It eventually happens to everyone who exercises — a twinge or sensation of pain that indicates an injury has occurred. The question, then, is what to do. Knowing the right steps to take, and how to handle any temporary physical impairment, is important. Here are the six things you should do when you experience an exercise-related injury.
- Don’t do anything that causes pain. Pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong. Even if you’re in the middle of a workout, stop immediately. While pushing through the pain might seem tough or brave, it’s actually just stupid. Continuing with an exercise that has triggered an injury is dangerous and runs a high risk of worsening the problem.
- Talk with a doctor. While in some cases you might be sure what injury you’ve suffered, it’s usually smarter to consult with a medical expert. A doctor will be able to figure out exactly what’s wrong with you — including any non-obvious underlying causes (which might be the real culprit for your problem). A doctor can also advise you how to avoid future re-occurrence, which is almost as important healing the injury now.
- Follow the advice you’ve received. It should go without saying, but many fitness enthusiasts cannot bear to give up (or just modify) their favorite exercise for even a brief period. Instead, they continue risky behavior that makes another injury almost inevitable. Don’t make this mistake. Being stubborn will only harm you in the end. Similarly, if a doctor or physical therapist recommends you practice specific exercises for either recovery or prevention, you should prioritize these moves over other exercises.
- Practice alternative, safe exercises. In all but those cases involving the most serious injuries, there is no need to stop working out completely. In fact, there should be a laundry list of possible alternate exercises — an injury can even be taken as an opportunity to try out new things. For example, a knee injury might rule out lower-body strength routines and many forms of cardio, but that still leaves upper body-oriented moves such as seated bicep curls.
- Take steps to prevent injuries before they occur. “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, the adage goes, and the sentiment certainly applies when it comes to exercise-related injuries. Most such injuries occur because of bad form, overtraining, tightness, or other relatively easy to avoid mistakes. Allowing the body opportunity to recover and heal is crucial, so don’t skip out on rest. Regular stretching and an exercise program that targets all major muscle groups can help avoid tightness and dangerous muscular imbalances. Consult expert sources to achieve proper form — especially for exercises with weights, where bad form is particularly dangerous.
- Watch for indicators of impending injury. Oftentimes, there are warning signs before a full-fledged injury strikes. One of the biggest is any kind of joint pain. While muscle soreness is often okay, joints should never hurt. Swelling is another major danger sign, and almost always means an injury has occurred. Joint swelling can be hard to detect but is often indicated by tightness and reduced range of motion. Tingling or numbness anywhere in the body should also never be ignored. If you detect any of these major warning signs, contact a doctor.
No one wants to get injured. Injuries are usually painful, and can make both simple, everyday activities and working out difficult and unpleasant. However, injuries are also impossible to completely avoid. Everyone who exercises regularly will be affected eventually. That’s why knowing how to respond when you suffer an injury is so critical.