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Common Exercise Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Hope springs eternal, and when Spring has sprung, everybody is in a rush to get back into those good fitness habits that may have laid dormant over the winter. Many will jump right into some sort of training that your body probably isn't used to or has forgotten. Runners start hitting the asphalt instead of the treadmill. Many hit the gym and jump right into a lifting program that they might not be ready for. When this happens, your body has a tendency to say "No! No! No!" As a result, many will suffer from easily treatable and mostly preventable exercise-induced injuries. Here we will explore common injuries that you may face and how you can prevent and treat them.

Runner's Worst Nightmare

Whether you are a neighborhood jogger, a dedicated mall-walker, or you're training for a big race, an injury here or there is bound to happen. One of the most common injuries runners complain from is shin splints. Also known as tibial periostitis, shin splints can be a pain in the leg between the knee and the ankle. Caused from repetitive stress, it is a break down of fibrous connective muscle tissue in the area surrounding the tibia. If not treated, shin splints can lead to more serious injuries like bone breaks, stress fractures, and other musculo-skeletal leg injuries.

Some common sense treatments to avoid shin splints include changing up the surface you run on (avoiding concrete, asphalt, and other hard surfaces) as well as ensuring that you have proper footwear for your activity. Many companies offer additional support including compression sleeves, inserts, and the like. If you start to experience them, begin treating them with rest and ice. You can ice them down for about 20 minutes post exercise. If your shin splints get worse, consult a medical professional who can prescribe you more effective treatments like cortisone, physical therapy modalities, or other treatment.

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The Gym Rat's Worst Nightmare

If you're more of a gym rat, don't think that the injury bug can't bite you where the sun doesn't shine. One very common, if not the most common, lifting injuries that can occur is a muscle strain. Basically, a strain is tearing of muscle fibers or tendons due to the overstretching or overworking of a particular muscle. You've probably had a strain before: muscles get stiff, some localized soreness, and, in severe cases, discoloration or even bruising of the affected muscles. In the majority of cases, strains can be treated with plenty of rest from use, approximately 20 minutes of ice applied to the affected area for several days (to reduce swelling), compression with an ACE type bandage (again to reduce swelling), and elevation to keep blood from pooling in the location or muscle you strained. Minor strains can negatively affect you for several days to a week or so. If pain, swelling, or other symptoms persist, this may be indicative of fracture, complete muscle tear, or other serious injury.

General Exercise Injury Prevention

All athletes, weekend warriors or otherwise, can benefit from some general tips on injury prevention from exercise. First and foremost, having properly fitted equipment, whether it be solid running shoes, or using a weight belt for heavy lifting, can work wonders in preventing common injuries like ankle sprains or muscle strains. Secondly, using proper technique and form (whether running, lifting, performing body weight exercises, or swinging a golf club or tennis racket) can prevent breakdown and injuries. Putting all these factors together can help you to avoid injuries as well as refrain from missing time in your workouts.

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Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at rbbarnhart@gmail.com.




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