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Why is physical activity so important? Both soreness and pain are unpleasant sensations. For practical purposes we think of clinical pain as being an uncomfortable sensation that suggests potential or actual tissue damage. A more practical way of thinking about it is that pain is something that generally persists over time. After a couple of weeks pain that is still persistent is something that would leave the realm of soreness and enter a chronic or sub-acute type of pain. The soreness itself is really the consequence of activity and is usually mild. It will get better with anti-inflammatories or rest. Sometimes alternating heat and ice can alleviate the soreness. In general, things that get checked out immediately would include pain that is so severe that it starts to limit somebody and examples of those types of pain would be somebody who suffers a fall or a broken bone, that’s a pain that is immediate and so severe that it needs to be checked immediately.
How do I differentiate between soreness and pain, and should I be concerned about it? A lot of soreness is simply telling us the body’s recent activity was stressful and the soreness is generally something that goes away and often gets better with conservative management. Conservative management includes rest, anti-inflammatories and alternating ice and heat. When pain has been present for awhile and doesn’t go away it needs to be evaluated. Pain that is severe, even if it is very short term, can be extremely limiting. If it is affecting activates significantly it should also be evaluated. In general any pain we manage is pain that has been chronic in nature and has been there a number of weeks.