The path to fitness is not straight — there are plenty of twists, turns, and bumps along the way. In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to give yourself one (or several) minor exercise injuries at some point, especially if you’re hitting the gym or track hard several times per week.
Whether you’re working on building muscular arms, toning your lower body, or even just getting out and hitting the streets of your city or town, there are hidden dangers in every movement. The likelihood of getting injured increases when you don’t really know what you’re doing or as you get older, and as many people focus on their fitness level a bit later in life, taking the proper precautions becomes increasingly important before getting started.
There are certain parts of the body that are more prone to injury than others, and when you’re not armed with the knowledge as to how to properly exercise, injury can become commonplace. Joints and tendons, naturally, are body parts that are notorious for being injured, and in some cases, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid an eventual mishap.
But fear not, The Cheat Sheet is here to help.
We’ve compiled a list, in no particular order, of seven of the most common injuries people sustain while exercising. Most of these aren’t serious, though certain activities can definitely aggravate certain injuries to a higher degree. There are steps you can take to avoid getting hurt, so be sure to consult with a trainer, or read up further to be better prepared before you hit the gym, track, golf course, or tennis court.
1. Neck strain
Few things are worse than straining your neck — and having to walk around weird for several days afterward. It’s actually quite easy to do — a lot of people end up doing it in their sleep, in fact. With that said, there are a lot of ways to strain your neck, and a big one is having improper posture. Especially if you’re a runner or lifter, be sure you are practicing proper posture. If you do end up straining something, ice, heating pads, and even a massage will probably help with the recovery.
2. Ankle twists and sprains
Everyone, everywhere, twists their ankle. Sometimes you walk into a hole or simply trip on a stair. But it happens. And your ankles are one of those joints that are most often injured during workouts or when playing sports. There are ways to defend against ankle sprains and twists, however. Building lower leg muscles can help with your balance and composure, as well as lower your risk. For certain exercises, wearing braces or taping your ankles, to avoid excess movement, can also help.
3. ACL injury
ACL injuries are relatively common — we hear about them on SportsCenter frequently, and people who participate in certain activities, like skiing, are particularly prone. Depending on the severity of your injuries, surgery could be required — so take the steps to make sure you don’t get hurt. ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, and it rests at the meeting place of the femur, patella, and tibia. Needless to say, it’s an important ligament.
That means it gets a lot of wear and tear as well, and is easy to injure. While there’s no real way to avoid an ACL tear, taking care when playing sports, lifting, or running is your best defense.
4. Lower back injury
Back injuries seem to be more common in older folks, but they can easily be sustained by anyone. One of the easier ways to throw out your back is by performing certain lifts with bad form. Squats and deadlifts are the exercises that come to mind immediately — there is a reason that weightlifting belts exist, after all. But even running with bad posture, or with lousy shoes, can lead to back pain. Taking care, getting your form down, and using the proper equipment (and a spotter) is the best way to avoid back troubles. Yoga can help, too.
5. Shin splints
Shin splints are a common injury, and one that tends to sneak up on you. They’re most commonly suffered by runners — as the continued act of running leads to the overworking of the muscular system in your legs. Scientifically speaking, it’s called medical tibial stress syndrome, and given some time, rest, and ice, they can be effectively staved-off. To avoid them, slow down your workouts, and give yourself plenty of time to recover.
Tendinitis takes a variety of forms, and can arise as a result of many activities. Swimmers, golfers, bowlers — all experience different types of tendinitis, which is inflammation around certain tendons. That means that elbows, knees, shoulders, wrists, and ankles are all susceptible to it, making it a hard injury to avoid. Repetitive impact is the chief cause, and even typing on a keyboard all day can leave you hurting. Avoiding or preventing it can be tricky, but using a brace or tape might help, along with some ice afterward.
7. Runner’s knee
Similar to tendinitis, runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is the result of continued stress and impact on your knee and leg ligaments. It can arise from over-training, improper posture or running technique, or having a weak lower body. It earns its name due to its prevalence in runners specifically, and can affect one or both legs. To avoid it, adjust your form, try different shoes, or increase rest periods between runs.