More—October 4, 2010
Debating whether to push through, take time off or see a doctor? Here are six common complaints of exercisers, plus tips on staying injury free.
Pain Point: Foot or Shinbone
Common causes: Running, walking and playing tennis and basketball
Probable problem: “Stress fractures, or tiny cracks in the bone, are common in women who are starting an activity and do too much too soon or who are increasing their distance because they’re training for an event,” says Lisa Callahan, M.D., codirector of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “The fractures occur most often in the big bone in the front of the shin, but I see a lot in the feet of women, sometimes just from walking.” When lower leg muscles, which typically absorb the impact, start to fatigue, the force is transferred to the bones. If they’ve become brittle, which begins to happen as we age, they crack under the pressure.
Action plan: If the pain doesn’t go away within a week or if it worsens after a day or two, see a doctor, who will take an X-ray to diagnose the problem and can assess whether you suffer from an underlying issue with your bone health, like osteoporosis. If you have a stress fracture, you should take off about four to eight weeks from the activity that caused the break, but you can usually swim, cycle and strength-train during that time to stay in shape.
Pain Point: Lower Back
Common causes: Almost any activity
Probable problem: Exercising with a weak core. “It places undue stress on the disks and muscles in your lower back,” says Jo Hannafin, M.D., PHD, orthopedic director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Action plan: Most back pain improves without medical intervention. (But see your doctor if the pain prevents you from following your daily routine.) Doctors now discourage bed rest; instead, once the worst pain subsides, do aerobic, flexibility and strengthening exercises and resume your normal activities.
Pain Point: Shoulder
Common causes: Lifting too much weight over your head, serving a tennis ball, swimming, paddling a surfboard
Probable problem: Rotator cuff injury. Your “cuff” is a group of muscles and tendons that connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade and help hold the bone in the shoulder socket. If you irritate or tear the rotator cuff area through overuse, pain may radiate down your arm. Women often experience this problem because of poorly designed, unbalanced exercise programs that don’t adequately strengthen the shoulders, arms, chest and upper back, says Hannafin.