There are few joys like that of pursuing your best health and fitness. This journey is so enjoyable because it is so personal and looks unique from person to person. No two people are the same, so finding out how to pursue a health and fitness journey will always vary from person to person.
Factors like age, metabolism, personality, and a host of other physical characteristics, all make a difference and shape what this journey will look like. One of the essential aspects of pursuing your best health and fitness is learning to notice red flags when they arise. Awareness of what should cause concern is an integral part of responsibly pursuing your fitness journey. Even if you have the best of intentions, it can be easy to overdo it and cause some kind of damage to a muscle group, joint, or tendon without knowing when to pull back and take it easy.
Learning to understand when your body needs a rest or to use something like knee sleeves, a back brace, or another form of support takes some time. The good news is that it’s always better to err on caution. While you shouldn’t listen to that lazy voice in your head that just wants you to sit on the couch all day – you should be aware that your body will communicate when it needs rest.
Sometimes that can look like your body telling you you need more sleep; other times it seems like your body is sending you pain signals to alert you to something not being right. Two common conditions that can occur when pursuing your best fitness and investing in exercising are soreness and inflammation. While both are not uncommon, they are very different things and need to be handled appropriately.
So if you have been wondering what the difference is between inflammation and generalized muscle soreness, here is everything you need to know!
What is Inflammation?
Let’s start with the actual red flag here, inflammation. Inflammation is a condition that can occur for a lot of different reasons and is something that should be taken seriously. While mild or minimal inflammation is widespread, it always indicates something wrong. Even minor cases of inflammation that can be quickly subdued with an ice pack or some anti-inflammatory medication indicate something wrong.
Inflammation happens as a response to damage or infection. In general, inflammation produces a painful stimulus and swelling and can cause discoloration – typically presenting with redness.
What Should You Do With Inflammation?
The first thing you do with an inflamed area is treat it as if it is hurt. You stop stressing it; sometimes, you may even have to use medication to help elevate the inflammation. There are over-the-counter options for helping to mitigate or minimize inflammation, such as creams. In some cases, knee sleeves or wrist braces can help control inflammation and alleviate discomfort.
The issue with inflammation is that, a lot of times it is caused by some infection which can range from very minor to severe. Common, smaller cases of inflammation are typically very correctable.
What is Muscle Soreness?
If you are actively pursuing your health and fitness, especially if you keep to a gym routine, muscle soreness may feel like inflammation but is very different. Muscle soreness, in general, is due to the stress on muscles, joints, or ligaments during physical exercise. This feeling is typically associated with the natural strengthening process that muscles go through wherein they develop microtears due to stress and then heal and become stronger.
This feeling can be very unpleasant and even painful sometimes. However, it is a very natural part of the strength-building process. In general, while it isn’t pleasant, muscle soreness is nothing to be afraid of. Because this is a healthy part of the strength training process, it’s nothing to be alarmed by if you experience sore muscles after a workout.
How Should You Handle Muscle Soreness?
When you experience muscle soreness, it is essential to understand that this is a signal your body gives you to rest and recover. To build back stronger muscle, your body needs adequate rest and energy. Taking a recovery day to do this is an excellent way of dealing with your muscle soreness.
Natural ways of alleviating this discomfort could be using things like a sauna, steam room, or even ice-cold showers. If you need localized relief, you can always try using hot and cold packs and applying them directly to the affected area.
Knowing the difference between inflammation and soreness is good. It can help you understand what could potentially be damaged compared to a natural reaction to physical exercise.