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7 Tips for Avoiding Exercise Injuries

  • Category: Blog
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  • Written By: Joshua Alpert, MD
7 Tips for Avoiding Exercise Injuries

Between performing surgeries, my friend and sports medicine orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Josh Alpert, carved out (bad pun intended) some time to talk injury prevention with me.

Dr. Alpert works for Fox Valley Orthopedics, and you can view his impressive bio here. As a sports fan, I was very jealous when he did his Fellowship in Boston and worked with professional sports teams. It was the year the Patriots didn’t lose a game until the Super Bowl. Dr. Alpert has been my surgery advisor for years, and recently treated me.

With summer approaching, this is busy season for emergency rooms, physical therapists and doctors. Dr. Alpert offered some tips to avoid those visits.

1. Pain is not normal: Do not work out when you are pain. There is a difference between muscle soreness and pain. Stop working out and talk to a doctor; this is not an Under Armor ad a la “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” For overweight exercisers, start slow and focus on eating better before pushing it in the gym. Extra weight is tough on joints.

2. Mix up your workout. If you do the same workout day after day you are more prone to stress fractures (and boredom). You are also strengthening the same muscles day after day, while skipping other muscles, which can lead to muscle imbalance injuries. Runners in particular need to vary the distance, do interval workouts, and strength train to help avoid stress fractures. Although running intervals are hard, they are much easier on your body than running a marathon.

3. Stretching is important. When I first injured my hip, I’ll never forget Dr. Alpert telling me, “We’re getting older, you need to stretch.” Many trainers have different views on stretching, Dr. Alpert recommends 10-15 minutes of stretching post workout. A warm up to start your workout is also helpful. Take a cue from the Patriots and spend a lot of time stretching.

4. Follow the 10% rule. Whether you are running or weight training, increase your speed/weight by no more than 10 percent per workout.

5. Low impact for life. Thirty minutes of low-impact exercise three times a week is a great way to stay in good health and avoid the surgeon’s office. Swimming, biking, and the elliptical are much easier on your joints than running.

6. Vary your child’s activities. This one’s for parents. If your child plays one sport year-round, they are 3.5 times more likely to get injured than children who play multiple sports. If your child is a pitcher, make sure to pay attention to pitch counts and make sure they don’t throw back to back days. Make sure your high school or college athletes have supervision during their workouts with either athletic trainers, coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers or coaches. There is no suggested age for beginning a weight-training program, but they should start focusing on form and using light weights at higher reps. In fact, this is a good game plan for all lifters.

7. Be careful with supplements and anti-inflammatory drugs. There are a lot of supplements on the market, and because there’s no regulation you have to be very careful. The most popular supplement for joint pain is Glucosamine Chondroitin. If you take it, look for a certification like NSF or USP : it should be pure Glucosamine Chondroitin and a recommended dosage is 1500 milligrams. Like all supplements it’s controversial, but some people feel it helps.

As far as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, work with your doctor on dosages. These pills can really do a number on your stomach and can have other side effects. Aleve is great because it’s one pill every 12 hours, so you are taking less pills compared to Advil.

Start off slow this summer and as always, check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to begin exercising.