Injuries sustained from training can feel like the worst thing in the world. Indeed, nobody likes to feel as if all the progress they made while training will go down the drain during an undefined period of recuperation.
Let's face it, the further along a training regimen you are, or as your level of experience grows, you are more likely to experience a sports injury. Why? Because you are forced to increase intensity in order to preserve or keep making progress.
If you've ever wondered why some people seem to get injured often and why others don't, there are usually several factors at play at the same time.
In a nutshell, here are some of the most common reasons why people experience training injuries in the first place.
Causes Of Training Injuries
An overuse injury is most likely to affect you when you are new to the world of exercise. We understand it - you are eager to make progress and believe that more is better. However, when it comes to exercise, this is not the case.
In addition to adequate stimulus from training, your body also needs sufficient time off in order to sufficiently recuperate. Many naïve trainees are actually shocked to hear the fact that growth and progress don't actually happen during exercise, but the days afterward.
Technique is just as is important as the frequency of exercise. This is why, when you are usually new to a sport, the first several weeks are spent learning to master the technique and form required to perform the same.
Too often do people sacrifice proper workout technique in an attempt to just ego lift. Yes, you might be able to impress your friends with your ability to hoist a large amount of weight, but at the end of the day the only person you have to answer to is yourself and the impending injury lurking around the corner.
We aren't all built the same way. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people never fully comprehend this concept and are often at the mercy of injuries. For instance, you may possess different recuperative abilities from the other guy, meaning that you may need to train more infrequently.
Likewise, there are instances where biomechanical differences may mean that you aren't well suited to perform a specific type of movement that other people might have no issue doing.
Lack Of Sleep
Sacrificing sleep is one surefire way to fast-track your final destination of injuryville. You see, sleep is actually the master reset button that facilitates the rebuilding of your body into a stronger version. All that damage left in the gym? You need sleep to recover from it.
At a minimum, you should strive for six hours of sleep although as much as 10 may be needed.
Not Warming Up Sufficiently
The lack of a warm-up process is notoriously common with athletes who believe that doing so is beneath them and an insult. What we can say though, is the fact that without a doubt, they would be lucky to not experience an injury in their life.
A warm-up is essential since it helps to improve blood flow to the muscles which will be worked on, increase core body temperature, and also to decrease muscle rigidity owing to inflexible fascia. It won't take much out of you - simply hit the treadmill for 10 minutes of casual walking, followed by a few dynamic stretches and light warm-up sets in the activity desirous of performing.
Age And Gender
Is it a coincidence that men are more frequently injured than women? Well, besides the obvious fact that men find it much harder to leave their ego at the door, it's actually a result of the sex hormones.
Estrogen, the primary hormone found in women has a cushioning effect on joints. It also promotes water retention, which, along with synovial fluid, helps to ensure that joints have an ideal physiological environment to function.
Testosterone on the other hand does not have these properties, although some of it is converted to estrogen in the male body.
Likewise, age does play a major role in the occurrence and frequency of training injuries. The diminished recuperative ability, along with natural wear-and-tear of joints over many years, and the reduction in the protective effect that hormones exert on the joints all increase the risk of injuries if not careful.
The Most Frequent Types Of Pain And Injury Locations (In No Particular Order)
The shoulder is involved in virtually all of the pressing type movements performed by the upper body. Naturally, this means that you should have a solid regimen for training your deltoids, right? Turns out, this is usually not enough.
Within the shoulder area are tiny supporting muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuffs. In a typical training program, the rotator cuff is not developed, or even trained for that matter despite its integral role in stability of the shoulder joint.
They are often put at risk as a result of overuse or rapid load progression, coupled with poor technique. Initially, it might only be transient and manifest as inflammation, but repeated bouts of the same practices will eventually cause damage to the muscle itself and lead to partial or incomplete tearing of the rotator cuff, which will require a prolonged period of recovery and rehabilitation.
Generalized pain is very common in athletes with low body fat percentages or an advanced age, but may manifest at any point in the training life. Knee pain, while often a result of inflammation of the tendons, can also be attributed to imbalances in leg training, especially if neglected.
Hyperextension and excessive load-bearing also share the blame equally for causing the pain, sometimes leading to irreversible degenerative changes.
Lower back pain is often caused by muscle strain owing to insufficient training of the muscles of the lower back (most often a small muscle group known as the erector spinae), but also spinal compression from bearing excessive weight on the back (think of several hundred pounds in preparation for the squat).
Apart from those mentioned, poor posture is actually one of the primary causes of back pain which is then exacerbated when load is placed on it from training. Many other rowing activities can also exacerbate back pain if the spine is not aligned properly.
Known often by tennis players as the notorious tennis elbow, being here is usually the cause of an inflamed tendon. Although not immediately obvious, some big red flags can trigger elbow pain. These include excessive wrist flexion, such as the top position of a dumbbell bicep curl, or dumbbell row.
Rapidly performing a repetition through the range of movement also places high ballistic strain on the elbow joint, which is why controlling the resistance throughout the entire movement and preventing elbow lockouts are advised to safeguard this joint.
Is it any coincidence that training-related muscle tears are predominantly localized to the pectoralis (chest) and bicep muscle groups? Not at all, as these are usually the two "show" muscles, ones that are unfortunately subjected to displays of unsportsmanlike behavior.
Muscle tears may be complete, or incomplete, which referred to if the muscle fibers are torn off completely from the connecting joint or not. Muscle tears might require much longer for complete recovery, if at all possible. And sadly, many times the result of insufficient warm-ups.
How To Enhance Recovery
You want to get back in the gym or to your workout as fast as possible - we get that. However, you should not sacrifice common sense to get there. If this is your first time experiencing a training injury without being under the constant supervision of a physician or physiotherapist, there are little things that you can do that contribute big time to your recovery.
Isn't it ironic that not getting enough sleep is a predisposing factor to injuries, but also one that can help recuperate them? The one universal recommendation by physicians and sports medicine professionals across the board would have to be to get more rest.
Not only does this help to prevent the exacerbation of the injury, but also because rest is integral to recovery. Most of your day to day tasks will need to be significantly reduced or halted to this end, but if you ever hope to work out again, this cannot be skipped over.
If you have a hard time getting to sleep, or suffer from insomnia, using a natural sleep supplement that contains melatonin and Ziziphus might be the perfect thing for helping to reset your circadian rhythm and reduce the impact of stress.
Make Proper Use Of Ice And Heat
Sadly, many people with an injury do not properly time when it's necessary to ice an injury or apply heat. There is actually a very simple approach to this. In general, ice is advised for use during the first 72 hours following injury. This is necessary to reduce swelling and inflammation, and to minimize bleeding if any.
Following this period, the body's inflammatory processes take over and initiate the process of rebuilding. Application of ice after the initial 72 hours only serves to slow down natural recovery, as ice tends to limit blood flow to the affected areas.
Gradual application of a warm compress following the initial 72 hours is accepted practice, serving to enhance blood flow to the injury location which speeds recovery. The rapid exchange of waste material and necessary recuperative agents to the injury site is necessary for optimal recovery.
Heat is generally used for the management of chronic pain and injuries, while an ice pack or cold therapy is used for the acute phase.
We understand that maintaining your macronutrient balance was critical while training for muscle gain, but if you were to drastically reduce intake while nursing injury, you shouldn't expect it to heal anytime soon.
As we learned from elementary school and beyond, protein is a key nutrient that helps to rebuild damaged cells, so what better time to do so than while injured. While all protein is good, certain kinds may be better suited following an injury.
In particular, would have to be collagen protein. Collagen is a primary structural protein and the second most abundant compound in the body after water, found in joints and supporting structures, which are also among the most frequent locations for injuries. Consuming foods such as bone broth provides good natural sources of collagen, but we understand that there is just so much one can take.
A more practical approach? Take a collagen based protein supplement. This way, you can ensure you get enough of this essential recovery nutrient, and at your own convenience. Just whip up a shake in your blender bottle and you're good to go.
While vitamin C is much more well-known for its purported ability to help reduce your likelihood of catching the common cold (or worse) or helping you recover, let's take a look at one of its effects that is more or less agreed upon by the medical community worldwide.
That ability is its collagen producing power. This was confirmed way back in the days of European conquest and exploration, which involved spending months at the time on the high seas without access to fresh fruits. At this time, it was observed that sailors would develop scurvy, a connective tissue disorder resulting from a deficiency of this vitamin.
Following the administration of vitamin C, this condition would rapidly be reversed(1). This was the first solid piece of evidence pointing to the importance of vitamin C for collagen production.
Besides this, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this vitamin also support recovery after the initial two weeks.
If you live in a temperate to cold climate zone, there is a high likelihood that you are deficient in the so-called sunshine vitamin. You don't even need to be residing there, as a large number of natives in tropical and subtropical regions are also deficient.
Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption and maintaining good bone mineral density(2), supporting skin health, and healthy testosterone levels. Since you're going to be possibly unable to work out for several weeks following your injury, vitamin D can serve multiple purposes while you recover.
This magical herb with a storied history in Ayurvedic medicine is one of those things that has multiple benefits in helping you recover from an injury. Not only is its anti-inflammatory potential equal to or greater than some of the strongest NSAID medication usually prescribed for injuries, but it also supports collagen synthesis - helping joints heal faster and in a more normal fashion.
What do we mean by this? The development of scar tissue is a frequent but unfortunate development, which might lead to a reduced range of motion or discomfort when moving through the affected joint or muscle process.
Studies have indicated that the curcumin found in turmeric is able to mobilize stem cells(3), which are considered to be the body's ultimate recuperative tool. Turmeric supplementation can be recruited from the second-week post injury and onward.
Physiotherapy And Exercise
The goal of physiotherapy is a gradual return to form, ultimately seeking to ensure pain relief, ease of movement, and complete range of motion. Exercise is a necessary part of this, both the aerobic and resistance-based components.
It is very important to understand that physical therapy might be a very slow process, but just like when you now started working out, progress does not manifest in leaps and bounds. This is why working with a physical therapist familiar with
The Supporting Cast
Several trace nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, MSM, and more specialized herbs such as Boswellia and Cissus may help to enhance the healing process, especially if a bone fracture is involved.
Complete injury recovery is very possible but requires time. Realistically, you should not expect to subject the injured area to intense exercise for at least a minimum of 12 weeks afterward, and often times much longer than this. It depends a lot on if you experienced a soft tissue injury or not.
Do what you can - simple walks can get the blood flowing, which is great for recovery. It might be a good idea to modestly reduce calories during this phase to limit excessive weight gain, but not to the extent that it impairs recovery.
Above all, train smart. Test your body, continually progress, but not at the cost of an injury. You only have one body, so take care of it.
(1) DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, Begley JP, Moatshe G, LaPrade RF. Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018;6(10):2325967118804544. Published 2018 Oct 25. doi:10.1177/2325967118804544
(2) Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506
(3) Attari F, Zahmatkesh M, Aligholi H, et al. Curcumin as a double-edged sword for stem cells: dose, time and cell type-specific responses to curcumin. Daru. 2015;23(1):33. Published 2015 Jun 12. doi:10.1186/s40199-015-0115-8