Sports Injuries You Shouldn’t Ignore
No pain, no gain, right? Think again.
By Victoria Mier

Just because you’re in the middle of an amazing weight set or about to do a great new pose in yoga doesn’t mean you should ignore what your body’s telling you. There’s a big difference between discomfort and pain – and pain can be a serious symptom of more than a hard workout.

Before you hit the gym, take heed of these tips and advice from SJ orthopedists. Because toughing it out isn’t always the best call.


That last squat made your knee pop – and it hurt

You’ve probably felt your joints crack or pop when you exercise – it’s a normal process where gas bubbles pop in your joints. But that process shouldn’t hurt, says Merrick Wetzler, MD, of Advocare South Jersey Orthopedic Associates.

“Painful popping or clicking is something to be concerned about,” he says, because it’s a red flag for serious injury. “It’s a symptom that could signify a cartilage tear in your knee, or the plica in your knee – the place where your joint folds in – could be inflamed. It could also indicate arthritis issues in your other joints.”

Powering through those bursts of pain – or hoping the discomfort will eventually go away – could potentially sideline your workout goals and even impact your day-to-day activities.

“It’s the type of symptom that people often brush off, but injuries like this start off simple to treat and quickly become more complicated,” says Wetzler. “It’s like walking with a pebble in the bottom of your shoe. If you take it out right away, you’re fine. But if you leave it in and walk a mile, your foot is going to get all torn up. Don’t ignore it to the point that it becomes hard to fix the problem.”


You feel a shooting pain every time you stretch

There’s no doubt that stretching is an important part of any workout routine – it’s been proven to improve flexibility, posture, balance, coordination and even circulation.

And while you should certainly incorporate it into your normal routine, stretching shouldn’t hurt, says Christopher Carey, MD, of Orthopedic Reconstruction Specialists. “If you’re feeling a shooting pain every time you do the same motion, that’s cause for concern. There’s a laundry list of things that might be going on with your body if you’re experiencing that.”

It could be muscle spasms, which Carey says are a sign you need to spend more time slowly and carefully stretching. But shooting pains could indicate nerve damage, which shouldn’t be ignored.

“Nerve damage is usually characterized by repetitive shooting pain, because the nerve is pinched and becomes irritated,” says Carey. “It’s important to bring it up with your doctor if you’re experiencing it – they might refer you to a neurologist or spine specialist to check out what’s going on and decide on a treatment plan.”


There’s a weird tingling feeling in your calf when you hit the second mile

That pins-and-needles sensation isn’t just your leg falling asleep. It’s a condition medically known as paraesthesia, and it can be a telltale sign of an underlying medical condition.

Sensations like burning, numbness, tingling or prickling can be caused by a circulation problem, where blood flow to the leg is weakened, or it could be sign of a pinched nerve, says Wetzler. A pinched nerve occurs when bone, muscles or tendons apply pressure to a nerve and disrupt its function.

“If the tingling occurs every time you exercise and doesn’t go away with anti-inflammatories and ice, get help sooner rather than later.”

If you experience sudden tingling that’s accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body, a change in alertness or the worst headache of your life, immediately call 911 – these can be signs of a stroke.


Your left shoulder suddenly can’t do a full sun salutation

If you’ve been busy with a new activity, like painting the kitchen or playing five rounds of golf in one week, your body may simply be reacting to your increased (and unusual) activity, says Wetzler.

“But a sudden limitation in your range of motion in the shoulder is worth heading to an urgent care center to get checked out,” he adds. “At the very least, you should call your primary care doctor and ask to be seen quickly.”

The culprit, says Wetzler, could be your rotator cuff. “The decreased range of motion is created by swelling and irritation in the rotator cuff. Because there’s only a certain amount of room in your shoulder, it cuts off how much you can move the joint.”

Being proactive, adds Carey, is key to treating this fairly common injury. “You can do more damage by ignoring it. It’s possible to get to the point where it’s not necessarily fixable anymore. Rotator cuff issues have a fairly simple treatment course, so there’s no reason to reach the point where it can’t be fixed.”


After trying that new spin class, your right ankle looks swollen

If you went a little harder with your exercise regime or hiked more miles than you’re used to, it’s probably just soft tissue swelling – aka, your body complaining a little bit.

“Just like soreness after new exercises or a heightened level of activity, swelling sometimes happens,” says Carey. “If that’s the case, rest a little and reevaluate your workout to reduce unnecessary stress on your body.”

The problem, he says, lies with swelling that doesn’t go away or disappears and then comes back.

“That usually indicates there’s an acute injury. If it’s in the lower extremities, it can even be a sign of blood clots,” he says. “That kind of swelling appears quickly and doesn’t budge, even with ice and anti-inflammatories. You should contact your doctor right away.”

January 2017
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