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5 Most Common Injuries

By 31 October 2021November 26th, 2021Exercise, Injury, Rehabillitation
Ben Dillon
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Injuries are a part of life.

Pain, and loss of function can often leave those suffering feel mentally and emotionally tired, and isolated.

Today we are going to talk about the 5 most common injuries seen by us, and what we can do about them.

 

What’s Inside

  1. Introduction
  2. Preface – Change your mindset

Injuries

  1. Low back pain
  2. Tennis/Golfer elbow
  3. Patella tendonitis (Knee pain)
  4. Headache/Neck pain
  5. Hamstring tightness/strains

Steps – Injury breakdown

  1. Injuries
  2. What’s happening
  3. What you can do
  4. How to prevent

5 Most common Injuries, and what to do about them

Injuries can manifest in different ways, through localized or radiating pain, aching muscles and even the giving way of joints.

When thinking of our pain we often attempt to address the site of pain, which can give us temporary relief, only to come back later.

So, let’s talk about the 5 most common injuries seen by us, and what you should do to treat them.

Preface – Change your mindset

When it comes to injuries, we have tendencies to fixate on our diagnosis. When presented with the reason for our pain we latch onto the idea that we are broken, damaged or at time irreparable.

So, here is what we do.

When it comes to figuring out the cause of your pain, we need to process the feelings we are having, mental and emotional, and then move on to thinking about the solution.

So often we get caught obsessing about our injuries that we make our physical impairments, mental and emotional ones

While it is healthy to process your emotions regarding your injury, you must continue to focus on what can be done, otherwise you run the risk of digging yourself into a deeper whole mentally, which can then hold you and your body there.

As previously mentioned, the junction like many in the body is complex, however this doesn’t mean that our solution needs to be.

The body is great at many things, one of those is working together.

So, to remedy this situation and many of the other injuries we are going to focus on movements, rather than the single muscle, joint, and injury themselves.

 

1. LOWER BACK PAIN

By far one of the most common when it comes to injuries and pain, the lower back can manifest some serious pain. This is due to its complexity of its structure and function within the body.

5 Most Common Injuries - Low back painSo, let’s talk about what’s happening.

WHATS HAPPENING

So, for the purpose of this article we are going to combine both the lower back and the pelvis together and tag it as “lower back”. Reason for this is because these structures are co-workers, at times they can be the bodies best duo when it comes to power, function, and other times they are just moody, angry and give you hell.

The Lower back and pelvis are possibly the largest intersection of joints in the body. Their make-up is designed in such a way to be a functional and dynamic powerhouse.

Being that it is the mid-point or halfway point of the body (From head to toe), it is important that this collection of joints is layered with some of the body’s strongest muscles.

The lower back is made up of the five lumbar vertebrae. These vertebrae are the largest of the spine, as they are like the shock absorber for the rest of the spine and the body above it.

Between every vertebra is a disc. These discs are fibrous and strong and are responsible to absorbing pressure, as well as allowing the spine to move smoothly.

Now directly through the middle of all the vertebrae runs the spinal cord. It comes from the brain, down to the pelvis, with branches flowing from both sides of the spine to organs, muscles, and other connective tissues.

So, with that all out of the way, let’s talk about what’s up. The spine is strong, flexible, and incredible durable, however given that it is such a dense intersection of muscles, joints, and nerves as well as its function, sometime things, whether it be injury, wear and tear, things can go wrong, and pain can ensue.

DISC/NERVE

The intersection in which the spinal cord, disc and vertebrae meet is often the site for significant issues.

Sometime whether it be due a specific incident, or wear and tear, the disc that sits between the vertebrae can bulge of protrude and apply pressure to the spinal cord or the nerve roots (Coming from the side of the spinal cord).

When this happens, we can experience immense amounts of local and radiating pain.

Often characterize by shooting, numbing, tingling sensation, the compression of the nerve can decrease strength, and function, often leaving those who are experiencing it immobilised.

MUSCULAR STRAINS/LIGAMENT SPRAINS

As previously mentioned, this is the largest intersection of the body, housing some of the toughest bones, joints, and muscles.

The junction where the spine meets the pelvis is designed in a such a way that sees the pelvis as almost as a hub for the upper and lower bodies muscular attachments.

pelvic anatomy

If you look at the diagram (Credit: Essential Anatomy 5) you can see the attachment of the muscles from the abdomen (left), the back (right), the quadriceps, and hamstrings all meet and are securely fastened to the pelvis., not to mention the pelvic muscles themselves (gluteal group)

Now, what does this mean? That if there is trauma, damage, or strain to one group of these muscles, another will pick up the slack.

If the glutes are inactive, the quads, hamstrings and lower back pick up the slack.

Weak hamstring? Lower back and quad tightness.

Weak abdominals? Lower back and quadriceps tightness.

Without going into too much more detail we can see that flow on effect of damage and injury to the lower back and its surrounding muscle group and joints can lead to pain, injure and long-term damage.

So, what can we do about it?

WHAT TO DO:

When it comes the low back and pelvis, we need to understand the function. This intersection of the body is powerful and is responsible for so many different movements, one of the most common is squatting or for a more accurate daily representation, getting in and out of a chair.

EXERCISE – CHAIR SQUAT

The simple act of getting in and out of chair is one of the hips key functions, and a great way to incorporate strengthening of the joints and muscles into daily living activities.

As the glutes (bum) and lower back are co-workers, the both require each-others help when it comes to performing movements.

So, let’s think about back pain. Have you experienced it before?

When it comes to pain, we often can’t shake our focus from it. Every movement whether big or small can be dictated by the potential shock of pain.

It can be there when we wake up, when we go to sleep and when we walk around.

With back pain as the example, let’s think about a time you have had it. Often when we get out of a chair, we only think of the pain site, and we react and move accordingly. We move to accommodate it rather than correct it.

Low back pain can often be so intense that while we aim to avoid it, we end up focusing on it so much that we end up lifting our bodies in and out of chairs with it.

So how to the hips come into this? The help lift you up.

Hips and more specifically your glutes are made to lift you up.

Based on the notion that the muscles and joints working together, the hips assist the knees, ankles, feet, and low back to function.

Big muscle group = big function.

HOW TO DO

Step 1: Grab a chair from around the house preferably not too low

Step 2: Sit on the chair, feet shoulder width apart

Step 3: Lean forward at the hips, slowly stand up without using hands, clench glutes (bum), thrust hips forward so you are in an upright position

Step 4: Unclench glutes, push hips back, lower self, down to seated position without using hands

A simple and life applicable exercise that get you to focus on your hips to do the lifting rather than your lower back.

By incorporating this into your daily life, you will see your hips and glutes take on their role much faster, and more readily.

EXERCISE – BACK EXTENSION

Back extension is a great way to gently reintroduce activation and function to the hips (glutes) and entire back.

Performed on the floor in the lying face down position, it is a safe option.

HOW TO DO:

Step 1: Lying face down on the floor with hands placed flat next to shoulders

Step 2: Clench/squeeze glute muscles

Step 3: With the assistant of your hand, gently lift your chest off the floor (pause for 1 second)

Step 4: Lower yourself back to beginning position – unclench glutes

Step 5: Repeat 5-10 times – Stop if pain is above a 3-4/10

A simple exercise that allows you to activate your hips and back from a safe position.

TENNIS/GOLFERS ELBOW

When it comes to overuse injuries, this one might just be the most annoying of them all!

For those who have either Tennis elbow or golfers elbow you will already know the pain of this extremely frustrating injury.

For those you are unacquainted with these injuries, tennis and golfer’s elbow are characterised by inflammation of the tissue on outside and inside of elbow joint respectively, in which the area become sore, tender, aching and at even times sharp.

The most frustrating of which is often its erratic patterns, as sometimes there may not be pain doing bigger tasks, but then for it be painful with something as simple as turning a door handle or gently shaking hands with someone.

As previously mentioned, we often look to the site of our pain to find a reason as to why its sore.

However, with this injury, I’m going to show you that elbow pain, like many others can be a result of compensation, rather than the direct cause.

WHAT’S HAPPENING5 Most common Injuires - Tennis Elbow

 

Let’s try make this as simple as possible, for I could talk about this for hours.

The elbow is the middleman or the messenger.

It is the joint between two important parts, the shoulder, and the hand, two such joints that are constantly altering position through thousands of actions per day.

When there is a weakness, instability or poor mechanics, the elbow (The messenger) is caught in the middle trying to pick up the slack, and often failing.

And it’s not the elbow fault, it’s just responding do the what’s happening at either end, its stuck in the middle.

Often when it comes to tennis elbow and golfers’ elbow if we low towards either end (the hand or shoulder) we will notice some weakness.

The most common seen is a weak shoulder, rotator cuff, and upper back.

Damn… sounds like a lot, right?

The shoulder itself is complex, with layers of ligaments, and muscles, of which are used to stabilise the shoulder.

If there is a weakness or mechanical issue with the shoulder, what will pick up the slack…? That’s right, the two joints at either end of the chain, in this case, the elbow and the neck (but let’s focus on the elbows)

Shoulders are incredible, the function and stability they create are amazing, but if they don’t the elbow then feels that it must do it be to provide the stability, for which it is not capable.

This then leads to it being over worked and then becoming damaged and inflamed.

WHAT TO DO:

Let’s take care of a few different areas.

While the cause of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is a result of the upper back, hands, rotator cuff, the good thing is we can strengthen all these areas simultaneously.

By training movements, we will do it faster and more effectively!

BAND PULL APART

Step 1: Grab yourself an exercise band, preferably a decent length one and of a lighter resistance to start with.

Step 2: Place end of the band in each hand, elbows bent at 90 degrees, tuck into your sides with palms facing up.

Step 3: With elbow firmly pressed against your body, rotate elbow outwards gently pulling band apart, while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Step 4: gently relax and return palms and elbow to starting position

This exercise alone hits all our desired targets of the rotator cuff, mid and upper back all in one simple time efficient exercise.

This exercise can be performed in sets, as 2 sets of 10 repetitions, however if you would like to increase your chances of success try just having the band near you, say in the car or at your office desk.

Performing one or two at random times throughout the day can greatly increase activation, strength, and function.

FOREARM CURLS/EXTENSIONS

This exercise is more direct and for the elbow itself as well as the hand.

Step 1: Find water bottle 500ml or a something of equal weight

Step 2: Seated near a bench or table have your elbow resting on the bench with hand and weight just off the edge (palm facing down for extensions, palm facing up for curl)

Step 3: Hold weight in place for 10 seconds (often, if you suffer from elbow pain this may be difficult)

If you have no issue with performing Step 3, go to Step 4

Step 4: Gently curl or extend wrist – aim for 2 sets of 10 repetitions

Note: While this may seem basic, people who suffer from elbow related tendon pain can find even the smallest resistance painful.

Taking it slow is a must when it comes to tendon related pain. Pain maybe be present, (aim for no more the 3-4 out of 10), but just be sure to not overdo it.

PATELLA TENDONITIS (KNEE PAIN)

Knees are one of, if not the most complex joints in the body, and when they aren’t functioning well, it can leave you feeling helpless.

Much like the elbow, knees are the middleman to two other main parts, the hip, and the foot.

However, when it comes to the lower body, our joints, muscles, and soft tissue are given the task of not only bearing our body weight, but a range of dynamic movements like running, jumping, and sharp changes in direction.

It’s with this that our lower body (hips down) must be well configured.

WHAT’S HAPPENING 5 Most Common Injuries - Knee Pain

Patella tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon that goes over the kneecap and inserts and attaches to boney process (bump, tibial tuberosity) of the lower leg.

Inflammation maybe caused by overuse, poor mechanics, or even direct trauma like bumping it on an object.

When tissue becomes damaged it undergoes a cycle of inflammation to heal itself.

However, if we do not allow it to heal and keep pushing it the tendon cannot heal, thus becoming chronically inflamed.

Often experienced those who have poor mechanics of the lower body.

As previously mentioned, the knee, its function and its potential for explosive power is the middleman. It’s performance and function are a result of the foot, calf, hamstring, quad, hip flexors, and glutes muscles, firing in sequence.

However, it is rare that these muscles are configured, thus leading to poor knee mechanics, and sore knees.

WHAT TO DO

While there are many exercises is can prescribe it will give two that I find the most effective.

The following will cover the hamstrings and the quadricep muscles.

HAMSTRING HIP RAISES

Step 1: Find some space in your house, lying face up on the ground

Step 2: Feet shoulder width apart, with knees bent up between 90-120 degrees and heels resting on the floor

Step 3: Raise hips upwards, focus on lifting with both legs equally (you should feel this in the back of your thighs), raise hips as high as possible

Step 4: Gently lower yourself down. – Repeat 10 repetitions for 2 sets

Note: A safe exercise, that can be perform anywhere. If there is pain or cramping take a break and gradually build up, you set and repetitions.

When it comes to knees the hamstring is often forgotten about, as we can tend to focus on the site of the pain and the muscles on the front of the thigh.

The hamstrings while on the back of your thigh attach at the front and make up a large portion of the function for the knee joint.

Increasing their strength will lead to better knee function and stability, thus decreasing patella tendon pain.

SPANISH SQUATS

By far one of the best exercises for knee health, the Spanish Squat is a great tool that allows you build up strength through the quadriceps and patella tendon without aggravation.

Step 1: Find a closed loop exercise band and a post or pole to wrap the band around. The band must have a decent amount of resistance as it will be supporting your weight

Step 2: use a slip knot to loop band around pole/post at knee height

Step 3: Facing the pole, put both legs into loop with the band resting just below the knee joint and above the calf

Step 4: Gently take 2 -3 steps back until there is considerable resistance in the band

Step 5: Like sitting on a chair, perform a squat aiming for your knees and hips to knees to be 90 degrees

Step 6: Stand up, returning to upright position, focus on pushing knees back and clenching glutes – Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions

Note: As previously mentioned, the Spanish squat allows for a greater focus on the quadricep (front of thigh) without aggravating your existing patella tendon injury.

It can be used either as a warm-up and activation exercises, or at the end of a workout to finish off the session.

HEADACHES AND NECK PAIN

There is nothing quite like a headaches and neck related pain.

Unlike pain from other areas of the body, the head and neck can give off what seems like an unshakable current that can often leave you feeling fatigued and weary.

WHATS HAPPENING

To understand the origins of neck related pain and headaches first we need to have a quick look at the joints and muscles.

Like a lollipop, the skull sits on top if the narrow column of the cervical spine, it must have adequate support and strength to maintain a certain level of function.

For many of us, our daily life sees us slouched or hunched with our heads leaching forward, with our neck muscles working harder and our mid to upper back muscles becoming stretches and weaker.

As neck muscles originate from the shoulder blades, spine, the pelvis, and collarbones, it is important to continue to keep them strong, for it is their strength that will help keep you upright, reducing the pulling forward that causes your head and neck related pain.

WHAT TO DO

While the neck and muscles can be complex, our approach to addressing the issue does need to be.

So, lets identify the targets. The upper back muscles.

By strengthening this group of muscles, we aim restore correct function, thus reducing compensation by other muscles and pain in the future.

BAND PULL APART

Step 1: Grab yourself an exercise band, preferably a decent length one and of a lighter resistance to start with.

Step 2: Place end of the band in each hand, elbows bent at 90 degrees, tuck into your sides with palms facing up.

Step 3: With elbow firmly pressed against your body, rotate elbow outwards gently pulling band apart, while squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Step 4: gently relax and return palms and elbow to starting position

Note: While it has been previously mentioned in this article, its ability to target the muscles of not only the shoulders but the upper back make it an excellent bang for buck exercise!

CHEST DOOR STRETCH (SLIDE)

Slouching and desk related posture can often lead to tightness through the chest muscles.

To improve our posture, we not only need to strengthen our back and neck muscles but release the muscles that constantly pull us forward.

Step 1: find a door within your house or office. One that its wide enough for you to comfortably rest both your elbows at 90 degrees on at the same time

Step 2: Raise elbows and hands up to the side

Step 3: Place your feet in a split stance, one leg forward

Step 4: gently lean chest forward, with two thirds of your body weight on the front foot

Step 5: Relax, aim to have the weight rest in your feet while your chest relaxes

Step 6: If possible, while maintaining contact with elbows, gently slide arms up to 45 degrees and then return them down to 90 degrees.

Note: Holding or performing for 5-20 seconds, make it simple and time efficient exercise that can be done when you wake up, walking through a door, or even just waiting for the kettle to boil.

HAMSTRING STRAIN/TIGHTNESS

Hamstring strains and tightness are one of those injuries that show up in all walks of life.

From sporting heroes to a co-worker’s tragic hamstring strain mid run, this one can be something that can derail just about anyone’s progress.

But what is happening that makes this one of the most irritating injuries of the lower body?

WHATS HAPPENING

If you’ve had them before, you’ll know the thought process – tight muscle, need to stretch.

Now it’s understandable right? All those years of sports, PE class (gym) you were told to stretch, especially if tightness and restriction was present.

But doesn’t it seem to work for the hamstrings…?

… because they are already stretched!

Weird right?

So, if you recall, we spoke earlier about our pelvis being the attachment for the muscles of the core, back, bum, and thighs, and with so many muscles attaching to the pelvis, an imbalance of strong and weak muscles from the above mentioned can have a flow on effect to the hamstrings.

While there are many different scenarios, let’s talk about one of the most common which is hamstring weakness.

Yep, that’s right, they are weak.

When a muscle is weak or let’s say inactive it tends to tighten. The tightening that may occur in the situations is a result of the muscle either not being strong enough, or you yourself not being able to use the muscle correctly.

Let’s use the upper back for example, as we have already spoken about it.

When you are in the slouched or hunched position, you are often met with a restricted, achy, and knotting feeling between your shoulder blades.

When we experience this sensation, our instinct is to pull away and stretch, however what is really happening is that these muscles are working overtime to pull you up and support you.

And what do you do? You keep pulling away.

Rather than thinking of this sensation as a call for a stretch, think of it as your body saying, “can you please use these damn muscles!”

This goes the same for the hamstrings.

Much like the upper body, the lower body is restricted by dominant muscles at the front of it.

When we sit, for extended periods of time, our hip flexors, and quadriceps (both attaching to pelvis) become shortened.

Then when we finally go to stand up, we can find ourselves titled forward at the hips, with our bums sticking out and some lower back tightness.

And with our pelvis and hips tilting forward, the front of the thigh (quad, hip flexors) tightens, and the hamstrings (back of thigh) are pulled to a stretch.

 WHAT TO DO

Like the rest of our injuries, lets focus on the movements and not just the muscles.

HAMSTRING CURL (FLOOR)

Step 1: Find some floor space at home, preferably tiled or floorboards

Step 2: Wearing socks or something that will glide under your feet

Step 3: Lying on your back, elevate your hips as if you are doing a hip raise, with your knees bent at 90 degrees

Step 4: slowly extend your legs out while keeping your hips up (the further your legs go away from your body, the more difficult it will be

Step 5: Bring legs back towards body (curl)

Note: These can be difficult to perform and should be done so carefully. The aim is to make sure both legs are working equally – Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions

If you are experiencing a cramping sensation, don’t worry it is completely normal. Just take your time, start with 5 repetitions, and build from there.

ROMANIAN/STIFF LEG DEADLIFTS

The most effective way to rehab and retrain the body is through exercises that can be used in real life scenarios, and the Romanian/Stiff leg deadlift is a perfect example.

This exercise, and other deadlift techniques are the correct way to lift objects, making use of healthy spine alignment, and hip hinge, the deadlift distributed effort throughout the body, rather than just putting pressure on the back.

Step 1: Find a chair, a light object (box or bag), and a wall around the house

Step 2: Stand yourself with your back to the wall 20-30cm, place the chair in front of you with the object on top.

Step 3: Pull shoulder blades slightly back, with arms relaxed

Step 4: Unlock hips, aim to push bum towards the wall, keep arms relaxed and shoulder blades back

Step 5: Gradually lower chest towards object while hips push back to wall

Step 6: Pick up object from chair

Step 7: Arms relaxed, bring hips in from wall and return to the upright position

Step 8: repeat process to lower

Note: A much more complex exercise as it uses the whole body.

It will take time to master, but do not be fooled into thinking if needs to be perfect every time.

The use of the deadlift is faster than squatting and picking up and more efficient than bending down and lifting with your back.

Deadlifting is key for not only hamstring tightness, but to many back related pains, hip pains, and neck pains.

SUMMARY

The body and the injuries we sustain can often be complex, however this does not mean that the solutions need to be.

Often something as simple as identifying the cause of pain and adjusting the way you approach movements can make a major difference.

Even if you correct just 10% of the time, that is still 10% more than you were doing, and your body will build on it and thank you.

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