Preventing Injuries While Working Out, Part 2

How can you stay safe while trying different workouts?

In the first part of my series on workout injury prevention, I discussed the importance of warming up and cooling down before the main workout.

We also talked about consulting with your physician before trying any new diet or exercise routine. These preparations are meant to protect you from injury so that you can maximize the benefits of exercise. You also have to be especially careful when working out alone at home.

Workout safety applies to everyone, not just to beginners or intermediate fitness enthusiasts.

Exercise safety and injury prevention are a priority because injury can delay successful weight loss.

If you are injured while working out, stop immediately and visit your doctor or a hospital emergency department!

Preventing Injuries While Working Out

What are the most common exercise-related injuries?

Here is a concise list of the most common injuries that people encounter while working out:

I. Pulled or Strained Muscle – This happens when you force a specific muscle to stretch too far. Depending on the severity of the pulled muscle, you may experience mild symptoms such as minor pain in the affected muscle or severe symptoms such as bruising and swelling.

Our muscles have a “safe zone” when it comes to stretching. A good rule of thumb would be to pay attention to your body when lifting, pulling, pushing or stretching. If you feel actual pain while performing a movement, simply stop as you are overexerting.

How do you know if you are overexerting when exercising?

There is a difference between being comfortably challenged and overexerting your muscles. Overexertion brings about pain and discomfort; being moderately or comfortably challenged does not.

You can compare these two physical states when you lift a really heavy dumbbell and a moderately heavy one. A moderately heavy dumbbell will challenge your biceps as you lift it upwards but it will not cause pain because your muscles are still operating within their “safe zones.”

Treatment: Common treatments for pulled muscle are: rest, ice application if severe swelling is present, gentle stretching to improve blood circulation in the affected muscle and heat application to keep muscles flexible and less likely to swell.

II. Sprained Ankle - Ankle sprains are very common with people who perform cardio exercises and whole body workouts like lunges with dumbbell raises. A sprain means you have stretched the sensitive ligaments that support your ankle.

You can sprain your ankle when you accidentally twist your foot underneath your leg when you walk, run, jump or lunge.

What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?

The most common symptoms of a sprained ankle are pain on the outer region of the affected ankle and the inability to place weight on the foot. If the sprain is severe, pain, swelling and bruising may also occur. Doctors call the minor bleeding during a sprain ecchymosis.

How can you prevent ankle sprains?

You can prevent ankle sprains by following proper form during exercise and performing movements more slowly. Wearing proper footwear when you work out also helps as well-cushioned shoes protect the feet from impact.

When you accidentally twist your foot, stop exercising and apply ice to the painful area. Elevate your foot to improve circulation. Never continue leg exercises when you think you have sprained your ankle.

III. Shoulder Injuries – Our shoulders support all types of upper body exercises, including workouts like dumbbell chest presses and pushups. If you injure your shoulders while working out, there is no way that you can safely exercise your arms, back, chest and abdominal muscles until the affected ligaments/muscles have healed.

What are the risk factors for shoulder injury?

1. Improper form while lifting heavy weights

2. Fast and repetitive arm movements

3. Workouts that require you to lift your body off the ground such as chin pull-ups

4. Overextension of the shoulders (e.g. trying to hit a tennis ball that is well above your normal reach)

What are the symptoms of shoulder injury?

There are different types of shoulder injuries. If you overextend your shoulders, it is possible that you will injure your shoulder ligaments. Ligaments are the connective tissues that associate bones to other bones.

​If you overexert during an exercise and lift weights that are too heavy for you, muscle strain can occur. Muscle strain is not a minor injury as small tears can emerge on the site of a pulled shoulder muscle. Severe cases of muscle strain may require surgery to correct if rest, ice application, compression and elevation do not alleviate the symptoms.

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