Feeling Pain vs. Muscle Soreness

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You’ve been walking around with muscle pain in your leg for the last week. Or is it soreness?

You feel like you’re in pain when you get out of bed or try to get into your car to go to work. But is it really pain? Or is it soreness from that hard workout you did the other day?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are in pain vs. sore. And you may be wondering, ‘when should I be worried about muscle pain?’

That’s a valid question since soreness will go away, but if you have pain, you may need to take action! Keep reading to learn the differences between the two.

Pain vs. Soreness

There are a few ways that you can tell the difference between pain and sore muscles. Remember, this is just a baseline and an average of what you may notice.

Length of Time

The key thing that you can base your pain and soreness on is the length of time that you have been feeling it. For instance, if it is day two of soreness or pain, you may have to wait a bit longer to see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, then you may actually be suffering from muscle pain.

Typically, muscle soreness will only last two to three days, depending on the rigor of the activity that you did. However, sometimes this could last a bit longer.

On the other hand, if it is muscle pain, you will probably have pain for longer than this amount of time. It can linger for quite a while.

The Feeling Post Activity

Usually, when you work out, you will feel soreness set in the next day. You may feel a burning sensation the day of the workout (or even during it), but this is not necessarily painful.

The next day, you may feel an onset of soreness and pain. The red flag would be if you felt the pain come on suddenly – typically right after an activity or within the same day.

So what are these feelings like?

Muscle pain will give you sharp pain during or after exercise. It is sudden and painful.

Soreness is a dull pain that makes your muscles feel tender. They may also feel tight.

When It Gets Worse

One of the tell-tale signs of muscle pain vs soreness is when the pain gets worse. When you have sore muscles, sitting still and not stretching or being active can actually make the pain get worse.

On the other hand, if you have muscle or joint pain, this type of pain will usually get worse with exercise or activity that uses the muscle.

Dealing With Muscle Soreness

There is not a whole lot you can do about sore muscles other than waiting it out. You can make the time easier by avoiding the activities that made you sore in the first place.

Stretching is the most important thing to do when you have sore muscles. This will reduce the feeling that your muscles are tight. Self-massage to the area can also reduce the lactic acid build-up which can reduce the pain you feel from being sore.

The last thing you want to do is stay still, though. Be sure to stay active and move the muscles that feel sore. This will prevent the muscles from getting even tighter.

When Should I Be Worried About Muscle Pain?

If you feel that your pain is muscle pain and not soreness, there are a few things to do.

The most recommended route is to follow the steps of RICE.

For starters, you need to rest. You should stop the activities that make your muscles hurt more. These could be normal activities, so you should generally take it easy during this time.

You should also make sure to ice the muscle for about 20 minutes every 2-3 hours after the injury. You should continue to do this for 2 days after the injury.

If you can, compressing the injury will also help with the pain. Think about using an ace bandage or a brace of sorts if you are able to in the location of the pain.

Lastly, you should elevate the area that is in pain. If you feel pain in your foot or leg, you should prop it on a pillow so that it is above your heart to reduce inflammation in the area.

If it does not get better in one to two weeks (or is extreme), it is best to find a doctor to talk about your pain. They can create a treatment plan for you or recommend imaging in case you hurt yourself with a torn ligament or broken bone of sorts.

Prevent Further Injury

Whether you are sore or have muscle pain, you can take a few steps to prevent further injury. Be sure to do the following:

  • Drink plenty of water after exercise
  • Eat right – add in protein to your diet if you exercise a lot
  • Work out different muscle groups instead of the same ones back-to-back
  • If you notice pain, reduce your activity 

With these easy tips, you should be able to prevent any further injuries from occurring!

Telling the Difference Between Muscle Pain and Soreness

Now you know the answer to your question, ‘when should I be worried about muscle pain?’

It is important to pay attention to the length of time that you feel pain, the exact feeling of the pain or soreness, and when you feel the pain act up the most. That way, you can decide if it is soreness or muscle pain.

If you feel that it is muscle pain or it is not getting better after a certain amount of time, contact us at the Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale and speak with Dr. Martin to hear what options we have available.