8 Common Exercise Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Working out is a great way to get stronger and optimize your physical fitness. It can also do wonders for your mental health and help you stay focused and motivated throughout the day. However, it’s important to understand that even the most elite athletes can experience an exercise injury. These can be minor or major in nature and can derail your progress at the gym. Thankfully, most are preventable and easily treatable as long as you know the right steps to follow. Today, we’re taking a look at eight of the most common exercise injuries, as well as ways to stay safe during your workout!
1. Shin Splints
Avid runners are the athletes most likely to experience shin splints, although they can happen to anyone who participates in any form of running or jumping. This term covers a wide range of injuries that can occur to your shin area.
Shin splints occur when the muscle along the inner ridge of your shinbone becomes inflamed. Even minor ones can lead to sharp, shooting pain. However, if left untreated, a shin splint could eventually turn into a more severe stress fracture along your tibia.
You’re more likely to experience shin splints if you put pressure on your legs while the muscles surrounding your shin area are still relatively cold. For this reason, new runners are among the most susceptible.
To help prevent them, gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your leg workouts over time, rather than pushing yourself too hard all at once. If you’re a new runner, take your time and slowly build up your mileage, and always warm up with simple exercises like jumping jacks to get your blood flowing. When you finish a leg workout, be sure to stretch your leg muscles gently.
2. Pulled Hamstring
Your hamstring is a group of four individual muscles. These muscles are located on the back of your thigh, and you activate them every time you bend your leg at the knee.
If you put too much stress on these muscles, they can strain and eventually tear. The pain is usually isolated to the back of your thigh and lower buttock. It can range from mild to severe depending on the extent of your injury.
You may also notice your hamstring “snapping” or popping as you exercise. These symptoms can occur while you’re actively working out, or simply when moving and straightening your legs to walk.
To keep your hamstring safe and feeling great, be sure to warm up before and after doing any type of running exercise. You can also prevent this injury by building your leg strength over time.
If you do experience sensitivity around this area, give yourself a break and allow it time to heal. Otherwise, you could re-injure it, which could cause a more severe issue, such as muscle dysfunction.
3. Achilles Tendinitis
The large tendon that connects your calf to the back of your heel is called your Achilles tendon. When this muscle becomes irritated and inflamed for any reason, it can lead to a condition called Achilles Tendinitis. You might notice pain close to your heel, as well as sharp pain when you exercise.
There are a few different issues that can lead to Achilles Tendinitis. These include:
- Exercising with tight calves that aren’t properly warmed up
- Training hard over an extended period of time
- Wearing improper footwear
- Suddenly spiking the intensity or volume of your workout
This is another reason why stretching before exercising is so important. If you’re running or doing any type of cardio, look for exercises that will strengthen your calves and help you build up your endurance over time. It’s also critical to wear the right shoes for any workout, regardless of the activity you’re performing.
4. Lower Back Pain
Research shows that 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain at any given time. Many times, this condition occurs when you maintain a sedentary position for an extended period of time. For instance, you may notice that your back feels stiff after working a long day in the office.
If you’re a cyclist, you may also be familiar with lower back pain. Cycling puts your body in a forced, flexed position, requiring you to maintain the same form as you pedal. If your bike isn’t properly fitted to your body, you might have to overcompensate by using an incorrect form.
For instance, if your bike frame is too large, you’ll have to overreach, which can stretch and strain your back muscles. On the other hand, a frame that’s too small could cause you to contort into a hunched position, which uncomfortably twists the same muscles.
Over time, this can cause a range of different issues in your lower back, including:
- Nerve entrapment
- Herniated discs
To prevent this type of injury, take your bike to a cycling shop and ensure that it fits your body. You can also perform core-building exercises to keep your back strong as you ride.
5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When you first think of carpal tunnel syndrome, you might think it’s an injury that you can only get while typing on a computer. However, enthusiastic gym-goers can also suffer from this condition.
Carpal tunnel occurs when there’s excessive strain placed on the median nerve of your arm. This is a major sensory and motor nerve that originates in your spinal cord and runs through the anterior portion of your arm, all the way to your hand and fingers.
There are many gym activities that can strain this nerve, including push-ups and planks. Basically, any exercise that causes you to bend your wrist forward and backward quickly and rapidly can make your median nerve more sensitive.
If you experience this condition, avoid any workouts that require you to put pressure on your wrist. Move your wrists and arms evenly and switch positions frequently to keep those areas flexible.
6. Dislocated Joint
Your joints can experience dislocation any time they’re subjected to unexpected impact or an unbalanced blow. This is one of the most common upper body injuries and can occur to any bone in your body, including your:
Put simply, this condition is characterized by a bone slipping out of its corresponding joint. Something as simple as assuming the incorrect form during a workout or trying to lift too much weight can cause a joint to become dislocated. This happens because you put too much pressure on the ligaments surrounding a bone, which push it out of place.
Joint dislocations can look bruised and will feel tender. You might also notice that the region looks discolored and strangely shaped. Other common symptoms include motion loss, numbness, tingling, and pain.
The easiest way to avoid this is to practice safe, smart behavior at the gym. Make sure you’re physically ready to tackle your workout and take it easy if one area is giving you trouble. You can also alternate your workouts to avoid putting too much strain on one bone or muscle group.
Finally, make sure you can comfortably and fully complete a weightlifting set, and resist overloading the bar.
7. Tennis/Golf Elbow
Are you experiencing pain in the outer, bony part of your elbow or the muscles in your forearm? If so, you might be suffering from tennis elbow or golf elbow. This condition occurs when you overuse this region, either from swinging a tennis racket or a golf club.
Again, improper form usually leads to this issue. For instance, you can experience tennis elbow after constantly spinning your wrist on a serve. Or, you could over-pull on your golf swing and irritate your elbow. To keep the pain at bay, check your form and make sure you’re using the right equipment.
Your golf clubs and tennis rackets should be light enough to handle comfortably for an extended period of time. It’s also a good idea to warm up these muscles before hitting the links or the tennis court.
8. Torn Rotary Cuff
Your rotary cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that surround your shoulder joint. It keeps the ball, or head, of your upper arm securely in your shoulder socket.
You can easily tear your rotary cuff, as your shoulder is one of your weaker joints. This type of injury usually occurs in athletes who rely on their upper body to perform aggressive, repetitive motions, such as pitchers and swimmers. If you partially tear this region, you can cause the muscles and tendons to become painful and swollen.
There are many different exercises you can perform to strengthen your rotary cuff and prevent further injury. This list includes five easy ones to help you get started.
Avoid These Common Exercise Injuries
Working out naturally puts your body at risk of experiencing an injury. However, the benefits of physical fitness far exceed any type of disadvantages.
The key to avoiding these common exercise injuries is to take a step back before you begin any time of exercise. Make sure the equipment you’re using is fitted to your body, and that you’re wearing and using the appropriate gear. Learn the correct form for any sport you try, and ask a spotter to make sure your weightlifting form is correct.
If you do experience an injury, take the time to rest and recover before picking back where you left off. Give your body time to heal and listen to the advice of your physicians.
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