Delayed muscle soreness or injury? How do you know?

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For a lot of us, pain in the body will come and go, like a headache.

You may have pain for an hour or maybe even a day, but often it will simply go away and you’ll forget about it.

There are many factors and mechanisms that cause pain in the body, and sometimes you may feel it’s not bad enough to do anything about.

The best tip I can give you is you should do something about our pain before it becomes problematic.

But how do you know when?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S)

As you’ve probably experienced, after training, you can develop delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S).

This pain and stiffness can be felt in the muscle for between 24 to 72 hours, days after strenuous or unaccustomed exercise.

It is caused by damage to the muscle during the eccentric (lengthening) part of the contraction and the soreness comes when the muscle is adapting afterwards.

It is a common and normal muscle response if you have pushed yourself hard, worked muscles in the outer limits of their flexibility, lifted heavier weights than you usually do, or not exercised for a while.

For example, if you have done a lot of heavy squats, and the next day your thighs and glutes are sore, this is D.O.M.S.

The pain is over a large area throughout the muscles, and usually on both sides. The best thing to do is rest, gently stretch and avoid training the sore body parts at that intensity for 48 to 72 hours.

D.O.M.S or an actual muscle injury?

Determining whether soreness it’s severe D.O.M.S, or whether you have suffered an injury, is all down to the nature of the pain, the surface area and when it happens.

With a muscle injury, the pain is localized to one small area in the muscle, is more severe and has an ache with it. There is often sharp pain on flexing the muscle and a loss of power.

With injury, the pain comes on either during or immediately after training, not the next day or so like with D.O.M.S. The pain can last for many days, and sometimes weeks or longer.

As soon as you feel this type of pain, you need to have the injury assessed by a skilled healthcare provider to ascertain the extent of the damage and determine what to do next.

This is not a time to wait and hope it goes away. Seeing a physician or therapist for rehabilitation will increase your likelihood of returning to exercise more quickly.

In addition, a good physical therapist will also be able to work out why you became injured in the first place, and help prevent it from happening again.

Most people know when they have suffered a significant training or sports injury. It’s immediate and it hurts a lot.

If the injury pain is severe, or you have difficulty moving any body part or you have a large amount of swelling, seek professional advice immediately.

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