No Pain, No Gain: The Difference Between Soreness and Pain

No Pain no gain, right?

No Pain, No Gain

Identifying the Differences Between Soreness and Pain

No pain, no gain. Four simple words to simplify a profound meaning that sometimes is misunderstood. Throughout this blog, I would like to discuss why a physical therapist wants to understand your pain and to provide an easy reference guide identifying differences between soreness and pain.

To begin, pain is very personal. Only can each individual truly relate to the pain they are feeling. We all come from different upbringings, lifestyles, and experiences. Emotional and physical pain most definitely intertwine to compound symptoms. Not many or if any physical therapist could say that emotional and physical pain aren’t connected. They are. Most physical therapists are sensitive and compassionate to this realization.

What makes our job both challenging and rewarding, is that we get to help patients understand, “what is a good pain and what is a bad pain.”

Pain usually the front runner symptom that brings people to see physical therapists. Whether it’s pain from injury, chronic conditions, post-surgical, post-partum, exercise, overuse, neurological conditions, the list goes on and on. During an initial evaluation, a thorough exam is required both subjectively and objectively to determine the “type” of pain. Most of our history forms can dedicate a significant portion to pain as far as severity, description, and location. We want and need to how YOU as the patient describe your pain. Then we follow up with tests and measures to help us identify the causes of this pain.

Now getting to the differences between soreness and pain.

From the APTA article, Soreness vs. Pain: What’s the Difference?

Muscle Soreness
After activity, muscular soreness typically peaks 24-72 hours after activity. This is the result of small, safe damage to muscle fibers and is called Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness (DOMS). During this time, your muscles may be tender to touch and feel tight and achy. Movement may initially be uncomfortable but moving and gently stretching your muscles will help to decrease soreness. During the few day periods that you experiencing muscular soreness, you might consider performing alternate exercise activities in order to give your sore muscles an opportunity to recover while strengthening other muscles.

In contrast to muscular soreness, you may experience pain during or after performing exercise. This may feel sharp. This pain may linger without fully going away, perhaps even after a period of rest. This may be indicative of an injury. Pushing through injury can worsen the problem. If you feel that your pain is extreme or is not resolving after 7-10 days you should consult with a medical professional.

Physical therapists have been given the nicknames as “Physical Terrorists” or “Pain and Torture.”

Is it our job sometimes to cause some pain and discomfort? Yes.

Is it our job to also know when it’s NOT ok to push through pain? Yes.

Remember, we are here to guide you through to achieve the ultimate goal, NO PAIN!!

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact a physical therapist for guidance to improve YOUR quality of life!

Muscle SorenessPain
Type of Discomfort:Type of discomfort: Tender when touching muscles, tired or burning feeling while exercising, minimal dull, tight and achy feeling at rest Ache, sharp pain at rest or when exercisingAche, sharp pain at rest or when exercising
Onset:During exercise or 24-72 hours after activityDuring exercise or within 24 hours of activity
Duration:2-3 DaysMay Linger if not addressed
Location:MusclesMuscles or Joints
Improves with:Improves with: Stretching, following movement, and/or more movement, with appropriate rest and recovery Ice, rest, and more movement, except in cases of significant injuryIce, rest, and more movement, except in cases of significant injury
Worsens with:Sitting StillContinued activity after appropriate rest and recovery
Appropriate action:Get moving again, after appropriate rest and recovery, but consider a different activity before resuming the activity that led to sorenessConsult with medical professional if pain is extreme or lasts >1-2 weeks

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