Hurt versus Sore….when to seek help?

Oct 31, 2013
Tagged with: Hurt versus Sore....when to seek help?

If you’ve ever tried a new form of exercise or taken on a weekend-warrior project, you know what sore muscles feel like. I have worked in the field of exercise science and sports medicine for the past 6 years and I can speak from experience that sometimes that soreness REALLY hurts…but what about soreness when its not a new activity?

I personally ALWAYS have something that is sore or hurt, but I know that when I stay strong and keep moving, I feel better. There are some days though, that I find myself at a crossroads, asking myself if I am sore or hurt. For example, I really need to stop running downhill. I can run about 12 miles in a week, if I go over that amount I know that my left knee or my right shin will go on strike, and I’m ok with that! 12 miles is a good distance to  stay fit, but I have a favorite route here in Birmingham and it has a serious hill. Now let me tell you, I HATE this hill when I’m running UP, but coming back down, I LOVE IT!! I can run fast and just sort of let my legs keep moving as I run….BUT I always have a really sore low back afterward. I know its because I have a few bad discs and that downhill sprint adds a lot of extra forces and back extension that it doesn’t really like….but I LOVE running downhill!

I’m pretty sure if I stop running downhill, or stop running in general, my knees and my back might feel better. But I don’t feel as healthy emotionally when I don’t have some chance to do vigorous exercise. I have to ask myself when the point is that something hurts badly enough that I seek help. I try not to complain about my painful joints, but I feel like once I cross the line and say that something is hurt, not only am I admitting defeat, but I also start to think about everything else that hurts.

Its a tough line to walk. Am I hurt? or am I sore? Should I seek help? or should I see if some rest helps?

I usually tell my athletes that pain of 4 (out of 10) or more means you probably shouldn’t participate in your activity for the day, and if the pain is preventing you from doing your daily activities (stairs, bending, driving etc.) then you need to see a physician (usually for imaging studies). This is the same advice that I use for myself, though I’m not usually very good at the 4 out of 10 rule (especially for my shin!)

How do you deal with soreness and injuries? Do you have any advice for others who may be experiencing some pain but don’t want to stop exercising? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Author: Susan Silverman