Common Workout Injuries | Training for Injury Prevention At The Gym

For many exercise enthusiasts, going to the gym is the most exciting part of their week. Physical activity comes with an array of health benefits—it’s no surprise why so many people enjoy their routine workouts.

However, while going to the gym is ultimately good for us, the territory presents possible risk and injury. To ensure you’re living a healthier, happier life, we walk you through five common workout injuries, so you can keep yourself in tip-top shape!

Shin Splints

Shin splints are classified as RSI’s or repetitive stress injuries, and most commonly appear in runners. Shin splints involve pain and tenderness along the shin. A shin splint occurs along the tibial bone, usually as a result of damage and inflammation of the connective tissue due to repeated exercise. You can avoid shin splints by using proper exercise techniques such as not rolling your feet inwards when running, wearing proper shoes, and running on softer surfaces. However, surfaces that are too soft, such as a sandy beach, can cause way too much foot motion. Basically happy medium is the rule. Hard surfaces, such as concrete can cause hard hard impact and strain, while overly soft surfaces, such as a sandy beach can cause the foot to roll too much on landing, which causes strain as muscles of the shin function to control excessive motion of the foot. “Shin splints” is a general non-medical term that could be related to a variety of conditions that cause shin pain, but it mostly commonly involves strain of the muscles that are involved in controlling stability of the foot during running. The anterior tibial muscles or “shin muscles” are involved in controlling the rolling motion of the foot, and also attempt to prevent the forefoot from slapping down hard on the ground after heel strike in distance running. If the shin muscles are not well conditioned, and a runner overtrains, the shin muscles become strained while functioning to prevent excessive foot motion.

Forefoot Pronation = Inward rotation when the front of the foot is weightbearing.

Rearfoot Pronation = Inward rotation during heel strike when the heel area is weighbearing.

Runner’s Knee

This refers to any discomfort around the knee region, which frequently occurs in older athletes. Sometimes you’ll be able to hear an audible cracking or creaking noise as you move. This is likely due to the routine wearing of the knee tendons or the connective tissue under the knee cap (patella). People can exacerbate these problems if they use excessively heavy weights and perform too many repetitions during exercise, or if they overtrain while running or jumping, etc. If the knee pain persists, you may want to switch to more low-impact exercise such as swimming or a rowing machine.

Torn Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff’s main role in the upper body is stabilizing the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. But it needs the rotator cuff to provide stability to the joint. There are four rotator cuff muscles that attach the top end of the upper arm bone (humerus) to the torso via the shoulder blade. While controlling motion of the upper arm in a multitude of directions, the rotator cuff muscles can become torn, smash and abused. Tearing of rotator cuff muscle often occurs with repeated overhead movements where the small muscles and their tendons are most vulnerable. They also can become strained by simple overuse during frequent exercise, or one excessively forceful and violent throwing motion.

The rotator cuff is also the main force keeping your upper arm at what is called an instant center — a safe rotational position that keeps the upper arm from banging around in the shoulder joint. A significant tear may severely affect your range of motion by causing the failure of the rotator cuff muscles to maintain a smooth instant center for the shoulder. In the case of a partial tear, you can treat the tendon with pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and physical therapy that balances, strengthens and stretches (increases flexibility) to restore the proper combination of force vectors of the muscles associated with the rotator cuff tendons. However, a full separation of the tendon from the bone or a full tear in the middle of the tendon (called a full-thickness tear) may require surgical intervention for proper repair.

Lower Back Strain

Minor low back strain is one of the most common exercise-related injuries—particularly in older generations. Some lower back pain may arise due to fractures or other severe conditions, but if you’re a frequent gym-goer, it’s more likely your back pain is a result of weakened back muscles. Many back injuries are cause when people use their back muscles more than their hip extensor muscles for the uprighting of the torso relative to the legs or for bending the torso forward. The axis for torso motion should usually be in the hip joints, rotating the pelvis; not the intervertebral joints of the spine. Focus on increasing your back’s flexibility and strengthening the extensor muscles of the spine is important; but it is highly important that people understand that power moves should come from the hip extensor muscles rotating the hip joints, such as the gluteus maximus muscles and the hamstrings. During exercise and daily activities, you want to minimize compression and load on the vertebral column and get your power from your hips, pelvis rotation and legs. Otherwise, tightened low back muscles are likely to become painful with tightness and spasms wile working out.

Tennis Elbow

Weightlifting and vigorous tennis with repetitive movements can be especially demanding on the elbow, which is a huge driver in elbow tendonitis (commonly epicondylitis); otherwise known as tennis elbow. The elbow joint is a hinge joint, meaning it has limited functionality — it can only move forward and backward (not in multiple planes of motion). The motion of the elbow is made possible by muscles in the upper arm (mainly biceps and triceps) and muscles in the forearm (especially the brachioradialis). Weightlifting often stresses the tendons around the elbow joint, especially when the forearm muscles, and their tendons near the elbow, get overpowered and strained by not keeping up in the equation with the stronger and larger biceps and triceps. The tendon(s) can become tender, inflamed, and weakened over time, which can produce sharp pain in the elbow and also inflame a larger area away from the elbow down the forearm. Multiple off-center hits on the face of the tennis racquet can also cause tremendous strain on the forearm muscles as they work to stabilize the torque cause by the off-center hit on the racquet.

You can protect and promote healing of your elbow by using an elbow strap or wrap to add stability and compression to the elbow, and icing it after use. However, the best protection is strong forearm muscles that can keep up with the equation in joint motion and absorb forces related to torque. Physical therapy has also proven beneficial in reducing elbow pain. Much of the correctional action of physical therapy involves balancing muscles by acquiring the proper strength and flexibility of opposing (antagonist) muscles and cooperating (agonist) muscles.

Be Wise

Keep in mind that any of the conditions described above can be exacerbated by problems with inherent dysfunctional anatomy (anatomy you inherited at birth) that can put a greater load on muscles that function to stabilize joints during motion. For example, a shoulder joint can be hyper-flexible and prone to dislocation because of the structure of the bones connected at the shoulder joint. An elbow can be subject to hyperextension, which can result in harmful forces. Knees can hyperextend too, or have too much motion in the joint. The spinal column can have excessive curvature or be excessively flat, which can cause problems. A good trainer or physical therapist, or combination of the two should be able to help a person overcome an anatomical problem as best possible.

Sometimes a flexible joint will help with one sport, but be a disadvantage in another sport. For example, flexible shoulders can help a swimmer move more freely in water and generate better power with better range of motion in the water; but in football, landing on an outstretched arm connected to a hyper-flexible shoulder might cause a serious dislocation of the flexible shoulder.

Remember to seek the help of a physician for help with pain or disability in case there might be a more serious condition not related to overuse or sports injury. The information provided above is general information that may not apply to your specific condition.


For information about conditioning and strengthening Anterior Tibial Muscles to help prevent “Shin Splints” … see information about the DARD (Dynamic Ankle Resistance Device) and Tibia Dorsi Calf Machine on DARD; Dynamic Ankle Resistance Device Strengthens Anterior Tibial Muscles with Dorsiflexion Resistance