Arm Soreness

The arm soreness might not be the worst part. Waking up the day after a start and feeling that deep soreness as you first move your arm always brings a feeling of sick dread. “Is this normal? Am I hurt?”

Most of the time, the answer is standard. Soreness is normal after any sort of heavy muscular workout. What’s not normal is pain and understanding the difference is key. The dull ache, the weakness, and the rest is just a signal that your body needs more rest (and that your recovery routine might need some work!)

Arm soreness is fine, but arm pain? That’s a different story. One of the keys to telling the difference is simply going through a slow, deliberate motion with the arm. All of the joints should have normal range of motion. The elbow and shoulder should be able to work in all planes, end to end. There shouldn’t be any sharp pains at any point in the range, just a dullness and inability to work the muscles at a high level.

There continues to be controversy about icing after workouts and after pitching, but I’ll leave that for another article. What is a big improvement is the notion of a recovery routine. Pitchers have learned that conditioning the arm and the body is key, but in the last decade, we’ve seen far more going into the recovery routine than a simple between-starts routine. Getting in a throwing session, bullpen, and short toss is nice, but there’s so much more that can be done.

In the 1980’s, Nolan Ryan was one of the first pitchers to do a weight workout after his start. There wasn’t much scientific design to Ryan’s post-start activities, despite working with Dr. Tom House, but the general concept was right. (It’s amazing how far the science on this has come!) Ryan wanted to get the blood flowing into his arm, which helps reduce inflammation and gets nutrition to the cellular level where it needs to be.

Arm soreness can also be combated by monitoring workload. Keeping your workload in balance between the short and long term is scientfically proven to be a key in performance and reducing injury risk, but few pitchers have the ability to do this. The work of Dr. Tim Gabbett has been put into a baseball context by Motus and wearing a motusTHROW can help give you the data you need to avoid getting out of balance.

Of course, the difference between arm soreness and arm pain isn’t clear at times and for those, you should consult with your athletic trainer, doctor, or pitching coach. Asking the question can allow those professionals to help you adjust your routines if necessary and make sure that there’s no serious damage to your arm.