Working in the strength and conditioning industry, you often hear the phrase “my (particular muscle) is sore what should I do?”
When we work with baseball players, arm soreness is a daily occurrence. The first thing we must address is if this arm pain is from soreness or is it a possible injury.
In this article we address how to determine the difference between DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, or an injury, and how to manage that soreness to prevent future injuries.
Factors to consider when working to nail down the cause of your pain:
- What did you do prior to the pain?
- Was there any change in the workout routine, increasing activity or a new activity (pitch volume/change in mechanics)?
- Was there a specific movement where pain was felt directly after?
- How long have you been in pain?
- Is there anything that makes it feel better or worse?
Addressing these questions will provide a clear determination of whether it is DOMS or an acute injury.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is stiffness and discomfort felt in the muscles that will develop within 24-72 hours after a rigorous workout or change in physical routine.
DOMS is caused from many micro traumas to the muscle fibers after repetitive lengthening of the muscle while under load. There will be no pain while at rest and stretching the muscles will recreate the pain.
Symptoms will be delayed while getting progressively more noticeable throughout the day. Muscles will feel tender to the touch, tight and achy.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time will worsen these symptoms, while movement that increases blood flow to the area will help improve symptoms overall.
Other treatments include hot packs, analgesics, massage and/or use of a sauna.
Acute Strains or Injuries
Acute strains or injuries are any damage to muscle or tendons from a sudden lengthening to the tissue.
Pain occurs either during the activity or immediately after and will be sharp and located. The tissue damage will be worse than DOMS and may have some bruising and pain at rest.
Any use of the injured muscles will exacerbate the symptoms and will worsen with continued activity.
Recovery time will typically take 6-8 weeks of rest of that specific area. One of the biggest components that rules out DOMS is that the pain from an acute injury does not resolve after a few days. So if your pain continues after 72 hours you should consult a medical professional to evaluate the injury and get on the correct recovery plan.
Correlation of DOMS & Injuries in Baseball Pitchers
Arm soreness in pitchers is a large factor that leads to injuries in the shoulder, elbow and forearm.
Having the ability to differentiate between DOMS and an injury is critical when trying to stay healthy.
At PUSH, our coaches pride themselves on sharing the knowledge and experience on this particular topic and provide our athletes with the right arm care and post-recovery regime to help keep the arm healthy.
The moment you feel any type of arm pain/soreness it should be relayed from you to your coach as working through the pain isn’t always the best answer. Ignoring those minor aches and pains which are magnified by either increased volume or intensity can lead to a potential major injury.
Listening to your body is important when trying to stay healthy and improve performance overall.
What to Do
Figuring out the correct way to approach the ache or pain (soreness or injury) is key for your coach to help point you in the right direction and prevent injuries.
It may just be that you need manual therapies, a personalized warm-up or recovery regime, or exercise adjustments based off time of year and quality of movement.
Overall, it’s key to detect the differences between DOMS and an injury acutely but also know how to manage your soreness so it doesn’t develop into something larger.