If you’ve been reading my blogs lately, you know that I am completely encouraging of all forms of workout. However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to go slow and know the forms and positions that are essential, especially while lifting weights. One injury, even a small one, can set you back by many weeks, or even months. Here are some common injuries, what causes them, and how to treat them!
Injury 1: Runner’s Knee
This is one of the most common injuries for runners. Irritation of the cartilage under the kneecap causes 40% of running injuries. Runner’s knee happens when the kneecap is out of alignment. Over a period of time, the cartilage under the kneecap wears down, which causes pain when climbing up or down the stairs, squatting, or sitting with the knees bent for a long time. The pain experienced underneath the kneecap is also known as patellofemoral knee syndrome, and the pain can get worse with an increase in the intensity of the pain.
Treatment: As a short-term remedy, people suffering from runner’s knee should hit the pause button on running to alleviate the pain. Putting an ice pack for 20-30 minutes in 3-4 hours interval for few days can help cut down the pain. Use patellar straps or an elastic bandage to give the knees extra support, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Individuals could also practice stretching and strengthening exercises for the hips, glutes, and quad muscles. Severe cases may need surgery to correct the position of the kneecap so that stress is distributed evenly.
Avoidance Tactics: Avoid putting excess weight on the knee, and avoid kneeling or squatting repeatedly. Keep the knee in an elevated position when sitting or lying down. Switching up the surfaces you run on, using short strides, wearing the proper footwear, and striking the ground directly underneath can help avoid this injury.
Injury 2: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This syndrome occurs as a result of a combination of health conditions and activities that put pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, and this pressure leads to the various symptoms. Gym activities like push-ups, plank pose, and other exercises that involve bending the wrist forward or backward excessively decreases the amount of space in the carpal tunnel, increases the amount of tissue in the tunnel, or increases the sensitivity of the median nerve. Repeated hand and wrist movements cause the membranes surrounding the tendons to swell. Even broken wrist bones dislocated bones, or bone spurs take up space in the carpal tunnel, putting more pressure on the median nerve.
Treatment: The goal of the treatment is to allow the individuals to prevent nerve damage and loss of muscle strength in the fingers and hands, which will enable the individual to resume normal activities. Wear a wrist splint and avoid or change up the activities, especially the gym routines. Anti-inflammatory drugs, and in some cases, oral corticosteroids or injections are also prescribed. A carpal tunnel syndrome surgery is also recommended when other treatments fail, or if the condition persists for a long time, leading to nerve damage.
Avoidance Tactics: Avoid exercises like push-ups and planks that involve excessive bending of the wrist. Use hand and wrist movements that spread the pressure and motion evenly. Switch hands and positions often when doing repeated motions. Use correct posture, and reduce the salt intake that leads to fluid retention. Staying at a healthy weight and keeping the arm, hand, and finger muscles strong and flexible can help avoid this injury.
Injury 3: Sternal Fracture
The sternum is the bone that attaches the two clavicles on either side of the upper chest and the upper seven ribs. While doing the bench press, if the bar comes crashing down on the chest, the sternum bears the brunt of the impact. A direct fall on the chest can result in a bruised sternum, or if the impact is beyond what the bone can bear, a break in the sternum may occur. A sternum fracture may be associated with damage to other structures and organs of the body like the ribs, vertebrae, lungs, and blood vessels. The fracture causes sharp and intense chest pain which increases during breathing, coughing, laughing, or sneezing. This condition may also cause swelling and pain with certain movements such as pushing, pulling, or heavy lifting.
Treatment: Individuals with a sternum fracture should undergo a thorough medical examination to rule out damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, or any other organs. The treatment consists of rest from strenuous activities, along with pain-relieving medicines. Surgical intervention is required in cases of bone displacement to restore the bone alignment and to fix the bones using pins or plates. Icing the fractured area in the initial stage helps ease pain and swelling. Exercises that improve posture, strength, and flexibility will help prevent stiffness and weakness from developing.
Avoidance Tactics: It is important that individuals with a sternum fracture take rest from any heavy, strenuous activities that will increase the pain and aggravate the injury. Activities that place stress on the sternum, like lying face down and applying direct pressure to the chest, should be avoided. Even after the sternum has healed, there should be a gradual return to the gym routine under the guidance of the treating physiotherapist or surgeon. Use of protective padding or chest guards may be required when returning to gym workouts.
Injury 4: Pectoral Strain
This condition is characterized by a partial or complete tearing of one or more of the pectoral muscles. The pectoral muscles are a group of two muscles at the front of the chest. During stretching or contraction of the pectorals, tension is placed on the muscles and tendons. When there is excessive tension due to repetitive movements or high force, one or more of the pectoral muscles can tear. Usually while attempting to perform dumbbell flys with a weight that is heavier than one is accustomed to lifting, it leads to a tear of the chest muscle. This injury results in losing control of the dumbbell or barbell while bench pressing. Individuals experience pain that is centered on the chest, and front of the shoulder or armpit. Individuals also experience bruising, swelling, muscle spasm, and weakness.
Treatment: Resting from intense physical activities, and icing the strained pectoral muscle reduces inflammation and keeps the pain under control. Applying compression bandages to the chest and torso helps in further containing the swelling. Massages, dry needling, trigger point release, and electrotherapy helps to improve range of movement, pain, and function. Individuals with pectoral strain should indulge in pain-free flexibility and strength exercises to ensure optimal recovery. If the strain does not improve, it may require pharmaceutical intervention, corticosteroid injection, or even a surgery may be needed in case of a complete rupture of the major muscle.
Avoidance Tactics: Stretching the pectorals before working out loosens up the muscles, which helps prevent muscle strain. Once the pain and swelling have been taken care of, you need to gradually get back into your workout routine. Make sure to work only with a load that is within your control. If it wobbles or feels like it is going to drop, chances are it is too heavy. In such cases, use a spotter for heavy sets. Use protective taping to reduce the likelihood of injury.