Injury or Muscle Soreness: How to Tell the Difference
Just because you maintain the building blocks of fitness, (strength, flexibility, and cardio,) doesn’t mean you can expect to engage in a new physical activity without feeling soreness. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, aka DOMS, is the result of microscopic tears in the muscles or in the connective tissue around the muscles. DOMS often accompanies even the most simple of new activities. A casual walk in the park, working in the garden, or even lugging a suitcase can bring on a big dose of DOMS. Shoveling snow can be a real killer!
One way to reduce this kind of delayed muscle soreness is to vary the type and intensity of your workouts. If you regularly workout on an elliptical trainer at the gym, switch to a walk on the treadmill or a session on an exercise bike. Take a Pilates or a yoga class. Walk your dog or bundle up and walk to work. Introduce some sort of strength training to your program. The more varied your workout menu, the less overall soreness you will experience.
Injuries are discouraging to even the most dedicated athlete. They can cause a fall off the workout wagon, so it’s important to understand the difference between DOMS and an actual injury. There are some simple tools to help assess the situation. Did the soreness come on gradually? If so, it will probably go away gradually. A lighter version of the sore-making activity may help. Some studies point to massage, applying ice, or the use of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to alleviate the discomfort. If the soreness comes on sharp and strong and persists for more than a week, it’s probably wise to seek medical help.
- Pam Brooks