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Muscle Soreness or Injury?

Muscle Soreness or Injury?

Often times, individuals experience muscle soreness following a workout. Is this soreness normal? How do I differentiate muscle soreness from a potential injury? Let's dive into this a bit further.


Is muscle soreness normal?

 "Muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise," says Rick Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University in Ames. "Mild soreness is just a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity, he says. "And they're most prevalent in beginning stages of a program."


You may have heard of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This is where muscle soreness can intensify 24-48 hours following a workout. This can be a good sign that the muscles are adapting to the fitness program. But, with that being said, muscular soreness, following a workout, that is so excessive, where normal activities of daily living become a challenge, is not the muscular soreness that we are striving for.


We want to redefine what a "great workout" truly is. All too often, an individual's mindset is that they have to be absolutely cracked and beat down following a workout, for it to be a great workout. This would not be the definition of a great workout. A workout like this is going to leave the individual with excessive, over-the-top muscle soreness and fatigue, that can last for many days. The individuals’ workout quality over the next couple of days (that is of course, if they can even get to their workout because they are so sore), will be completely compromised. And this is exactly why we want to redefine what a great workout is. A great workout is one where we feel great following the workout. The soreness is normal and expected. We can recover quickly from the workout and do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next day, etc.


And this is where the 9Round Pulse™ heart rate training system becomes so valuable. When we can monitor, physiologically, our intensity, we can then guarantee ourselves a great workout. When we work out smarter (not harder) and we work out in the proper heart rate zones, this will leave us with a great workout. One where we experience the normal muscular soreness, but we can recover quickly, and put together a highly productive workout each day thereafter; now that's the definition of a great workout!


When is it more than muscle soreness?

When it comes to post-exercise muscle soreness and delayed onset muscle soreness, many times, individuals have a hard time determining whether the soreness they are experiencing is normal, or if an injury may be brewing. According to Orthopedic Surgeon, James Loging, MD, "the onset of the pain can be a determining factor. An injury and DOMS can feel similar and that is why the onset and duration of the pain is a key factor. DOMS will peak about 2 days following a workout. Therefore, if the pain is not getting better, or if it gets worse, this could be a sign that it's more than just normal muscular soreness. In terms of the onset of pain; if pain and discomfort is sudden and occurs during a specific exercise, during the workout, this would be more serious than the typical DOMS."


Often times, an injury only becomes an injury because it is not addressed upon the onset. Let's say, for example, an individual experiences a sudden onset of shoulder pain and discomfort while hitting the heavy bag. Trying to 'work thru' such pain, more often than not, will exacerbate the issue and lead to an injury. One big key is to listen to the body. Give the body a couple of days of repair and recovery and/or eliminate the exercise/activity for a few days that caused the pain. On the flipside, when it comes to normal DOMS, "continued physical activity while experiencing normal muscle soreness is good to help assist in working out the soreness", according to Dr. Loging.


According to Chiropractic Physician, Rob Bousquet, DC, "Onset of soreness is a determining factor (was the pain immediate or delayed onset). In addition, is the soreness general or more point-specific? If the pain is localized and more point-specific, this could be more likely an injury than normal muscle soreness." Dr. Rob goes on to say, "does the injury fit the workout and is it repeatable? For example, if the same exercise that caused the pain, is still causing the same pain, this could be a sign that this is more than just normal muscular soreness from exercise."


When it comes to recovering from muscular soreness, ice on the sore muscles is always a good first line of defense. In addition, stretching is a big key for recovery from muscle soreness. In addition, using the foam roller (self-myofascial release) can help to assist in relieving muscle soreness and joint stress. If muscular pain and discomfort persists, be sure to seek out a professional for an evaluation.


Workout Smart, Eat Right, Get Results™!


Dr. Rick Kattouf II

2x Best-Selling Author

Sports Nutrition Specialist

Heart Rate Performance Specialist

9Round Nutrition Coach

Named One of America’s PremierExperts® in Nutrition & Fitness

Named One Of The World Fitness Elite® Trainers Of The Year