Tips on dealing with injuries or suspected injuries
Injuries are a strange beast within the realm of fitness. Some tell you it’s a mere matter of time until they strike; it’s not if, but when. If you push yourself hard enough, for long enough, you’ll breakdown in some form. On the contrary, some will swear injuries are a result of insensible training or faulty mechanics to begin with. Either way, we can all agree on one unanimous fact: Injuries suck and we need to avoid them like the plague.
Where do I stand on injuries?
Well it seems I now have one of sorts. Over the last few months I’ve been wrestling with my own exposure to an injury. Yes it’s finally happened. I have an issue with my right shoulder – it’s seemingly a rotator cuff issue (usual suspect!) and causes me pain through external and sometimes internal rotation. The pain can be fairly sharp and sometimes strong enough to make me feel tired or even ill. I’m suspecting it’s a muscular imbalance that’s been exposed by the increased intensity of what I’ve been doing lately.
Exercises like chest flies and muscle ups (strict and with momentum) have, for whatever reason,
pissed off stressed my rotator cuff and now it’s unwilling to cooperate.
Based on my own experience, I would say the former applies regarding which theory is correct – at least to me personally. I spent years and years sleeping on my right shoulder and forcing it into a protracted (rounded forward) position for hours each night, every night, for years. I personally suspect a tight and overactive pec minor which is holding the shoulder in a painful position?
I am in the process of having it seen and trying to identify the triggers of my anguish.
Should you feel guilty if you have an injury?
There’s this stigma floating around that if you have an injury related issue, it’s your fault and you should suffer the punishment. I’d like to argue the case for muscular imbalances being the biggest culprit – with the exception of possible overuse issues. Think about it, when are we really ever taught the importance of our daily habits in regards to shaping our body? Sure, we’re told, and rightly so, that we must exercise in order to stay fit and healthy…….but when does the mainstream go further?
Usually it’s a case of the issue being the catalyst for gaining the necessary education needed to prevent future issues. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a physio-therapist in the family, you won’t really be aware of what self-inflicted muscular imbalances you may have, or the consequences of them.
If you have an injury, it’s something that is there to teach you, to remind you and to encourage you, and to share the importance of striving for a balanced body.
Managing pain and preventing things escalating
The first step here is taking a week away from all exercise if you can. I hate this as much as you do, and really struggled to follow my own advice. But if you catch it early, you can limit the chances of aggravating whatever might be wrong. During this time, reflect on what you’ve been leading up to it. Have you done anything differently? Have you been using an intensity higher than usual? If so, how was your technique at that new level? Get deep here and cast your mind back. This is why I’m getting quite into the idea of filming myself during workouts – particularly static calisthenics holds where alignment is a big factor.
More often than not, our technique isn’t as exquisite as we think.
Once you’ve seen your week of no exercise out, and the pain has subsided, resume your normal routine while keeping an eye on the intensity and see if you can pinpoint the culprit. Using me as an example, muscle ups always cause my shoulder to flare up. Yet I can do one arm push ups and be OK. I shouldn’t need to say this, but………the first dose of medicine is to not do muscle ups. My ego hates this, but I must live in my body and not my ego.
I will block quote that for you as today’s quote for the day……….
I must live in my body, not my ego.
Beyond that, if you find that a particular exercise is causing pain, see if you can identify what pattern of movement it is. For example, if a bench press is causing you problems, that’s a horizontal push pattern and you may need to counterbalance this with a horizontal pull – and doing more pulling than pushing. This isn’t a law, but can often be the spark of the problem.
(For more on this, read: Fixing ‘gorilla posture’ – the DEFINITIVE guide)
Just like we must drop our ego that keeps us wanting to do ‘cool’ exercises that cause us issues in the long run, we must drop the insistence to fight the issue on our own. Nobody can know it all and others have insights that we often don’t. Seeking help doesn’t make us weak, not seeking help makes us weaker in the long run. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone who might be in the know – the fitness instructors at your gym, personal trainers, anyone with a physical background.
Even if they don’t help you directly, they may indirectly lead you closer to the solution. And at the very least, everybody’s story is worth listening to.
If anyone has had experience with shoulder issues or any injuries in general, please feel free to share your story and experience in the comments section.
If you would like to chat one to one, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.
Last year, I was repeatedly injuring my lumbar area due to improper form in my deadlift and back squat. I ended up hiring a trainer for six one-hour training sessions. He not only improved my form, but he showed me how to strengthen my weak lower back so I could help it heal and not reinjure the thing. Hiring that trainer was the best thing I’ve ever done in terms of my workouts.
I’m proud to say that I haven’t injured myself since and am getting stronger.
So reaching out for help was the ultimate solution for you? Sometimes it’s a matter of just having a trained eye look at you – that can make all the difference.
Thanks for commenting, James.
I like this post but taking time off is not always the answer. A few years ago I pulled my plantaris muscle at the back of my calf. My doctor had me back out running the next day, no time off, because of the nature of the pull and the particular muscle. Three days later I was running pain free.
Very interesting, Jim. And you’ve never had any reoccurring trouble with it since?
Not once. I wanted to see what the rage was all about with the forefoot strike so after two miles I tried switching from a midfoot to a forefoot. Three strides in and I’d pulled the muscle, a good one too. I ended up walking back if memory serves. I took the weekend off like any intelligent person would but my doctor about flipped when I relayed the story on Monday. He told me to get out an run, at a slower than normal pace, right away… etc. etc.
Perhaps he didn’t want the muscle seizing up? I think movement is good, subject to what the movement is. For me, I do shoulder rotations daily, but not more intense things like muscle ups etc..
I think that’s it.
Another way to look at it is that getting injured gives one the opportunity to change things up a bit. If you’re short on Cardio work now could be a good time to take on a run-week. That way the injury won’t be aggravated and there will be no idle, sitting around time.
Very good point! All exercise trumps NO exercise; do something even if it’s not quite what you wanted. Have you ever faced any injuries? And thanks for the kind words.
I sure have. Injured knees and hamstrings from running. I once hurt my shoulder in the Gym and of course the big muscle between the ears need some down time too, especially on Fridays.
Running is notorious for injuries! Very few people come out of a proper running career unscathed. The shoulder also loves making noise, haha. But as you said….not as much noise as that big thing between our ears! I used to try and do tons of mental activities on rest days and wonder why I couldn’t do much. I didn’t appreciate the brain needing a rest, too.
Struggling with a back injury now. Also an elbow. Don’t know when I’ll ever get back to where I was. Still can’t lift or run after about 6 weeks now. Chiropractor is helping, but can never be fast enough.
What portion of the back is it? And is the elbow a tendonitis case? 6 weeks without proper training is awful. I can imagine it forces you to find other passions and ways of fulfilment.
Lumbar and thoracic sprains, an L5 protruding disc and effacement of nerve root. The elbow was supposed to be tennis elbow, it got better for awhile after cortisone injection, but its pretty bad now. It hurts to do bicep curls, shoulder press, and even to touch it. I go to chiropractor 2xs a wk. for traction, stimulation and cracks
What do you think caused these issues?