Nagging fitness injuries and what to do about them

How many times have you or someone you know finished a run or lifted weights with nagging pain? You know the scenario, it's not bad enough to sideline you, but you feel it every time you workout. If you find that you're in pain or experience consistent discomfort during your workouts, I have an unofficial diagnosis for you, chronic pain. Pain becomes a chronic issue when it lasts longer than several weeks and rest doesn't seem to make it better. In fact, many issues around chronic pain come from overuse of a certain body part or just plain ole overtraining.

Don't think you fall into that category because you're too young, really fit, or in denial? You're not alone. Studies show that more than 15 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. However, these same folks continue to do their workouts faithfully, train for 10Ks, ironman or even go hard at CrossFit. In fact, you can get so used to pain, it becomes your new normal. That's not good. If you're in chronic pain, there's a solution for you and it's cross-training.

So, how do you handle this pain dilemma? Now, I could tell you that the best thing for you to do is to stop training for a while, rest, and resume your routine. However, most of the time that's not the best way to deal with a nagging injury or twinge that you feel periodically. Plus, taking a week or two off can set you back too. Here's the deal. If you have a new injury, it's best to use the RICE Method which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It's best to take a few days for your body to rest and 72 hours is a good window to see improvement. During that time, take some medicine to help with pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen or Tylenol are ideal. If your injury hasn't gotten better within another week or two, I recommend seeing your doctor to rule out any serious injuries and get the okay to continue exercise. The only time where I wouldn't recommend the two-week timeline is if you experience extreme swelling in a joint or debilitating pain within an hour or two after a workout. Waiting it out is not a good idea and could cause additional injury, so visit an Orthopedic Urgent Care Center right away. 

Now that you've got your doctor's okay to exercise and you want to get back in the game, what do you do first? Remember this mantra; cross-training needs to be a staple in my workout regimen. Here's the way it works. Let's say that you are a runner, a hardcore one at that. You experience some knee issues and now you feel the ache or pain regularly. Instead of running daily, cut down your runs to no more than 3 times per week. In-between your runs, hop on the elliptical, bike, or try deep water running to take the load off of your knee. Add some rest days in-between a few workouts and combine with ice, pain medicine as needed, and stellar nutrition.

As your body continues to heal, you do several things. One, you minimize additional damage to the tendons and ligaments around your knee. Two, you recruit and work different muscle fibers. Three, you feel better because the aches and pains associated with running aren't there. Lastly, you enjoy your workouts, recover better, and perform better in the long term. 

Now, before you go out there and resume your training I suggest you track your workouts going forward. Record what you do and how your body feels. For example, if you have shoulder issues and want to lift heavy, go light on the weights initially. You can always make it harder. Take note on how your shoulders feel through the movement. If you feel a slight twinge, don't push through it. Maintain good form through the end of the movement and drop the weight slightly. Lifting about ten percent less weight can be the one factor that will avoid further injury to your body. 

Nowadays, cross-training is the only way to go. Your body will recover well plus you'll feel better in-between workouts. Daily high-intensity workouts will burn calories but also put you at risk for overtraining and overuse injuries. Dial it back and you'll reap the benefits, I promise.




3 Fitness Injuries You Shouldn't Ignore

I admire people who run marathons.  It takes a certain kind of mental stamina, will, and utter determination to finish the race.  It's no surprise then that the Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday will draw nearly 30,000 runners in the DC Metro area.  However, with any repetitive type activity like running, you're bound to suffer from some ailments that can become long term chronic problems.  Here are my top 3 injuries that you should address now; a wait and see approach is not a good idea! Injury #1 - Back pain Let me say this at the outset; back pain is not normal.   If you're living with it, grinning and bearing it, or sucking it up, please stop.  Your back is part of your core and your core is your powerhouse to activity.  If your back is jacked up, your ability to stabilize your body, move quickly (think of chasing your kid out into the street), and perform daily chores (sweeping the floor can hurt!) is affected.  Sleeping becomes impossible and then sleep deprivation and the side effects such as irritability, weight gain, and memory challenges kick in.  Have I painted the picture for you?  There are many factors that can cause back pain so make sure you get a thorough exam.   I highly recommend seeing a sports physical therapists and trainer (yours truly) to perform a posture and gait analysis.  It's also a great idea to have a solid core training program in your arsenal to manage your back health and prevent any future problems.

Injury #2 Plantar Fasciitis This is a very common injury that may fly under the radar for years.   A tell-tale sign that you have Plantar Fasciitis is a feeling of something pulling at your heel.  This pull worsens over time and is felt strongly in the morning, after exercise, or a long day on your feet.  Once the underlying fascia gets irritated you have to manage it right away.  The best way to deal with Plantar Fasciitis is to stretch your calf muscles daily; foam rolling is another great way to stretch that area.  Next, make sure you have proper foot wear.  You may have to change your shoes every 6-12 months if not more.  Be sure to have a pair of running and fitness shoes.  Orthotics can be prescribed by your doctor but I have concerns about the long term use of orthotics (another post).  Try this exercise for your feet; place your bare feet onto a towel on a smooth surface like a hardwood floor or tile.  Lift (flex) your toes up and as you bring them down grab the towel and inch it towards you with your toes.  Trust me, this will feel a bit strange but after a few days, it will feel better.  Perform two sets of 15 reps daily for ten days.  Your feet will feel better soon!

Injury #3 Ankle Sprain Sprains are common but the damage to the ligaments around the ankle are effected long term.  Once ligaments get overstretched, they never return to their normal state that's why it's so important to properly care for sprains with rest, elevation and ibuprofen if necessary.  It's a good idea to see a doctor and rule out any additional damage to the area.  Once you've had a sprain, your at risk for spraining the same area again increases.  Strengthen your ankle area by balancing on one leg and performing unstable exercises such as a squat on a BOSU dome.

Never underestimate any injury.  Past injuries creep up in mid-life and can put you on the sidelines for a long time.  The old saying of No Pain, No Gain is just that - an old saying.  Never allow pain to become normal for you.  Take the time to get yourself healthy again by taking care of old injuries and preventing new ones.