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4 most common exercise injuries

This post was written by Dr. Bradley Fideler, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician at Mercy Walworth Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center.

Exercise is good for your body, but like most things, it is not without risks. Exercise injuries affect almost everyone at one time or another and to varying degrees. Common exercise injuries can often be treated at home if they are minor, but a health care provider should immediately attend to severe pain or bleeding.

Sprains and strains. Sprains and strains that affect your joints and muscles are among the most common sports injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Sprains are overstretched or torn ligaments that support your joints such as your ankle, knee or wrist. Strains are generally less severe than sprains and occur when you stretch your muscles or tendons more than you should.

Both conditions are painful and can occur when you have quickly moved the wrong way or have not adequately warmed up before exercising. Rest, icing and pain-relieving medicine are the first treatment methods to use for these soft tissue injuries. Physical therapy and surgery may be required to repair torn ligaments or tendons that do not respond to self-care measures.

Muscle cramps. Athletes who are dehydrated or not properly warmed up can succumb to this common sports injury. Muscle cramps are painful, involuntary contractions of muscles that can occur just about anywhere in the body. Lower leg cramps are especially common among runners. Gently stretching the muscle that is giving you trouble can help relieve the pain. To prevent muscle cramps, drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout and make sure your electrolyte levels are consistent. Potassium deficiency can cause this exercise injury.

Bruises. If your exercise of choice is a contact sport, you are sure to experience bruising, one of the most common exercise and general injuries. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, bruising is technically called a muscle contusion. A bruise is bleeding that occurs under your skin after a direct hit. Bruises can be tender after the fact, but in most cases do not require specialized treatment.

Inflammation. Inflammation is a broad term, but includes some of the most common exercise injuries reported in the February 2010 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Bursitis, fasciitis and tendonitis are inflammatory conditions common to athletes. They are brought on mainly by overuse and repetitive motion. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that acts like a shock absorber in your joint. Fasciitis means the fascia that covers your muscles and tendons is inflamed. Tendon inflammation is called tendonitis. Inflammation as an exercise injury is treated with rest, ice to reduce swelling and dull the pain, and anti-inflammatory medicine.