YOU ARE YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Movement, Motivation and Mindset for Active Seniors

Energy Bite 160 – A Short Course in Soreness vs Pain in Exercise and Movement

I’m asked a lot: “If I start exercising, will I be sore?” The answer is – probably! That’s how you will know that your muscles and body are responding favorably to the exercise.

I’m also asked: “Will I feel pain?” You might, but you shouldn’t if you are doing a movement correctly.  Arthritis pain is not included in this discussion.

Soreness is normal and you are likely to have muscle soreness of some sort after most exercise sessions where you actually exert yourself. Pain is different. Pain is a signal that something is probably wrong and you should ease off. Most likely pain is short term, but it is your body telling you that either you are doing something beyond your current physical limits, or that you have injured something. The pain I am referring to is usually sudden and crisp or sharp. In effect, that’s the main difference between soreness and pain.

Pain is a warning signal. When you feel actual pain — Stop. Pain signals danger. For example, shoulder pain may mean damage to your Rotator Cuff or other shoulder muscle or joint. Further movement could cause long lasting or permanent injury. Pain will usually show up during or after exercise and is located in muscles, joints, or connective tissue (ligaments and tendons).

Soreness means that you are doing something that hasn’t been done for a while and it will take a while for your body to get used to it.

Pain is often a medical condition. If it lasts for more than a week, you should check with your doctor. Often your doctor will prescribe medication for pain. If so, be careful. Pain medication can be addictive. But do what your doctor tells you.

Soreness after exercise often feels good. Soreness should be welcomed. It means your muscles are slowly adapting to something new. You know you have been doing something positive for your body.  A day or two of rest should reduce or eliminate the soreness. Stretching after exercise can result in less soreness.

Here are some quick guidelines:

  • Listen to your body. It knows.
  • If you are just starting out, your mind may not know the difference between soreness and pain. Use the guidelines above.
  • After a while, your mind will understand what your body is telling you. Pay attention.

Soreness can be uncomfortable to those new to exercise. Get to know and understand it. Make it your friend. Get used to it, and don’t let it stop you.

Thank you for reading.

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