Overuse Injuries to the Lower Body

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Most people have been there: The workout is going well, or the process of carrying everything out to the moving van is progressing smoothly, until five minutes of strain go by, and suddenly a part of the body hurts for weeks, months, or even years. Young athletes often suffer from chronic injuries like shin splints, runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, and Achilles tendonitis, but overuse injuries can occur at any age, in a variety of situations. Keep reading for advice on preventing overuse injuries, and various ways in which it is incredibly important to listen to the body.

Prevention

Don’t overdo it– try not to engage in vigorous exercise more than sixteen hours per week and spread those hours out. Exercising eight hours in one day is exponentially more harmful than exercising for two hours on four days. Also remember to have rest days at least once or twice per week; these are days where you do not exercise at all whatsoever, and their importance in ensuring your continued physical health cannot be overstated.

If it hurts, stop

Those five extra minutes could keep you out of the game for far longer than they’re worth. If something feels funny, stop and let it heal. You might wish to try again in a few hours to see if the odd sensation is still there, and if that is the case, stop for the day. It’s always better to be out for the rest of the day than it is to be out for six weeks, with the added expense of physical therapy.

The Feet: Man’s Relationship to the Ground

When humans run, the force with which the feet hit the ground with every step makes it so that the leg must effectively support more than the normal weight of the body. This knowledge highlights the possible physical treachery of years of frequent jogs, runs, or even sprints, as well as the importance of proper footwear. A well-researched sneaker intended specifically for your favorite type of exercise is better than the generic sneaker, even if it is more expensive. Flat-footed individuals should also bear in mind that in addition to a general jolt to the leg, each step begins to torque the inside of the knee, so orthopedic arches are a worthwhile investment.

Form Over Flounder

It can be hard to know whether you are achieving proper technique, but honestly, a focus on proper technique reaps multiple benefits. For one, it can promote a more honest understanding of the strength of the relative muscle groups, and your progress in each area. Another significant benefit to this is that it prevents long-lasting injuries– Improperly considered deadlifts, for example, can cause long-term damage to the lower back, and poorly performed squats can harm the knees. If you are unsure about your execution of a particular exercise, consult a trainer, and complete these exercises in view of a mirror.

Warm Up

When exercising, to make sure blood is flowing to the skeletal muscles, never skip over a warm up. If possible, this should include dynamic stretches, which consist of moving muscle groups gradually through their range of motion, just barely stretching at the end of each repetition. Examples of this include walking lunges, bringing the knees to the chest, and butt kickers. Save the static stretches, or those that require that a particular position be held for a number of seconds, for the cooldown, because well-stretched muscles can often be more prone to injury during workouts.

Cool Down

Though the dominant compulsion after a severe workout may be to lie still on the floor, cooling down is more than nominally imperative. Not only does cooling down help the body transition more smoothly from higher to lower levels of cardiovascular turnover, it also helps prevent soreness. This means that even though the low-intensity activity typical of a cooldown may not feel productive to some people, the benefit it provides toward allowing people to safely push their bodies more during the week is significant. Take ten minutes to walk or to jog at a progressively slower clip at the end of workouts.

One Consideration

When performing exercises, especially side-dependent ones using weights, always make sure to start with your weaker side. Generally, this will be the side opposite your dominant hand and leg. Many people automatically start in the opposite order, but this can often reinforce strength imbalances between both sides of the body. This is because when choosing the amount of weight to lift for a particular exercise, most people make their selection with their stronger arm in mind. This means that either the other side will suffer from overstrain, or they will have to stop the exercise early on the weak side, saying that the strong side will perform more exercise, and grow even stronger while the other lags. In your workouts, make a conscious effort to more closely consider and start exercises with your non-dominant leg.

Work Out Different Muscle Groups

One common cause of overuse injury is a well-intentioned but poorly guided tendency to repeatedly work the same muscles. It is common knowledge that running and even walking engages the hip flexors and can cause pain. It is easy to forget, however, that even exercises like squats, which many use to target the glutes, can overtax the hip flexors. This is one of the reasons why it is essential not only to vary your exercises, but also to take breaks between repetitions, to avoid overtaxing routines, and most importantly, to listen to your body.

Though overuse injuries may be more readily associated with arms day and overzealous bench presses, the warnings that come with upper body workouts are equally crucial to the lower body. If you’re still very sore from yesterday’s workout, don’t cause unnecessary stress and inflammation by working those same muscles today. If your ankle hurts, or even feels funny, don’t ignore it. When working the inside of the leg, make sure to also address the outside of the leg, and to stretch both during a cool down. Over-developing one side of a body part and under-developing the other can lead to long-term structural complications.