Exercise Injuries: Tips to Avoid Overuse
Some great tips from Abby Sims on how to avoid injuries. At the time you may be tempted to push yourself further than your body would like…but you will be regretting it when you are confined to your couch with an injury!
Listen to your body… it is talking to you? If it “doesn’t hurt much,” or you “think you can work through it,” you are admitting that it does hurt. Maybe it doesn’t hurt while you are exercising but you find yourself with pain the next day. If you are pushing yourself beyond a threshold of pain you probably are doing too much.
So why do many of us ignore the early signs and symptoms? Maybe we just can’t admit we are getting older and don’t have the capacity we used to. We may start a program with too much enthusiasm! Maybe the “no pain, no gain” adage many of us grew up hearing is rearing its ugly head. Let’s agree to bury that one.
There are only two “good hurts” with exercise. The first may be a bit of a burn; the result of fatiguing a muscle when strengthening — without eliciting or exacerbating pain in your joints or other areas. The second relates to physical therapy more than fitness, and comes into play if a joint lacks full range of motion and you must push past your comfort zone in order to restore mobility.
Don’t wait until pain becomes chronic before paying attention!
2. Watch Your Form
Many exercises lead to injury when performed incorrectly, such as lunges with your knees in front of your ankles or squats with them forward of your toes. A calf raise beginning with your heel hanging lower than your forefoot is another example. Form is key.
Avoid momentum with strengthening, keep your shoulders from hiking up, maintain good posture with a stable core to protect your spine and limit your stronger muscles from coming into play to substitute for their weaker counterparts.
3. Avoid High-Risk, Low-Reward Exercises
I’m not saying never to do these exercises as they are great for some people. Just know your body and what you can handle.
Generally, the after-effects of strengthening won’t be felt for about 24 hours. If your quadriceps fatigue is so great that you have trouble descending stairs the day after exercising, you have overdone it.
5. Rest Muscles After A Workout
Muscles need rest on alternate days to recover from strengthening.
Strengthening to a point of fatigue (though not exhaustion) means that on a microscopic level you are causing some (desirable) breakdown of the muscle fibers.
The healing of this disruption and subsequent building up of the fibers occurs on your “off” days. Pushing the limits of a muscle group on a daily basis can cause cumulative breakdown of a muscle; hence, an overuse injury.
If you add more resistance when strengthening, cut down your repetitions or sets. Ramp up the reps and sets only after you know you were able to handle the exercise with good form and without repercussions the following day.
As a physical therapist, I look for balance between the right and left sides of the body; a balance of joint range of motion, muscle strength and flexibility.Research has shown that a deficit of greater than 10 percent from one side to the other is one factor that predisposes to injury in sports. Most of us have at least a slight imbalance due to dominance — we are right or left handed/footed.Restricted joint mobility, ligamentous laxity (looseness), muscle weakness, or a lack of muscle flexibility can all predispose to injury. Poor posture, alignment issues, past injuries and their repercussions also make us more vulnerable to new injuries. Identifying and addressing these factors is crucial to our wellbeing; before we ramp up our level of activity.
Rest and anti-inflammatories may make us feel “even better,” but that is deceiving. In fact, weak muscles may get even weaker due to the de-conditioning that comes with disuse (better known as rest).
This is called disuse atrophy.
Restricted joints may lose more mobility from disuse — by not putting a joint through its normal ranges of motion, its lubrication is diminished. In addition, scarring down of the connective tissues (especially in the presence of swelling) may occur, further limiting motion. Tight muscles that are not exercised become tighter with inactivity (and with age).
Rest may give us a false sense that all is right in the world; that we are back to normal. Just get back in the game however, and you will soon see that is not the case. Rest alone may actually increase vulnerability and make us more prone to recurrence, or to more chronic complaints and further damage.
The same is likely if we take an injection of cortisone and think that it is safe to go back to sports because the pain is gone. In each of these scenarios, nothing was done to address the causes of an injury.
That day of serving for three hours in tennis camp may also put you over the limit (particularly dangerous due to the repetitive overhead motion). Likewise, driving a few buckets at the range may be more demanding than playing a round, during which you would also chip and putt much of the time.Whatever the sport, get fit to play. Build your tolerance to avoid overuse. Stay fit, injury free, and use good mechanics. With all three, you will enjoy the benefits without the pain.