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How to Help Manage Muscle Tension & Soreness

November 30, 2020

Dr. Karen Litzy, PT, DPT

Listen to audio of this post

As a licensed physical therapist, people see me because they are experiencing soreness and looking for relief. One of the most important aspects of my job is helping people understand their soreness and how it affects their daily lives. That is why I was so excited to start working with WATERPIK as a member of their Water for Wellness Council to be able to share my professional expertise and recommendations on how to best treat and manage soreness.

Defining Soreness

As stated by the International Association for the Study of Pain, I always start with the new definition of pain1: "An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage."

Whether you are looking for shoulder soreness relief, knee soreness relief, or lower back soreness relief, the definition of soreness does not change, but the way you relate to your soreness is unique to you. As a result, treatment interventions and educational styles are tailored to the individual.

Exploring Your Soreness

Your treatment starts with your initial interview, or as we call it in the medical field, the subjective exam. This exam is vital for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Finding common ground and relating to your therapist
  • Examining how your soreness came about, how you feel about your soreness, and how it affects your life
  • Discovering what increases or decreases your soreness
  • Finding activities that you enjoy and add value to your life, despite the soreness
  • Understanding your support system and lifestyle
  • Identifying "red flags" that would necessitate a referral to a physician or other medical professional
  • Getting a better idea as to your attitude and understanding of soreness

Once your therapist has a clearer picture of your soreness, he or she can then plan out your treatment approach and educational plan.

Understanding SIMS vs. DIMS

An aspect of understanding soreness is knowing that there is no such thing as pain signals, pain pathways, or pain nerves. Instead, let’s replace the word "pain" with "danger".

It is essential to understand that your body can send danger signals to your brain, and then your brain will decide, "how dangerous is this really?" If the brain feels there is sufficient danger or potential danger to your body, you will have soreness.

According to Explain Pain Supercharged2 and the Explain Pain Handbook Protectometer3 by Dr. Lorimer Moseley and Dr. David Butler, your brain is continuously balancing this idea of danger vs. safety. Your life is made up of SIMS (Safety in Me) and DIMS (Danger in Me).

  • SIMS are aspects of your life that make you feel stronger, happier, healthier, and more confident.
  • DIMS are aspects of your life that threaten your happiness and well-being or that are a threat to who you are as a person.

Examples of SIMS and DIMS can include things you do, say, think, believe, see, touch, smell, etc. Or places you go, people in your life, or things that are happening in your body. The hypothesis is the more SIMS you experience in your day vs. DIMS, you will have less soreness.

Taking A Hot Shower – A Powerful SIM

As stated above, SIMS and DIMS can come in many forms. And that is such great news! A very common SIM I hear from my patients is taking a hot shower. This is where the WATERPIK PowerPulse Therapeutic Strength Massage Shower Head comes in! This shower head is clinically shown to help soothe muscle tension, increase flexibility, and promote restful sleep. It also feels good and can be a powerful SIM for those living with tension and soreness. And like I said above, the hypothesis is the more SIMS you have during your day vs. the DIMS, the less soreness you may have.

Bio: Dr. Litzy, PT, DPT

Dr. Litzy, PT, DPT is a licensed physical therapist, international speaker and owner of Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, PLLC in New York City. Through her work as a physical therapist, she has helped thousands of people including Fortune 500 CEOs, royalty and celebrities overcome painful conditions, recover from surgery, and feel stronger than ever before.

Water for Wellness Council

Dr. Litzy is a member of our Water for Wellness Council, a group of health and wellness experts with varying expertise ranging from fitness to physical and massage therapy.


  1. IASP Announces Revised Definition of Pain - IASP. Iasp-pain.org. https://www.iasp-pain.org/PublicationsNews/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=10475. Published 2020. Accessed October 20, 2020
  2. Moseley G, Butler D. Explain Pain Supercharged. South Australia: NOI; 2017.
  3. Moseley G, Butler D. The Explain Pain Handbook.