We often use the words ‘no pain, no gain’ as a justification to muscle soreness in the days or even weeks following a workout, and although this can be an extremely normal sign that your exercise regime is working, niggling pains can also be a way of your body telling you that something isn’t quite right.
The Number 1 Injury:
One of the most common exercise-related injuries that physios come across is “anterior knee pain or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS),” shares Karen Shaw of Total Balance Physiotherapy.
Otherwise known as Runner’s Knee, this basically refers to pain behind the knee cap.
As Karen explains, reasons for this include overcommitting after a period of absence, improper running or cycling technique and not allowing adequate recovery time or suddenly increasing training (addition of hills or speed or volume).
“Often, when people resume exercise, they do too much at the start,” says Karen. “Their muscles and tendons aren’t trained to take the load, often leading to muscle fatigue in some muscles and overload of others. Gradually building activity gives your body time to adapt and build the required strength and control.”
Karen’s tips for avoiding injury during exercise:
- If you are already a regular exerciser and want to increase your volume, do so gradually. Roughly increase at 10 per cent per week is the general guideline.
- For running, it is important to take into account your intensity and also if your exercise involves hills (i.e. Don’t look to increase 10 per cent in distance and introduce a fast hill reps session in the same week!). Ensure there are recovery and cross-training days in your program.
- Allow proper recovery between sessions is important, this can vary from a full recovery day (walking may still be included) to cross training (ie. Cycling or swimming for a runner) to a slower aerobic version of your regular exercise.
- Typically, running shoes are not a direct cause of injury but it is important to ensure your running shoes are in good condition. Ideally, your running shoes should not be more than one year old and should be within the manufacturer’s guide distance (usually 500-800km – varies depending on shoe construction and users technique and weight). If you run consecutive days ideally you should have at least 2 pairs of running shoes to rotate between. It is best not to use your running shoes for any other activities to keep them in optimal form for running.
Everyday things you can do to prevent injury:
- Be mindful of your posture while exercising—avoid slouching.
- Sit less—tight hip flexors can tilt your pelvis forward and reduce the effectiveness of your gluteal muscles in shock absorbing and controlling knee joint position. If your work is desk-based, use a sit to stand workstation if possible.
- Beyond a prescribed strength and exercise program to target your individual strength and flexibility deficits, Pilates and yoga can be beneficial.
Should you be using a foam roller?
“Necessary, possibly not, but highly useful!” says Karen. “Foam rollers are great for releasing tight leg muscles and assisting with upper back flexibility. Getting into the glutes muscles and calves can be difficult with the foam roller so we usually recommend a spikey ball for these muscles.” Kate also advises that pre-exercise foam rolling can help activate the gluteal muscles which can be beneficial in preventing injury.
If you are concerned about any pain, be sure to consult your healthcare professional. A physiotherapist can assist in assessing your technique, strength and flexibility for exercise-related injuries.