New Year’s Resolution: Avoiding Orthopedic Injuries in the Gym

As New Years passes, millions of people will resolve to get back in shape and back to the gym.   In an effort to lose holiday weight as fast as possible many people will engage in extended cardio and heavy weightlifting without proper strengthening and conditioning. Unfortunately, gyms are not the only who will get busier this time of year as over 450,000 people per year are injured while at the gym and may need to see an orthopedic physician. Most of these orthopedic injuries are related to the bones and joints and are the result of a lack of conditioning, overexertion and the use of improper technique.

It is important to understand your personal fitness level and avoid exercises and workouts that can lead to orthopedic injuries. This is especially important for those over the age of 40 as they are often at higher risk of injuries. If you have spent an extended period of time away from the gym it may be a good idea to work with a fitness professional to design an appropriate exercise regimen.

Shoulder Injuries: Overhead Press

One of the most common shoulder strengthening exercise is the overhead press, typically done with dumbbells or seated on a machine. This exercise can injure the rotator cuff tendons by excessive tensile strain on the tendons as well as by impingement of the tendon on the acromion (the bone at the top of the shoulder).  For those who feel the shoulder press is a necessary part of their routine, keeping your arm externally rotated by having your palms face each other can help prevent impingement. If shoulder pain occurs at any time while exercising, stopping the exercise and icing the shoulder may prevent inflammation and the subsequent pain caused by this.

Better shoulder strengthening exercises are exercises that are below shoulder level, which avoids impingement. Front and side raises can be done keeping maximal elevation of the arm to the height of the shoulder, which can help prevent impingement and injury.

 Knee Injuries: Weighted Lunges

This exercise has become a mainstay for those looking to strengthen and tone the Quadriceps, Glutes, and Hamstrings. Taking this exercise to the next level by performing lunges with weights in your hands may seem like a good idea, but it can often cause injury to the knee. This added weight places a significant force across the patella (kneecap), which may result in damage and inflammation to the cartilage behind the patella. This may make it difficult to kneel, get out of a chair or go down stairs. If you experience pain anywhere around the knee, stopping immediately and icing the knee, may prevent this inflammation (Patella-Femoral Pain) from occurring.

Back Injuries: Sit-ups and Crunches

Most of us have been told that sit-ups and crunches can burn belly fat. However, what most do not know is that they are some of the most harmful exercises for your spine. Sit-ups and crunches force you to round your back and bend forward at the waist which creates a tremendous amount of flexion in the spine. This motion causes the equivalent of over 650lbs of force on the lumbar spine each time the back is raised.  Many people will do hundreds of sit-ups or crunches per workout and this amount of repetitive force is a recipe for spine injuries, such as a herniated disc.

To strengthen the core, the isolated plank is a much better exercise for the abdominals, as it puts almost no strain on the spine.

The physicians at Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine focus on both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of bone and joint injuries and are one of the most innovative orthopedic practices in the area.  Dr. Charles Ruotolo, President of Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, has published several peer-reviewed studies on orthopedic care and orthopedic surgery.

Fortunately, many patients can be treated non-surgically with a combination of conservative modalities coordinated by the Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team. If surgery is necessary, the practice uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a treatment plan that focuses on the patient’s lifestyle and activities and helps them get back to those activities quickly and effectively.  Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine has locations throughout Long Island and Manhattan.