Gym injuries are all too common. But with a bit of time, patience and knowledge, they don’t have to be.
Here, physiotherapists, Emily Wiener and Amanda Simmonds from PROmotion physio, list the most common gym injuries and advise on how to prevent them.
1. Acute low back pain
Acute low back pain can be caused by a number of factors in the gym. Some of these include: poor lifting technique, lifting a weight that’s too heavy, poor trunk stability, and relying on back muscles when lifting, rather than engaging gluteal muscles and deeper abdominals.
“If you’re new to lifting weights, ensure your technique is assessed by an exercise physiologist prior to commencing,” says Wiener. “A physiologist can provide accurate feedback and technique adjustment to ensure you have the strength, ability and flexibility necessary.
Base strength work for the gluteal and trunk muscles can also assist in preventing acute low back injuries in the gym.
2. Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)
Medial tibial stress syndrome is the most common form of shin pain and usually occurs after a big spike in plyometric based exercises, such as box jumps and burpees. Other risk factors include wearing inappropriate or worn out footwear during workouts and incorrect technique.
To prevent shin splints, Simmonds recommends a steady increase in the frequency, duration and intensity of plyometric exercises. Ensuring adequate strength prior to doing the exercises is also recommended.
“Before trying out dynamic lunges, where common errors include heavy landing technique and ‘knocked knees’, spend some practising walking lunges with the use of mirrors to help correct technique,” advises Simmonds.
3. Shoulder impingement
Shoulder impingements are one of the most common injuries. The leading cause is an imbalance around the muscles that control the position of the head of humerus and the scapula.
Shoulder exercises that are performed repetitively or with poor technique can lead to shoulder impingements.
Simmonds recommends doing exercises to improve strength and control of both the rotator cuff and scapula stabilisers to establish a strong base strength for more loaded, challenging exercises. Maintaining a good posture at work and home also helps.
“If you’re experiencing pain with gym exercises above shoulder height, seek the advice of a physiotherapist to provide you with a rehabilitation program to correct any muscular imbalance,” says Simmonds.
4. Wrist pain
Injuries to the wrist and forearm tendons occur when there’s been a rapid increase in the amount and frequency of wrist weight bearing exercises, or when exercises, such as kettle bell swings, have placed large pressure through the wrists.
Simmonds advises that, when weight bearing through the wrist, you should be aiming to keep the wrist in a neutral position. If you’re finding that you’re collapsing through the wrist during exercises, it’s time to modify them.
“Exercise modifications can assist in managing pain and avoiding area overload,” says Simmonds. “For example, if a push up position causes pain, try holding a dumbbell to create a neutral position for your wrist.
If you still experience pain with a modified position, seek advice from a sports physiotherapist or hand occupational therapist to assess your wrist.
5. Knee pain (patella femoral joint)
Exercises in the gym that put stress through the knee, such as lunges, squats and plyometric based work, can cause patella femoral joint pain if performed with incorrect technique.
“If you have any knee pain while completing these exercises in the gym, consult a physiotherapist prior to continuing,” advises Wiener. “They’ll be able to provide you with a rehabilitation program aimed at firing the correct muscles and assisting in releasing off any tight structures in the area.”
It’s also important to complement these strength exercises with roller release of the ITB & lateral quadriceps (vastus lateralis).