Muscle soreness is an unavoidable side effect of exercise. Exertion or injury will cause muscle soreness. If the muscle soreness is caused by exertion, then it’s harmless. But if it’s caused by injury, then it’s not a good thing.

Don’t confuse injury with muscle soreness

muscle soreness

Inflammation is the body’s healing response to injury, and its presence means that you’re injured, not that you’re sore.

The traditional signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, and swelling. Pain or discomfort after exercise may be harmless. But pain or discomfort, along with those other things, probably signals the presence of inflammation, which signals injury.

There are a variety of attitudes and approaches to exercise-related injury. At one extreme, there is the attitude that injury is to be ignored. At the other extreme, there is the attitude that injury requires a cessation of all activity. I have worked with many exercisers; most of them fall on the spectrum between those two extremes.

But to those who are prone to ignore the pain of injury: be careful. If you don’t properly handle injury, a bad situation can quickly become worse.


muscle soreness

Exercise often causes cells to degenerate. That means that the cell’s structures tear apart. The tears are cellular traumas and they can cause muscle soreness.

Exercise physiologists, athletic trainers, coaches, and other exercise professionals are not worried about muscle soreness. Its presence does not contra-indicate exercise. In fact, exercise may help reduce soreness, because exercise has an analgesic effect.

Muscle soreness may not be a cause for concern, but that doesn’t mean that you should chase it. You definitely shouldn’t use it to confirm the effectiveness of a workout. Do workouts that are intelligent, well-designed, enjoyable, and geared towards your objectives. If you don’t know how to create that kind of workout, get some help.

Don’t intentionally workout so that you feel sore the next day—that’s courting an injury.

Muscle soreness should be predictable: it will typically happen after embarking on a new exercise program or changing some element of an exercise program. If muscle soreness unexpectedly occurs outside of those two reasons, it may indicate some other problem, like sickness or injury.