Prevention and Treatment of Workout Injuries
It doesn’t matter how much experience you have. A workout injury can happen to practically anyone. Sometimes mother nature may have something to do with it (slipping on a patch of ice while running for example), or perhaps you may overestimate your abilities and find yourself pulling a muscle during weight training.
Whatever the case, you can reduce your risk of hurting yourself significantly by following specific workout precautions.
The most common workout-related injuries
A few examples have already been provided, but there are a wide variety of ways someone can injure themselves while working out. The most common include:
- Shin splint
- Shoulder injury
- Wrist sprain or dislocation
- Straining or pulling a muscle
- Sprained ankle
- Knee injuries
How to prevent workout-related injuries
Sometimes working out can be risky. However, there are specific steps you can take to mitigate that risk.
Don’t just work on one set of muscles. Vary your workout routine by cross-training. For example, Mondays and Tuesdays can be dedicated to working out your legs whereas Wednesdays and Thursdays can be dedicated to your arms. Working the same group of muscles over and over can lead to overuse, and you can increase your chances of hurting yourself as a result.
Dynamic stretching is a great way to prepare for a workout session. This will increase your range of motion and flexibility. Researchers have yet to determine whether or not stretching actually prevents injuries, but it’s still a great way to loosen up your muscles as you prepare to work out.
Be aware of your problem areas
Your workout sessions should be tailored to accommodate any problem on your body. For example, if you have pains in your foot or knee, you should avoid exercises that put too much pressure on those areas. Essentially, you still want to build strength in areas where you’re having issues, but you should avoid exercises that cause you pain. Talk to your doctor to see what you can and can’t do.
Take it slowly
At the start of any new exercise routine start gradually. While you may be tempted to jump right in to maximize your workout session, it’s always best to start slowly and ease your way into the routine. As time goes on you can increase the frequency, intensity, and duration. Don’t feel too bad if you’re not able to push yourself as hard as you would like the first time around. If you faithfully stick with the routine, you’ll be able to challenge yourself more and more as time goes on.
Never ignore your body
“No pain, no gain” is a common saying in the exercise world. While burning and straining is all a part of the process, don’t take that as meaning you should completely ignore your body. If you’re feeling pain that might be your body telling you that you’re injured. If the pain is severe, stop.
Warm-up and cool-down
Before you begin, it’s essential that you get the blood flowing throughout your body by going through a warm-up phase. At the end of your session, you should also take the time to cool-down. Exercising without warming up means you’ll likely be going into your session with stiff joints and muscles. Examples of effective warm-up exercises include jumping rope, spending time on an exercise bike, and doing jumping jacks.
Keep your body fueled
Hydration is key during your workout session. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water all throughout your workout session. As a general rule of thumb, you should drink at least 17 to 20 ounces of water at least 2 to 3 hours before you begin working out. With that being said you should generally drink this much water before, during, and after your workout:
- 8 ounces of water 20 – 30 minutes before you workout
- 8 ounces of water 10 to 20 minutes while you’re working out
- 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes after you’ve finished working out
If you want to be effective during your workout regimen, your body will require a steady stream of fuel. To fuel yourself, consume a small meal every 2 to 3 hours. Once you’re finished, you should eat a snack packed full of carbs and proteins to rejuvenate your energy reserves.
Find a good trainer
If you’re starting a new workout routine, you should seek out a trainer. They can show you how to go about the process properly to ensure your workout sessions are safe, efficient, and effective.
When it comes to working out, there’s plenty of gear to choose from. However, wearing the right clothing and gear can maximize your workout session. For example, yoga pants are perfect if you plan on doing a lot of bending and stretching. On the other hand, sleeveless shirts are great for weight training, and helmets are a must if you go biking.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a rest after working out. In fact, it’s essential. Resting gives your body time to recover. However, if you never rest you’ll continually stress your body until it reaches its breaking point. Try to take at least 1 to 2 days minimum to rest your body before working out once more.
Treatment of workout injuries
Even if you take all of the precautions mentioned in this article you may end up injuring yourself anyways. If or when this occurs, you’ll want to take a few essential follow up actions. These well-known follow up steps are known as the RICE method:
- R – Rest the injury
- I – Ice the injury to reduce swelling, inflammation, and bleeding
- C – Minimize swelling by using a compression bandage
- E – Elevate the injury (if you can) to reduce the chances of swelling
Talk to your doctor about the appropriate medication you should take to treat your injury. For example, ibuprofen is often the go-to choice for many people when it comes to pain relief and reducing inflammation.
In many cases, workout injuries tend to heal on their own around four weeks or less. However, if the injury becomes worse, or if you haven’t seen any signs of change in a week or so, you should seek out medical attention. Don’t forget to use your head. If your injury is concerning on any level don’t wait a week to visit an emergency room — go immediately.
Even if your injury shows sign of improving over time, it’s still a bad idea to repeat the activity that caused the injury in the first place. Wait until you’re fully healed before trying it again, and even then you should exercise caution while doing so.
Try to keep active while you’re injured. You don’t have to stay down and out for four weeks on the couch as you slowly heal. Keeping your body moving may accelerate the healing process. There’s no reason why you can’t work out other parts of your body that aren’t injured. For example, if you throw out your shoulder, you should still be able to work out your legs.
Getting back into the rhythm
Even after you have fully healed, you should still ease your way back into your old exercise routine. Don’t just jump in headlong. If you do you’re just asking for another injury. You’ll need to rebuild the strength and endurance you’ve lost during your downtime (if you don’t use it, you lose it), so take it slow and easy. It can take up to three weeks, in some cases, to get back to where you were before you injured yourself. Be patient and go at it slowly, and you’ll significantly reduce your chances of injuring yourself once more.