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As the new footy season approaches you are undoubtedly going to feel muscle soreness in the days following the first few matches, but what is the difference between ‘soreness’ and actual damage to the body?

Delayed onset of muscle soreness, or ‘DOMS’, is a common and normal response of the body’s to unusual exercise – dramatic increases in training duration, changes in your raining routine or beginning a new exercise regime. There are a number of theories about the cause of DOMS including lactic acid build-up, micro tears of the muscle and muscle spasm.

Characteristic symptoms are the best way to differentiate DOMS from injuries such as muscle strains. Most people suffering from DOMS will complain of a generalised muscular ache that comes on in the first 1-2 days after exercising. They will often say that they are generally stiff and have tenderness in those muscles that are affected.

The best ways to treat DOMS are an active cool-down, post-session massage, hydrotherapy, non-weight-bearing exercise and spa baths. However medications, such as anti-inflammatories, do not appear to help reduce symptoms.

It is important that DOMS is not confused with muscle strains, tendinopathy or joint pathology.

In most cases when a muscle is strained (or torn) there will be sharp pain and reduced function of that muscle immediately. There may be swelling and bruising, however this may not be visible until the next day, and there will be isolated tenderness at the site of the tear. Moderate muscle strains can take up to eight weeks to heal.
Tendon injuries can occur from repetitive overload over months to years but can also become painful after a single exercise session where the tendon is overloaded too rapidly. Tendon pain is located near the muscle attachment sites close to joints – most commonly the achilles, the lateral and medial elbow, and the front of the knee. Tendon pain may be worse at the start of exercise or first thing in the morning, but improve once it warms up.

If the pain is felt suddenly during exercise or if there are signs of inflammation, such as swelling and bruising, or if the pain does not improve after three days, then you should speak with a medical professional to accurately diagnose your problem. When in doubt, get an expert to check it!

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