I like using myself as an example of injuries waiting to happen. I’ve had most every lower body overuse injury one can get: foot sprains, achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, calf strains, IT Band Friction Syndrome, femoral stress fracture, hip bursitis, piriformis syndrome, low back pain…and that’s just off the top of my head. I’ve also recovered from all of them, still running strong.
Yes many of these injuries occur from running, but often they’re not. I’ve had tendonitis from bad footwear, calf strains that lead to tendonitis because I trained improperly, piriformis syndrome and low back pain that recur when I don’t balance myself out with stretching and weightlifting.
Being an athletic trainer has some great benefits. Most of the time I can assess myself when I have pain and I think, oh, it’s probably __________, therefore I need to do __________ and ____________. Being an ATHLETE athletic trainer has some great drawbacks. I know my injury is only ___________ and I can probably do ___________ even though I still have pain.
When I listen to my athletic trainer self, 99% of the time I get well faster than when I listen to my athlete self.
The key here is listen. How do I know when I’m injured, or just sore or tired? Here are some basic guidelines that I follow when deciding whether or not to follow my regular workout, or to alter it based on what I am able to do.
1) Is the pain sharp, stabbing, and repeatable? Meaning every time I move myself in a specific way I reproduce the pain? This usually means I’m actually hurt.
|If you look like this, you should probably stop!|
|Cut your losses, and ice it.|
2) Is the pain throbbing, even when I’m not moving? Sometimes I’ll lay in bed and I can feel my pain, or the pain wakes me up at night. This is also a sign I’m actually hurt.
3) Did I do a new or different exercise, and now a new part of my body feels dead, heavy, and sore? This usually means I worked a new body area too hard and I’m experiencing some Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). I’ll stretch a lot and do some easy aerobic exercise and this feeling usually passes in about 3 days.
4) Am I feeling a sharp, debilitating pain that feels like I can’t move that body part and my muscle has knotted up? Am I dehydrated? Then this is probably a cramp! Stretch it! Ice it!
5) Now the tricky one: a lingering pain that usually goes away when I move around, but then returns about 30-60 minutes after I’m done working out. It can be better or worse day to day, but never seems to really go away. When I work out hard, I don’t feel it till the next day, but usually with a vengence. The pain may be in a joint or muscle and may start hurting or throbbing at night to varying degrees. This is usually an inflammation. The inflammation may be in a muscle, tendon, ligament, or bone, or between any of the 4. These pains almost ALWAYS get worse with activity, especially if you do nothing to help or do not change your workouts to protect the injured area. And here’s the kicker, of all the injuries I mentioned above, the inflammatory process was involved in every one. That’s why ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory meds like Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, and Aspirin will relieve pain in almost every situation. However, they may not help the source of the problem.
I have learned to master the art of cross training. Cross training is changing one’s normal activity to one that also stresses you aerobically and works the same muscles, but in a different way. The goal is to work synergistic muscles while decreasing stress on the primary muscles. You are working and “resting” concurrently, but strengthening your body as a whole. Swimmers may cross train on dry land, cyclists may cross train in the pool, strength lifters may cross train aerobically or with circuit work…
But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is: If your pain causes you change how you walk or sit, or perform your activities of daily life for more than a few days, you are probably injured. Visit your local Athletic Trainer friend or Physician for advice. If your pain makes you stiff or sore or excessively tired, cross train and get back to it! If you fall and break your arm or leg, go to the Emergency Room, please!