Tips to Avoid Home Workout Injuries

Cori Grantham, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon

Home workouts have grown in popularity in this era of safety protocols, but according to Cori Grantham, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano, and at the Center for Sports Medicine and Trauma, working out on your own could make you more prone to injury. We wanted to know why that is and get her advice for staying fit and avoiding getting hurt.

“The pandemic has caused many people to try new activities and workouts at home they may not have done previously,” Grantham explains. “Unfortunately, that trend has resulted in more injuries due to people taking on a routine that’s not suited for them or not using the proper technique. It’s common for home athletes to try to tackle an exercise without instruction to do it properly.”

 

Common Home Workout Injuries

According to Grantham, there are two categories of injuries associated with home workouts. The first is overuse injuries, where one might try to take on too much activity in too short a time period. She says our muscles and joints are used to a certain amount of tension and pressure, but if this is increased in a short amount of time, it can overload our joints.

“We see these overuse injuries many times in our patients’ shoulders and elbows as people increase upper body strength,” Grantham adds. “We also see this type of injury in knees when people increase their running level too quickly.”

The second type of common injury experienced at home falls into the category of fractures and dislocations. Grantham says she sees these when patients fall from a bike, scooter or other exercise equipment.

 

Some Practical Advice to Avoid Injury

Grantham says she advises her patients to scale or adjust their exercise to suit their individual fitness level. She says patients should always start at a low level of activity and duration of the exercise at first, and to gradually increase the level of activity level, followed by the duration of it. That will help build the body’s tolerance for the exercise and reduce the risk of injury by avoiding overloading joints and tendons.

“The appropriate exercise level is important to avoid overuse injuries, which can happen if you don’t scale the exercise property,” Grantham advises. “I advise patients to stay in their comfort zone when starting a new exercise, and listen to their bodies. If you are experiencing pain with a new activity or certain movement, back down on the level and intensity. Again, start slowly and work your way up over time. For example, if you decide to start running, begin with a small distance so your body can acclimate. Don’t try to run 2-3 miles right away.”

Grantham reiterates pain should not be part of an appropriate workout regimen, and says it’s imperative that you listen to your body and stay within your tolerance levels to avoid injuries. She says if there are certain repetitive movements or activities that are causing consistent pain and discomfort, those activities should be avoided or modified.

“Technique is often an important factor here, and if your technique or movement is off, you can cause tendon and ligament problems. You shouldn’t feel pain after exercising or the next day. If you do, you may be risking an injury. Again, start at a lower level, and if you’re able to maintain this activity for a few consecutive days without pain, then increase your activity to the next level.”

To avoid fractures and dislocations caused by falls, Grantham advises her patients to make sure they’re using the appropriate safety equipment when using bikes and scooters, for example. You always want to make sure you’re comfortable using these devices before attempting to exercise with them, she says.

Grantham also suggests checking out virtual training sessions and fitness classes offered by some gyms. These allow you to continue your workout journey if you haven’t been able to go to the gym or just prefer to get your exercise at home.

Many home workout enthusiasts may be eager to begin exercising again after getting hurt, but Grantham says it’s important to rest an appropriate amount of time. It’s always wise to consult a health care practitioner if you’ve been injured. Once you’re allowed to resume activity, make sure you start slowly, and ensure you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort as you increase activity.

Looking for additional advice for working out at home and avoiding injuries? We found this excellent piece in AARP.org, which includes tips for pacing yourself, and avoiding pitfalls like ignoring pain, exercising too long, or failing to prepare.

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