Whether we’re star athletes, weekend warriors, or casual intramural dabblers, injuries hold no prejudice when they strike their victims. So often, we nonchalantly shrug off these injuries, barely even reaching for a bag of ice before we’re back out on the track or in the gym. Meanwhile, your body is weeping on the inside, hoping that you’ll get the idea and rest, repair, or even visit a doctor or physical therapist. But which injuries are serious enough to demand some time on the bench? That’s where we come in.
Tendinitis is defined by an inflammation or irritation of the tendons, the thick cords that connect our muscles to our bones. Now, even if you’ve never heard of tendinitis, you’ve probably heard of (or maybe even had) some of its nicknames like “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow”.
Tendinitis arises from a multitude of activities: repetitive movements can contribute to the formation of tendinitis, or it can derive from a single, serious injury. Swinging tennis rackets and golf clubs, pitching and throwing, and even gardening or painting can all cause tendinitis. Popular locations for tendinitis include the hips, shoulders, knees, and elbows. Other factors can influence tendinitis, including gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
How To Know If You Have Tendinitis
If you’re experiencing significant pain at the tendon and any surrounding joints, you may have tendonitis.
How To Deal With Tendinitis
After stopping the activity, there are two routes available depending on the severity. For mild cases, rest the affected area and break out the ice packs to help manage pain and inflammation. Raid the medicine cabinet for anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Keep yourself on the sidelines until the pain resides and range of motion returns comfortably. However, if treating your case of tendinitis still feels beyond your capabilities, you should set an appointment with a doctor or physical therapist.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or “runner’s knee,” is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap), with pain ranging from mild to severe. Often described as the most common running injury, you’ll feel a dull pain beneath the top of the kneecap that begins mildly and intensifies during a running session.
Sufferers of PFPS will feel pain during regular running/training, but especially as they are descending (stairs/downhill) and performing complex knee movements like squatting.
The general consensus is that the following causes contribute to the development of runner’s knee including:
Shoe selection (orthotics)
Muscle weakness in the quads, hip abductors, and external rotators
Poor flexibility in the calves/quads
Biomechanics, specifically the chain reaction of complex bio-movements in the hips, legs, and knees
Rest and treatment are essential to making sure no additional damage is being done. The resulting pain from runner’s knee can last for weeks or months at a time and it’s important to begin working on the problem early to reduce chances of doing further damage.
Ceasing running activities doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be unable to train, though. If continuing your regimen is important, do exercises that have little impact on knees: swimming, aqua jogging, and the elliptical machine are good ideas.
How To Treat Runner’s Knee
Some are able to remedy runner’s knee with a system of training/treatments that can be done at home, including building hip/quad muscles through various exercises (of course, avoid aggravating the knee), performing hip abductors, stretching, and foam rolling. In addition, try the following:
Ice the knee for 15-20 mins at a time
Reduce foot impact with better shoes or custom orthotics
Use anti-inflammatory medication
In worst case scenarios, when your own attempts to improve PFPS yield poor results, a trip to your physical therapist and a gait analysis may be necessary.
Shin splints is another aggravating injury that plagues athletes everywhere. Identified by a pain that occurs at the front side of the shin bone, shin splints arise from any number of culprits: frequent stopping and starting, flat feet, extended periods of repetitive motions, or constant pounding of the feet as with jogging or treadmill walking. Together, these activities cause stress fractures in the bone and muscle, weaken stabilizing muscles, and create swollen muscles. When you feel this aching or throbbing in the shins, you should hang it up before you make the situation worse.
How To Treat Shin Splints
Rest so your shins have adequate time to heal. Icing will help to reduce swelling and ease the pain. Begin taking anti-inflammatory drugs. And look for a new pair of sneakers that better support your feet.
To get to the source and develop a program that will prevent shin splints from blowing the whistle on your workout, work with a physical therapist to pinpoint issues with posture and form that can contribute to the development of shin splints. They can also prescribe specific exercises, stretches, and movements to aid recovery and prevent future instances.
Muscle Strains and Pulls
What exactly does it mean to “pull” a muscle? Generally, we use the terms “pulled” and “strained” interchangeably; but they both actually refer to the act of tearing. When we pull our muscles, we tear them. These tears can range from minor to truly traumatic and can produce intense pain that requires serious treatment.
Muscle pulls can originate from complex training movements, as one would expect, or something as banal and commonplace as picking up a bag of dog food. They can result from:
Repetitive movements which overwork a muscle, like swinging a tennis racket
Abrupt, jerking movements
Aggressive movements and stretches
Explosive demands on the muscle
Launching toward the rim for a dunk, jerking to block a slapshot, pushing yourself to cross the finish line tape—all can lead to a muscle pull.
How Do You Know You’ve Pulled A Muscle
A pulled muscle is unique in the sudden, odd, or sharp pain it produces after a movement. You know that something strange just happened, something your body doesn’t quite like. As a result, the muscle that has suffered the strain feels weaker. You feel pain when contracting the muscle in both directions. You see swelling, soreness, or redness in the affected area.
Symptoms can last from just a few days to weeks and range greatly in levels of discomfort. The worst muscle strains and pulls can put you out of commission for months and require a doctor, physical therapist, or even surgery followed by a serious rehab program.
How To Treat Muscle Pulls
Treatment varies widely based on the severity of the tear, which muscle was injured, and the resulting pain. The bigger the muscle and the deeper the tear, the longer you’re going to be on the sideline. The most important tactics for treatment include rest, ice, elevation, and compression. These practices will help reduce the pain and allow the muscle fibers to repair. Trying to exercise through the pain may make you feel like The Hulk, but we would advise against that. After a few days of rest, test the muscle: try moving through a normal range of motion. Improvements in motion and a reduction in pain are a great sign. However, if you see no improvements and the pain continues, it’s time to check in with a doctor or sports therapist.
Injuries happen. And we understand—you want to continue your training regimen. You figure that because you can still move and you’re not on crutches then it’s ok to keep going at it. As you can see, we beg to differ. When you’re the unfortunate recipient of a training related injury, do your body a favor and put yourself on the sidelines. Figure out what’s happened, then begin the process of restoring your health, whether that involves a few simple treatments and adjustments to your regimen or the assistance of a professional. If you do go the professional route, Advanced Spine & Sports Care would love to help get you back in the game!