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Common Workout Injury Prevention

Medically reviewed by Steven N. Gange, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on January 28, 2023

You decide to get back in shape. Eager to begin raising your fitness levels or getting rid of those extra pounds, you throw yourself into a workout with uncontrolled zeal. It may happen during the workout, or it may happen after you’ve finished–you start to feel a specific pain or a tightness that increases with every passing hour. It’s then you realize that you’ve injured yourself.


You’re not alone. Even professional athletes and fitness “junkies” can suffer injuries after workouts.


Workout injuries are relatively common. In a study conducted in Victoria, Australia, between 1999 and 2013, almost 3,000 workout-related injury cases were handled by emergency departments across the state. About a third (36.2%) of these injuries were due to overexertion.


What are the most common workout injuries, and how do you prevent them?


Warming Up and Cooling Down


If you’ve ever been to any fitness class or used an instructor, you will start your workout with a period of stretching and warming up your muscles. Similarly, the last part of your class or session will be more stretching and cooling down. The purpose of these exercises is to loosen your muscles and joints and gradually increase and then decrease your heart rate. Many workout injuries are caused by people not sufficiently warming up or cooling down.


Knee injuries


If you’ve gone for a run or used weights to strengthen muscles, you may have experienced a grating or crunching sound in your knee. This is often caused by too much stress being placed on your patella tendon, either by you trying to press too much weight or after running routes with more inclines than usual.


Often, the increased stress is caused by weak hips, causing your knee to bend inwards as you workout. Focusing more on exercises that will strengthen your hips may help prevent any knee injuries. You should also make sure that when you do weight training, you make a point of keeping your knees as aligned as possible to avoid unnecessary stress.


Next Video >>

Shoulder Pain - Overview

Shoulder Pain - Overview

Shoulder injuries


Some of the most common weight-training injuries are shoulder injuries. The group of muscles that support and stabilize the shoulder joint by forming a cuff over it is collectively known as the rotator cuff. Suppose you repeatedly do exercises that require you to do overhead lifts or increase your shoulder movement, such as when you swim. In that case, you can strain your rotator cuff. 


To prevent damaging your rotator cuff, ensure that any weights you are using do not overly strain your shoulders. The best option would be to use those that place minimal stress on the joint. Limit how often you do exercises that increase use of your rotator cuff. It may sound obvious, but resting your joints and muscles between workouts is as important as the workout itself.


Shin splints


Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome is an inflammation of overstressed muscles around the shinbone. It is typically caused by running or jumping, usually on uneven surfaces. Often it will occur when you have increased the intensity of your workout or begin tackling more challenging inclines. 


Much of the advice in preventing shin splints is focused on ensuring that you gradually build up to more demanding runs. The other important factor is ensuring that your choice of footwear is in good condition and giving you the proper support and cushioning.


Next Video >>

Lower Back Pain - Causes and Treatment

Lower Back Pain - Causes and Treatment

Lower Back injuries


Additional common workout injuries are those sustained in the lower back. These injuries are often hernias or slipped discs, but they can also be muscular pains. The injuries are typically caused by the person overstraining, usually by people looking to cram a week’s worth of workouts into one intensive session.


The best way to prevent many lower back injuries is to heed that often mocked advice of “bend with the knees” when lifting objects or doing squats. This action ensures you are working out with a straighter form and transfers the strain away from the lower back. The best way to know if you are doing it correctly is to make sure that your knees are not going past your toes. Keeping a straightened form as you do the workout means making sure you do not twist or turn, especially when lifting weights. Movement while you are straining can cause slipped discs.


However careful you are, workout injuries will occur, whether it is due to you pushing yourself just beyond your limit or you got the technique wrong in a particular routine. Nonetheless, if you pay attention to your body, don’t overexert yourself, and take the time to learn the correct techniques, many common workout injuries can be prevented.




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