Coming back to the gym after a hiatus of almost one year, I knew very well that I would be sore for the next few days. I mean, I expected it and was prepared for it... Ha! That last part was a joke. I was not prepared for anything like it. What the hell? Can your scalp get sore from squats? I couldn't even get dressed in the morning. let alone brush my hair, because if you have ever done a strict push up after a long time, you know that your arms and chest are in need of an exorcism in order to function.

I thought exercise was supposed to make you feel better, move better, look better and all that stuff that you read in motivational posters on pinterest. Let me tell you, unless you physically have to, NEVER stop training for such a long period of time. It hurts... A lot. Which brings us to the point of this post: Is that feeling just normal soreness or is it an injury? This is a legitimate question; especially for those who were avid gym goers because they tend to  start from  where they left off. Which is probably a bad, bad idea... ask me.


The muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones of the body react to the stress of exercise only gradually. If they see stress too fast, they cannot respond effectively and may begin to fail. This can result in bad pain.

For example, when muscles that have not been exercised for long periods of time (like, everything in my body right now) see a lot of stress, they respond by getting sore. Payback?. Muscle soreness typically occurs if you do a new exercise to which you are not accustomed or if you do a familiar exercise too hard. This soreness typically begins within a few hours but peaks one to two days after exercise. Surprise! That nasty feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and may represent actual muscle damage. A little soreness or discomfort means that the muscle has been stressed, but if the muscle is exercised too much, the muscle can become very sore to move and touch and may even swell. In severe cases, the muscle may be damaged to the point that it starts to develop permanent damage. In extreme cases, individuals who are not adequately conditioned who exercise excessively can develop a condition where the muscle is permanently damaged and proteins are released into the blood stream, which can shut down the kidneys. So yeah, calm down and start your exercise program slowly and build up gradually

It is bad pain if:

You have the kind of pain that does not go away with rest. Pain that begins to affect your function outside of sports, such as walking or sleeping, is not normal. Pain that is constant or increasing over time and does not go away is not normal. Pain that does not improve with treatment may be something to be concerned about. Pain that requires increasing amounts of pain medication over time is not normal, and you should consider seeing a physician. Pain that begins to wake you from your sleep is also a concern, especially if it increases over time.

Another sign that may indicate a more serious problem is the development of weakness. Tingling or numbness may indicate nerve problems. If you notice that you are gradually losing motion of the extremity you should also seek treatment. Like, NOW!


"I'm so sore that I can barely walk. It was a great workout!"

Nope. It wasn't. Being extremely sore to the point where it keeps you from performing every day activities with ease means you pushed way too hard, too soon. If you need more than one day to recover, you may want to take things a little slower next time. Some soreness, especially after a new exercise or program is expected because your body hasn't adapted to it yet.But remember, soreness is not a measure of quality. A good exercise program will give you gradual increments of difficulty which will lead to less soreness in general. If you are too trashed to train again, then what's the point?

"You must avoid moving when sore. It will make things worse."

On the contrary. Light movement will increase blood flow, therefore you will feel better after a few reps exercises like squats, lunges, planks, etc. Another way to alleviate the inflamation is getting a massage; taking hot baths; performing low-intensity workouts; sitting in a sauna; etc. 

"Soreness is caused by Lactic Acid."

Turns out Lactic Acid build up had nothing to do with DOMS, due to the fact that this type of muscle soreness doesn’t appear until around 24-72 hours or so from the time you exercised, yet the lactic acid buildup only lasts in your muscles for at most an hour or two after your workout is complete. So if it’s not lactic acid that is causing this soreness, what is it?  DOMS is now understood to be caused by microfractures in the muscle cells themselves.  This happens when you do some activity that your muscles aren’t used to doing or do it in a much more strenuous way than they are used to.

but did you die?

Yes, a little soreness is fine. Pushing a little harder is always good and trying new exercises should be part of your program. But remember, you need to be able to come back to the gym the next day and the day after that.

A good workout is the one that makes you feel better.

Soreness Vs. Injury chart