Physical activity: how to protect yourself from the 8 most common injuries

Stay in the game and learn to listen to your body and avoid injury with these tips.

Overuse injuries can be the bane of physically active people, from elite athletes to weekend warriors. Excessive and repeated strain on tendons, bones, and joints for weeks or months can lead to sore knees, shin pain, tennis elbow, and other overtraining injuries.

Most of these problems stem from common mistakes: trying to do too much, too hard, too soon. Not getting enough rest and using poor technique or equipment can also leave you vulnerable.

You can prevent overtraining injuries by following a few common sense rules and listening to your body.

Common Overuse Injuries

Unlike the sudden pain of a torn ligament or a sprained ankle, overuse injuries develop slowly and manifest more subtly. At first, you may feel mild pain or tenderness in the affected area right after exercising. Thereafter, the pain becomes chronic and can prevent you from practicing your sport or your daily activities.

The most common overuse injuries are:

– lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow): pain and weakness on the outside of the elbow
– Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis): Pain and weakness on the inside of the elbow
– Swimmer’s shoulder (rotator tendonitis): Pain during overhead activities, problems sleeping on the shoulder, shoulder weakness
– Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome): Pain around or below the kneecap, worse when running, jumping or cycling, going up or down stairs and sitting with bent knees
– Shin splints (median tibial stress syndrome): Leg pain associated with running
– Achilles tendinitis: Ankle pain associated with running, dancing or jumping
– Plantar fasciitis: Heel or foot pain that is often worse with the first steps of the day
– Stress fractures: Pain in the foot, leg, hip or other area aggravated by weight bearing activity

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Limits and common sense

To avoid limb overuse injuries without sacrificing your commitment to fitness, follow these guidelines:

Gradually increase your workouts

Stick to the 10% rule: don’t increase your training time or distance traveled by more than 10% each week. If you currently run 10 kilometers per week, add one kilometer or less per week to your total.

Warm up, cool down and stretch

Warm up for five minutes before your activity by doing low-intensity exercises. Then do slow stretches that you will hold for about 30 seconds. After exercise, cool down for five minutes, then stretch again.

Rest if necessary

Fatigue can increase the risk of injury, so give your body time to recover and heal. Build rest days and easy days into your schedule.

Cross-train with other activities

Do various exercises to relieve your joints and muscles. If you focus on aerobic exercise like running, incorporate strength training into your program.

Learn the right technique

Take lessons or work with a coach or trainer to learn the correct techniques. Especially if you are learning a new sport or using new equipment.

Get the right gear

Choose shoes that are suitable for your activity and replace them when they are worn out. Consider using orthotics or a heel cushion if your feet hurt. Running shoes should be well cushioned.

Be sure to work your muscles evenly

Strengthen the muscles on both sides of your body to avoid imbalances.

Above all, listen to your body. Don’t ignore the pain. It signals that you are at risk of injury. Remember, taking a day or two off is better than being bedridden for weeks waiting for an injury to heal.

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