Despite their best efforts to avoid them, fitness enthusiasts do pick up injuries from while working out at the gym. Most injuries heal with time and proper rehab, allowing people to recover completely and return to pre-injury levels of performance. The most common causes of injuries in gyms are lack of warm-up or movement preparation, dehydration, ego lifting, bad form or posture and lack of mobility in joints, says lifestyle coach Gagan Arora. Here are the five most common gym injuries are:
Lower back pain: A majority of people experience low back pain while performing heavy lifts, or just after doing so. “Some soreness in the back for a day or two after heavy training or doing a new exercise is common. But persistent pain is related to improper hip and ankle alignment and muscle weakness in the core,” says Arora, also the founder of Delhi’s Kosmic Fitness.
If not performed correctly, moves such as deadlifts, a heavy overhead press or squats can lead to moderate to major back issues. One must learn how to perform the hip hinge while keeping the spine straight and the core braced before progressing to loaded deadlifts and squats, suggests Arora.
Knee pain: Knee pain is another common issue that can afflict both those who train as well as those leading sedentary lives. Most knee issues usually arise from problems in the hips or ankles. Lunges and squats could lead to knee pain if your hips and/or ankles aren’t doing their job. Work on hip and ankle mobility on a daily basis if you have any knee pain, advises Arora. He adds that people need to strengthen their hip flexors, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors and abductors because imbalances in these muscles are the most likely reason for knee pain.
Shoulder impingement: Faulty biomechanics during bench and shoulder press can lead to shoulder injuries. Bench presses are often the leading cause for this, as your shoulder blades are locked against the bench and the scapulo-thoracic joint is unable provide the range of motion and stability required to push the heavy weight, say fitness experts. Try to lift your lumber spine and press the feet into the ground while squeezing your glutes and lower trap muscles while performing the bench press, suggests Arora. This gives some space to your shoulder blades to move underneath and stabilise your spine.
Rotator cuff tear: This is a rare injury that can occur when heavy loads are moved at a fast pace. Snatches or heavy overhead squats are the usual culprits, say coaches. A rotator cuff tear takes time to heal and the road to recovery is long and painful. It might even require a surgery to repair broken tissues, says Arora. If you feel any pain or irritation in shoulder joint during any exercise, do not ignore it. Instead consult an expert before continuing with your workouts.
Muscle Strain: Muscle strains can afflict stablising muscles (core muscles) as well as the muscles that you are training. They are usually caused due to an improper warm up, lifting too much too soon, losing form and dehydration, says Arora.
How do you treat an injury?
If you suffer an injury while working out, the first thing you need to do is to stop the workout immediately, advises Dr Subhash Jangid, director and unit head of the Fortis Bone and Joint Institute at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram. “Apply ice on the injured area and take rest. The problem is that most people continue their exercise and workout routine even after an injury, which makes the injury worse,” says Jangid.
You need to provide rest to the injured part of the body for a minimum of one week, which might extend up to three weeks. Consult a doctor to understand the level of injury and decide the appropriate course of treatment. “Usually, the treatment is to rest the body part, cold compressions and elevating the injured part if there is significant swelling,” says Jangid. In case of lower back injuries, it is usually a muscle sprain and you need to apply a hot pack and may have to take some muscle relaxant medications too, he adds.
How do you prevent injuries?
Always perform an optimal warm up set, and design it keeping in mind the workout you are going to perform. That, coaches say, is key to preventing injuries. “If you just do a 5-10 minute jog and then go for a chest training routine it’s is an absolutely faulty warm-up for chest day and you are inviting shoulder injuries,” says Arora.
Drink enough water through the day, including before and during your workout. Rehydration is important to keep muscles supple and helps you recover faster between sets and exercise. Make sure you drink 300-500 ml water at least 20 minutes prior to your gym session, suggests Arora.
Next, leave your ego outside the gym. “Everyone needs to know their capacity and how much load their muscles can take. Lifting a weight that your body can’t handle is detrimental to your health. Make sure you can perform 5-6 good quality repetitions with good form first. If you want to perform an exercise till muscle failure, ask someone to spot and help you. Too many failure sets can tear too many muscle tissues and lead to extreme soreness,” says Arora.
“Lift light and set a good form before lifting heavier weights. You need to create a mind-muscle connection before adding more pounds to the bar. Your brain senses the load and recruits specific muscles to get the job done. It is highly beneficial for beginners if they do high repetition sets (15-20 reps) with lower weights to get this connection right with good posture, tempo and joint alignment. Being aware of your posture is the key thing one should learn from their coaches,” he adds.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.