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What You Must Know About Pain and Soreness

There’s soreness, and then there’s pain. It’s important to not confuse the two.

To active people in general and athletes at all levels, the inability to recognize the differences between muscle soreness and pain can mean pushing your body – your muscles and joints – to the point of injury. It’s the difference, Jones says, between healthy progress and unnecessary, long-term risk.

Whether you’re a true athlete, are training for your first 5K fun run, enjoy riding your bike to work, or simply like working the soil in your garden, adopting the theory of ‘no pain, no gain’ isn’t always the wisest choice. It’s one thing if you get a little sore — this happens — but if you’re dealing with pain, you need to find out what’s causing the discomfort. Pushing through the pain could only cause long-term damage to your body.”

So how can you tell soreness from pain? The answer’s simple: listen to your body.

Here are some of the signs that you’re experiencing pain – not simply soreness — and should shut it down and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist, according to both Jones and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):

Pain is Sharp: Sharp, intense pain that you experience when exercising and at rest can be classified as pain. In contrast, sore muscles tend to feel tight and achy when at rest. During exercise, sore muscles will feel “burning” and fatigued.

The burning feeling should be felt in the muscles, but, if the part of the body where you feel discomfort is swollen or warmer to the touch, that’s a sign of inflammation, which is beyond simple soreness.”

Pain in the Joints: Soreness is a muscular thing. Though muscle discomfort can also cross the line into pain, discomfort in the joints is less ambiguous.

If you feel in a particular joint or you’re struggling with activities that were previously easy, like getting up from a chair or walking up stairs, it’s time to seek professional advice.

Warm-Up Discomfort: If the discomfort you feel doesn’t go away after you’ve warmed up for your workout or event, you’ve potentially crossed the line into pain.

When you’re running, let’s say, and the second mile hurts the same as when you walked out the door that morning, you’re dealing with pain, not soreness.  General soreness – even a stiff joint – should improve through use.

R.I.C.E. Fails: If soreness persists and seems to linger, apply R.I.C.E., a popular acronym that takes you through the steps of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Then re-evaluate the way you feel. If the hurt doesn’t improve or subside, you may be dealing with pain. Time to seek the advice of an expert, such as a physical therapist.

The sooner you see a medical expert, such as a physical therapist, the less chance the potential injury will worsen,If you’re truly in pain, getting evaluated and treated immediately can improve and possibly hasten your recover, depending on the injury.

Dr. Jones is a physical therapist, speaker, author and co-owner of Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness and Kinetic Pediatric Therapy who specializes and holds several credentials in orthopedics and manual therapy. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapists.

5 Running Mistakes to Avoid this 5K Season

It’s the season for weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays. But as recreation and competitive runners hit the roads and trails to prepare for upcoming events remember that avoiding common early season training mistakes can keep runners healthy and competitive throughout the season.

This is an especially important message considering about 60 to 65 percent of all runners experience an injury during the average year.

Running injuries are common, especially early in the season when people are training and prepping for races by getting their bodies back into shape. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, knee pain, IT band friction syndrome … these are all common running injuries, often caused this time of year by doing too much too soon, and doing so lacking proper strength, muscle timing, flexibility or form.

To help remain on schedule throughout the spring and summer outdoor season remember to avoid the following five running mistakes:

  1. Skipping Warmup and Cooldown: While workout windows can be tight and difficult to secure during a given week, don’t use time constraints as an excuse to avoid properly warming up and cooling down before and after a run. Some walking, light jogging, skipping, high knees and butt kicks prior to running increases heart rate and circulation, loosens up the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and muscle cramps.
  2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes: How your feet strike the ground will affect muscles and joints throughout your body’s entire kinetic chain, from the feet and ankles, through the knees and hips, and up into your spine and torso. If your shoes don’t fit properly, support your feet correctly or sufficiently absorb the impact of each stride, you’re going to feel it. It’s important to not only wear a good, high-quality shoe, but also one that matches your foot type.
  3. Not Listening to the Body: Don’t subscribe to a “no pain, no gain” model when running. Sure, you’ll want to push your body hard, but if you feel pain or an unnatural level of discomfort or fatigue, stop, assess and seek treatment from a physical therapist or other medical professional, if necessary.
  4. Focusing Only on Cardio Fitness: With running, cardio fitness is certainly important. But when it comes to both injury prevention and performance enhancement, flexibility and strength are equally as vital. Stretch daily and during cooldown periods and build strength in your calves, knees, hips and core through heel drops and body weight squats.
  5. Forgetting to Rest: It’s good to push yourself, but rest and recovery are essential in avoiding injury, burnout and plateauing before you’ve reached your fullest potential. So always work rest into your long-term training regimen. This doesn’t mean just kicking up your feet and relaxing for a day. Sometimes, ‘rest’ can simply mean mixing up your training so you’re not challenging your body the same way every day.

To learn more about proper training, including personalized assessments and the development of training regimens that can enhance your running performance and ensure optimal injury prevention, feel free to contact the physical therapy team at Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness.

Dr. Jones is a physical therapist, speaker, author and co-owner of Kinetic Physical Therapy & Wellness and Kinetic Pediatric Therapy who specializes and holds several credentials in orthopedics and manual therapy. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapists.