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Five common gym injuries and how to avoid them

People exercise and go to the gym to make the body stronger and healthier. However, injuries can occur if you push too hard or don’t use the proper form and technique. Gym injuries can often take weeks or months to heal and are completely preventable. 

They can be frustrating and painful, so if any gym injury occurs, remember the PRICE method – protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Protect the injured area, rest the muscles and tendons, apply ice to reduce swelling, compress the area with bandages and keep the injured muscle elevated. Here are some other tips to avoid the most common gym injuries.

Lumbar strain

The lumbar, or lower back, is a sensitive area that is susceptible to injury. Usually, lumbar strains are the result of bad posture and technique, coupled with too much load on the lower back. Excessive repetitive movements or twisting motions can also strain the lumbar.

The best way to prevent lumbar strain is to exercise your core and improve your flexibility. Stretch properly before and after exercise to prevent unnecessary strain on your muscles and tendons. Focus on improving your posture and technique when lifting weights or using the rowing machine. 

Avoid bending at the waist when lifting weights, use your legs and keep your back straight o reduce the strain on the lumbar. Abdominal crunches, sit-ups and wall-sits are good ways to strengthen your core and increase support for your lower back.

Hamstring strain

The hamstring is the back of the thigh. These injuries can be painful and will make walking very difficult. They commonly occur when the muscles are overstretched, usually during a quick movement from a stationary position. Hamstrings are notorious for re-injury – once you pull a hamstring, it is easy to do again and again. If you strain a hamstring, you should wait about three to six weeks before exercising it again.

By performing leg exercises slowly and in a controlled manner, you can easily prevent hamstring strain. Another way to prevent this injury is to warm up properly before exercising and to stretch the back of the legs properly. Use dynamic stretches such as lunges and leg swings to stretch the hamstrings – these are often better than static stretches such as bending over to touch your toes.

When doing leg exercises such as leg press or leg curls, never lock your knees. This fully extends the hamstring and any forced movement from a heavy weight will strain the back of your legs easily. If you feel a pop in the back of your thigh, this can be a sign of a hamstring pull or tear.

Rotator cuff tendonitis

The rotator cuff, or the shoulder, comprises four muscles and tendons that help to move your shoulder in all of its natural directions. The most common rotator cuff injuries are caused by throwing balls and racket sports, such as tennis or squash. High-intensity training and excessive shoulder movements at the gym can also injure the rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff tendonitis, or a pulled shoulder, can be treated with ice and anti-inflammatory medications. If you injure your shoulder, wait a week or two before exercising it again. Once you have recovered from the injury, use a resistance band to strengthen the individual muscles and tendons. Avoid moving your shoulders to the extreme – always keep your hands in sight to prevent excessive movements.

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is a common injury that involves the muscles and tendons used to extend the forearm and wrist. It is usually signified by pain on the outside portion of the elbow when moving the forearm. Repetitive activity and swinging motions can cause tennis elbow, hence its name. Other activities such as golf, squash and gym can lead to this injury.

To treat tennis elbow, use a counter force elbow strap to alleviate pressure on the muscles and tendons. If you suffer from tennis elbow, try to rest the arms for six weeks before playing sports or lifting weights.

When curling weights at the gym, use slow and controlled movements with fewer reps to prevent damage to the elbow. Watch your form and technique to ensure that the elbows are not strained or hyper-extended.

Groin pull

The pelvis, hips and groin are a complicated region of bone, muscle and tendons. Any one of these muscles or tendons could be a cause of a pulled groin. This injury is often caused by a side-to-side movement under excessive weight or rapid change of direction. Over-stretched muscles are the most common cause of a pulled groin.

If you pull your groin, you should wait three to six weeks before exercising the region or the legs again. Use dynamic stretches to warm up the legs and groin before exercising. Exercise with a resistance band around your thighs to strengthen your inner thighs and hips.

These five injuries are fairly common but certainly preventable. The best way to avoid straining your muscles is to use controlled movements with proper form. Don’t try to lift heavier weights than your body can handle – increase weights by small increments as you get stronger.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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