Let’s set the scene – it’s the weekend! It’s been a long week at work with lots of disruptions and sleepless nights. You had a couple of drinks the night before and had less than 6 hours of sleep. But no problem! You just want to get outdoors and smash an intense workout to get those positive endorphins running.
Warm up? That’s boring. Foam-roll? Nah, haven’t got time for that! Take an electrolyte drink? Hmm, I’m fresh out of my supply. But it’s okay, just get into it. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
Ten minutes into your run, you are starting to feel a little ‘niggle’ in the muscle. But it’s okay, just keep going. Two minutes later, you sprint round a bend…and BAM! A sharp pain in your ankle. Or you’re on your last heavy deadlift…and AGH! Your back!
These are what we at UFIT Clinic like to call the “weekend warrior” injuries – afflictions caused by poor preparation, fatigue, or overload. Here’s the top 5 most commonly seen injuries at the clinic on a Monday morning, and the steps you can take to avoid them.
1. Ankle sprain
This is usually caused by rolling the foot inwards during some form of impact. This inward motion can cause one or multiple ligament sprains of varying degrees, with a lot of swelling, bruising and surrounding tissue damage.
Estimated recovery time: 2 - 6 weeks
2. Hamstring strain
This occurs most frequently in sports with explosive movements such as sprinting, soccer, and weightlifting. We also see injuries due to gradual overload, usually in runners or cyclists. Pain, visible swelling and bruising usually behind or around the back of the knee is commonly experienced.
Estimated recovery time: 6 - 12 weeks
3. Shoulder tendon injuries
Your shoulder tendons are the end parts of the muscles that is attached to the bone, and these guys are very sensitive to load and compression. Shoulder tendon injuries can be caused by poor seating posture at work, or wrong technique during exercise, leading to inflammation, sharp pain and reduced range of motion.
Estimated recovery time: 6-12 weeks, and sometimes even up to 6 months
4. Sharp lower back pain
Sudden onset of lower back pain is a very frequent injury is one of the most common injuries we see every day in the clinic. Your spine is a very strong structure made up of lots of tissue including bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and fascia. When any one of these structures are injured due to incorrect posture, poor technique, or weight overload, you get lower back pain.
Estimated recovery time: Usually 6 weeks, unless something more serious is involved such as an intervertebral disc or nerve injury, which may take longer.
5. Tennis or golfer’s elbow
You don't need to play either sport to be afflicted with this condition. The most common cause of elbow pain is a weakness at the wrist, leading to an overloading of the forearm muscles and the elbow tendon. Incorrect shoulder and wrist movements in sports such as tennis, golf, and weightlifting can also cause elbow pain.
Estimated recovery time: 6-12 weeks depending on how aggravated the elbow tendon is
8 ways to stay injury-free
1. Build your training up slowly
If you’ve just returned from a break, holiday or rest period, then you need to consider gradually increasing you training appropriately. For example, if you just started to train for a marathon after a long period of inactivity, don’t begin by running 5 days in a row.
2. Warm-up properly
Before jumping straight into your workout, make sure you do a dynamic warm up where you actively move your muscles to wake up your nervous system. Even a 5 minutes warm up routine can drastically reduce the chances of an injury.
3. Follow an appropriate training program
When training for a particular event or race, it’s a good idea to follow a training program or join an exercise group to help you stay on track of your progress.
4. Focus on correct technique
If you are new to an exercise, it is advisable to consult a coach, or a physiotherapist to learn the correct technique, proper form, and movement pattern in order to avoid injury.
Don’t like foam-rolling and stretching? Then we would highly recommend you to book yourself in for regularly massages or body work sessions with a physiotherapist to keep all the muscles limber and the joints mobile so that you can continue to exercise injury-free.
6. Stay hydrated
Our muscles, fascia and connective tissue are mostly made up of water, so when the body is dehydrated we are at a higher risk of sustaining a soft tissue injury. Making sure that you drink between 3-4 litres of fluids daily, and take a electrolyte supplements to combat what we lose through sweat, especially if you love exercising outdoors. A simple tip is to have a glass of water before bed, one glass in the morning, and continue to sip water or electrolytes throughout the your exercise.
7. Get adequate sleep
Research has shown that inadequate sleep can leave you susceptible to increased exercise injuries. So having a late night on Friday ahead of a rugby match on a Saturday morning might not be the best plan. Plan your social and exercise calendar in advance to ensure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
8. If you are experiencing pain, stop!
Mild muscle aches during a hard workout session is to be expected. But if you are experiencing a different type of pain that you’ve never felt before, then stop immediately. Do not push through pain, as doing so might complicate and add on to the original injury. If in doubt, consult you physiotherapist. They can help to assess, diagnose and treat the injury appropriately.
Practice these 8 tips to stay injury-free and become an “everyday warrior”!
About the author
Máire is a senior physiotherapist at UFIT Clinic specializing in sports injuries and rehabilitation. She has a Masters in Physiotherapy in Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, and has worked with a number of amateur and professional sports teams, including the Irish national basketball team.
Máire is also an avid runner and competes regularly in Singapore, often placing on the podium. As an APPI (Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates institute) and Balanced Body trained pilates instructor, Máire uses the principles of pilates clinically when treating runners as well as in her own recovery, and believes that it has contributed to her injury-free running career.
- BSc (Hons) Athletic Therapy and Training (Dublin, Irl)
- Sc Physiotherapy (Edinburgh, UK)
- Kinesio® Tape Application Certified
- Australian Physiotherapy & Pilates Institute Mat Certified
- Balanced Body Reformer and Equipment based Pilates Trained
- OMT Dry Needling Practitioner