How to prevent and treat exercise-related injuries

Katie Leyton

Let me play devil’s advocate: Exercising can be bad for you. Despite the health benefits, exercising can take a toll on your body and cause serious health problems, that is, if you’re not careful.

I cannot stress how important it is to be cautious when working out, but to also know how to alleviate any pain a strenuous work out may have caused so that it doesn’t worsen.

Stretching before and after exercising is important to make sure your muscles are relaxed. Whether your work out is limited to just a few muscles, like leg day, or a full body work out, it is vital to stretch out your muscles. It can be the difference between gains and injury.

Injuries such as cramps, shin splints and pulled muscles are some of the most common injuries both runners and lifters experience.

Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions of your muscles. One of the best ways to prevent cramps is to simply stay hydrated. Drinking water throughout the entire day will lead to success both in and out of the gym.

Also, ease your muscles into the heavy weights. Don’t just walk in the gym and start pumping out reps with the heaviest weight you can lift. This will allow your muscles to warm up and become more flexible as you increase weight throughout your work out.

Another preventive measure is to take potassium and calcium supplements. These two supplements help build muscle and prevent mid-workout cramps.

Despite the preventive measures, should you get a cramp, the first thing to do is stop what you’re doing and sit down. If you try to work through the cramp, it will only get worse. Muscle cramps are not something you can walk off! Have a friend help you slowly stretch it out, and make sure the stretch targets your cramped area. Ice can also help a muscle cramp by constricting blood vessels thus taking the pain away.

Shin splints are a runner’s number one enemy. The key to preventing shin splints is simply by strengthening the shin muscles.

One of my favorite exercises is to take a towel and while sitting, place it under your toes. Then, curl your toes toward your body, which will cause the towel to roll up underneath your toes. Repeat this by continuing to flatten the towel and curl it.

Another great stretch is to sit down and draw the alphabet with your toes, one foot at a time.

Both of these stretches will strengthen the muscles in the shin and Achilles.

However, shin splints aren’t totally preventable. If you do get a shin splint, all running should be stopped. Taking a break will be hard, especially for the devoted runner, but your shin will in no way heal if you continue to push it. Treatments for shin splints include icing your shin, elevating your legs and then wrapping your shin once you are ready to slowly start working out again.

When lifting weights or even just stretching too hard, muscles can easily be strained or pulled too far. Even sitting in one position for too long can cause you to pull a muscle.

When increasing your weight when lifting, be sure to maintain proper body mechanics and always use your legs – not just your arms or your back. Dispersing the weight evenly through your body when lifting, twisting or even sitting will help to prevent a strain. Applying ice to a pulled muscle and slowly stretching it can help alleviate some of the pain. The foam roller can be a good tool to use in the gym to massage your muscles and is great to use after every work out.

Your muscles, though growing daily, are always susceptible to injury no matter how experienced you are. Unfortunately there isn’t a magic pill that can instantly cure any of these injuries. However, resting and stretching are two of the most important ways to prevent any further damage. Otherwise, happy lifting!

Contact Katie Leyton at [email protected].