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Muscle Soreness or Injury?
last updated:
Tue, 11/16/2010 10:11 AM

Is your pain from muscle soreness or is it an injury?

Pain is an indicator that something is wrong. So many people have the idea that “No Pain, No Gain” is the way to workout and exercise. Too many people cause injury from pushing through it and not listening to their body. IF you body says “No.” due to pain, then stop. The moment you begin feeling pain in a joint, tendon, ligament or your back/neck, STOP. You can prevent new injuries and further problems from developing with an old injury. Readjust your position, find a different way to do the exercise, find another way to work that area of the body, but stop when you feel the pain. Exercise should not be painful.

Working out too hard and too quickly can make you sore and feel like you have an injury. If you are sore, chances are that in a few days, the soreness will gradually leave. If you are injured, the soreness and pain is usually longer and may need intervention.

Soreness is a mild breakdown of the muscle’s cells and development of the waste product lactic acid in the muscle. It can be severe, especially if you overdo training. Example: If you go out and run a 5K and have not trained in over a year, then you can bet you will be sore. If you started walking and built up to a walk/jog, then run with time, then the 5K would not be so hard on your body.

Injuries are different. They are caused from hyperextension, repetitive trauma, lack of stretching or warming up muscles, improper body mechanics and positioning, etc. Injuries can be severe, painful and nagging. The important thing is not to ignore the injury. Get treatment.

Soreness on the other hand, you need to let your body recover. Try these tips:

  • Back off of the intensity of the exercise and let the body recuperate.
  • Begin Slowly, working into the higher intensity exercises.
  • Do your exercise correctly.
  • Use proper body mechanics.
  • If the weight is too heavy and you start using your back instead of lifting with your legs, lower the weight amount and work up to your goal while maintaining body mechanics and proper positioning.
  • Warm up before and stretch prior to any exercise.

Listen to your body. If it says, “No, I’m in too much pain.” then stop and see what the problem is before you cause a problem. Be smart with exercise.


Dawn Caldwell is a Physical Therapist in Memphis, Tennessee with Methodist Healthcare. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.


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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000