How to tell Soreness from Injury: The 5 W's

You've been stagnant in your workouts for a long time.  You decide to step it up in a big way.  You've seen pictures of the Rock, Thor and Superman throughout quarantine.  You're ready to go full Arnold Schwarzenegger.  You go to the gym, you hit the weights.  You go full Rocky Balboa.

You leave the gym tired and exhausted.  It feels good.  You feel accomplished.

But when you wake from your bed the next morning, you fall with your first step.

Everything.  Hurts.  

Do you have muscle soreness or do you have an injury? 

This article goes over the 5 W's of the protocols of distinguishing soreness from injury.  Read on to find out, and never make the mistake of hurting yourself more than you need to.

The What

What does soreness feel like? Sore muscles don’t cause sharp jabs of pain like an injury.  Instead, you will find them stiff, giving a dull achiness.  The muscles may also feel soft to touch.  You feel fatigue and your motion is restricted because of the soreness. 

What does soreness look like?  There may be some very slight swelling, but it won't be anything extraordinary.  However, if you have an injury, you will definitely see some swelling, redness or bruising.  None of these apply if you have an injury.

What kind of injury could it be, if it's paining but it's not soreness? If you’re feeling sharp pains, you’re likely looking at a muscle strain or even a tear.  The intensity of your pain may be an indicator of the seriousness of your injury.


The Why

Why would I get muscle soreness? Your muscles are likely to get sore if you put yourself through a rigorous exercise that is longer or more intense than what you’re accustomed to.


The When

When would I feel the soreness? You should feel the soreness coming in by the 24-48-hour mark after your workout.  An injury, on the other hand, would be felt within the first day, at most. 

When will the soreness end? Soreness usually takes about a week to subside completely.  Within that week, you will find that the ache reduces gradually.  If this isn’t the case you may be injured.

When will I be feeling the pains? You will only feel the pain when the specific sore muscles are engaged.  An injury will cause pains regardless of whether the area of injury is engaged in any way.


The Where

Where (what areas) would my body struggle with soreness?  Where would I feel injuries? You will feel sore muscles in the areas of your body, or the muscle groups, that you activated during your physical activity.

The idea of muscle soreness usually applies to the entire body.  The entire body is feeling the tiredness caused by exercise.  Soreness can be felt in a larger region when compared to an injury, which is usually a concentrated pain in the afflicted region.

Since the pain of an injury is concentrated at a certain point of your body, there is no symmetry involved.  Sore muscles will ache on both sides.  For example, if your thighs are sore, both legs will feel sore.  However, if you have a thigh muscle strain, then the pain will remain in that leg only. 


The How

How do I deal with soreness? Resting isn’t your best option.  The inactivity may exacerbate the stiffness and make matters worse for you.
The best thing to do is to continue physical exercise.  Just make sure to get in a good warmup before you do.  These will activate your muscles in the right way, and the stretching of the muscles will ensure your soreness doesn’t turn into an injury.

How do I deal with an injury? An injury can be minor or major.  If you’re sure that you have an injury, get the rest that your body needs.  If needed, consult a doctor to diagnose the extent of your injury.

How do I avoid soreness? Every time you push yourself beyond what your body is used to, you will feel the muscles get sore the next day.  Thus, really, there isn’t any way to avoid soreness.

How to avoid injury? Make sure to warm up before you start any physical activity.  Listen to your body for signals that it can’t handle whatever you’re putting yourself through.

Make sure you follow content of this article to avoid straining your body more than it needs to.  That way you can remain consistent with your fitness goals.

That's all from us! We hope you found some value in this article.  Good Luck with your fitness journey.

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