Muscle pain vs injury. We are just about a month into the new year and if my Instagram feed is any indication then lots of you are working out and working out pretty hard. So here’s a huge, “Yay for you!” Working out building muscles and improving cardio is always a good thing, but (yes there is a but) if you are newer to exercising vigorously then you might also not know how to tell whether you are injured or just really, really sore.
MUSCLE PAIN VS INJURY
It hurts in one spot. Generally, if you’ve over done it on a workout, your whole body should feel achy. You know that feeling when you literally fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom in the morning? (oh I’ve been there). After a few days of this, the pain should go away completely or diminish significantly. If it doesn’t go away or if you can pin point the pain to one specific spot then you should probably have it checked out by a professional.
Only one side hurts. Beware of asymmetrical pain. Usually when we are working out, both sides of the body are used but when one side is hurting significantly more than the other and not in a good kind of a way then it could also be an indication that you have a real injury.
The pain doesn’t go away. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is common and it means that your muscles start feeling sore about 24 hours post workout and peaks somewhere around the 48 hour mark. If the soreness doesn’t go away, that means warning bells should start going off.
It hurts more when you move. Muscles soreness should go away (mostly) after you’ve started moving and your muscles have warmed up. If it doesn’t or hurts even more then note that this could very well be a real injury that should be looked at.
Visible swelling. Now this should be an obvious sign, but it never ceases to surprise me when people keep working out when they see bruising or swelling. That’s your body’s way of telling you something is not okay. While you can have “good” post workout pain, you can’t have a “good” post workout swelling.
Something specific happened. This is often the very first thing that any physio or doctor will ask you. Did you hear a pop, a snap or did something tweak? Additionally, maybe you had a fall or suddenly dropped a weight. All of these could be indications of an injury and not just sore muscles. Or it could be an injury that has happened due to overuse. The reason this is important is because it will also be a determinant in your treatment and recovery.
You worked out harder. If you are already working out and decide to take it up a notch, you need to be aware that injuries might happen. This could be to an underlying pathology that you were unaware of. Or perhaps you pushed too hard and your form suffered which resulted in an injury.
Sometimes you have to play it by ear, but I’m of the belief that you’ll know pretty quickly if you are injured or not. If it is a real injury then going to see a health professional is a must. There’s no reason to tough it out as it won’t go away and having worked for years with physiotherapists (and suffered several unpleasant injuries myself) I can, with absolute certainty, declare that rehab is a must and worth it. Not only will you return to your old self much faster, but you’ll also come away with lots of helpful tips and tricks that will make you stronger and keep you from getting re-injured.
How do you deal with muscle pain?