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Preventing & Treating Fitness Injuries

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  • 0:01 Fitness Injuries
  • 1:03 Prevention
  • 3:29 Treatment
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Injuries are a risk whenever you start a fitness program. Learn about ways to prevent common injuries, such as sprains and strains, as well as how to treat them using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate, in this lesson.

Fitness Injuries

Did you know it's impossible to sprain a muscle or to strain a ligament? Okay, I am splitting hairs here, but this does illustrate some commonly confused terminology associated with fitness injuries. You see, sprains and strains involve different parts of your body. You cannot sprain a muscle because a sprain is an injury to a ligament. To be proper, you would state that you have a strain when you have an injury to a muscle or tendon, which is the structure that connects your muscle to your bone.

Regardless of the terminology, sprained ligaments and strained muscles are common fitness injuries, along with overuse injuries like tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon (the suffix '-itis' means inflammation), and shin splints, which is pain in the front of the lower leg, and is common in runners who overdo it. In this lesson, we will look at ways to prevent and treat common fitness injuries.

Prevention

Preventing fitness injuries involves making sure that your body is ready for physical activity. A good first step is to consult with your doctor before you start an exercise routine. This is especially important for older individuals or those who have previously led sedentary lives. Your doctor may be able to detect any underlying conditions that may need to be addressed before you begin exercise.

Once you are cleared to begin your program, you want to start smart and end easy by adding a proper warm-up and cool down to each exercise session. A warm-up gives your muscles and joints a chance to loosen and move before being placed under a high demand. This also gives your heart rate a chance to increase, which avoids a shock to your system. Warm-ups only take a few minutes and may involve simple movements like walking on the treadmill or doing a few easy lunges or squats to get the blood pumping. The cool down uses similar movements, but comes at the end of your exercise session, allowing your heart rate to return to normal.

After you have warmed up your body, you want to take a few minutes to stretch by moving the joints and muscles through their range of motion. This will not only help you prevent injury, but also increase your flexibility and may cut down on muscle soreness after your exercise session. You're now ready to begin exercising, but even though you have warmed up and stretched, you should still work out within your limits. Before a marathon runner can run 26.2 miles, he must build up his mileage by running shorter distances. If you push yourself too hard at the start, you will run the risk of inflaming tendons and other tissues that are not used to the heavy demand.

When you're comfortable with your level of exercise, you can stay injury-free by cross-training muscle groups. Cross-training means you mix up your workouts so you do not overuse one set of muscles. You can do this by running one day, then lifting weights or swimming later in the week. These variations allow muscle groups a day or two to rest and recover from activity. Lastly, it's important to remember to monitor your body and avoid working past the point of pain. If you feel a pain develop during your exercise session, it's best to stop your workout. If the pain persists, you may have an injury that needs treatment.

Treatment

Even the best attempts to prevent injury can fall short. If you have experienced an injury, the best formula for treating fitness injuries is RICE, which is an acronym for describing treatment of fitness injuries that stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. Allowing sufficient rest gives the injury time to heal, and ice controls inflammation that often accompanies acute injuries. You can also compress using a wrapped bandage to reduce swelling, and elevate an arm or leg to reduce swelling because these treatments limit blood flow to the area.

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