Welcome to our Injury Prevention and Treatment post. Whether you are trying your best to stave off injury or already struck down and in recovery our tips will be able to fast track you back to where you left off in record time!!
Injury is heartbreaking. All of that training and effort put in, just to make one mistake or go too far. Just like that you are out of action. Depending on the injury you could be out for weeks or even months. The frustration with it is probably worse as you go over the mistakes in your head and watch as all the progress made slips through your fingers. After you have recovered you have to effectively regress your training to a level much less intense than you were at. Gains are lost :(. Yes, It is never an easy thing.
Thankfully there are measures you can put in place to a) protect you from injury in the first place and b) fast track you in the healing stakes if you do suffer a minor injury of some nature.
Being aware of potential causes of injury and being able to prepare for that will drastically reduce your risks. Knowledge of basic first aid skills such as the use of PRICE (see below) in treating minor injuries can also make a difference. We hope you find our Injury Prevention and Treatment post useful. Be prepared.
Injury Prevention tips
Ensure you warm up properly and get some light dynamic stretches in. Cold muscles are prone to over-stretching and tears. Warm muscles are a great deal more flexible. Warming up also increases the synovial fluid in a joint (fluid that prevents bone ends grating against each other) to allow better movement and increase shock absorption. Warm muscles and increased fluid in joint capsules also absorb rapid changes of direction and movement much easier making injury less likely.
Make sure you cool down after intense exercise afterwards. Ensure you get your stretches in to allow the stretched muscles to de-contract.
Regular stretching. On the subject of stretching, try to get in regular stretching during the day, even when you are not exercising. This can be particularly effective if your muscles feel tight and you feel sore and stiff.
Some light stretching (focus on the word ‘light’ never do deep stretching unless you are warmed up) to preserve flexibility and reduce injury risks.
If you are unfit, take your time getting back into shape. Go easy or avoid high impact/dynamic exercises until you have lost some weight and are strong enough to compensate for the often excessive requirements of that type of exercise.
Concentrate on your technique. Record yourself or use a mirror, then critique your technique later. If it looks wrong and feels wrong then it may very well be. Look for expert advice via a Personal Trainer of someone well versed in physical training who may be able to give you some pointers.
Overtraining. Everybody does it, they get back into training, get a real taste for it and then fly too close to the sun. Before you know it you have pushed too hard too soon, something tears and you are out of action for weeks! Curb your enthusiasm! 😀 Take your time and make progress with gradual progression. Ensure you get your rest days in. This is a major part of physical training, allowing for recovery to allow the body to repair and make adaptations.
If you don’t allow for this and hammer the training when your bones and joints ache then something is going to give eventually. Ensure that you target different body parts on different days. If you have trained chest and back one day then leave the upper body alone for several days before going back and training your arms or shoulders.
Make sure you have well maintained equipment. In a nutshell, don’t use damaged equipment. If equipment is damaged there is a far greater chance of you injuring yourself if it breaks whilst using it. You wouldn’t climb a ladder with unstable rungs or use scissors with loose handles that detach. Same rules apply whilst training with equipment such as suspension trainers or resistance bands. If they are frayed don’t use them. You have only yourself to blame if something goes wrong and you do get injured.
With regards to weights, ensure that if you are lifting heavy that there is someone there to spot you (particularly on a barbell chest press). Additionally, always check to ensure that weight plates are secure with clips on the bar and the area that you are training in is hazard free.
With regards to running shoes try to ensure you have the correct running shoe to compensate for your gait (how you run and where your foot strikes when it lands). Injuries can occur if you are using running shoes that don’t accommodate this. Likewise make sure you grab new running shoes once they become worn. This is approximately every 500 and 750 km (310 and 465 miles) but wear might occur sooner than this dependent on other factors. Poor grip is a risk factor for injury particularly when running in more treacherous conditions. Whilst on the subject of running on slippery terrain, use spikes or trail running shoes if you do know surfaces are going to be bad.
Finally, don’t use equipment you are not capable of using (seek advice as above from a PT or someone used to training with that equipment).
Recovery. If you are injured ensure you are healed before you start exercising again. No pain no gain is not the answer here!! Start off light to ease yourself back into it and try several rehab exercises (coming soon). As frustrating as it may be, whatever you do don’t jump back into exercise where you left off! Your body is probably going to need more time to recover.
Recognise the signs of injury! Don’t ignore your body, if something hurts during exercise, stop and check it, don’t ignore it. Stretch the area lightly and if the area continues to be painful then stop right there and consider treatment options (see below). A bit of common sense is needed here, sometimes you will have a niggling muscle that just needs a bit more stretching or warming up. However, if the pain increases in severity or there are issues with, swelling, tenderness, mobility, or skin discolouration then stop immediately. Better to be safe than sorry!
Dealing with Injury - PRICE
PRICE is an acronym for Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It is a great treatment for the majority of basic sporting injuries. Experts recommended acute injury patients use PRICE shortly after the injury occurs and for during the 24 to 48 hours afterwards.
(P) Protect – Make sure the injury suffers no further damage. Protect your small injuries by applying bandages, plasters or splints. This will also probably mean withdrawing from activity and exercise.
Avoid using the injured body part and support with weight bearing equipment (walking sticks, crutches, hiking poles etc) if you have to. You may have to seek medical advice for injuries that are more severe in nature or which persist longer than 48hrs.
(R) Rest – Allow the damaged muscle, tendon or ligament to heal. Avoid putting any weight on it if possible. Don’t be tempted to exercise on it and ‘soldier on’ you will probably make things worse.
(I) Ice – Ice is an excellent anti-inflammatory. The use of an ice pack will relieve short term pain and reduce internal swelling. Apply the ice pack/frozen peas for around 10-15 minutes after the injury. Repeat this every hour to two hours for up to 48hrs to help reduce the pain and swelling.
When icing up an injury, keep the ice pack on it for no longer than 15 minutes. Let the areas temperature come back to normal and then you can reapply. You can also protect your skin by covering the frozen pack with a cloth or rag. Ice can damage the skin if the exposure is for too long so take precautions. After 48 hours switch to heat treatments (Deep heat/hot water bottle), using the same timing of 15minutes skin contact every hour/every two hours.
(C) Compression – Increased pressure can help reduce swelling and inflammation. In this case using a tightly wrapped or elastic bandage applies external force to the injured area. This should assist with reducing swelling and will also immobilise and support the injured limb.
Ideally it should provide effective but not too unbearable compression. Loosen slightly if this is the case, also remember to remove the compression at night to ensure circulation to the limb is not compromised.
(E) Elevation – This involves raising the injured area to above the level of your heart to stop blood collecting from there. The effects are reduced swelling, inflammation and pain which should help speed up recovery. Simple ways to do this involve propping up the limb on cushions or pillows at home.
Although PRICE is the way forward with most minor injuries, your pain or inflammation may be such that you require pain relief medication. Pain relief can vary depending on your medical history, pain tolerance, contraindications (some people are allergic to certain types of medication). Consult your pharmacist or local doctor if unsure and follow their advice.
Seeking Medical Advice
If pain persists after the 48hr period or if it remains severe throughout then it may be best to visit you local doctor or indeed hospital. They will be able to use the appropriate tests to pinpoint a diagnosis and then refer you for the appropriate treatment afterwards. This might involve conservative treatment (slings, plaster cast and pain medication), referral to a specialist such as a podiatrist or a physiotherapist. Regardless you will know what the issue is and how to treat it.
After you have recovered from your injury and you feel fit and ready to return to your training regime you will find your next obstacle, over eagerness. Much self-restraint can be required when getting back into the swing of things. It is an easy thing for injury to reoccur if you do too much, too fast, too soon. Take your time, start off light. If you have seen a physio then use the rehab drills they have taught you to strengthen the weakened area. If you have not sought professional help, use bodyweight exercises initially and get your stretches in to strengthen the area. Ensure that whatever activity you are undertaking that the intensity and resistance are low.
The overall duration you take with your rehab is dependent on how long you were out of action. As a general rule have a couple of days rehab for every day that you were out of action. Make sure you warm up and cool down properly and get in some good mobility and activation drills. As you progress work on drills to strengthen your area of weakness. If there are any flare ups of the injury stop again and revert to PRICE. It may be frustrating but you will save yourself in the long run. In time as you progress with training you will get stronger and the likelihood of injury will reduce drastically.
Getting back on that horse!
It is all too easy to avoid exercise after a painful injury. The fear of re-injuring yourself and being out of action again is always there. The important thing is having the discipline to pick yourself up after that fall and get back on that horse! Injuries are always going to happen, indeed even if you don’t train the potential for injury is always there! Exercise is one way of strengthening your body and bulletproofing yourself against the overstraining injuries that do occur in everyday life. So take your time, make your training effective and focus on your technique. In time your knowledge and awareness will make your train smarter and help you avoid the pitfalls of injury.