An exercise injury can happen to anyone, regardless of fitness level. Being aware of common injuries and doing exercises that will help prevent them is essential to reducing the frequency and severity of exercise-related injuries. Here are some of the most common exercise-related injuries and simple mobility and flexibility exercises that can help you stay pain free.
If you have sensations such as sharp pain, numbness, or tingling in your lower back and glute region that travels down the back of your leg, you’re not alone. A muscle called the piriformis could be to blame. This small muscle plays a big role in keeping lower-body movements smooth and balanced, particularly during extension, abduction, and external hip rotation. When you know how it affects movement, you can avoid what’s called piriformis syndrome.
Piriformis syndrome doesn’t have to sideline your goals. Simple exercises will help keep this muscle from tightening and causing pain and dysfunction. Paying attention to form when you’re doing strength work will help you avoid overcompensation issues. Be sure to regularly include strengthening work for hip adductors in your routine.
IT Band Syndrome
ITB syndrome is also common. It occurs when there is instability around the knee joint and results in sharp pain on the outside of the knee. Many runners know what this feels like, but ITB syndrome is also common in cyclists and other athletes. The cause of ITB syndrome is general overuse, but only because of specific muscle weaknesses. When the glute muscles and muscles around the hip are too weak, they cause the IT band to pull the knee out of alignment, hence pain and injury. There are two ways to prevent or manage this injury: rest and strengthening the muscles of the hip.
If you have IT-related pain, consider backing off any exercise that may be irritating the IT band, such as running, and adding the following exercises to your routine:
With this injury, something is awry with the posterior chain — hips, hamstring, calves, heel, and bottom of the foot. Foot joints are often restricted by improper footwear, old ankle injuries, and fallen arches, so the plantar fascia cannot lengthen the way it is meant to and tissues wear down and become hard and tense. That’s plantar fasciitis, and it feels like an ache or bruise on the bottom of the heel or the arch of the foot. Eventually, it could cause a bone spur on the bottom of the heel. If you’re dealing with such an injury, avoid running, jumping rope, and box jumps. Exercises to do instead (one set of 10 repetitions should be sufficient): eccentric calf raises, ankle dorsiflexion mobilizations, heel walking, toe flexibility work, and calf and hamstring stretches.
There are also ways to modify other exercises if you have plantar fasciitis:
- Make exercises less weight bearing.
- Try a small heel lift in your shoe.
- Step down (rather than jump down) during box jumps.
Erin Mahoney is vice president of education at the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a global leader and pioneer in the fitness and nutrition personal training certification industry. To learn more about ISSA, go to issaonline.edu.