Anytime you engage in strenuous physical activity a certain amount of soreness is to be expected afterward. This is particularly true as you age. However many struggle to differentiate between routine issues and legitimate injury. Here are 3 criteria you can use to determine whether what you are experiencing is most likely discomfort or injury.

1. Level of pain

The level of pain you are experiencing is not in and of itself a good criteria on which to base a determination of soreness versus injury, but it is definitely a good place to start. Keep in mind, some injuries cause very little issue, while some muscle soreness can be uncomfortable. If you have an injury in a place that does not get used often, such as your forearm, you might be in very little pain until you activate that area by reaching out to pick something up. If you did a lot of squatting and that is not a position your body is used to, your ankles may give you issues the next day but not genuinely injured.

2. Affected Areas

While this is again not a concrete determining factor on its own, if both of your legs, arms, ankles, or various parts of your body are in fairly equal pain, you are probably not injured, but just sore. If one specific area is in discomfort  but not the surrounding areas, you may have an injury.

3. Time of discomfort

For most injuries, you can pinpoint an exact moment you began to feel discomfort or your discomfort level increased as you continued to do something. Any time you feel an increase, it’s a good idea to decrease what you are doing. While the sporting and athletic world is full of advice to “push through the pain” the reality is that discomfort is telling you that you are risking injury. The most likely outcome of pushing through is injury.

If you have muscle soreness, use natural home remedies

If you discover you are dealing with only muscle soreness, you have muscles or tendons that need attention. Resist the temptation to R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) — recent studies indicate this doesn’t actually help. So what can you do? Gently massage the affected area with a menthol-based essential oil blend to relieve discomfort and improve circulation. The more pure the essential oil, the more powerful the results (The Paleo Mama).

If you have an injury, seek professional treatment

If you have an injury instead, make sure to find a professional. By not dealing appropriately with these problems, it could lead to a worsened situation. And, if you have an injury, do not ignore it.