Soreness Versus Injury - How to Tell the Difference?


Today's post includes helpful information from physical therapist Josh Feigl on how to tell the difference between muscle soreness, which is a normal part of dance training, and pain, which is usually the sign of injury.  As ballet students well know,

The demands of regular training can be extremely stressful on the body.

Understanding the difference between exercise related muscle soreness and injury is not easy - but it is extremely important for athletes and dancers alike.  Muscular soreness is a healthy and expected result of intense training. Pain on the other hand, is unhealthy and often times leads to injury that can restrict the your ability to perform.

So, how can we tell the difference? A lot of it has to do with being careful to listen to and get to know your own body. Each person’s body has a different threshold for pain, often dependent on age, strength, and skill level. Given the many variables, comparing yourself and your experiences to friends in similar training programs is not a reliable approach, as those friends may likely have different responses to the same training and rehearsals! Instead, we have a look at the following chart that describes some of the key factors of pain versus soreness.

Muscle SorenessPain

Type of discomfort:Tender when touching muscles, tired or burning feeling while exercising, minimal dull, tight and achy feeling at restAche, sharp pain at rest or when exercising

Onset:Shortly after exercises or 24-72 hours after activityImmediately during exercise or within 24 hours of activity

Duration:2-3 daysMay likely continue or worsen if not addressed

Location:MusclesMuscles or joints

Improves with:Stretching, following movementIce, rest

Worsens with:Sitting stillContinued activity

Using these signs and symptoms as a guideline combined with a regular careful attention to how their bodies feel, ballet students and other athletes can learn to discern the difference between pain and soreness in many cases. If you come to a point when you are unsure about the symptoms that you are feeling, or you suspect that you have sustained an injury, consulting with a physical therapist or medical doctor promptly can help assess exactly what the injury may be and prevent further complication of the injury. These experienced professionals will be able to address factors that may have led to the injury, prevent further problems, and provide specific recommendations for a safe and effective return to activity.

- Josh Feigl, Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, JointPro Physical Therapy

Have more questions? You can contact Josh via email at JointPro Physical Therapy is located in Frankfort just across from Ballet 5:8.   Josh has treated grade school to professional athletes in all sports over the last 15 years. He is excited to be collaborating with Ballet 5:8 on various sports medicine topics as well as providing free injury screenings to all dancers and families.