If you have pain after exercising

… Know the difference between the pain of muscle injury and the pain of muscle soreness.

… The pain from an injury is typically acute and sharp. You may require medical attention.

… The pain from an ache is typically soreness, tightness and tenderness to the touch. You may only need light stretching and warm baths.

Know the Difference Between an Ache and an Injury

Whether you’re an elite athlete, a weekend warrior, you participate in youth sports or simply take a walk after dinner every night, you probably experience a little pain now and again related to your training and exercise. With high-intensity workouts or just getting out and accomplishing some yardwork, you could get a muscle ache -which typically results in the growth and development of muscle tissue- or a muscle injury -which may require medical attention. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a muscle ache and a muscle injury. To be on the safe side, you should be able to differentiate between the two.

Muscle Injury – When You May Need Medical Attention

Broadly speaking, a muscle injury involves damage to muscle fibers, tendons or small blood vessels located within the muscle. The main types of muscle injuries include muscle pull, muscle strain and muscle tear.

From a sports physical therapist’s perspective, most muscle injuries occur during the eccentric loading of muscles when the muscle is subjected to great stress. Muscles that cross two joints, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf, are particularly prone to injury. Additionally, the hip adductor muscle, which crosses only one joint -the hip joint- is susceptible to injury.

Some factors that can predispose an elite athlete to muscle injury include fatigue, overuse, lack of strength in the target muscle and previous muscle injury. The common symptoms of muscle injury include irritation, inflammation, bleeding, pain and bruising.

Muscle Ache – When Your Muscle Tissue Develops

When you stress a muscle beyond its limit, the muscle is likely to develop small microscopic tears, leading to muscle ache. Technically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the pain associated with muscle ache typically begins six to eight hours after a strenuous physical activity, such as a high-intensity workout, and lasts anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

The microscopic muscle tears are important because they allow the muscle to grow larger. DOMS can affect virtually anyone, including elite athletes. The common risk factors for DOMS include insufficient rest break between sets (strength training), adding new high-intensity activities to your workout program and increasing the intensity of your workout. Effective remedies for muscle ache include gentle exercises, such as light stretching, and warm baths.

The Differences Between Muscle Injury and Muscle Ache

Consider these factors when differentiating between a muscle injury and a muscle ache:

ONSET OF PAIN. Characterized by micro-tears in the muscle fiber, DOMS causes inflammation and pressure on pain receptors. The pain and discomfort associated with DOMS typically starts two to 24 hours after a workout session and peaks at about 36 hours. In contrast, when you sustain a muscle injury, you will feel pain almost immediately in response to the injury.

LENGTH OF PAIN. In most cases, the pain associated with muscle soreness will become less severe within two or three days. Even in severe cases of soreness, the pain typically abates over time. In contrast, the pain from a muscle injury generally gets worse over time and often requires medical attention.

LOCATION OF PAIN. If the pain is localized and you can pinpoint it with one finger or if it is located in a bone, joint or tendon, then you’re likely dealing with an injury. If the pain involves a larger area, such as an entire muscle group, then you’re likely dealing with muscle ache.

TYPE OF PAIN. Typically, muscle soreness will cause the affected muscle to feel tighter, dully achy and tender to the touch. When exercising, the affected muscle will seem fatigued or it might burn. Unlike the pain from muscle soreness, the pain from an injury is typically acute and sharp.

True Sports Physical Therapy – Where Maryland Athletes Rehab

At True Sports, we’re sports-focused because you’re sports-focused. The best physical therapists in Baltimore and Maryland provide the highest level of sports physical therapy and expertise you need to get back to your sport. With six convenient state-of-the-art locations to choose from, any athlete who takes their rehab seriously can get awesome care and extraordinary results. Select your location and schedule an appointment and have True Sports get you back to your team. For questions about insurance or self-pay rates, please call our office at 1-401-946-1672.