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Muscle Soreness Vs. Injury: What’s The Difference?

2016-03-23 | By: Snap Fitness

Ahh, the full-body soreness the day after a killer workout. Sore legs? Sore arms? Sore glutes? Check, check, check. You can feel the muscle burn now just thinking about it! Some people may swear that's the sign of a successful workout – but be warned, you might be pushing yourself closer to an injury than you think. While that burn can be great, it’s important to know the difference between being sore and having an injury. A little ache may not seem like a warning sign, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your body.

Please note that we are not medical experts, so consult with your regular medical provider if you have consistent pain. The following is a brief overview of what certain pains or burns mean in the major joint areas throughout your body.


  • If you feel a little pain in your kneecap or surrounding area, take a couple days off. Give your hamstrings and quads extra love with longer stretches, too! Also consider your footwear; your athletic shoes might not be giving your knees the support you need as you get older.
  • Stop immediately if you feel a stabbing pain or cracking feeling in your knees. This could be a sign of a torn ligament or broken cyst.


  • If you’ve been hitting the resistance bands or heavy weights for your arm lifts, you may be feeling a little discomfort — especially if you spend your work days behind a computer. Try using a lighter weight or doing lower-intensity exercises for the next few workouts.
  • If you feel a sharp pain in the tops of your shoulders, do not push it. This feeling could be a sign of a large tear or dislocation.


  • You can carry a lot of stress and strain on your back muscles. They’re some of the largest muscles in your body. If you feel like you have a knot, a foam roller could do just the trick. Work the muscles from top to bottom and throw in a twist or two for an added stretch.
  • If you feel any sort of pain in your spine, stop right away. Evaluate what you can do: sit, stand, walk, etc. Do not push yourself in any workouts until you’ve gotten your back checked out by a doctor.

You’re the best judge of how intense your pain is. For the most part, any sharp, stabbing, or shooting pains are definitely worth talking to your doctor about. The “no pain, no gain” mentality is not worth any short or long-term injury setbacks!

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