Pain vs. Soreness

Knowing the difference between pain and soreness is important not only for improving your workouts but also to prevent serious injuries. In order to get stronger, your body needs to be pushed to an appropriate level where gains can occur. Everyone’s threshold is difference, given your fitness and conditioning. When done properly, regular exercise will progressively increase your threshold. When you stay within the safe side of your threshold, you could expect soreness due to the stress placed on your body. Muscular soreness is a healthy and expected result of exercise. However, it is when you cross that threshold that you will experience pain. Here are key differences between soreness and pain:

  • soreness is a dull, maybe tender, aching sensation in your muscles, while pain is a sharp ache in your muscles or joints
  • you will experience soreness within 24-72 hours after activity, while pain could occur during or within 24 hours
  • soreness will typically last 2-3 days and goes away, but pain from an injury could linger much longer if not addressed
  • other than muscle tightness and tender to touch, there is usually no outward appearance from soreness, but inflammation, bruising and swelling are indications of something beyond soreness
  • soreness will commonly improve with stretching and movement, while ice, medication, and rest are normal pain relievers
  • soreness could worsen with inactivity and pain will usually worsen with continued activity

If any ache lasts more than a week, chances are that you’ve sustained an injury. Some minor injuries could be treated with ice, rest and pain killers, but if the pain lasts more than a week and the injured area remains swollen and/or bruised, then seeing a doctor would be a great idea.