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12 Common Gym Injuries and How to Avoid Them

common gym injuries

Exercising and lifting weights can be incredibly beneficial to your physical and mental health. Regular exercise can lead to fat loss, increased metabolism, greater bone density, and a longer, more enjoyable life. Mentally, regular exercise can increase your cognitive ability and memory, while reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. 

However, there is an inherent risk of injuries that comes with physical exercise. Fortunately, most of these common gym injuries can be avoided by taking the proper safety precautions and by knowing what you’re doing.

Whether you’re new to working out or a veteran gym-goer, it’s important to be aware of everything that can go wrong so you can avoid pain, injury, and discomfort. Keep reading for the top 12 most common gym injuries.

1. Lower Back Pain

Lifting weights with poor technique can lead to acute and chronic lower back pain. In some cases, it’s simply the result of extreme muscle tightening. While painful, this bodily response activates as a preventive measure. 

Your muscles tighten and create discomfort to stop you in your tracks. If you continue to lift through the pain, you could end up injuring yourself severely.

On the other hand, lower back pain from poor lifting techniques can be caused by a compressed nerve or herniated disk. If you’re experiencing extreme back pain, you should see your doctor immediately. They will refer you to a physical therapist and/or chiropractor.

However, it’s important to discriminate between regular muscle soreness and actual injury. Typically, if you’re legitimately injured, you’ll feel it right away. Whereas, muscle soreness usually follows 24-48 hours after exercise.

2. Strained Neck

Other common upper body injuries include neck strains. Neck strains can seemingly come out of nowhere. Typically, however, it’s due to bad form or excess tension in your neck while lifting.

For example, while performing deadlifts, pullups, or shrugs, turning your head to one side or the other can strain your neck. Similarly, holding too much tension in your neck while performing any lift can also create a strain.

Strained necks typically heal by themselves over a couple of days. It will be uncomfortable to move your head, but you should otherwise be okay. However, some neck strains are so severe that moving your body at all can cause debilitating pain. 

3. ACL Injuries

Your ACL or anterior cruciate ligament stabilizes your knee and connects your thigh bone to your shin bone. These ligaments can be easily torn or strained, causing intense pain. They usually take several months to heal and often require surgery.

These injuries are caused by explosive movements like jumping and landing hard. They can also be caused by sudden changes in direction, common in most sports.

To avoid ACL injuries, maintain self-awareness while running, jumping, and playing sports. Be conscious of your knees’ vulnerabilities.

4. Strained Shoulder or Rotator Cuff

Strained shoulders are also common gym injuries. Both men and women tend to have under-developed shoulder stabilizer muscles, even avid gym-goers.

Shoulder strains can be caused by overhead movements like seated shoulder press, push press, and standing military press. However, people often injure their shoulders doing bench press, as well. 

You can avoid these injuries by ensuring you’re using proper form while performing these exercises. On the bench press, for example, don’t allow your elbows to flare out near your head. They should be angled out away from your body, not in line with your shoulders.

Additionally, make sure you’re training your stabilizer muscles. Don’t limit your shoulder exercise to pressing movements. You should also be doing lateral raises (front and side), rotational movements (vertically and horizontally), and reverse flies for your subscapular muscles.

5. Twisted or Sprained Ankles

At some point in their lives, most athletes experience a twisted or sprained ankle. This injury can occur for many reasons, though it mostly occurs when running or playing sports.

A sprained ankle is caused by stepping sideways on your foot. The inside of your foot turns upward and your ankle rolls toward the ground. A twist is a minor strain, whereas a sprained ankle can take months to heal properly.

Each will likely result in swelling and possibly bruising. To avoid twisted and sprained ankles, increase your stability and strength in your ankles with simple exercises. If you are prone to ankle injuries, you should also wear support while exercising or playing sports.

6. Wrist Strains

Wrist strains are common gym injuries, especially for two groups of people. The first group is made up of new gym-goers who may have weaker forearm and wrist muscles. The second group is made up of lifters who do advanced movements such as barbell cleans and barbell snatches.

Wrist strains can make it difficult to hold weights at certain angles. It usually affects someone’s supinated grip (palms facing upward) the most. However, these injuries can also be caused by catching the bar in the front-rack position (across the front of your shoulders) after performing a barbell clean.

These injuries, while annoying, generally don’t take long to heal. However, you can prevent them by wrapping your wrists or using another form of support.

7. Elbow Pain

Nearly every upper body movement carries the risk of injuries to the elbow. Traditionally, elbow pain is more common in heavy lifters or people who do repetitive motions in other aspects of their life – which is commonly referred to as tennis elbow.

However, elbow pain can be caused by increased stress on your ligaments and joints. They become inflamed and tighten when performing exercises that bend the elbow. Although, pulling movements (curls, pull-ups, rows) are typically more painful.

Fortunately, you can use joint supplements for recovery and prevention.

8. Runner’s Knee

Runners’ knee is an incredibly common injury among runners, athletes, and gym enthusiasts. It results from the cartilage under your knee becoming irritated and inflamed. They call it runner’s knee because it stems from repetitive motion and impact on the knee, as with running.

Increasing your muscular strength and stability in your legs can go a long way toward reducing and preventing runner’s knee. If you do a lot of running, you should also consider shortening your stride. A long stride increases the intensity of your foot’s impact on the pavement or treadmill, which leads to more trauma. 

9. Shin Splints

As with many of the most common gym injuries, shin splints are caused by overuse. Primarily, shin splints are caused by running. However, they can also occur from other movements such as jumping jacks, jump rope, or any other movement that place stress on the muscles, ligaments, and bones of the lower leg.

Generally, shin splints go away over time. It can take weeks or months, but ice is always a good course of action to get back in the gym. However, don’t be surprised if shin splints come and go for the first few months as your body is being conditioned to your new workouts.

10. Pulled Hamstring

Pulled hamstrings are common in people who have limited flexibility or mobility. However, they often occur due to a lack of warming up or stretching before exercise.

When we perform exercises that extend our hamstrings, they can easily be strained if we haven’t properly prepared them for the movement. Hamstring pulls are often the result of running (primarily sprints), participating in sports, or doing hamstring-focused exercises (deadlifts, good mornings, squats).

To prevent hamstring pulls and tears, make sure you spend 10 to 15 minutes warming up with dynamic movements before running, sprinting, lifting, ext.

11. Tripping and Falling Injuries

Common gym injuries that can affect your long-term health are trip and fall injuries. Unfortunately, many people are injured in gyms outside of doing their exercises. 

All it takes is a moment of distraction to trip over a dumbbell, bar, or plate laying on the ground. Whether it’s yours or other gym members, tripping over it can lead to head injuries, a broken wrist, a broken elbow, and more.

You can prevent needless injuries like these by paying attention to your surroundings and practicing self-awareness. You should also pick up after yourself and encourage other gym members to do the same. Typically, it’s considered bad gym etiquette to leave weights lying around.

12. Blunt-Force Trauma Injuries

Finally, you need to be aware of blunt-force trauma injuries. While most of these don’t lead to severe injuries, they can significantly ruin your day or week. 

These common gym injuries include:

  • Dropping weights on your foot
  • Hitting your head on barbells in the rack
  • Pinching your fingers between plates of dumbells
  • Running into weight equipment with your knees, elbows, etc.
  • Stubbing your toes on machines or other equipment on the ground

Preventing these injuries mostly come down to self-awareness. However, accidents happen all the time. Just be careful when walking around the gym, standing up from a crouched position, and when putting weights away.

Want More Fitness Advice Outside of Avoiding Common Gym Injuries?

Nobody’s perfect. If you’ve been working out for long (or plan to) odds are you’re going to experience one or more of these common gym injuries at some point in your life.

Just remember to rest and recover from injuries to allow yourself time to heal. Otherwise, stay vigilant in the gym to avoid preventable injuries like pinching your fingers between weights. But if you’re looking for more health and fitness advice, be sure to check out some of our other articles before you go. 

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Gym, Injuries, Safety

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