Am I Sore or Injured? – How To Know The Difference

So you’re done at the gym for the day and you’re basking in that post workout glow, but something feels off. You made sure to eat a well balanced pre workout meal and you loaded up on the healing powers of protein during your post workout snack, but your muscles are still in a bit of pain. Could it be that you just aren’t recovering as quickly as you think you should, or did you perhaps cause a serious injury to your muscles during your latest workout? Do you need to keep your muscles rested, iced, compressed and elevated to help them heal or can you chalk this pain up to classic post gym soreness? Are you sore or injured? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you tell the difference so that you know how to best recover.


Achy, Stiff & Tight Muscles Are Normal

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If your soreness feels subtly achy or tight and stiff then chances are your muscles are just taking a bit longer to recover from your gym session than usual. Perhaps you worked out different groups of muscles than you are used to or you added a bit more weight than usual and that’s what is causing the recovery delay. This is good news because it means that your muscles were not actually injured during your workout and you should be back in the gym and back on schedule in no time. In the meantime it’s best to allow your body the time it needs to repair those torn muscles with a few days of light exercises. Remember that on days that you aren’t pushing yourself as hard at the gym you also won’t need to consume as many calories as usual, so your diet may need to be adjusted for a few days until you can get back to full force.

Sharp Pains Are Cause For Concern

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While a dull aching soreness is generally pretty innocent an intense, sharp or stabbing pain is cause for concern. This type of pain is a great indication that there is a serious problem with your muscles that needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later to avoid further injury or a prolonged recovery time. Sharp pains also tend to happen in a concentrated area or a single muscle rather than over a group of muscles. If you are experiencing any sort of swelling along with the pain there is a good chance that your sore muscle is actually a serious muscle injury. It’s time to head to the doctor and have yourself checked out by a professional before you head back to the gym. If you are diagnosed with an injury be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about how best to help your body through the recovery process.

Look Into Lingering Symptoms

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If your pain or soreness lingers for more than a few days there is a good possibility that what you are dealing with in an injury and not just muscle soreness. Because your body is running on high adrenaline during workouts, particularly high intensity workouts, you may not even feel the moment that you tweak, pop or pull a muscle causing the injury. In fact it could be hours until you start to feel the pain. When you start to feel pain your first course of action should be to determine whether the pain is more of a dull ache or a sharp stabbing. As we discussed above a dull pain is generally an innocent sore muscle where as a sharp pain is more cause for concern. If your pain is dull and achy like a sore muscle you may still have an injury, so it’s best to rest that area for a day or two. If your symptoms persist or get worse it’s time to see a professional even if the pain is more of a dull ache. Lingering symptoms can be a sign of a more serious problem that need to be tended to by a doctor or physical therapist.

Innocent Soreness Will Ease Over Time

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Within the first twenty four to forty eight hours of any physical activity is when most people can expect to experience the peak of their soreness. After which innocent muscle soreness will begin to ease up and generally begin to feel better. It is important to stay well hydrated and continue to fuel your body with balanced nutrients during the first three days of discomfort to ensure that your muscles have everything they need to heal themselves. If at the end of three days your soreness still exists but has eased from its initial level of intensity there is a good chance you haven’t done enough damage to your muscles to concern yourself with seeing a doctor. This doesn’t mean that you can automatically go back to pushing yourself to your brink during your workouts. Your body does still need time to heal and pain and soreness is it’s way of telling you that. That doesn’t mean you have to sit around all day doing nothing though, just curb the intensity level for a few days until your body feels up to full strength again.

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