By Kyle Dorsey, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Performance Plus Physical Therapy

One of the most common questions people are asked when they come into Physical Therapy is if they are experiencing any pain or soreness. Sometimes people can answer this question, but often people are shocked to realize they don’t know the difference. Believe it or not this is a common situation most people find themselves in. While this is a common question and two very common symptoms people can experience they can mean vastly different things. 

Soreness is often experienced 1-2 days after working out or coming into Physical Therapy. This occurs after exercise and is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. Essentially what’s happening here is the muscles have experienced a weight or a workout they are not used to. This feeling comes from small, microscopic tears that are occurring in the muscle. While this may sound scary, its in fact a good thing! When the body repairs these microscopic tears, it allows our muscles to get stronger, helping to recover from injury and even prevent future injuries! 

Pain can be experienced at any time and can sometimes mean something serious is going on. When we experience pain, it is our brain telling our body that something may going on and is disrupting the body’s natural resting state. Fortunately for us, not all pain is bad. Sometimes its simply a muscle strain or a pulled muscle and usually isn’t anything to be worried about.  

There are a few ways to differentiate between pain and soreness. Soreness typically gets better with movement but increases when we just lay around and relax. This is because the muscles are warming up and blood is being brought into the area as we start to move around. In contrast, pain typically gets worse with movement and better with rest and isn’t usually found in the area or areas of the body that you just worked out and strengthened. 

The most effective ways of helping reduce soreness, especially after working out is to perform gentle stretches, take short walks throughout the day and try to stay as active as possible. Helping to reduce pain is a little bit more difficult and you should seek medical advice about possible reasons for your pain. 

If you have any questions about a source of pain or soreness, feel free to call us and set up an appointment. You can sit down with one of our Physical Therapists for an evaluation and to answer any questions!