Hitting the gym for a hard workout, especially after a long hiatus, can make even the most mundane tasks like climbing out of bed or putting on a shirt more difficult than usual. Soreness is a natural part of any workout routine. Injury, on the other hand, is far more serious and may require attention and treatment from a medical professional. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle for the long haul.
Putting muscles under tension during activity causes micro tears in the muscle leaving inflammation and pain to follow. According to Mike Reinold, head physical therapist for the Boston Red Sox, “Post-workout soreness can start anywhere from later that day until a few days after the workout, depending on the intensity of the workout, with a peak usually around the 36-hour mark. However, after a couple of days, the soreness should reduce dramatically.“ If your soreness peaks a day or two after your workout then gradually begins to decrease, you’re likely in the clear. To help alleviate soreness and lessen the aftereffects of a hard workout, stay active and perform some light stretching or foam rolling during the 24-hours following your gym session. This movement will help to circulate blood and nutrients to the damaged tissue.
When pain persists for a longer period of time or causes an extreme restriction in movement, you may have crossed the fine line from soreness into injury. Dr. Reinold adds, “If the soreness last longer than the normal couple of days or so, or has an impact on how you function, it is probably some sort of an injury.” If you find yourself having to adjust your normal activities due to a muscle pain, it’s likely time for a quick check-up with a medical professional. Catching an injury early can be key for a quick recovery. Rather than waiting for the pain to reside, schedule a check-up with your physician or a physical therapist to make sure you aren’t suffering from something more serious.