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When Is It OK to Exercise With an Injury?

Injured? When to Pop an Advil and When to Take a Break

We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!

The truth hurts. And so did my knee the other day while I was running. I can admit that to myself (and all of you!) now, despite my initial panic about pausing my exercise regimen and falling out of shape right before a beach holiday.

I wondered: Would I have to stop working out altogether? Or could I just take it easy and keep going?

Then I stopped wondering and called women's sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist, Nadya Swedan, MD to get some expert advice. Here, she shares the top four most frequent injuries she sees, how to avoid them in the first place and how to adjust a workout accordingly.

Reveals Dr. Swedan, "The most common injuries I see are ankle sprains and then knee, shoulder and back problems." The expert is quick to remind me that if any injury persists for more than five days, it's essential to get to a doctor. That said, unless the problem is extremely severe, exercise doesn't have to come to a screeching halt. It just needs to be considered carefully.


Find out more about Dr. Swedan's recommendations for exercising with an injury after the break.

Here's what Dr. Swedan advises for all those injured (or injury-fearing) folks out there:

  1. Ankle Sprain
    The Cause: These frequently occur during court sports like tennis and basketball or aerobic exercise classes like Zumba.
    Preventative Measures: Working on balance is the most important thing you can do to prevent an ankle sprain: Take yoga, workout on a wobble board, or even practice standing on one leg.
    What You Can Do: Ice and rest your ankle. Still, riding a stationary bike that keeps your ankle stable should be okay with a brace. Pilates is still fine, if you're careful about not putting excess pressure on that leg. Of course, upper body and lower body weight training is perfectly fine.
  2. Knee Injuries
    The Cause: Knee injuries are very common with skiers, runners, and kick-boxers (big time!).
    Preventative Measures: Keep your quads and hamstrings strong. Also, Pilates is really good for preventing knee injuries — it's very much about building muscles and improving balance.
    What You Can Do: Usually elliptical and bike exercises are okay. For knee injuries, you really need to see a doctor, as they can be serious. But do ice it and take an anti-inflammatory like Advil.
  3. Shoulder Injuries
    The Cause: Shoulder injuries can occur during swimming, weight lifting, beach volleyball and, surprisingly, even yoga sometimes.
    Preventative Measures: Using very light weights or exercise bands, keep your rotator cuff well-oiled. Also, when you do lifting or throwing activities, watch the position, keeping your arms in front of your body.
    What You Can Do: You're able to do all kinds of lower body exercises like running, elliptical, cycling, and squats, etc.
  4. Back Injuries
    The Cause: Back injuries often happen as a result of weight training exercises like deadlifts, as well as kettlebells and rowing.
    Preventative Measures: Keep a really strong core and flexible hamstrings — stretch both!
    What You Can Do: Swimming is great for back injuries because the buoyancy and the position while floating can make the back feel better.

    Most importantly, always remember that lesson learned — probably from a local fire chief — way back in pre-school: safety first.

    More info on Dr. Nadya Swedan.

    Related Links:

    Plank: The Ultimate Ab Sculptor
    Lose 8 Pounds and Win $1,000 to!
    Need A New Workout? Use SELF's Workout Finder!
    For daily fitness tips follow SELF on Facebook and Twitter.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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