Injuries in action

Here’s what to do in case you become a casualty of one of the common exercise-related injuries

With the explosion of information about the benefits of exercises, many people have taken to some sort of sport/exercising to keep fit. The commonest form of exercises people engage in are walking, running or training in the gym. But as the number of people exercising increases, so does the number of injuries sustained when exercising. Let’s look at what you can do in case you are unfortunate enough to get injured while keeping fit.

Weight training injuries

Tennis elbow

In this condition, you experience pain on the outer side of your elbow. The pain may vary from being a dull ache to a sharp one. It increases on lifting something heavy and sometimes even lifting a glass of water becomes difficult. It is caused by microscopic tears of the muscles of the forearm at the place where they attach to the bone. There is tenderness [pain on pressure] on the outside of the elbow.

The condition is called tennis elbow because it is common among tennis players. However, it is equally common among people engaged in manual labour, housewives who do all the chores themselves, people carrying heavy briefcases and, of course, among those who lift weights in the gym.

What to do

  1. Take rest
  2. Try pain-relieving drugs [in consultation with your doctor]
  3. Use a tennis elbow support—an elastic band worn on the forearm just below the elbow
  4. Try physiotherapy.

Sometimes, doctors administer steroid injections at the site of the pain, which helps. In case the pain continues and doesn’t abate despite best efforts, surgery might be suggested.

Shoulder pain

This is one the commonest injuries in people who do weight training. It usually occurs while doing bench presses or shoulder presses. Causes include: improper technique— holding the bar at unequal lengths from the centre or using unequal weights on either side of the bar; jerky movements, and using weights that are too heavy for you, especially in the first set.

What to do

This is a difficult injury to treat as recurrence is common.

  1. Rest till you recover completely
  2. In case the pain is acute, use ice packs or try pain-relieving drugs
  3. When you start exercising again, don’t start from where you left. Start like a beginner—from scratch using bearable weights and proper techniques under the watchful eye of your trainer.

Running-related injuries

Shin splints

Shin splints is the pain you experience in the shin or the bone called the tibia, which extends from the knee to the ankle. Typically, shin splints occur in people running on the treadmill or the road and when walking fast. The pain is experienced during the activity and goes away when you rest. If you persist walking or running, in spite of the pain, you may develop swelling in the leg.

Shin splints occur when there is a sudden increase in your workload; increase in distance; increase in speed; increase in time or when the surface you are running/walking on is hard. It also occurs if you are using improper technique when running/walking. It has been shown that if you land on the heel when you are running, you are prone to injuries. You have to land on the ball of your foot.

What to do

  1. Discontinue walking/running till you recover. It may take 3 – 6 weeks for you to recover. Persisting with the activity, in spite of the pain, can lead to stress fracture—if that happens you will be out of action for 3 – 6 months.
  2. During acute pain, ice packs and pain killers help. When restarting after recovery, begin from scratch—proper technique, proper footwear and gradual increase in the load.

Runner’s knee

This is pain around the knee, especially around the knee cap and is one of the commonest complaints among runners.

Chondromalacia patella is a common cause for runner’s knee. It is an affection of the knee cap and starts when the runner approaches a workload of 40 – 50km/week. Pain increases on running down hill or climbing down stairs and is relieved by rest. Pain may be experienced on squatting. Runners may face clicking sounds in the knee. The knee cap has a track, which it follows along the femur or the thigh bone. If it tends to go out of track, you get knee pain.

Running tends to develop the hamstring [muscles at the back of the thigh] and calf muscles as compared to the quadriceps [muscles in the front of the thigh]. This leads to imbalance and pain.

Having flat feet, running on sharply-curved, banked or uneven surfaces and overuse are some of the other causes of runner’s knee.

To find out if you have this condition, keep your knee straight. Press your knee cap from the outside of the knee to the centre while slightly tightening the thigh muscle. If you experience pain during this process, you may have a runner’s knee. You may confirm this with your doctor.

What to do

  1. Use ice packs and pain-relieving drugs for acute pain
  2. Use shoes with arch support if you have flat feet
  3. Decrease your running load
  4. Avoid running on hard surfaces such as concrete
  5. Strengthen your quadriceps and stretch your hamstring before and after a run by doing simple lunges whilst supporting yourself with your hands on a wall. Take care to ensure your foot is flat on the floor and that the heel is not raised and the knee of the leg being stretched is not bent.

IT band syndrome

The iliotibial band or the IT band is a strip of tough tissue extending from the hip bone to the tibia [the larger bone from the knee to the ankle] on the outside of the hip, thigh and knee. Over-training causes it to become tight. The pain is on the outside of the knee and is sporadic. It may occur at any moment during a run and disappears with rest.

What to do

  1. Take rest and use ice packs and pain-relieving drugs during acute pain
  2. Avoid running downhill
  3. Stretch your IT band: Stand side ways with your affected leg facing the wall. Support yourself with your hand. Cross your affected leg in front of the other one. Keeping the foot of your affected leg flat on the floor, and keeping your knee straight, lean towards the wall to stretch your IT band.

This was first published in the March 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing

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