Unfortunately, I recently hurt myself during a workout. I don’t even know what I did or exactly when, but I definitely pulled or strained a muscle. The pain starts near my shoulder blade and radiates up to my neck and around to my chest, and it feels paralyzing. You don’t realize how much you use a muscle until it hurts everytime you do! I feel that I may have over-stretched during yoga because my upper back and shoulder areas are normally tight which makes them more prone to injury, so this was definitely a red flag to pull back a little. You can also get the same injury by not stretching enough though, so it is really important to stretch properly.
How to Prevent Injury:
- Never stretch a cold muscle: warm up before your workout using something called “dynamic stretching”. This means that you are moving your muscles to warm them up and mildly stretch them. For example, crossing your arms in front of you, back and forth repeatedly to stretch your shoulder and chest muscles. Another warm-up stretch you could do is called high kicks. You hold your arms out straight to the sides at shoulder-height and alternate kicking your feet straight out while bringing the opposite hand to meet it. This warms up your hamstrings, so it’s good to do before a run.
- Always stretch after your workout, when your muscles are warm. These stretches are called “static stretches” because you’re stretching without movement. An example of this would be sitting in a straddle and leaning towards each leg, one at a time, for 30 seconds on each side. Don’t bounce when you do this, and pay attention to your body. When you start to feel the stretch, stop and hold. Click here for a website that has beginner stretches.
- Make sure to balance out your muscles with strength training. For example, don’t work out your core and not your back. This leaves your back weaker and more prone to injury. Same thing goes for hamstrings (back of thigh) and quads (front of thigh).
What to do Post-Injury:
- The two most important things are to 1) stop working out the muscle so you don’t further aggravate the injury, and 2) see your doctor. Your doctor will examine you to make sure it isn’t something more serious than a pull or strain, so it is very important that you go if your pain is anything more than a typical post-work out ache.
- I recommend taking Ibuprofin/Advil/Motrin while you are waiting to see your doctor because they are anti-inflammatories and will help to calm down the muscle. If your doctor gives you something else, make sure to talk to them about continuing use of the over-the-counter meds. Likewise, if you feel for any reason that you shouldn’t be taking the anti-inflammatories (such as allergies or other medical conditions), don’t! Also be sure to follow the directions on the bottle, and to read the warnings.
- While you don’t want to continue working out the muscle, you also don’t want to stop all workouts unless you have to so that you can prevent weight gain while you’re healing, and so that it’s easier to get back to your old workouts once you are healed. You actually can get around an injury in many cases. Shoulder injuries like mine are the most difficult to get around, so I’m pretty much just going for walks. For other upper body injuries, continue to do cardio by walking or biking (maybe jogging depending on the injury), and you can continue to do lower-body workouts such as squats and lunges. For lower body injuries, you can continue your upper body work outs. Cardio may be tricky with these injuries, but you can use a hand-bike if you have access to one. In some cases, you may still be able to walk or swim. However, before doing any exercises while injured, consult your doctor.
- For further pain-alleviation, try icy-hot or a heating pad.