Here are some of the more common exercise-related injuries, their symptoms and what can be done to treat these injuries.
If you are currently experiencing pain during workouts, use this list to see if your symptoms match those of the most common exercise-related injuries. Learn how to treat them so you can be back on your feet -- and in the gym -- in no time, pain-free.
Your Symptoms: A nagging ache in or around the kneecap during and after workouts.
Likely Injury: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (better known as “runner’s knee”), a softening or wearing away and cracking of the cartilage under the kneecap which results in pain and inflammation.
Causes: Weak thigh muscles, tight hamstrings or Achilles tendons, usually brought on by insufficient stretching or over-training.
Treatment: Stop exercising until you are pain-free. Meanwhile, apply ice to the injured knee and see a physical therapist for helpful stretches and deep tissue massage. Pilates can also help to build strength and flexibility in the weakened area.
Your Symptoms: There is an audible pop or crack at the time of injury, a feeling instability, masked later by extensive swelling, is extremely painful immediately after sustaining the injury, an inability to fully straighten the leg.
Likely Injury: Torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Causes: Twisting force being applied to the knee whilst the foot is firmly planted on the ground or upon landing, a direct blow to the knee.
Treatment: Immediately stop play or competition, apply ice to the knee immediately and seek medical attention.
Your Symptoms: Discomfort in the groin or inner thigh after exercise stops. A sudden sharp or severe pain in the groin area or adductor muscles during exercise.
Likely Injury: Groin Strain.
Causes: Not stretching and warming properly. Groin strain occurs when sprinting, changing direction or in rapid movements of the leg against resistance. Repetitive overuse of the groin muscles may result in adductor tendinopathy.
Treatment: Rest, ice, compress and elevate immediately, use crutches if needed, gently stretch the groin muscles. See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation of the injury.
Your Symptoms: Pain at the base of the heel, often in the morning or when walking barefoot.
Likely Injury: Plantar Fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick tissue covering the bones on the bottom of the foot.
Causes: Trauma or stress, including overuse, very tight calf muscles, extremely high or low arches, and wearing heels or ill-fitting shoes.
Treatment: Stop high-impact exercises until you are pain-free and try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Ice the sore area and roll your foot and calves with a massage bar to loosen up the tight tissue and muscles. If the pain persists while you are merely walking around, see a physical therapist for stretching and strengthening exercises. If you have problematic high or low arches, a physical therapist may recommend a podiatrist who can fit you for orthotics.
Your Symptoms: A thickening and redness over the biceps tendon, pain or discomfort when you bend the arm against resistance, pain or discomfort on the inside of the elbow when you write.
Likely Injury: Inflammation of the biceps tendon.
Treatment: Rest until discomfort has gone, apply heat and use a heat retainer. See a sports injury specialist.
Your Symptoms: Pain in the wrist especially when the wrist is bent back and you put your weight on it, a small lump or swelling in the top of the wrist.
Likely Injury: Wrist Bursitis.
Causes: The bursa (a small sack of fluid that lubricates where tendons move in joints) is subjected to repeated trauma can become inflamed and swollen causing pain in the wrist. This can be caused by putting weight hands a lot e.g. cyclists.
Treatment: Rest, apply cold therapy if it is acute or painful, wear a heat retainer or support. See a sports injury professional.
Your Symptoms: Sore, inflamed, or swollen Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel).
Likely Injury: Achilles tendinitis.
Causes: Over-training, bad shoe choices (unsupportive high heels are often a culprit) and extra-tight or fatigued calf muscles, which stress the tendon.
Treatment: Take a week off of any high-impact workouts and be sure to stretch the area by straightening your leg and flexing and pointing your toes. Ibuprofen, ice, and a foam wedge heel pad also helps the healing process. If pain persists, see a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation
Your Symptoms: Sudden sharp pain at the back of the leg during exercise, pain on stretching the muscle, pain on contracting the muscle against resistance, swelling and bruising.
Likely Injury: Pulled hamstring.
Treatment: Start treatment immediately using Cold Therapy (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) technique, use a compression bandage to minimize intra muscular bleeding. Early mobilization for the rehabilitation of the muscle by completing stretching and strengthening exercises throughout the pain free range. See a sports injury specialist.
Your Symptoms: Sudden, tearing feeling in the shoulder, followed by severe pain through the arm, limited movement of the shoulder due to pain or muscle spasm, specific tenderness over the point of rupture/tear, you will not be able to abduct your arm (raise it out to the side) without assistance.
Likely Injury: Rotator cuff injury.
Causes: This tends to happen as a result of a result of a sudden, powerful movement. This might include falling over onto an outstretched hand at speed. Sports which involve a lot of shoulder rotation often put the rotator cuff muscles under a lot of stress. Lifting weights without proper warm up and stretching.
Treatment: Apply ice to reduce swelling. Control the pain with appropriate medications. Rest the arm and use a sling. You may require imaging studies to identify what the problem is and rule out any fractures. Consider consulting a physiotherapist who can assist you with rehabilitating the injury.
Your Symptoms: Pain and weakness when the arm is lifted up sideways through a 60 degree arc when rotated outwards, Pain when you press in at the inside front of the upper arm.
Likely Injury: Inflammation of the supraspinatus tendon.
Causes: Few people bother to train these muscles. The athlete is more prone to this injury if they overuse the shoulder particularly if the arm is at or above shoulder level.
Treatment: Rest until there is no pain, Continue pain free mobility exercises to keep the full range of movement in the shoulder. Apply heat and use a heat retainer. See a sports injury specialist or doctor who can advise on rehabilitation.
Your Symptoms: Pain when moving the shoulder especially when the arm is raised above the shoulders. Pain when you rotate the arm inwards against resistance. Pain when you press in on the tendon insertion.
Likely Injury: Inflammation of the subscapularis tendon.
Causes: Not stretching and warming up properly. It is a very powerful muscle that rotates the arm inwards (part of the rotator cuff group of muscles).
Treatment: Rest until it is not painful. Apply heat and use a heat retainer. See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation.
Your Symptoms: Elbow pain at rest and during exercise, a painful swelling on the back of the elbow, limited mobility in the elbow.
Likely Injury: Inflammation and rupture of the triceps tendon.
Causes: Over-doing the weights or trying to push something too heavy.
Treatment: Rest, apply ice or cold therapy to the injury in the first two days. See a sports injury professional for advice on treatment and rehabilitation.
Your Symptoms: Over the course of several hours, an elbow tends to swell, stiffen, redden, experience numbness.
Likely Injury: Elbow Hyperextension Injury (Over straightening of the elbow).
Causes: When the elbow is forced to bend the wrong way or hyperextend causing damage to the ligaments and structures of the elbow.
Treatment: Application of cold therapy and compression, rest until symptoms resolve, wear a support or heat retainer, apply strapping to prevent the elbow from hyper extending (bending backwards) whilst healing.
Your Symptoms: Pain about 1-2 cm down from bony area at the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle), weakness in the wrist with difficulty doing simple tasks. Pain on the outside of the elbow when the hand is bent back at the wrist against resistance, pain on the outside of the elbow when trying to straighten the fingers against resistance, pain when pressing just below the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow.
Likely Injury: Tennis elbow / Lateral epicondylitis.
Causes: Caused by overuse or repetitive strain caused by repeated extension (bending back) of the wrist against resistance.
Treatment: Apply ice or cold therapy to the elbow (15 mins up to six times a day), rest - an extremely important component in the healing of this injury, wear a brace or support to protect the tendon whilst healing and strengthening, a comprehensive rehabilitation program should be carried out.
Your Symptoms: Tender shin bones and tight calf muscles.
Likely Injury: Shin splints, or pain in the front of the lower leg, most accurately called tendonitis of the lower leg.
Causes: A sudden increase in activity (many people suffer from shin splints soon after taking on a new sport). A change of running surface (switching from the treadmill to pavement) or speed can also strain the lower leg tendons. Broken down shoes can also be a culprit in shin splints.
Treatment: If the pain is tolerable, you can continue to exercise with shin splints but reduce the amount of time you engage in the activity that causes the pain. You can build up your training once you are pain-free. Training extensively with shin-splints may lead to stress-fractures – an injury not as quick to heal. After your workouts, apply ice to any tender spots and be sure to stretch the lower leg muscles very well. A deep calf massage can also relieve pressure on your shins. Get new running or walking shoes if the soles of your current shoes show wear and tear.
Tips on Preventing Sport Related Injuries
- Warm up and stretch.
- Make sure you have the proper equipment for the activity you are participating in.
- Make sure you have proper form for the activity you are performing.
- Use common sense when exercising, if something hurts stop.
- Give muscles and connective tissues an opportunity to repair between training sessions.
- Avoid working out, exercising or playing a sport when overly tired.
- Stretch after wards, especially after lifting weights.
- Use proper technique, form and equipment.