Soreness vs Pain

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if we are just really sore from a workout, or if we actually injured something. Often we think of pain as a bad thing, and yes, while injuries do suck, pain is a wonderful thing because it tells us when to stop and what not to do! So, listen to pain, don’t ignore it.

But, how do we tell the difference, because soreness and pain can feel identical. Especially if we are new to CrossFit, or learned a new movement, maybe we increased our volume, or just came back from a long vacation or surgery.

Let’s compare the two…

SORENESS can feel tender to the touch, tired or burning-feeling during exercise, dull, generalized, and can feel tight and achy after the workout. PAIN feels sharp during and/or after the workout. Like you’re being stabbed with a knife - ouch!

Now, sometimes super sore muscles can feel sharp, right?! Especially if you’re brand new to CrossFit. The big difference is in the length of time you feel the soreness or pain - SORENESS only lasts for about 2-3 days. PAIN will linger past 3 days, though, especially if it’s not addressed properly!

SORENESS improves and can even goes away completely with warm up, mobility, stretching, and during the next workout. PAIN will get WORSE with movement and prevent you from continuing on in the workout.

SORENESS worsens from sitting and standing still for long periods of time. PAIN will worsen with continued activity.

SORENESS is more generalized in location, whereas PAIN is specific and you can point to it.

SORENESS is just muscle(s), whereas PAIN is more specific to a muscle and/or joint.

So, what do we do if it’s sore muscles?! KEEP MOVING! ;-) Yes, it’s actually better to come in the next day and do an active recovery workout than to stay home and sit still. Stretch, mobilize, go for a walk around your neighborhood, do some yoga, whatever. Movement is your friend when you have sore muscles.

Now, what if you actually have pain?! CALL YOUR DOCTOR!

When in doubt, get it checked out!

And, until you’ve gotten your pain properly diagnosed and treated, definitely stop doing any and all movements that aggravate it! Remember that the beautiful thing about CrossFit is that we can scale, modify, and adapt EVERYTHING! ;-)

I bring all of this up because last week I somehow injured my left tricep. Definitely pain, as I can point to the specific area it hurts, and it is sharp and gets much worse with movement. Boo! I actually don’t know how I did it, I just woke up one morning with it… I guess this is what my parents were talking about when I was a young whipper snapper. Ha!

Anyway, despite having a mysterious pain/injury, I’ve still been coming in every day at 9:00am to workout with class. Modifying doesn’t suck - Our attitude about modifying sucks. I’ve still been getting in great workouts without using my left tricep. It’s actually like a fun, challenging game to figure out what I can and can’t do. I can’t do any pushing/pressing movements, and I can only row or ring row gently. Otherwise, any other movements with my arms can only be either an overhead position, or a farmer carry.

So, for today’s WOD, instead of:

15 Cal Row
15 C2B Pull ups
15 Cal Row

I subbed everything and did:

15 OHS @ 65
200m Run
15 Ring Rows w/ false grip
200m Run

Soreness you can work through. Pain you CANNOT work through - You gotta work around it. Pay attention, listen to the signs, ask the coach if you’re unsure, and as I said before, “When in doubt, get it checked out!”

Happy Training, friends!

Kara PurvesComment