3 Common Gym Injuries & How To Avoid Them

Man squatting down with barbell preparing for a deadlift

It is no secret that, come January, people worldwide dive into the infamous ‘New Year New Me’ regimen, ditching carbs and b-lining for the gym or taking up running to transform their lifestyle and shed Christmas pounds. And that effort and enthusiasm is something we can only admire. 

For people who are already frequently active but have simply relaxed a little over the festive period, jumping right back into the gym is probably a welcome change of pace. But for those who are new to a gym environment or live otherwise sedentary lifestyles, there is a higher risk of injury or straining the body by doing too much too soon.

In this post we’ll walk you through some of the most common injuries seen when heading to a gym environment out of practice or trying a new ‘fad’ workout, and how best to avoid them.

Knee pain after exercise

A very well-known injury attributed to a ‘New Year New Me’ lifestyle is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome; more commonly referred to as Runner’s Knee. For many, taking up running is a no-brainer as it is great for weight loss, an easy way to build up your cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness, and it’s free (or cheaper than a gym at least). All you have to do is dig out a pair of trainers and you’re off. 

But without the correct form or incorrect and unsupportive footwear, you run the risk of developing this condition which will initially leave you with a dull pain in the front of the knee and lead to more serious knee and joint issues down the line if left untreated.

Injuries can also occur in a gym, or through ‘simple’ bodyweight exercises, such as forward lunges. If you have improper stance, it can affect your body’s stability during exercise resulting in pressure and strain going through the knee, instead of being distributed through the hips, knees and feet.

How to avoid knee pain

A few things to keep in mind to reduce strain and risk of injuries to the knee are:

  • Ensure you have the correct footwear to support your feet and ankles as this will help with weight distribution through the knees.
  • Avoid training excessively and overusing the knees
  • With exercises like lunges, focus on creating a right angle with your knee, ensuring the knee cap doesn’t lean over the ankle and foot. With squats (and even running) avoid letting your knees and ankles roll inwards.

Back pain after the gym

One of the most common knock on effects we see as a result of people training in a gym is injury or pain in the back. This is often on account of improper form when people opt for weight lifting as part of their workout regime.

While this can be an effective form of exercise, lifting too heavy a weight can cause you to curve or over arch your back. Without a trainer, a spotter or the self awareness to correct compensatory movements, this can eventually lead to pain and injury.

Start with lighter weights

To avoid this happening, we recommend starting with lighter weights and gradually building up so you’re not pushing your body too hard and not straining your back. 

Integrate exercises that keeps your back flat

Another useful practice is to integrate exercises into your routine that require your back to be flat against a surface. Wall sits or leg raises are great starting points as both will allow you to focus on keeping your back flat and allow you to become more aware of when you’re then compensating your back on other movements. With both of these exercises, focus on tilting the pelvis under to avoid a gap from forming behind your lower back.

Torn rotator cuffs

Whether a seasoned gym-goer or a newbie, many people experience rotator cuff injuries. This tends to occur when repetitive overhead lifting movements cause the shoulder blade to pinch the muscles that rest along the perimeter of the ball of the shoulder joint (or rotator cuff).

Lifting heavy weights or using a swift, jerking motion can cause a tear in the rotator cuff, which will cause pain when you sleep and limited mobility on the affected side, and pain or discomfort when you try to lift the arm overhead. If ignored or left untreated, a torn rotator cuff will affect the muscles and tendons that cover your upper arm bone, keep it in the shoulder socket and, ultimately, allow you to lift and rotate your arm. 

How to prevent rotator cuff injuries

To reduce your risk of injuring or tearing these muscles, it is important to warm up before exercise and stretch afterwards. We would also recommend cold compresses (links to back pain post) at the end of a training session to help reduce any inflammation, and lighter weights or lower resistance during training to avoid excess strain.

If you suspect you have already torn or injured the muscles, then anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen can help with discomfort in the immediate instance, as can sleeping on your opposite side. This is not a problem that tends to heal itself, so we’d recommend scheduling a physiotherapy appointment or consultation with an orthopaedic specialist to help resolve the issue.

In fact, whether it’s a problem with a rotator cuff or not, it is always worth consulting a physiotherapist for clarity on anything that’s causing you pain so we can get to the root of the problem and give you clear guidance on how to fix and avoid it in the future! 

Top tips to stay clear of gym injuries

Here’s some of our top tips on how best to keep safe and steer clear of injuries while working out:

  • Make sure to warm up and stretch - this may sound obvious but it’s one that’s so often skipped by people and, trust us, it will make all the difference in aiding recovery and preventing injury.
  • Prioritise technique and good form over high reps or heavy weight.
  • Less is more - In the beginning, fewer training sessions are better as they will allow you to find your feet, build your strength and will give your body time to properly recover in between sessions. Don’t overdo it by committing to too many gym sessions, classes or runs before you’re ready.
  • Allow yourself time to recover - Weightlifting is likely a stimulus your body hasn’t been exposed to in a while, so it will need all the help it can with recovery. 

When it comes to recovery, things like foam rolling and stretching have their place, but where you should really be focusing is on getting 8 hours of sleep per night and getting sufficient protein and overall calories in your diet. 

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