With 2017 underway, many of us have a renewed focus on our goals for the year ahead. As you might expect, health and fitness resolutions consistently top the list for many Americans. In fact, more than 60% of us resolve to get fit or lose weight each year.
As people look to incorporate more physical activity into their day-to-day lives, the chances for injury increase. As a musculoskeletal radiologist, I typically see an uptick in patients who have pushed their bodies too far with a new workout routine in the first few months of the year. Sprains, strains and pulled muscles are common, but more serious injuries such as fractures or significant soft tissue injuries, including ACL tears, can also occur.
The good news: injuries, for the most part, are preventable.
Here are my top five tips to prevent injury and keep you on track to meet your health and fitness goals this year:
- Consult your doctor. If you haven’t exercised in a while or if you are trying a new form of exercise, it’s best to meet with your physician beforehand. A simple physical examination can help you understand how ready you are for increased-levels of activity or identify potential health risks.
- Learn the ropes. Proper form and using gym equipment correctly can reduce your risk of “overuse” injuries such as tendinitis and stress fractures. Consider working with a certified personal trainer or signing up for a small group fitness class to learn the basics and ensure you start off on the right foot.
- Dress the part. Investing in the right gear, such as supportive shoes, can help prevent injuries that occur from physical stress over time (e.g., stress fractures). If you’re taking up a new hobby such as hiking or biking, make sure you have shoes made specifically for those activities and the recommended safety gear such as a helmet.
- Strive for total body workouts. Warming up – a crucial component in soft tissue injury prevention – and incorporating cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility exercises into your regimen are important steps in preventing injury. Plus, varied workouts can help ward off osteoporosis and other health risks associated with aging.
- Accept your body’s limits. If you’ve been out of the gym for a while, you may not be able to perform at the same level. Modify activities as needed, listen to your body and stop if you feel pain. As your body acclimates, you can increase your exercise level gradually.
Despite the proper preparation and precautions, injuries can happen.
Swelling, pain and reduced range of motion are common symptoms of acute injuries such as muscle pulls, strains and sprains. Often, these types of injuries can be treated at-home with R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression and elevation. If your symptoms persist with no improvement, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
More serious injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, require more immediate medical attention. Severe pain, swelling, numbness, joint instability or abnormalities, or the inability to tolerate weight on the limb are all signs you should see your doctor.
While injuries can be frightening, listening to your body and your doctor’s advice are often keys to recovering quickly and being able to return to physical activity.
Dr. Penny Bowen
Editor’s note: Penny Bowen, M.D., is a musculoskeletal radiologist at EVDI Medical Imaging. For more information about EVDI or its three Mesa locations, visit www.evdi.com.
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