Exercise-related injuries are inevitable if you workout regularly. You can get an injury from an accident, excessive wear and tear on your body, or just cruising along on the Stairmaster. Exercise-related injuries don’t only happen if you’re old, careless, or weak. You can injure yourself even if you’re strong, prepared, and young. The most common exercise injuries can also be avoided by exercising with basic safety in mind.
If you’re currently experiencing pain during your workouts, use this guide to see if your symptoms match any of the most common exercise-related injuries. Learn how to treat your injuries so you can get back to the gym or your favorite sport in no time. You can also use this list to learn how to reduce your risk for these exercise-related injuries so you can stay pain-free.
The Most Common Exercise Injuries Are:
- Inflammation of Your Supraspinatus Tendon
- Inflammation of Your Subscapularis Tendon
- Rotator Cuff Injury
- Tennis Elbow/Lateral Epicondylitis
- Elbow Hyperextension Injury
- Inflammation and Rupture of Your Triceps Tendon
- Inflammation of Your Biceps Tendon
- Wrist Bursitis
- Runner’s Knee/Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear
- Pulled Hamstring Injury
- Strained Groin Injury
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Achilles Tendinitis
These are a list of more specific injuries the single most common exercise injury is muscle pull or strain (1). This is why it should not be surprising what the most common cause of injuries is.
The Largest Cause Of the Most Common Exercise Injuries Is:
More injuries are caused by lifting weights with improper form than any other workout injury (2). To protect yourself from the most common injury you should lift weights with proper form and not lift more than your body can handle at that time.
1. Inflammation of Your Supraspinatus Tendon
Your Symptoms: If your supraspinatus tendon is inflamed, you’ll experience pain and weakness when you lift your arm up and sideways through a 60-degree arc, rotating outwards. You’ll also feel pain if you press on the front, inside part of your upper arm.
Causes: If you’re like most people, you probably don’t bother to train the muscles surrounding your supraspinatus tendon. You’re more prone to this injury if you’re an athlete and overuse your shoulder, particularly if you do lots of movements where your arm is at or above shoulder level.
Treatment: Rest until you don’t experience any more pain. Keep doing pain-free mobility exercises to keep the full range of movement in your shoulder. Apply heat and use a heat retainer and see a sports injury specialist or doctor who can advise you on rehabilitation.
2. Inflammation of Your Subscapularis Tendon
Your Symptoms: If your subscapularis tendon is inflamed, you’ll feel pain when you move your shoulder, especially when you raise your arm above your shoulder. You’ll also experience pain when you rotate your arm inwards against resistance, and when you press in on the tendon insertion.
Causes: Your subscapularis is a very powerful muscle that rotates your arm inwards. It’s part of your rotator cuff group of muscles, and you’re most likely to experience this injury if you don’t stretch and warm up properly.
Treatment: Rest until it isn’t painful. Apply heat and use a heat retainer and see a sports injury professional who can advise you on rehabilitation.
3. Rotator Cuff Injury
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel a sudden tearing in your shoulder, followed by severe pain down through your arm. You may also experience pain and muscle spasms that will limit your shoulder’s range of motion. You’ll feel specific tenderness over the point of the rupture or tear, and you won’t be able to raise your arm out to the side without assistance.
Causes: The most common cause of a rotator cuff injury is a sudden, powerful movement. For example, you may experience this injury if you’re moving at high speed and fall onto an outstretched hand. If you do sports that involve a lot of shoulder rotation, you can also put your rotator cuff muscles under a lot of stress. You can also injure your rotator cuff by lifting weights without warming up and stretching properly.
Treatment: Apply ice to reduce swelling and control the pain with appropriate medications. Rest your arm and use a sling. You may require imaging studies to identify the problem and rule out any fractures. Consider consulting a physiotherapist who can assist you with rehabilitation.
4. Tennis Elbow/Lateral Epicondylitis
Your Symptoms: You’ll experience pain about 1-2 cm down from the bony area at the outside of your elbow (your lateral epicondyle). Your wrist will also be weakened, and you’ll have difficulty doing simple tasks. You’ll feel pain on the outside of your elbow when you bend your hand back at the wrist against resistance or try to straighten your fingers against resistance. You’ll likely also experience pain press just below your lateral epicondyle on the outside of your elbow.
Causes: You may get tennis elbow from overuse or repetitive strain. This can happen if you repeatedly extend or bend your wrist back against resistance.
Treatment: Apply ice or cold therapy to your elbow for 15 mins at a time, up to 6 times a day. It’s extremely important that you rest and wear a brace or support and protect the tendon. You should also follow a comprehensive rehabilitation program while you’re healing and strengthening.
5. Elbow Hyperextension Injury
Your Symptoms: If you over-straighten your elbow, you’ll notice it swell, stiffen, and redden over the course of several hours. You’ll also likely experience numbness.
Causes: When your elbow is forced to bend the wrong way or is hyperextended, it causes damage to the ligaments and structures of your elbow.
Treatment: Apply cold therapy and compression, rest until symptoms resolve, and wear a support or heat retainer. You should also apply strapping to prevent your elbow from hyperextending (bending backward) again while you’re healing.
6. Inflammation and Rupture of Your Triceps Tendon
Your Symptoms: You’ll experience elbow pain during both rest and exercise. You’ll also notice a painful swelling on the back of your elbow and limited mobility in your elbow.
Causes: You’re most likely to injure your triceps tendon if you over-do it with the weights or try to push something too heavy.
Treatment: Rest and apply ice or cold therapy to your injury over the first two days. See a sports injury professional for advice on treatment and rehabilitation.
7. Inflammation of Your Biceps Tendon
Your Symptoms: You’ll experience thickening and redness over your biceps tendon and pain or discomfort when you bend your arm against resistance. You’ll also feel and pain or discomfort on the inside of your elbow when you write.
Causes: You’re most likely to experience this elbow injury if you over-do your bicep curls.
Treatment: Rest until you no longer feel discomfort. Apply heat and use a heat retainer, and see a sports injury specialist.
8. Wrist Bursitis
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel pain in your wrist, especially when you bend it back and put your weight on it. You’ll also notice a small lump or swelling on top of your wrist.
Causes: Your bursa is a small sack of fluid that lubricates the areas where tendons move in your joints. When it’s subjected to repeated trauma, it can become inflamed and swollen, causing pain in your wrist. This can happen if you often put substantial weight on your hands, for example, if you do a lot of cycling.
Treatment: Rest, apply cold therapy if the pain is acute, and wear a heat retainer or support. See a sports injury professional.
9. Runner’s Knee/Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel a nagging ache in or around your kneecap during and after your workouts.
Causes: Runner’s knee occurs when there’s a softening or wearing away and cracking of the cartilage under your kneecap, resulting in pain and inflammation. You can also get runner’s knee if you have weak thigh muscle or tight hamstrings or Achilles tendons. This can happen if you overtrain or don’t stretch properly before your workouts.
Treatment: Stop exercising until you’re pain-free. Apply ice to your injured knee and see a physical therapist for helpful stretches and deep tissue massage. Pilates can also help you build strength and flexibility in the weakened area.
10. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear
Your Symptoms: You’ll notice an audible pop or crack at the time of the injury. You’ll also feel instability, masked later by extensive swelling. Immediately after your injury, you’ll feel extreme pain and won’t be able to fully straighten your leg.
Causes: You can tear your ACL if a twisting force is applied to your knee while your foot is firmly planted on the ground. It can also occur if you land hard or experience a direct blow to your knee.
Treatment: Immediately stop whatever sport or exercise you’re doing, apply ice to your knee, and seek medical attention.
11. Pulled Hamstring Injury
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel a sudden sharp pain at the back of your leg while you’re exercising. Then, you’ll experience pain when you stretch and contract your muscle against resistance. You’ll also notice swelling and bruising.
Causes: You can experience this injury if you don’t warm up correctly. Your warm-up should consist of some light aerobic exercise followed by stretching and sports-specific drills with gradually increasing intensity.
Treatment: Start treatment immediately using the “rest, ice, compress, and elevate” technique. You can also use a compression bandage to minimize intra-muscular bleeding. See a sports injury specialist. When you no longer experience pain, you should do stretching and strengthening exercises to rehabilitate your muscle.
12. Strained Groin Injury
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel discomfort in your groin or inner thigh after you stop exercising. You may also experience a sudden sharp or severe pain in your groin area or adductor muscles during your workout.
Causes: This injury can occur if you don’t stretch and warm up properly. Groin strain occurs when you’re sprinting, changing direction, or completing rapid leg movements against resistance. Repetitive overuse of your groin muscles may result in adductor tendinopathy.
Treatment: Rest, ice, compress, and elevate immediately. Use crutches if needed and gently stretch your groin muscles. See a sports injury professional who can advise you on rehabilitation.
13. Plantar Fasciitis
Your Symptoms: You’ll feel pain at the base of your heel, often in the morning or when you’re walking barefoot.
Causes: Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of your plantar fascia, which is the thick tissue that covers the bones on the bottom of your foot. It can be caused by trauma or stress. For example, you can get plantar fasciitis if you have very tight calf muscles, extremely high or low arches, or frequently wear heels or ill-fitting shoes.
Treatment: Don’t do any high-impact exercises until you are pain-free and try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Ice the sore area and roll your foot and calves with a massage bar to loosen up the tight tissues and muscles. If the pain persists while you’re merely walking around, see a physical therapist for stretching and strengthening exercises. If you have problematic high or low arches, a physical therapist may recommend a podiatrist who can fit you for orthotics.
14. Shin Splints
Your Symptoms: You’ll experience tender shin bones and tight calf muscles, and pain down the front of your lower leg.
Causes: Shin splints is more accurately called tendonitis of the lower leg. It can be caused by a sudden increase in activity—for example, if you take on a new sport. A change of running surface, such as switching from the treadmill to pavement, or a change in speed can also strain your lower leg tendons. You can also get shin splints if you wear old shoes that don’t have enough support.
Treatment: If the pain is tolerable, you can continue to exercise with shin splints. However, you should reduce the amount of time you engage in the activity that causes pain. You can increase your training once you’re pain-free. If you train extensively with shin splints, you may get stress-fractures—an injury that doesn’t heal quickly. After your workouts, apply ice to any tender spots and be sure to stretch your lower leg muscles very well. A deep calf massage can also relieve pressure on your shins. Get new running or walking shoes if the soles of your current shoes show wear and tear.
15. Achilles Tendinitis
Your Symptoms: You’ll experience a sore, inflamed, or swollen Achilles tendon, which is the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel.
Causes: You can get Achillies tendinitis from over-training, bad shoe choices (such as unsupportive high heels), and tight or fatigued calf muscles. These all put stress on your tendon.
Treatment: Take a week off from any high-impact workouts and be sure to stretch the area by straightening your leg and flexing and pointing your toes. Ibuprofen, ice, and a foam wedge heel pad will also help your healing process. If the pain persists, see a sports injury professional who can advise you on treatment and rehabilitation.
Preventing Common Exercise Injuries
There are some simples techniques you can use to help prevent sport-related. Make sure you have the proper equipment for whatever activity you’re doing. For example, if you’re a runner, you must have good running shoes that fit well to prevent shin splints, stress fractures, and joint pain. It’s also very important that you use proper form for every exercise, whether you’re walking or lifting weights. Bad form and posture add stress to your muscles and joints, which in time will cause an injury.
You should also be sure to warm up and stretch before you exercise. Warming up helps loosen and increase the blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. You should also stretch after your workout, especially if you lift weights. Stretching after will help reduce muscle soreness. Above all, be safe and enjoy the great benefits that you can get from exercising.