While exercise is no doubt beneficial to your mental and physical health, it often comes with an increased risk of injury, especially if you're new to a certain type of movement. Below are three pieces of advice on what to do if you find yourself experiencing pain during and after a workout, along with my prescription for injury prevention.
What to do if you're experiencing pain:
1. Stop if you feel pain.
Most conditions are self-limited and result from mild injury such as sprains and strains. These can be a result of a singular moment of injury or more commonly overuse. "Pushing through the pain" is never recommended — it'll probably worsen the injury. If pain disappears after adequate rest, only then should an attempt be made to get back to exercise. If pain returns or never goes away, see the next two steps.
2. Seek expert fitness advice.
Changing your form will sometimes make all the difference in avoiding and managing chronic pain. For example, changing your elbow position during overhead movements and dead lifts can significantly lessen the strain on the elbow and reduce or eliminate elbow pain.
3. Seek medical advice.
If the pain is severe, doesn’t go away with rest or by changing form, or is always significant with certain movements, you may need to visit your doctor. I recommend seeing a board-certified sports medicine physician, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, or in certain cases, an orthopedic surgeon. They may recommend physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, injections and in the most serious situations, surgery.
And my prescription for prevention:
1. Get medically cleared.
There are many factors that can make you at risk for serious injury. People with cardiovascular or neurological disease, previous orthopedic surgeries, joint pain or other medical issues should always seek the advice of their physician before getting back into a fitness routine. I'd also strongly recommend that beginners seek medical advice before plunging into grueling workouts.
2. Make sure you're practicing proper form.
It can't be stressed enough how important it is to get professional advice from a knowledgeable trainer or instructor on proper technique. When you're embarking on a type of training where the motions are done very rapidly, proper form is everything. There's no real substitute for a professional as far as perfecting your technique to prevent Injury.
3. Never skip your warm-up.
Warming up with light cardio as well as dynamic stretching exercises are great ways to prevent injury — they increase blood supply and decrease tightness in the areas you're about to work.
4. Beware of overtraining.
Even when done properly, training can sometimes result in the development of many orthopedic conditions. Overuse is one of the most common culprits of injures. Making sure you have adequate time to rest both between sets and sessions will be a critical long-term strategy for injury prevention. A certified fitness expert can help you to develop an optimal program to prevent overtraining.