Am I Sore or Am I Injured?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between soreness and injury, especially when performing a new exercise or activity. While there are some basic guidelines to differentiate between the two, it’s important to recognize that every body reacts differently to injury. There are basic indications when dealing with any bodily pain or discomfort:

Soreness:

  • General discomfort or dull pain
  • Spread over a large area
  • Goes away within three days or so

Injury:

  • Sharp pain
  • Localized in one area
  • Lingers for more than three days, or gets worse past three days

Remember: every body is different, and every muscle reacts differently too! If the pain lingers, it’s always wise to consult a doctor or physical therapist.

Post-Soreness Damage

Sometimes what starts as soreness can develop into injury. This can happen when:

  1. The sore area causes you to use surrounding muscles differently, like limping with a sprained ankle.
  2. The sore area develops scar tissue as a result of unaddressed inflammation or damage.
  3. The original soreness-causing activity is repeated without rest, and the sore muscle or area isn’t allowed to heal properly.

Preventing Injury

When stretching or performing a physical activity, listen to your body.

  • When stretching:
    • Don’t overstretch. 30 seconds is adequate time to stretch the muscle, and if you stretch an area for longer, you’re actually stretching the ligaments. Unless you’re under the guidance of a professional and experienced physical therapist, do not stretch your ligaments!
    • Be sure to accompany stretching with a strengthening program. When your muscle groups are out of balance (some weaker, some shorter than others) other muscle groups have to compensate. This can cause injury unless address by a strengthening program.
  • When performing a physical activity:
    • Take adequate rest time to avoid overworking muscles. There’s no formula for rest time, but paying attention to aches and pains can help you judge the length of rest time.
    • Use “active recovery” to heal faster from soreness. Instead of being entirely immobile or avoiding using the muscle, use gentle activities (like walking, or non-strenuous physical activity) to keep the muscles moving.
    • Be sure that conditioning is a part of your regimen. This will help prevent you from pulling or straining muscles.
    • Work up to an activity if you haven’t performed it in a while, or if you’re less conditioned. Your muscles need time and conditioning to gain strength.
    • If you feel a sharp pain, stop the activity.

Treatment for Soreness and Injury

Depending on the severity of the soreness or injury, ice and heat therapy can help. With a new injury, ice is best, as it reduces inflammation and pain. Heat therapy is typically used for chronic conditions, old injuries, or stiffness. Use ice in twenty minute increments, always put a towel between the ice and your skin, and do not use heat on a new injury.

When to See a Physical Therapist for Soreness or Injury

If your soreness hasn’t gone away after a couple of weeks, or if the pain gets sharp or especially localized, you need to see a doctor or physical therapist. You may have an underlying injury, and until it’s identified and addressed, your body is going to continue to be in pain. Injuries that are not addressed can have serious consequences, like scar tissue, that could permanently affect the way your muscles move. If your pain is lingering or getting worse, call New Heights Physical Therapy today. We’ll help you to identify the issue, working with your body to heal and prevent injuries.

Soreness vs Injury in Portland OR and Vancouver WA

Seeing Patients in the following Portland and Vancouver areas:

SE Portland | NE Portland | Gresham | Happy Valley | Clackamas | Milwaukie | Mt Tabor | Belmont | Lloyd Center | Laurelhurst | Hollywood District | Downtown Portland | Beaverton | Tigard | Hillsboro | Cedar Mill | Cornell | Sylvan | Cedar Hills

Downtown Vancouver | Fruit Valley | Hazel Dell | Felida | Cascade Park | Camas Washington

East PDX:
(503) 236-3108
Vancouver:
(360) 737-3346