Good sore or bad sore? Do you know the difference

Exercise provides numerous health benefits for us. However, there are some drawbacks, and one of them is soreness (unless you’re one of those weird ones who enjoys the pain).

There is a popular saying, “No pain, no gain!”, that we often take too seriously. In the context of soreness, it can range from barely noticeable discomfort to movement-impairing pain. (The popular social media posts of people dragging themselves up a flight of stairs after a heavy leg day aren’t exactly jokes.)


Now, it’s important to understand something:

If you’ve never done something before (e.g., squatting with a loaded barbell on your back or doing sprints on the track), you’ll probably get extremely sore in the following days. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve overdone it or are overtrained. It means that your body is not used to that stress and is going to need some time to adapt.


What Does Good Soreness Feel Like?

When you exercise, you cause muscle damage (microtears) to the tissue that usually manifests itself as a feeling of soreness. Now, in some cases, the muscle soreness can surface as little as 12 hours after the exercise, particularly if you are doing something new and much more challenging than usual.

In most cases, however, the muscle soreness manifests itself 24-48 hours after the exercise is done. This is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It usually lasts for two to three days, but in some cases (e.g., putting much more stress on your body than it’s used to, changing exercises in the gym, or training a muscle group that’s you’ve never trained before) the soreness can last for up to a week.

Muscle soreness usually ranges from mild to moderate discomfort. Your muscles feel tight, achy and tender to the touch. If you put stress on them too soon, they’ll feel fatigued and achy.

This type of soreness is also a package deal. You’ll feel the discomfort in both parts of your body. For example, after a session of bicep curls, both your biceps will be sore. After a squatting session, both your legs will be sore. After pull-ups, both sides of your back will be sore.


What Does Bad Soreness Feel Like?

Overtraining or not using correct technique at work or whilst exercising, can lead to severe and potentially dangerous soreness.

Unlike normal muscle soreness, this one is different in a few ways:

1)It often affects not just the muscles, but also your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Having sore triceps after training the bench press or doing push-ups is normal. However, if the soreness radiates to your elbows and/or deep within your shoulders, this can be an indicator of improper form that could lead to an injury.

2)It often lasts for several days and can extend beyond a week. As we discussed above, muscle soreness usually goes away within 2-4 days. If you’re experiencing bad soreness, it can last for over seven days.

3)It can affect just one side of the body. For example, after doing the deadlift, or lifting at work throughout the day, your entire back should feel sore. After squatting, both your legs should feel sore. If just one side feels sore or borderline achy in the following days, this could indicate improper form and/or muscle imbalances.

4)It can manifest itself as deep, sharp pain around different joints. Feeling soreness in the front part of your shoulders, chest, and triceps after doing the bench press is normal. However, if you feel deep, sharp pain in your shoulders, elbows, or upper-outer part of your chest muscles, this is a good indicator that something is not right.

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