Pain vs Injury

Are you in pain? Are you having an injury? Do they mean the same thing?

According to the Oxford Student Dictionary, the definitions of both pain and injury are as follows:

Pain: (noun) an unpleasant feeling that you have when a part of your body has been hurt or when you are ill.

Injury: (noun) harm done to a person’s or animal’s body, especially in an accident.

While accidents are unavoidable, many sports related injuries comes from “too much too soon” and overusing our muscles and bones.  Pain often comes before injury, as we seek that feel-good discomfort of doing more, better, or both.

For example, a dancer stretches more to achieve the perfect pose, a striker sprints at maximum effort for the ball, or  a weight lifter holds on to the weight a second more.

Our body has its innate capability to kickstart healing as soon as an injury sets in.

Immediately upon an injury, tissues are broken, and fresh blood can’t reach them. Within ten minuets, our body’s coping mechanism – acute inflammation, takes charge.

We see the four outwards signs – heat, redness, swelling and pain.
Painful Injury

Image Source:

Rest is of utmost importance to prevent further damage. Our body system instinctively activates our antibodies to fight potential infection. Scar tissues soon begin to form. 

Our body continues to remodel the disorganized scar tissues as close as possible to the original form. This takes place over the next 14 to 20 days. During this period, progressive exercises and appropriate body therapy could promote healing. 

Optimal recovery usually takes weeks, but could stretch to months and sometimes years. It is very much influenced by rest and rehabilitation.

We can relate to pain as a wake-up call, and are often reminded of the adage, “listen to your body”. Yet, it is human nature to always want to test our limits.

Personally, I love vertical marathons, and have my fare share of pushing myself too far during training or on race days. Perhaps for some of us, getting injured for crossing our limits translate to more satisfication in stroking our ego and earning us humble bragging rights, than in the physical accomplishment itself.

Everyone goes through pain in one way or another. Babies pick up themselves and try again whenever they fall. They want to learn to walk, and to grow. 

As we pursue achievements, we must also learn to draw a line between pain and injury. Only then, can we upkeep ourselves  to continue doing what we love. 


  • Tick, Heather. Holistic Pain Relief.New World Library. 2013
  • Rolf, ChrisTer. The Sports Injury Handbook – Diagnosis and Management. A&C Black. 2007

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