Have you ever injured the same area twice? What about the same injury but in a different area or on the opposite side? The only thing more annoying than an injury is receiving the exact same injury a second, third, or even fourth time! Random and freaky things happen all the time but there is a good chance you’re doing something wrong if the same nagging injuries keep popping up, season after season. Injuries are a drain on time, money, happiness, and they drive you insane because you are unable to do the activities that you want to do.
First thing you should do after you become injured is to take a look back at the days, weeks, and even months leading up to the injury. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
Did you change workload or intensity before the injury?
Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
Have you noticed any dull aches or diffuse pain that lingers and comes and go’s?
Seemingly unimportant things can be big indicators of a soft tissue injury that is forming. It can be caused by one thing or a couple of variables that creates an unstable environment for something to tear or rip. This is why it is important to recognize any signs or patterns that could be exacerbating the injury before it gets to the breaking point. Below I’ve listed the most common cause of injury that I see come into my sports massage practice so they can better help you in preventing your own soft tissue injuries.
1. Fatigue and Overtraining
Too much of anything is usually a bad thing. The body needs time to adapt to a new type of training and intensity. When the quality of your workouts and training starts to drop because you feel tired or sluggish, that is a sign that your activity is surpassing your recovery and your body can not keep up with the current amount of training.
The three major things I look into for recovery are:
- Getting enough sleep at night 7-9 hours minimum
- Drinking enough water (half your bodyweight in ounces)
- Having a clean diet focusing on fats, protein, and vegetables and staying away from fast food
Major symptoms of overtraining are:
- Lack of sleep
- Weakness in the immune system
- Loss of love for your activity
During sports and activity we need to be able to move in all different directions at a moment’s notice. Flexibility is important to allow the joint to move through its full range of motion. You lose power and efficiency in the muscle if it is restricted at all. This becomes prevalent in some sports more than others, but none the less the ability to move through this full range of motion is crucial. If the muscle and tendon cannot stretch far enough then it will surpass the load and tear. This can happen in the primary muscle or the opposite muscle group called the antagonist.
ex: The Biceps are the primary mover and the triceps are the Antagonist. So when the Bicep contracts, the triceps need to fully relax and lengthen or else there would be no room for movement.
3. Strength (or lack of it)
This cause can go both ways. You can have too much strength that surpasses the load and you can also have not enough. “Too much too soon” in a new activity or after a long break period is when this becomes problematic leading to torn ligaments or tendons. This can even happen if you are a seasoned athlete that switches to a new sport because the new activity produces a new type of stress that your body is not used to or conditioned for. All of your tissues have a max load and strength training can help increase that max load but it takes time for the tissues to remodel.
4. Excess Muscle Tension
Tension is produced by a lot of small muscle fiber contractions. This tension allows us to move around, maintain posture, and live life. The thing is when we are not moving and resting on the couch our muscles should relax but sometimes they don’t. This Chronic muscle tension can build up over years from repetitive stress from sports, emotional stress from everyday things, and poor body alignment. This makes the whole muscular system rigid, less flexible, and promotes poor circulation because your muscles are always tight! The sooner you do something about it the less this becomes a problem. Cooling down after activity, foam rolling and massage are extremely helpful in helping to get the muscles to relax and can prevent long term tension patterns.
5. Improper Warm Up & No Cool Down
- No Warm Up
This is another common cause of injury that can easily be prevented. By warming up you allow the tissues to obtain more elasticity. Your body does not provide 100% circulation to all the areas of your body all the time, it prioritizes what area needs blood the most and will allow more blood flow to areas that have increased work load. Before working out you need to get blood flow to all the muscles in your extremities that you will be using during training so getting in a proper warm up of varying intensity can provide that circulation. A good sign that you are warming up enough is you should be breathing heavy but not so much that you are unable to talk.
- No Cool Down
Cooling down after a workout can also be effective in getting the muscles to relax and allow them to lengthen to promote recovery. One of the worse things you can do is going straight from a hard workout to a seated position for an extended period of time. The muscles become short and tense and that can lead to chronic tension holding patterns. Try walking around for 10 minutes and some gentle stretching after you are done your workout.
6. Unsuitable Equipment
Properly fitting workout equipment is essential in maintaining healthy biomechanics. Your equipment can help protect you from injury, just as much as it can contribute to the injury. The equipment you use undergoes an extremely large amount of repetitive stress so that any change or size difference can greatly affect the structure. Here are a few things to look at with equipment.
- Shoes that fit too tight – your foot swells during activity and if your shoes fit too tight then the pressure increases with nowhere to go.
- Support of the shoe – Motion control, stability, and neutral are all different types of running shoes that are recommended for different foot types. Your best bet is to go to a running store that has employees who run and train and can properly analyze your gait.
- Shoes that are worn out – look for a new pair, roughly every 300 – 500 miles. The rubber on the shoe will start to wear out and provide less support and cushion and that can be a good visual cue that replacement needs to come soon. Body weight and running surface can influence that number giving you more or less miles.
Bike fit – You have 5 body Contact points on the bike and they need to be dialed in to have pain free riding.
- Two Hands
- Two Feet
- Bike Seat (Saddle)
Signs of improper bike fit can be numbness and pain in the hands or arms, bouncing on the seat as you ride, or knee and foot pain. A proper bike fit is invaluable and you should get one if you are having issues.
Braces are good for support during activity. The brace should not be too tight and you should only wear it during activity. Wearing it all the time can cause bio mechanical issues over time.
- Torso – Your torso needs to be directly over your butt. Too far forward or too far back can cause shoulder and back issues.
- Arm Rests – This is a huge one that I find. Your shoulders need to be hanging down and not propped up at all. If the arm rests on your chair are too high then they will awkwardly twist your shoulders and that will cause extreme shoulder pain up by the neck and down through the arm.
Standing Desks – The reason that standing desks are so awesome is that they do not give you an opportunity to slouch forward or backward. They also allow you to hang your shoulders down in a neutral and comfortable position that does not put stress on the muscle around the shoulder blade.
There are other factors that can contribute to injury, but these are the most common offenders that I come into contact when working with athletes. People and sports are all extremely diverse and different factors and variables work for different people. It is beneficial to go see alternative health care professionals like a massage therapist or chiropractor that specializes in sports and performance to get the best treatment and give you their first hand experience in the sports world. It is not a coincidence if you are receiving the same injury over and over again and you need to be the first line of defence.
-Nick Picchetti L.M.T.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein