Ouch. Feeling pain? No matter whether your idea of exercise is a sweaty jog or a leisurely stroll, you could find yourself sidelined by an injury. Here are three common ones to look out for:
Shin splints: When your feet hit the ground, your shins absorb a force as much as six times your body weight. Ramping up the intensity of your workout too quickly can cause irritation and inflammation. But so can wearing shoes without proper support, such as heels and flip-flops.
Symptoms: Swelling, pain, stiffness or tenderness along the front or side of your shin.
Treatment: The best remedy is rest, says Karim Khan, a family and sports doctor and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. For pain relief, apply a heat pack or take a hot shower before you exercise, or ice your shin afterwards. Ease back into exercise slowly, starting with low-impact exercises, such as yoga and cycling.
Prevention: Wearing shoes with proper support, especially if you’re exercising, says Paige Larson, a physiotherapist in North Vancouver, B.C. To strengthen your lower leg muscles, Larson suggests trying calf raises: Standing on a flat surface, raise your body up on your toes and lower. Repeat 15 or 20 times per leg.
Runner’s knee, or Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome: This common injury is typically caused by “maltracking,” or when the kneecap doesn’t move over its joints smoothly, sometimes because of loose knee ligaments or weak quads. “It’s like a record player where the needle keeps slipping off its groove in the same spot,” says Khan. “After time, there’s considerable wear.”
Symptoms: Achy pain in your knee that feels worse when your quads are engaged – when you’re walking down stairs, for example.
Treatment: Rest and ice will ease most of the pain, but to heal the injury, you’ll need physical therapy to strengthen your hips and quads, says Larson, who prescribes squats and lunges. Depending on how long your injury has gone untreated, you’ll need six to 12 weeks to recover.
Prevention: Add strength- and flexibility-building exercises to your routine to protect your knees from future injuries. Shoes with the right cushioning may also help correct over-pronation – your feet roll in too much when you walk – which can contribute to knee pain.
IT Band Syndrome: The iliotibial (IT) band runs from your pelvis to your knee, moving from the front to the back of your thigh, and it helps to keep your knee in line. When we step, our IT bands pass over the knuckle-like epicondyle, where our tendons and ligaments attach. And if our core muscles aren’t supporting our lower body, we might get a little weak in the knees.
Symptoms: Stinging pain just above the knee joint (outside of the knee) that may not occur immediately after the injury, but gets worse over time.
Treatment: Rest and apply ice to ease the pain. Anti-inflammatory medications may also help if the swelling is bad.
Prevention: Strengthening your core muscles will go a long way towards preventing this common injury, says Khan, who says Pilates is a great option. Crunches and squats will also do the trick –add them to your workout, starting with 10 or 15 reps each. And when you’re running or walking, stick to flat, even ground until your injuries have healed.