Many weightlifting injuries that people suffer result from overuse, or doing too much without enough rest. On the other hand, traumatic injuries like tendon ruptures can occur, especially among inexperienced weightlifters who use poor form. This article reviews some overuse and traumatic weightlifting injuries that can occur from lifting weights. I also share some thoughts on how you might avoid them.
Distal biceps rupture of the elbow
This is a rupture of the biceps tendon that attaches the biceps muscle in the arm to the radius (a bone of the upper forearm). A weightlifter can rupture this tendon at the elbow with a sudden force that extends the elbow while trying to contract the biceps. Performing a biceps curl and the losing control of the weight is an example. Most active people need surgery to prevent long-term weakness.
Try to choose a weight that you can lift and control.
Distal biceps tendon rupture
Pectoral muscle or tendon injury
The pectoral muscles are the large muscles of the chest. Exercises such as the bench press and dumbbell flys use these muscles. A traumatic force on the muscle can rupture its tendon off the bone in the upper arm or within the muscle belly. The tear can result from dropping the weight suddenly while trying to lift it. Swelling and bruising often develops quickly in the chest and upper arm. Treatment depends on exactly where the damage occurs, but orthopedic surgeons often repair tendon ruptures surgically.
Always have a spotter present, and use an amount of weight you can control.
Lower back muscle strain
A strain of the muscles of the lumbar spine can occur from using improper technique with exercises or picking up or putting down weights awkwardly. Fortunately most lower back muscle strains don’t require surgery. Rest and activity modification are often sufficient.
Always use proper lifting techniques.
Shoulder labral tear
The labrum is a cartilage bumper in the shoulder that surrounds the glenoid (socket). With repetitive compression of the labrum or possibly an acute motion that injures the shoulder, the weightlifter can feel discomfort or a clicking sensation deep within the shoulder. An orthopedic surgeon can often perform physical exam tests that suggest a labral tear. An MR arthrogram (MRI with contrast injected) can demonstrate a tear. Surgery is often required to treat a shoulder labral tear if it limits activity and the pain doesn’t resolve with activity modification or physical therapy.
Use proper technique, and get any shoulder pain evaluated early if it is not improving.
Superior Labral (SLAP) Tears
Shoulder impingement is more chronic shoulder pain in a weightlifter rather than an acute injury. Pain with overhead motion, holding weights out away from the body, or reaching behind the back are commonly present. Temporarily avoiding exercises that cause pain can help the problem. Working with a physical therapist to improve shoulder mechanics and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder can often speed recovery.
Consider seeing an orthopedic surgeon or a physical therapist when this problem develops. Starting a treatment program can often accelerate return to overhead lifting.
Quadriceps or hamstring muscle strain
Acute strains of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles from squats, leg presses, lunges and other lower extremity exercises can occur. Most heal without surgery and require only rest and short-term exercise modification.
Use proper exercise techniques, and choose an appropriate amount of weight can help prevent injuries.
Patellar or quadriceps tendinitis
These are also more chronic issues with the tendons around the knee than acute injuries of those tendons. Pain in the tendons above or below the kneecap with lower extremity exercises can develop and worsen over time. Often short-term avoidance of exercises that reproduce the pain, taking anti-inflammatories, and using ice can resolve the problem.
Many of these injuries can be prevented by using proper technique. Also, rest and short-term activity modification can often prevent a minor pain from turning into a more serious injury, like a tendon rupture. If any muscle, bone or joint pain continues to limit a person’s ability to work out the way he wants, he should consider seeing an orthopedic surgeon to find out the diagnosis and learn possible treatments.
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