More and more people are obsessed with going to the gym for different reasons. Some people go to the gym to improve their health, lose weight, look better, feel better, tone up and relieve stress, or just to socialise. Whatever your reasons are, getting injured is surely not one of them, but repeating the same muscle movements over and over can lead to overuse and workout injuries.
You must have heard of the old cliché “no pain, no gain”. Well, it simply means that the only way to stimulate your muscle to grow is to tap the “danger zone” – overloading your muscles with more stress to release the necessary signals for muscle growth. While some muscular damage is needed to build muscle, the fastest way to slow down your progress is to get a gym injury.
Common Gym Injuries
1. Muscle Pull and Strain
This injury occurs when your muscle is torn or overstretched. This is a result of overuse or improper use of a muscle. Muscle strains usually occur in your lower back, shoulder, neck and hamstring – the muscle behind your thigh.
2. Sprained Ankle
When you stretch the strong ligaments that support the ankle beyond their limits, you get an ankle sprain. An ankle sprain occurs when you stretch the strong ligaments that support the ankle beyond its limits.
3. Rotator Cuff Injury
A rotator cuff injury is usually a strain or tear of the rotator cuff – the group of muscles and tendons that surrounds and stabilises your shoulder joint and enables you to rotate your arms. This is a result of repeating the same arm motion excessively.
4. Knee Injury
Knee injuries that can occur in the gym include fractures around the knee, dislocation, sprains and tears of soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. In the gym, this usually occurs as an overuse injury due to wrong training techniques or doing squats with too heavy weights too soon.
5. Shin Splints
Shin Splints refers to pain in your shin bone – the large bone in the front of your lower leg. Repeated pounding and stress on the lower leg muscles, the shin bone, and the tissues around it may result in swelling and inflammation. This usually occurs as a result of wrong training techniques, sudden increase in exercise intensity and doing exercises that have fast starts and stops.
Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon – a flexible yet inelastic fibrous cord of collagen tissue that attaches muscle to bone. This injury occurs as a result of repetitive impact on the tendons, resulting in pain, swelling and impaired function.
7. Wrist sprain or dislocation
A wrist sprain is an injury to the ligaments on the wrist. Wrist dislocation occurs when the bones are out of alignment. This is usually caused by sudden twisting motions or breaking a fall with your hand.
8. Lower Back Strains
Lower back muscle strain can occur during heavy lifting, when twisting the spine, and lifting a heavy weight from the ground or overhead. The injury usually involves the muscles, ligaments, nerves, disc and bones of the back.
9. Strained or Stiff Neck
Neck pain may occur as an overuse injury of the muscles in the neck and shoulder muscles that attach to the neck. It could be a strain on the joints in the neck, or a pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder area. Extending the neck while swinging or turning your neck too far when looking behind you are some of the risk factors for neck injuries.
Common Causes of Gym Injuries
1. Incorrect Technique
Improper exercise techniques and misuse of exercise machines can stretch or tear a muscle or damage the delicate connective tissues. Incorrect technique can also lead to more acute injuries.
2. Too Much, Too Fast, Too Soon
Progressing too quickly beyond your body’s capacity puts you at risk for muscle strains, fractures or tendonitis, bursitis, and other overuse injuries.
3. Inadequate Warm-up and Cool-Downs
Not warming up can lead to poor mobility and flexibility, injuries and stiffness. Working the muscles when they are still cold and not yet ready to be lengthened to their limits can cause serious injuries.
Static stretching after exercise on the other hand can help speed up recovery and restore your muscles to their natural length.
4. Muscle Imbalance
When one side of your body has stronger muscles and the other side has weaker muscles, your weak muscles will work harder to overcompensate, making them vulnerable to being torn or damaged.
5. Lack of Concentration
Distraction and preoccupation on negative or even positive thoughts can invite accidents and injuries.
6. Poor Exercise Selection
Not all exercises are good for everyone. If your muscles and core are too weak, certain exercises can lead to injury. The same is true if you’re a novice exerciser – poor exercise selection can do more harm to your body than good.
How to Prevent Gym Injuries
- Get a personal trainer or a coach
A personal trainer can guide you through your fitness routine, give you safety tips, make sure you perform the right exercise for you, and help you accomplish your goals without getting injured.
- Warm up
Warming up before exercise increases your body’s core temperature and blood flow to your muscles, making them more elastic and pliable.
- Proper Exercise Techniques
Your personal trainer will give you the proper instructions for every exercise you perform. These instructions on proper exercise techniques are meant to train specific muscles so you can get the most out of each exercise and avoid injury.
- Have Rest Days
Rest days allow your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissues time to repair and rebuild, thus avoiding serious injuries.
- Cross Train
Cross training is an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training. It allows you to spread the stress over muscles and joints that you don’t frequently use during your regular exercise. This prevents excessive overloading on vulnerable areas of your body such as knees, hips, back, shoulders, and feet.
- Use Proper Gear
Choose the shoes that best fits your arch, gait and body weight. You may need expert advice on this. Worn out shoes devoid of support can cause serious injury.
- Proper Nutrition
Your body needs carbohydrates for energy and protein for vital muscle maintenance, growth and tissue repair. When you have low carbohydrate intake while exercising, your body will use you muscle-protein as fuel supply. As such, chronic carbohydrate depletion can possibly cause damage to muscle tissue.
Treatment for Common Repetitive Gym Injuries
It will take time before you can go back to the gym or return to the activities you enjoy most again. That can really be tough, both mentally and physically.
One thing that can accelerate your healing process is seeing a Physiotherapist. In fact, studies reveal that manual physical therapy applied by experienced physical therapists combined with supervised exercise greatly increases strength, decreases pain, and improves function in injured patients, even leading to at least double the improvement, compared to just home exercise.
For more information on treating multiple overuse injuries, have a read of our conditions web page.
At Southport Central Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, we offer a variety of physiotherapy services for prevention, management, and treatment of gym injuries, overuse syndrome and general wear and tear.