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Preventing Common Exercise Injuries

While it may not be possible to prevent every type of injury, there are definitely things you can do to strengthen and protect your body. Check out these tips for preventing injury through exercises, supplements and even foods.
In today's busy, always-moving world, fitting regular exercise into your lifestyle can be difficult, but it's something that is essential in maintaining excellent health. One thing that can really throw your workouts off-kilter is when you are struggling with an injury caused by improper form, insufficient stretching or some other factor that could have made the problem preventable. While not all injuries can be avoided, there are steps you can take to strengthen and nourish your body in order to combat injury. Here are some ways to discourage common workout injuries from sidelining you. 

Pulled Muscles

A pulled muscle, or one that is strained, can cause so much pain that you'd rather just nix your workout all together. Muscle strains often occur because of overexertion, failing to properly warm up before diving into an intense exercise, improper form or bad flexibility. Any time you land a move awkwardly or slack in form when lifting, for example, it can cause a muscle strain. Effectively stretching and warming up your muscles before working out helps your body to become acclimated instead of heading straight into an exercise with stiff, inflexible muscles. It's also critical to take notice of your body's limits so you don't push any boundaries that may cause injury. If you're new to working out, it's pretty much a given that you won't be able to perform every workout with efficiency, proper form and perfection right off the bat, so you shouldn't expect to be the exception. It's best to ease yourself into a new workout routine, starting slowly and gradually making your way to full intensity in order to stop yourself from getting hurt and setting you back even further.

Sprained Ankles

Often occurring in exercises and sports requiring fast footwork, like basketball and soccer for example, sprained ankles can be extremely painful and sometimes have lengthy recovery periods. Sprained ankles happen when your ankle twists or rolls in an unnatural position, typically outward and inward, and the ligaments in your ankle joint tear. You can also sprain your ankle from jumping and landing awkwardly or quickly, abruptly altering the direction in which you are running and therefore causing your ankle to twist. One effective way of preventing ankle sprains is by practicing balance exercises and stability training, which can help you to be conscious of safe, proper foot and ankle movement in sports and exercises. In addition, wearing ankle braces or taping the ankles can provide stability and protection against sprains. It's not a good idea to tackle a new sport or exercise at maximum intensity without first preparing and conditioning, as performing new body and muscle movements for the first time can cause problems.

Runner's Knee

That pain you feel under your kneecap after running? It's likely runner's knee. This injury happens when you overuse or fatigue your quad muscles and end up misaligning your kneecap, according to Dr. Alvin Loosli, a former physician for the U.S. Olympic swim team. When your quads are not strong, this can cause you to place too much pressure on your kneecap, contributing to causing pain and irritation. Several studies demonstrate that those who have weak quads and hamstrings, stiff knees and flat feet are more susceptible to developing runner's knee. Ways to prevent runner's knee include strengthening your quads and knees through exercises like biking and squats, both of which can help keep your muscles flexible and discourage kneecap misalignment and irritation.

Back Injury

Pain in your lower back is a common, widespread ailment that can occur for a variety of reasons. Often, bad posture, shoulder-hunching and curving your spine are things that can spur back pain. During yoga or pilates exercises, for example, it's crucial to maintain a straight spine, steering clear of curving your neck or back. Core-strengthening exercises can also help prevent lower back injury. When you're doing a plank, make sure your belly is not protruding and concentrate on pulling it toward the ceiling--flat, straight and not arched. In addition, an exercise like a sit-up can also provide strengthening support for your core muscles and prevent your back from overextending, causing pain.

Foods and Supplement to Help Reduce Symptoms of Injury

While there are definitely strengthening and conditioning exercises that can contribute to injury prevention, foods and supplements can also play a part in reducing symptoms of injury. Supplements with anti-inflammatory properties can aid with reducing pain caused by inflammation. Specific types of vitamins that fight inflammation and can be beneficial are vitamins A, B6,C and D, along with a formula named Zyflamend. According to Russell H. Greenfield, M.D., the supplement Zyflamend is effective at improving back pain and inflamed muscles. It contains a blend of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs and phytonutrients that contribute to a healthy inflammatory response; because it can cause blood thinning, it's not recommended that you take Zyflamend if you are already on blood thinners. Vegetables and fruits like sweet potatoes, cherries, raisins, kale and walnuts can all contribute to reducing inflammation associated with sore muscles, and many of them can provide defense against free radical damage with their antioxidant effects. 
If you follow these steps and still end up incurring an injury, there are specific ways you should go about the recovery process. For most of the injuries listed in this article, the RICE technique can be used: rest, ice, compression and elevate. With most injuries, it's recommended to cut some slack on using that specific muscle or body part. For example, sprained ankles will typically get worse if you continue to run on and exert them. It's best to rest the injured ankle, ice it, compress it with a bandage and keep it elevated to reduce swelling. In other words, if you try to just “shake off” an injury, it's likely that you'll exacerbate it and make recovery even longer and more painful. However, you don't want to completely stop using the muscle. Easy, gentle stretching can help keep the injured body part or muscle from becoming too weak. Remember that if you do get injured, it's advisable to first visit your doctor to rule out any severe damage before using the RICE method and self-treating.
Check out eVitamins for a variety of healthy living products, and come back tomorrow for more health tips!
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