Muscle pain and tendon soreness: get the facts

Muscle and tendon soreness can hit you off guard. Learn the difference between the two, and find out how to find relief when the pain strikes.

Muscle pain and tendon soreness: get the facts

The scenerio

  • This time, you're determined to get fit: You ran 1.6 kilometres (one mile) and finished with a set of push-ups.
  • Then, for the next several days, your arms and legs feel like they've been stretched on a medieval rack. What happened?

Why am I so sore?

  • That soreness is the result of two things: the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles and the true soreness culprits—tiny tears in your muscles.
  • White blood cells, anti-inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins, and nutrients and fluids rushing in to help repair the stressed muscles also cause them to swell.
  • The swelling builds for several days, which is why you may still be hobbling down the staircase after five days. Such muscle soreness may also result from an injury or fall.

Is it the muscle or tendon?

  • Whatever you do to make your muscles weep often affects your tendons, the tissue that connects muscles to bones. In fact, the difference between muscle and tendon soreness is so subtle that it's tough to tell them apart.
  • Tendons become inflamed near a joint—elbow, knee, hip, shoulder, heel—from overuse during activities like lifting weights or painting your bedroom, a condition called tendinitis.

What can relieve the pain?

  • You had a great game of golf, but now your shoulders, arms, and calves ache. Your prescription: RICE.
  • RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Most soreness can be handled with rest and ice. The encouraging news is that when you repeat the exercise that affected you in the first place, you'll have less soreness and a speedier recovery. Your muscles may even be stronger.
  • If the pain doesn't go away within a week, it's important to determine if it's something more serious than simple soreness. Your doctor will examine the painful spot and ask about your symptoms and activities to find out more.
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