Since you are now exercising, it is unfortunate to say you will one day probably suffer an athletic injury. This fact should NOT dissuade you from exercising. Some aches and pains along the way do not lessen the value of exercise in reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. These are little bumps along the road.
If you decide to power walk or jog, one of the most common injuries seen in an emergency room or doctor’s office is the sprained ankle. Most sprained ankles are easily treated and do not require a visit to the emergency room. If you can walk on the ankle, chances are that it is not broken and if by some small chance it is broken, it would not be a clinically significant injury that would require a change in treatment. Likewise if there is not much bruising it is probably not broken.
A sprained ankle will hurt and will swell, sometimes to a very impressive amount. Most sprains occur from inversion injuries. In other words, the ankle turns in and the outside of the ankle hurts and swells. If the ankle turns out and injures the inside of the ankle you are dealing with a more serious injury that will take longer to heal. A common inversion injury to the ankle is treated with RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Stay off of the ankle for several days, use a crutch if you need to get around, put ice on it for 15 minute intervals several times a day, use an ace bandage to wrap it and then elevate the foot. After several days when the pain is down, you should start doing some exercises, such as making the letters of the alphabet with your foot to increase range of motion, then advancing to walking on your toes and then your heels for strength, then working on balance by standing on one foot. Once you can move pain free you can start power walking or jogging in a straight line. Once you can do that totally pain free, if you are athletic, you can do cuts, turns, stops and starts.
You do need to see your doctor if you cannot walk on the ankle, there is significant bruising in the ankle or foot, if there is pain on the outside of your foot below the ankle, or if the inside of your ankle is the part injured.
Knee pain is very common among runners. If you feel like you injured your knee, such as a fall, twisting injury with a pop or snap, and if the knee is swollen, see your doctor. If your knee stiffens up or is achy after a jog or power walk, try icing it up, and try either Tylenol or a NSAIA like Advil or Aleve if you can take them. If the pain continues then you should see your doctor. Consider the surface you run/walk on and the age/quality of the shoes you are using.
If you lift weights, chances are you may develop a lateral epicondylitis from lifting. This is an ache in the elbow, often called tennis elbow. The ache occurs in the outside portion of the elbow (the thumb side if your arm is out straight palm up). Initial treatment for this is ice, NSAIA like Advil or Aleve if you can take them, and rest, with a decrease in the amount of weight you are lifting. You may also want to check with an athletic trainer to make sure you are lifting properly, because improper lifting technique is a major cause of this. An elastic forearm band that can be bought at any pharmacy also is helpful. If this does not get better in 2-3 weeks, see your doctor.
These three injuries, along with back pain, which was discussed last month, probably constitute 90% of the injuries sustained by exercisers/weekend warriors. To discuss issues like shoulder pain is beyond the scope of this article. Most cases of shoulder pain needs to be evaluated by your doctor.
Take care, make sure you have good running/walking shoes, and lift with proper technique. Happy exercising.