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Common CrossFit injuries and how to treat them

A life of fitness should not go hand in hand with a life of injury. But injuries can happen, so Lounge gets you some expert advice

The easiest way to avoid injuries is to not over-extend yourself.
The easiest way to avoid injuries is to not over-extend yourself. (Istockphoto)

Injuries are best avoided but sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might still pick one up in your pursuit of health and fitness goals. And when CrossFit is your chosen path to a fit life, there’s plenty of evidence that injuries could very much become a part of the journey.

One reason why injuries happen, not only in CrossFit but in any kind of physical activity, is due to people trying advanced movements too early into their routine, says Pawan Jani, coach and founder-director of Chakra Fitness in Pune. “It’s always recommended to start slow with basic movements, learn the technique and build the strength before taking on the advanced movements. Many coaches push their clients to attempt advanced gymnastics and weightlifting exercises before they are ready for it. That leads to injuries during the workout,” he says.

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The most effective way to avoid an injury in a CrossFit box is to listen to your body and take things at your own pace. Stop when you can’t go on, despite all the encouragement from your workout buddies. It is also important to work with a coach who understands your fitness limitations, adds Jani.

In case you pick up an injury, the first thing to do is cease all workout immediately, says Dr Subhash Jangid, director and unit head of Fortis Bone and Joint Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.“Apply ice on the injured area and rest. The problem is that most people continue their workout routines even after injury and aggravate their injury. You need to give rest to the injured part for a minimum of one week, which may extend up to three weeks,” says Jangid, who also recommends consulting a doctor to understand the seriousness of the injury. Just so you know, here are the five most common CrossFit injuries.

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Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Cause: Lifting heavy overhead weights. Many movements can cause rotator cuff tendonitis including the push press, the push jerk and the snatch, notes Jani. Even kipping pull-ups can lead to this shoulder injury.

Doctor’s Advice: When suffering from rotator cuff tendinitis, the movement of your shoulders may seem to be completely normal, but they are painful during abduction and overhead work. This condition is treated with physiotherapy along with the anti-inflammatory medications. Avoid any overhead activities with or without weights. “They can do all other activities except raising the arm overhead or beyond 90 degrees of abduction. Also strengthen the depressors of the shoulder joint. Do internal rotator and adductor muscle strengthening exercises. It usually takes approximately three to six weeks for good recovery,” says Jangid.

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Achilles Tendinitis

Cause: Overuse of the tendon that connects the calf and heel can lead to this condition, says Jani. It is an overuse injury affecting one of the strongest muscles of the body, says Jangid, and it results in pain at the back of the ankle joint and heel while walking and in early mornings after rising from a lying down position. Jumping movements such as box jumps, broad jumps and intensive vertical jumps can lead to this injury.

Doctor’s Advice: We need rest the muscle for proper healing, says Jangid, while conceding that it is not easy to rest a muscle that is constantly in use while standing and walking. It is best to use footwear with at least one and half inch heel for a few months to treat this injury. By slightly elevating the heels you reduce the load on your calf muscles. “You also have to fully stretch the achilles muscle every day, 20 to 30 times every morning and evening, so that the muscle gradually recovers its length over a period of few weeks to months. During this recovery period, you can perform all types of activities within your limits of pain except running, jumping, skipping and similar exercises,” says Jangid.

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Anterior Knee Pain

Cause: Overdoing lower body exercises such as squats, lunges, overhead squats, etc. Progress slowly with the load and let the lower body recover before performing another lower body workout in order to avoid injury.

Doctor’s Advice: Those suffering from anterior knee pain find it difficult to climb stairs, rising from a sitting position and performing lower body exercises, says Jangid. To recover from this, avoid bending the knee beyond 100 degrees for between six months to a year and work on strengthening the quadriceps. “This would prevent excessive pressure on the anterior knee joint and the cartilage gradually heals over a period of time,” Jangid adds. People can continue all other activities like running, jumping, walking, etc. as long as they avoid bending the knee beyond 90-100 degrees while bearing the weight on legs. An anterior knee injury should not be confused with the knee pain that is often caused by Vitamin D and calcium deficiency.

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Lower Back Pain

Cause: Tight hamstrings, weak core, tight hip flexors and overdoing forward bending movements like deadlifts can leave you with a back issue. Following a simple routine of warm-up and stretching and not overdoing forward bending movements would help avoid lower back pain, says Jani.

Doctor’s Advice: It is one of the most common causes to visit an orthopaedic doctor across the world. The most common cause for lower back pain is mechanical or postural back pain. If there is no pathological reason for the back pain, then Jangid advises the best course of action is to strengthen the back muscles with exercises and correct your posture.

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Torn Calluses

Causes: Gymnastics movements like kipping pull-ups and muscle ups can tear your calluses and it is rather inconvenient and painful.

Doctor’s Advice: Callosities develop on hands while using excessive weights without protecting the palms with some kind of cushion. If they tear or crack, then we have to protect them from any kind of infection, says Jangid. Frequently wash your hands and moisturize.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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