How to Exercise When You're Hurting
8 Most Common Injuries
“No pain, no gain” won’t work as an exercise mantra if you’re already injured. In fact, pushing yourself too hard when you’re hurting can land you at the doctor’s office (or worse). Still, aches and pains are no excuse to cut out exercise altogether—you just have to be smart about it.
To help you pick a safe—but satisfying—workout when you’re injured, we found the 8 more common injuries in women over 40, and asked Kimberly Safman, MD, board certified physiatrist at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, Calif., to help you pick a substitute.
1. Carpal tunnel syndrome
It’s often caused by…repetitive motions, such as typing or writing, gardening, needlework, and golfing; or swelling due to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Women's smaller wrists make them three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel.
You should avoid…push-ups, plank pose, and any other exercise that involves excessive bending the wrist forward or back; racquet sports can also cause flare-ups.
Instead, you should try…chest exercises where you can keep wrists straight and protected—using machines or dumbbells. "Otherwise most exercises should be fine," says Dr. Safman. “If you play sports, make sure your equipment is the proper size and fit.”
2. Back pain
It’s often caused by…muscular strains, arthritis, soft-tissue injuries, and disc disease; or sports such as golfing, tennis, running, and bowling.
You should avoid… running, particularly downhill running, overhead lifting, the leg press machine or anything that aggravates the pain should be avoided.
Instead, you should try… walking, stretching, protected abs exercises, swimming, recumbent bike, yoga and Pilates work well, says Dr. Safman. Also, be sure to wear the appropriate shoes for your sport.
3. Shoulder pain
It’s often caused by…something called impingement, says C. David Geier, MD, director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston. Impingement occurs when the space between your rotator cuff muscles and the bone on top of your shoulder narrows, pinching the tendons. Arthritis and bursitis can also cause shoulder pain.
You should avoid…repetitive overhead exercises, such as overhead presses or lifts with free weights, as well as pastimes that require similar movements. "Activities like gardening and painting, which inherently don't cause any damage, could flare up the pain if done for hours," says Dr. Geier.
Instead, you should try…front shoulder raises instead of overhead presses and lateral raises. Also temporarily eliminate sports and exercises that involve repetitive shoulder movements such as tennis and golf, says Dr. Geier.
4. Shin splints
It’s often caused by…a sudden increase in running mileage or intensity when you’re running or exercise walking.
You should avoid…running frequently, especially if you're in pain. You don't necessarily have to stop running altogether unless the symptoms are severe or getting worse, says Dr. Geier. Just cut back.
Instead, you should try…cross training combined with other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming or biking, that don’t involve repetitive impact.
Published July 2012, Prevention
Updated July 2012
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