Whether you are just starting an exercise program or are an elite athlete, exercise has a small downside: people who exercise sometimes injure themselves.  Many exercise related injuries are preventable, most are mild, and the majority will respond to treatment at home.  Below are the most common types of injuries and the important differences among them.  But it never hurts to see your physician to make sure your ailment isn’t more serious than you think.

Sprains are injuries to ligaments.  In first-degree sprains, the ligament is stretched; in second-degree sprains, some fibers are torn; in third-degree sprains, most or all of the fibers are torn.

Strains are injuries to muscles or tendons. A strain is also known as a pulled muscle.

Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, often caused by overuse or poor body mechanics. Pain is the major symptom, but warmth, swelling and redness may also occur.

Muscle cramps and spasms are strong and sustained muscle contractions.  Gentle stretching will help relieve cramps; hydration and good conditioning help prevent them.

To help handle your injuries, remember R.I.C.E.

  • Rest.  Injured tissues need time to heal
  • Ice.  Ice is an excellent anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and pain. Apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes after an injury.  Repeat each hour for the first four hours, then four times a day for the next two to three days.
  • Compression.  Pressure will help reduce swelling and inflammation. In most cases, a simple elastic bandage will suffice.
  • Elevation.Elevating an injured leg or arm drains fluid away from injured tissue and reduces swelling, inflammation and pain.

Source: American Fitness May 2010.