Jul 31st, 2020
Jul 31st, 2020 / Nicki Chick
Lockdown has affected each of us in different ways, and while some have struggled with life behind closed doors, others have been able to make the most of the lifestyle change.
A growing number of people have turned to exercise, whether to keep in shape, help their physical and mental well being, or just to alleviate boredom.
According to figures from Bupa, around two-thirds (61%) of adults have been using the extra time spent at home to engage in all sorts of physical activities, including jogging, cycling and online exercise classes.
This has seen almost a third (28%) doing more exercise than usual and intake, while one-in-five (17%) have been inspired to try something new.
But this new-found enthusiasm for sports and exercise has led to a boom in sports-related and home exercise injuries, with around one-in-ten (14%) picking up ailments during lockdown. To make matters worse, only a quarter (25%) of those injured haven’t sought any professional medical help, with a growing number turning to self-diagnosis and treatment via simple Google searches.
Perhaps even more worrying is that almost half (42%) have chosen to do nothing at all, even though this risks further damage and a longer lay off.
To help you get through lockdown and beyond unscathed, here are some of the most common exercise injuries, along with signs, symptoms, cures and prevention measures.
Obviously, taking part in certain sports and activities makes you more susceptible to injury than taking part in others, but all physical activity comes with the risk of a tweak or pull, so it’s hardly surprising to find that pulled muscles are most common, accounting for over a third (35%) of all home exercise injuries during lockdown.
Muscle pulls were then closely followed by knee injuries (31%), back injuries (26%), ankle injuries (26%) and neck injuries (25%).
If you pick up any sort of injury, no matter how trivial it might seem, you need to get expert advice – the Guru at Six Physio is on hand to answer all your musculoskeletal aches and pains and bumps and bruises.
Back injuries are easy to pick up – one-in-seven of us are likely to experience a painful lower back at some point in our lifetime, and it’s one of the leading causes of work-related absences in the UK. It’s no surprise that back injuries also account for a quarter of all exercise-related ailments during lockdown.
Also known as lumbago, lower back pain relates to any type of pain in the lower lumbar region of the spine, but it can also be felt along the spine from the neck down to the hips.
The symptoms and severity of back pain can vary, and while it’s an injury that’s easily picked up – simply bending or twisting in slightly the wrong way can be enough to do some damage – it’s entirely curable in most cases and there are precautions you can take to minimse the risk, including stretching and strengthening exercises.
When doing any exercises for lower back pain, it’s important to start slowly and gradually, using a specific muscle for only 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Never stretch beyond your natural limits and if the stretching is causing or worsening pain, you should stop immediately.
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that stabilse and support the shoulder joint. Injuries to this area can be picked up in all manner of ways, although they’re almost caused by tasks that use a lot of shoulder mobility or repetitive motion.
The best way to help prevent this type of shoulder pain is to maintain good posture and avoid slouching, and make sure weights aren’t too heavy when doing exercises like military presses and shoulder presses. If you have a rotator cuff problem, you should try to avoid this type of exercise until it is fully resolved.
Knee injuries account for almost a third (31%) of all lockdown injuries, and runner’s knee injuries – or knee patellofemoral syndrome – are characterised by pain or discomfort around the kneecap, usually along with grating or crunching around the joint as it moves through a normal range of motion.
Runner’s knee injuries are usually a result of the knee cap (patella) shifting out of place as the leg bends or straightens. This is known as patellar tracking disorder, and common causes are increased stress on the patellar tendon from running up or down hills, or by training with weights that are too heavy or carrying out too many repetitions.
Google searches for ‘runner’s knee’ increased during lockdown
A bit of a catch-all term for a number of similar injuries – including posterior tibialis tendinopathy, periosteal irritation of the tibia – shin splints is simply pain in the shin area caused by overstressed muscles at the front of the lower leg.
The stress that leads to shin splints is caused by high impact sport and exercises that involve a lot of ground pounding, such as pavement running, football, basketball and CrossFit.
If the condition is in the early stages, it’s worth changing your exercise routine, replacing any running with cycling or swimming, before moving on to light weight training and then some plyometric work (also known as jump training) and eventually back to full training.
It’s also worth walking on your heels for between five and ten minutes a day, as part of your exercise routine while in recovery and when you get back to full training. This can help recovery as it reduces the impact that your shins usually absorb.
Google searches for ‘shin splints’ increased during lockdown
For more information and recovery tips, take a look at our Guru’s advice on shin splints.
A common complaint for runners and cyclists, injuries to the IT bands are caused by a tightening of the band of ligaments (the IT bands) that run alongside the outside of the leg, from the knee to the hip, leading to pain at the top of the hip or outside of the knee.
Also known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), this injury is usually caused by overuse or a sudden increase in the distance covered by cyclists or runners. It can also be caused by running on uneven or banked surfaces, or by unsupportive footwear – if your running shoes are looking a bit worn out, you should definitely think about replacing them regardless of whether you’re showing symptoms.
As well as investing in good footwear, runners should try to vary their routes and increase the distance covered incrementally. Cyclists need to make sure their seat is positioned correctly and at the right height to maintain good posture and hip alignment.
If you’re showing symptoms of an IT band injury, speak to our Guru for advice on how to treat it, and take a look at our ITB superset video, which is progressive set of four exercises that offer more benefit than foam rolling alone – feel the burn in your glute & zero pain round your ITB.
Although not among the top work from home injuries, wrist strain is very easy to develop, particularly if you’re working on a computer all day and doing exercises that place a lot of strain or pressure on the wrists, such as rock climbing, press ups, or even yoga.
The main symptom of wrist strain is a gradual or sudden pain in one or both wrists, but you might also experience tenderness and swelling. If the wrist injury comes on suddenly as a result of impact, use RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to abate any swelling and take a complete rest from any activities that risk aggravating the condition.
If the condition has come on gradually, you should also take a complete break from activities that risk making it worse, and take ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. If you work at a desk and computer, it might be worth getting an ergonomic keyboard and mouse mat with wrist rests.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure, so here are five steps you can take to help prevent injuries when exercising:
If you’ve had to adapt your exercise routine during lockdown, maybe by trying different activities or working out alone for the first time, remember to always listen to your body and be aware of the signs of strains, pulls, sprains and tears.
If you’re feeling any discomfort, don’t ignore it – get in touch with our Guru to find out the best course of action, and check out our daily exercise videos for varied workouts you can do at home.