Exercise-related injuries: Causes and treatments

Exercise-related injuries can happen out of nowhere: One day, you are cruising along the treadmill with ease and the next you are hobbling around your house in pain. What gives? The cause may be something sudden and traumatic, like a misstep or a fall. But many injuries occur more gradually due to overuse, lack of proper warm up and cool down techniques, unsupportive shoes, or extra-tight muscles.

Knee InjuryIf you are currently experiencing pain during workouts, use this list to see if your symptoms match those of the most common exercise-related injuries. Learn how to treat them so you can be back on your feet — and in the gym — in no time, pain-free.

Your Symptoms: Tender shin bones and tight calf muscles
Likely Injury: Shin splints, or pain in the front of the lower leg, most accurately called tendonitis of the lower leg.
Causes: A sudden increase in activity (many people suffer from shin splints soon after taking on a new sport). A change of running surface (switching from the treadmill to pavement) or speed can also strain the lower leg tendons. Broken down shoes can also be a culprit in shin splints.
Treatment: If the pain is tolerable, you can continue to exercise with shin splints but reduce the amount of time you engage in the activity that causes the pain. You can build up your training once you are pain-free. Training extensively with shin-splints may lead to stress-fractures — an injury not as quick to heal. After your workouts, apply ice to any tender spots and be sure to stretch the lower leg muscles very well. A deep calf massage can also relieve pressure on your shins. Get new running or walking shoes if the soles of your current shoes show wear and tear.

Your Symptoms: Sore, inflamed, or swollen Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel).
Likely Injury: Achilies tendintitis.
Causes: Over-training, bad shoe choices (unsupportive high heels are often a culprit) and extra-tight or fatigued calf muscles, which stress the tendon.
Treatment: Take a week off of any high-impact workouts and be sure to stretch the area by straightening your leg and flexing and pointing your toes. Ibruprofen, ice, and a foam wedge heel pad also helps the healing process. If pain persists, see a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation.

Your Symptoms: A nagging ache in or around the kneecap during and after workouts.
Likely Injury: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (better known as “runner’s knee”), a softening or wearing away and cracking of the cartilage under the kneecap which results in pain and inflammation.
Causes: Weak thigh muscles, tight hamstrings or Achilles tendons, usually brought on by insufficient stretching or over-training.
Treatment: Stop exercising until you are pain-free. Meanwhile, apply ice to the injured knee and see a physical therapist for helpful stretches and deep tissue massage. Pilates can also help to build strength and flexibility in the weakened area.

Your Symptoms: Pain at the base of the heel, often in the morning or when walking barefoot.
Likely Injury: Plantar Fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick tissue covering the bones on the bottom of the foot
Causes: Trauma or stress, including overuse, very tight calf muscles, extremely high or low arches, and wearing heels or ill-fitting shoes.
Treatment: Stop high-impact exercises until you are pain-free and try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Ice the sore area and roll your foot and calves with a massage bar to loosen up the tight tissue and muscles. If the pain persists while you are merely walking around, see a physical therapist for stretching and strengthening exercises. If you have problematic high or low arches, a physical therapist may recommend a podiatrist who can fit you for orthotics.

For more information on all sports-related injuries and how to treat them, visit:

The Virtual Sports Injury Clinic

Medline Plus


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