Prevent 3 Common Gym Injuries

April 8, 2013
ice on knee

Whether it’s running one more mile, eking out one more bench press, or spinning an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical, we all try to push our workouts in hopes of getting in shape. Like everything else in life, however, you can do too much of a good thing. If you work out too hard for too long, you could end up with overuse injuries. To help you work out smarter and safer, we asked physical therapists the most common injuries they see in average gym-goers. Here’s their top three.


1. Injury: Patellofemoral Syndrome
“We frequently see people come in with knee problems, particularly patellofemoral syndrome (PFPS), usually due to muscle imbalances in the leg,” says physical therapist Mary Ann Wilmarth, chief of physical therapy at Harvard University and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. PFPS, also known as “runner’s knee,” occurs when the kneecap irritates the femoral groove where it rests on the thighbone. This injury happens a lot when people first start running on the treadmill, or start biking but don’t have their seat at the right height, or even just do too much on the elliptical, she explains. 

Prevent: To prevent knee pain, you need to get your muscles in balance, or equally flexible on either side, through strength training, says Wilmarth. Focus on improving strength in hips (especially the rotators) and leg muscles, specifically quads, hamstrings, and inner and outer thighs. Click here for 4 Exercises for Pain-free Knees. Also, work on flexibility through stretching (like hamstring stretches) and foam rolling. No time to strength train? Make time. If you get injured, your recovery will depend on it—and it’ll be a lot more painful than if you’d just done it from the beginning, Wilmarth says. 

More: Tips on how to treat patellofemoral syndrome.

2. Injury: Iliotibial Band Syndrome
“A similar type of injury we see often is iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, which is common in runners,” says Wilmarth. The IT band is a fibrous tissue on the outside of your thigh that stabilizes your knees and hips. If your hips and knees twist too much, the IT band rubs part of your thigh bone causing pain on the outside of the knee. 

Prevent: Avoid a tight IT band with lots of stretching and foam rolling, suggests Wilmarth. A great foam rolling exercise for this is the Iliotibial-Band Roll. Click here for more foam rolling exercises.

Related: Prevent 5 Common Running Injuries

3. Injury: Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis causes pain on the bottom of your foot, especially in the morning, explains Wilmarth. “This is common for people who sit all day, then do a hard workout, and then sit again afterward,” she says. “It causes their hamstrings to get tight.”

Prevent: Always stretch hamstrings and calf muscles. Try the foam roller calf roll and the bent-leg calf stretch. Another good option is to roll the bottom of your foot on a tennis ball, suggests Wilmarth. You can also do ankle pumps, where you move your ankle like you’re pumping a gas pedal, she says. Do this first thing in the morning before you stand up, and during the day when you’ve been sitting for awhile. And always remember to wear good footwear that offers enough support.

Related: How to Stretch Your Calf Muscles

More from Fitbie: 

The Best Injury-Prevention Workout You’re Not Doing