Avoiding Injury When Working Out
Working out is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes things can go wrong and injuries can occur. While exercising is an excellent way to maintain and improve physical fitness and aid in weight loss, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to prevent injuries. There are various workout injuries that individuals may experience, ranging from sprains, strains, and overuse injuries to more severe injuries like fractures or dislocations. By implementing proper injury prevention measures, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of workout injuries.
Sprains and strains are the most common injuries and occur when ligaments or muscles are stretched or torn. Overuse injuries result from repetitive motions, such as running or lifting weights, causing stress on the body that exceeds tissue capacity. Fractures are commonly due to a fall or impact to the body, while dislocations are often caused by sudden jolts to one or more joints during a twisting or falling motion.
The main causes of workout injuries are linked to poor technique, lack of preparation and planning and doing too much too soon. Said differently, a lot of the injuries we see at REP Physio in Edmonton are due to overtraining and/or under recovery. Additionally, not warming up properly before exercise or failing to cool down post-exercise can subject the body to unnecessary stresses. Furthermore, performing exercises with improper form or lifting too much weight can also lead to a variety of injuries.
What Causes Workout Injuries?
Workout injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, including poor technique, inadequate warm-up, overuse, lack of proper exercise progression and insufficient recovery time. These causes can lead to various injuries, ranging from minor strains to severe fractures.
One common workout injury is lower back pain, which can occur due to poor posture, lifting weights with improper form or in ways that the body is not used to, or due to overuse. Fortunately, as mentioned in our back pain and sciatica blog post, even severe back pain does not mean you have caused tissue damage. Similarly, knee pain is often caused by overuse, poor form, or injury to the ligaments or tendons in the knee. Shoulder injuries can also occur from poor form or overuse, particularly in exercises that involve lifting weights overhead.
Shin splints are another common injury caused by overuse, particularly in runners or those who engage in high-impact exercises like jumping. Tendinitis, which is inflammation of the tendons, can occur in various parts of the body due to overuse, lack of stretching, or sudden increases in intensity, load or duration of exercise.
Stress fractures are another injury that can occur from overuse, particularly in runners or those who engage in repetitive impact activities. These types of fractures can develop gradually over time and may not be immediately noticeable. Those at risk for stress fractures typically experience a rapid increase in training volumes. Women, especially those with poor diet, are typically more at risk for stress fractures.
Finally, limited range of motion and poor flexibility can also contribute to workout injuries. When the body is not able to move through its full range of motion, it can increase the risk of strains and sprains.
If you have sustained a workout related injury, not to worry. At REP Physio in Edmonton, we have experienced caring staff that can guide you through your recovery process.
How Can We Prevent or Minimize Workout Injuries?
While workout injuries are common, many of them are preventable with adequate preparation and precautions. By using proper form and technique during exercises, individuals can reduce their risk of sprains, strains, and other injuries. Additionally, cross-training and incorporating a variety of exercises can help prevent overuse injuries and tendinitis.
Equipment can also play a role in injury prevention, proper fitting footwear, protective equipment that is in good working order are all essential parts of any athlete’s arsenal. Most importantly It is important to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard, as this can lead to injuries from lifting too much weight or performing too many repetitions. Symptoms typical of overtraining include activity induced soreness that does not return to baseline within 24 hours post activity. Importantly, this type of soreness should be differentiated from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is very common when starting a new exercise routine. DOMS typically lasts for 1-3 days post activity. DOMS is not associated with a traumatic event or accident. Symptoms of DOMS include muscle soreness and stiffness. If you experience this, we recommend light activity, simple stretching and heat. Again, DOMS typically self resolves. Increased fatigue throughout your day, an elevated heart rate at rest may also suggest you are overtraining and increasing your injury risk.
Despite these precautions, there will always be a risk of injury when engaging in physical activity. Injury can be either traumatic, or non-traumatic. While it is impossible to prevent all types of injuries, taking some simple and a moment to plan your routine, individuals can help mitigate their injury risk.
The Importance of a Proper Warm Up and Cool Down
Having a proper warm up and cool down is essential to reducing the risk of workout injuries and optimizing performance. Warming up gradually increases heart rate, preparing the body for the demands of exercise, while cooling down gradually decreases heart rate and helps prevent blood from pooling in the extremities.
Proper warmups can also improve range of motion and flexibility, reducing the risk of common workout injuries like knee injuries and back strains. Neglecting to warm up or cool down can lead to increased risk of injury, including tennis elbow, sprains, and strains. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that individuals who performed a dynamic warmup before exercise were 33% less likely to experience an injury than those who performed no warmup.
If you are unsure about where to begin when starting a warm up or cool down routine, consult with a sports medicine professional or trainer for guidance to help tailor your routine to your specific needs and goals.
Stretching is an important component of injury prevention and should be incorporated into any workout routine. How often to stretch depends on the individual's needs and activity level, but stretching daily or at least 2-3 times per week can be beneficial for improving flexibility and reducing the risk of workout injuries.
Stretching helps to increase range of motion, which can reduce the risk of strains and ligament sprains, as well as prevent developing overuse injuries such as shin splints. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, stretching before and after exercise can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. However, stretching alone is not a guarantee against injury and should be combined with other injury prevention strategies, such as proper warmup, cool down, and gradual progression of activity.
Some examples of stretches that can be incorporated into a workout routine include quadriceps, hamstring, calf, shoulder, and low back stretches. These stretches can be done before, after, or during activity to help improve flexibility and reduce injury risk.
Having a Proper Workout Routine
Having a proper workout routine is crucial in preventing injuries during exercise. Proper workout routines can include regular exercise to strengthen muscles, as well as implementing the right workout plan for individual needs. This is because everyone's body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
To reduce the risk of injury, it is essential to use proper form when performing exercises, which includes maintaining correct posture, alignment, and technique. Additionally, it is important to properly manage exercise volume in terms of sets and reps, as well as avoiding heavy weights when starting out. Working with a personal trainer, kinesiologist, or physical therapist can be beneficial in developing a workout routine that is safe and effective.
Overuse injuries are common culprits of workout injuries. To prevent these types of injuries, it is essential to give the body proper rest and recovery time between workouts. This includes taking rest days, using active recovery methods such as stretching or yoga, and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of workouts.
Overall, having a cohesive workout routine that includes proper form, rest and recovery time, and a personalized workout plan can greatly reduce the risk of injury during exercise. Working with an exercise professional can also help in developing a plan that is tailored to individual needs and goals.
Having Proper Equipment
Having the proper equipment is essential for preventing injuries during workouts. This can include proper footwear, such as running shoes for running or cross-training shoes for weightlifting. Wearing the right shoes can help with shock absorption, provide better support, and reduce the risk of injuries to the feet, knees, and ankles.
For weightlifting, using proper equipment such as gloves, and wrist straps can help prevent injuries to the wrists and hands. Additionally, having a spotter when lifting heavy weights can ensure proper form and technique, and help prevent injuries caused by improper form or dropping weights.
In sports that require additional safety equipment such as helmets, mouthguards, or protective padding, using the appropriate equipment is essential for preventing injuries. This is especially important in contact sports such as football, hockey, and lacrosse.
In general, it is important to invest in quality equipment and ensure that it is properly maintained and replaced when necessary.
What Should I Do When I Have an Injury?
While proper warm-up, stretching, and equipment can greatly reduce the risk of workout injuries, accidents can still happen. If you do experience an injury, it's important to take appropriate steps to prevent further damage and promote healing. This may include rest, ice or heat, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. However, for more serious injuries, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional such as the health care team at REP Physio in Edmonton.
If you're experiencing pain or discomfort from a workout injury, a physical therapist can help you recover and prevent future injuries. Physical therapists are highly trained in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal injuries, including overuse injuries, sprains, and strains. They work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to help you recover and regain your strength and mobility.
Working with a physical therapist can also help you prevent future injuries. They can assess your movement patterns and identify any muscle imbalances or areas of weakness that may be putting you at risk for injury. They can then design a customized exercise program to help you address these issues and improve your overall fitness and performance.
If you're unsure where to start with injury prevention, consider working with a personal trainer or kinesiologist who can guide you through safe and effective workouts. They can help you develop a workout routine that is appropriate for your fitness level and goals, and ensure that you are using proper form and technique during exercises.
While many workout injuries can be prevented, mishaps can still occur. If you're experiencing pain or discomfort from a workout injury, taking appropriate measures such as rest and anti-inflammatory medication can help temporarily. However, working with a physical therapist or personal trainer can help you recover and prevent future injuries, ensuring that you can continue to safely pursue your health and fitness goals.
Herman, K., Barton, C., & Malliaras, P. (2012). The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review. Journal of athletic training, 47(6), 696-705.
American College of Sports Medicine. (2018). ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Wolters Kluwer.