anti-inflammatories can actually slow the natural process down. Alternate heat and ice if a specific area is particularly bothersome. At the same time, don’t just push through a sharp pain and hope it improves. Instead, rest that area until you can have it checked out and continue to work other areas that are not affected so you don’t lose any progress.
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