Soreness vs. Pain: Know the Difference


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Have you decided to focus on your health and start an exercise program? That is great! You crushed your first workout and feel incredible afterward. That is until the next morning when you’re so sore that you can barely crawl out of bed and get on your feet. There are many benefits to exercise, including weight control, reducing the risk of heart disease, and improving your mental wellbeing. However, you may experience some physical discomfort, pain or soreness from time to time associated with these activities due to the stresses placed on the body.

When you experience physical discomfort, it is important to understand the difference between exercise-related soreness and pain.

Muscle soreness

Muscle soreness, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a result of the small tears to the muscle fibers that occur while working out. This type of soreness is completely normal and usually occurs within 6-8 hours after the new activity or a change in activity and can last up to 24-48 hours after the exercise. You may be experiencing delayed muscle soreness after:

  • Starting an exercise or workout program for the first time
  • Adding a new activity or exercise to your workout routine
  • Increasing the intensity of your workout
  • Performing the same exercise over and over again without a sufficient amount of rest in between

Anyone is at risk for muscle soreness, including bodybuilders and other professional athletes. In fact, normal muscle soreness means that you’re getting stronger. During exercise, the muscle fibers begin to break down and tear. As the muscle fibers repair themselves, they become larger and stronger than they were before, which means that your muscles will not only grow, but they will be prepared to handle the stress next time you work out.


In contrast to muscular soreness, you may experience a sharp pain located in your muscles or joints during or after you exercise. Unlike soreness, pain is not a natural response to physical activity. Pushing through this pain will likely only further your injury more. In most cases where the pain is extreme or does not resolve after 7 to 10 days, it may be time to consult with a healthcare professional.

How We Can Help

At Comprehensive Medical Care, our clinic offers a vast range of physical therapy services for individuals who are experiencing joint pain, movement disorders, decreased mobility, and more. If you are experiencing pain, have sustained an injury, or suffering from chronic joint pain, count on our multi-specialty team to get you back on your feet. Contact us online today!

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