7 Workout Injury Myths That Will Wreck Your Health

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Tell someone you’re recovering from a workout injury and chances are they’ll have advice for you. But how do you tell what’s really going to help you heal and what’s just their opinion or experience? Every body and every injury is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are some things that are universal. So if you’re a fitness enthusiast, do yourself a favor: Don’t fall for one of these common injury myths.

1

All you need to heal is physical therapy.

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While physical therapy is a critical component in many recovery plans, it’s not a simple or standalone solution. Lots of people come to physical therapy and expect to get “fixed,” says Doug Kechijian, a physical therapist at Resilient Performance Physical Therapy. In reality, a physical therapist can only do so much. The rest is up to you. Your physical therapist can use hands-on techniques to ease pain and offer recommendations to help resolve any form mistakes or weaknesses that may have led to your injury, but your recovery depends on how well you incorporate those recommendations into your daily life. So if your physical therapist gives you “homework,” do it!

Listen now: How to Calm Down in Under 3 Minutes

2

You should always stretch before a workout.

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Doing static stretches before your workout used to be considered essential for preventing injury. However, static stretching not only fails to prepare your body for your workout, it can actually hurt your performance. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that static stretching before a workout led to reduced lower-body strength. You’re better off doing a functional warmup, says Tineile Heiler, senior group training coordinator for Life Time Athletic. It’ll not only get your heart pumping but, more important, it’ll prep your joints and ligaments for the demands to come. For example, if you’re preparing for heavy dumbbell thrusters, perform several reps of a hand-release push-up to get the joints in your wrists and shoulders ready to support the heavy weight.

Read more: 8 Stretching Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Workout

3

If you injure your back, lie down.

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Next time you feel a twinge in your back after a training session, whatever you do, don’t camp out in bed. When you lie down, you essentially turn off your abdominals, the muscles that work to keep your trunk upright and stable. Without the support of your abdominal muscles, your back ends up taking on more of the burden. And if your back is already struggling? “Without the help of the abdominals, the back pain just keeps getting worse and worse,” says Alice Holland, physical therapist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy. If the back pain isn’t intense enough to keep you immobile, get moving. This could mean taking an easy walk or jog. Be sure to modify the intensity according to your comfort and ability. And if the pain persists or worsens, consult your doctor or physical therapist.

4

A knee brace gives you superpowers.

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Many people with pre-existing knee injuries or weaknesses believe that wearing a knee brace during their workouts is enough to protect against further damage. They’ll go on with their workouts as though nothing is wrong when, in reality, a brace offers little but a false sense of security. Physical therapist Alice Holland compares bracing to a scaffold over a building: “It might help if some rocks are being thrown at the building, but it’s not going to prevent the building from collapsing,” she says. Instead of relying on a brace, practice caution when you exercise. Save bracing for your recovery toolkit, as it can help ease pain and joint instability.

Read more: 9 Exercises That Can Hurt Your Knees (And How to Modify Them)

5

Take a day completely “off” to rest and recover.

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When you wake up sore the day after a hard workout session — a phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — it’s tempting to give yourself a free pass to lie on the couch all day. But while rest days are critical for giving your muscles a chance to recover after an intense bout, don’t take “rest” to mean “do nothing.” Inactivity is only going to slow your recovery, leaving you feeling sore for longer, says fitness expert Tineile Heiler. Prolonged DOMS can also lead you to compensate in other areas, ultimately causing muscle imbalances and potential injury. For a smoother recovery, take an active rest day: Go for a long walk or light jog, do a yoga class or use a foam roller on your muscles to lessen the buildup of lactic acid.

6

The right shoes will prevent injuries.

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Exercise enthusiasts — runners in particular — often assume their shoes will protect them against injury. But while good running shoes offer support, protect against the elements and prevent some types of injuries, they won’t disguise any pre-existing weaknesses. Going out and replacing your shoes won’t solve the whole problem if you experience pain while working out. “It’s not really the shoe that hurts the athlete,” physical therapist Alice Holland says. “It’s the athlete’s lack of conditioning in those shoes that is the cause of injury.” So incorporate strength training and mobility work into your routine. And find the right shoes to fit your size, running form and preferences by visiting a running store to get a gait analysis.

Read more: How to Choose the Perfect Running Shoe

7

If you’re not in pain, you’re good to go.

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It’s a familiar scenario: You get injured, work with a physical therapist and then resume your regular workout routine the moment the pain disappears. But a short while later the injury repeats itself. According to physical therapist Alice Holland, it’s not uncommon for athletes, especially those recovering from surgery, to jump back into their sport before allowing their bodies enough time to regain their strength and conditioning. Your tissues may be healed, but your muscles need time to rebuild in order to support high-intensity activity. Just as you shouldn’t go from couch potato to ultramarathoner without first nailing a 5K, you shouldn’t expect to pick up where you left off prior to your injury without first rebuilding a strong foundation.

What Do YOU Think?

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Have you ever gotten injured during a workout? Or did you have an unrelated injury that sidelined your workouts? Did you need physical therapy? How did you recover? Have you ever heard any of these myths? Are there other myths related to workout injuries that you’ve heard? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Read more: 10 Common Workout Injuries and How to Avoid Them

11 Myths About Running Debunked

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Overview

Tell someone you’re recovering from a workout injury and chances are they’ll have advice for you. But how do you tell what’s really going to help you heal and what’s just their opinion or experience? Every body and every injury is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are some things that are universal. So if you’re a fitness enthusiast, do yourself a favor: Don’t fall for one of these common injury myths.

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