A pain that feels so good that it inspires you to go to the gym and do it all over again. It is a form of pain that does not really constitute injury but is painful nonetheless. This pain is called muscle soreness. Muscle Soreness is what most people call the good pain. Although it is one of the most common complaints when starting a new exercise program or whenever there is an addition or a new component to a training regimen, which is particularly the case if you are using groups of muscles which have previously been inactive. Muscle Soreness should be regarded as a reflection of all the hard work that you have put into the gym. Furthermore, Muscle Soreness should not be confused with Muscle Pain, because there is a definite distinction between the two.
The main difference being Muscle Pain is almost always associated with an acute, sharp and/or jabbing sensation. If you experience this type of pain your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong by delivering a signal for injury. It is an indication that you may have damaged yourself and should rest or take it easy for a time. If the pain, in any way shape or form persists, worsens or hinders you in doing your regular everyday activity then you should seek medical help so that it can be diagnosed and/or treated and can heal as quickly as possible (often times medical professionals will tell you to STOP what you are doing OR Surgery is the answer, that is not the case a good chunk of the time, get a second opinion and talk to the people around you many times someone else in your gym has experienced the same thing). “Muscle pain” injuries are caused by not using proper form when doing a particular exercise, failure to get a sufficient warm-up before exercising and/or lifting weights without using proper technique.
Muscle soreness on the other hand is the result of minute and controlled damage to the muscles, ligaments and/or tendons. It is this muscle damage that is going to make you stronger, the damaged tissue will have a neurological adaptation to what you have just put it through. So the phrase “No Pain, No Gain” is very literal. It has been said for a very long time that Muscle Soreness is caused by the build up of Lactic Acid, this is not an accurate statement, though Lactic Acid is produced by muscles during exercise it is actually used as fuel (like NOS in a race car) when your muscles can not burn the Lactic Acid fast enough a build up occurs in the muscles causing a burning discomfort in that muscle but this has nothing to do with the soreness you have the next day.
Generally there are two types of soreness Acute Onset Muscle Soreness the kind that occurs right after an exercise and usually dissipates within a 3 to 4 hour time period mainly caused by your muscles utilizing the left over Lactic Acid and cooling themselves down slowly. The other type of soreness is the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness which doesn’t really hit you until 1-2 days after you exercise a particular muscle, which is caused by the tissue damage which was previously mentioned.
But the good news is, despite the Muscle Soreness you can continue your training as long as you can differentiate between Soreness and Pain. The worst thing you can do for Muscle Soreness is nothing. If you decide you want to skip the WOD because your legs are sore and it is a little difficult to Squat they will be just as sore, if not worse, the next day. However, if you decide to go in to the gym, the warm up and the WOD will increase the blood flow to your muscles and help them to relax and loosen up. Think of the tightness as Scar Tissue, your muscles repair themselves and that Scar Tissue needs to be broken up otherwise there it will stay and continue to cause discomfort.
Also there are other things you can do to help alleviate soreness including but not limited to: Ice baths, Hot/Cold contrast (not “Icy Hot”), Massage, Sauna, Mobility and Swimming (everyone has their own method of “fixing” their Soreness so find what works for you).
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