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7 Tips to Stop Swelling Pain from Workouts

Swelling and pain can be a real problem during workouts, especially when you’re taking on a new fitness plan. In an effort to stop swelling pain from workouts, and to keep people on track for their fitness goals, we’ve worked with our physical therapists to come up with these tips for your workout woes.

“Itis” season – which hits approximately four to six weeks into the new year – is here. That time when the ambition and well-intentioned end up with a common “itis” (tendonitis, bursitis, fasciitis) that threatens to sideline their New Year’s fitness goals.

According to a recent poll of those who made 2020 resolutions, 50% vowed to exercise more, often signing up for new gym memberships, classes, or local races.

Here are the facts

Local physical therapy clinics see an influx of patients about four to six weeks into a new fitness regime, whether it’s folks training for their first 5K (or marathon), hitting the bootcamp circuit too hard, or just dialing up the daily exercise routine.

“We are now seeing folks who have gone too hard, too fast, and don’t give themselves proper recovery time. Misuse or overuse are common pitfalls that result in ‘itis’ aches and pains. We don’t want those folks to just give up on their fitness goals; we want them to stay active, but we want them to do it safely, so they don’t injure themselves further. It’s vital to stop swelling pain from workouts as soon as it starts, otherwise the condition is likely to get worse over time.”

Devin Vassella, Clinic Director & Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy Central

Top five “itis” aches and pains

  1. Achilles (heel) tendonitis – common for those who try to go from “couch to 5K” too quickly
  2. Patella (knee) tendonitis – affects those who do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and runners with IT band issues
  3. Hip bursitis – likely to cause pain in couch-to-5K-ers and runners with IT band issues
  4. Rotator cuff/bicep tendonitis – most common in lifters (CrossFit, F45, bootcamp)
  5. Lower back pain – while lower back pain is not technically an “itis,” it is one of the most common types of pain experienced by Americans, lifters and cyclists are most susceptible to this condition

Home treatment options for common “itis” aches and pains

  • Heel pain – Light calf stretches are the key for treating heel pain. Using a foam roller on the calf muscle can provide instantaneous relief for pain or soreness, while icing the area by placing the injured foot in a bucket of ice can lessen future pains.
  • Knee pain – Quad stretches are great for alleviating knee pain. Using a foam roller on your IT band (outer area of the thigh) and quadriceps should provide some relief for pain in this area.
  • Hip pain – Bend the knee that is experiencing pain towards the opposite shoulder in a gentle stretching motion. Known as the piriformis stretch (see below), this will ease the tension in your knee that may be causing pains or strains. Icing your hip can also be an effective method for pain relief.
  • Rotator cuff pain – Apply ice to the shoulder and stop overhead activities such as reaching or climbing. Upper trap and doorframe stretching (pictured below) can provide relief to rotator cuff pain.
  • Low back pain – Low back pain can be relieved by performing hip flexor, hamstring, and piriformis stretches.

If you’re unable to find relief within two days, a time frame suggested by doctors due to the quick increase in severity caused by physical injury, you should see a physical therapist for an evaluation. Physical therapists are experts who are trained in methods to stop swelling pain from workouts and get you back to your routine.

“Physical therapists will not only find the source of your pain, but tell you why it’s hurting, then target specific areas for healing and help you find ways to modify activities and return you to your routine as quickly as possible.”

Devin Vassella, Clinic Director & Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy Central

7 tips to avoid “itis” aches and pains

  1. Invest in proper footwear, especially if you’ll primarily be participating in cardio-related activities. Something as simple as a well-fitting shoe can be the difference between a healthy athlete and an injury or accident.
  2. Improve tissue elasticity and prevent injury with a light warm-up. Failing to warm up means that your muscles start “cold” when you begin your exercise, making you more prone to strain or injury.
  3. Start slowly when you’re taking on a new fitness plan – trying to jump in too quickly can be disheartening and cause you to abandon the plan, or even cause injury as your body isn’t used to the movements and strain cause by the exercises(s). Ideally, you should start with two to three times a week and increase the frequency of exercise on a monthly basis.
  4. Allow time to recover after workouts – this means taking days off so your body can recover! Using time off wisely stops swelling pain from workouts and lets your muscles bounce back from hard days in the gym.
  5. Ice and a foam roller are some of the best tools in your arsenal for pain relief – make sure to utilize them often for post-workout recovery.
  6. Cross-train with different activities; too much focus on one area can leave other parts of the body weak or even cause injury.
  7. Make sure your diet matches your training! If you’re heavily working out, you need calories to recover. Dieting can be a positive lifestyle change, but drastic changes or under-eating can seriously damage your exercise efforts.

Let’s get physical!

Now that you can prevent pain, let’s work on dealing with the pain that already exists. The stretches below correspond with several of the “itis” pains described earlier and are great ways to work on relieving your pain from the comfort of your own home, the gym, or even in the office.

Seated Upper Trapezius Stretch

Seated trap stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin seated upright with one hand anchoring and place your other hand on top of your head, fingertips grazing your opposite ear. Slowly tilt your head toward your shoulder, away from your anchoring arm, rotate your chin up toward the ceiling, and hold. Apply pressure with your hand to feel the stretch, as needed.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Seated Figure 4 Piriformis Stretch

Seated piriformis stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start in a seated position. Cross one leg over so it is resting on the opposite knee. Apply gentle pressure to the knee as you lean forward, increasing the depth of the stretch, and hold.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Supine Piriformis Stretch with Hands

Supine piriformis stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin lying on back, one foot on the floor and the other foot bent on top of the opposite knee. Deepen the stretch by gently pulling your top knee in toward your body and hold.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Hip Flexor Stretch with Chair

Hip flexor stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin standing about 2-3 feet away from the chair, with your hands on your hips. Place one foot on the chair in front of you, slowly bending the front knee until it is directly over your toes and you feel a stretch in the front of your rear leg. Hold for the required amount of time. This stretch is a great tool to stop swelling pain from workouts, especially when the pain is concentrated in your hips.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Half hip flexor stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin in a half-kneeling position, with your front knee in line with your toes. Shift forward, keeping your knee above your toes, while your hand remains on your knee. Return to your starting position and then repeat to stop swelling pain from workouts in your knees.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 2 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Prone Quad Stretch with Strap

Quad stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin on your stomach with a strap around the part of the foot that is near your ankle. Pull on the strap, bending your knee, until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh, and hold. Make sure your thigh remains on the ground or surface you are lying on.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

1x per day

Standing Gastroc Stretch

Standing gastroc stretch

Begin in split stance, keeping your hands on the back of the chair. Move your back leg backwards until you feel a gentle stretch in your calf, and hold. This should help stop pain from workouts, especially in your lower leg and lower back.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

90/90 Hamstring Stretch

90 degree stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin on your back with one leg straight and the opposite hip and knee bent. Hold the back of your bent leg below the knee. Slowly straighten the leg until you feel a stretch, and hold.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Standing Hamstring Stretch

Standing hamstring stretch

Put your leg up onto an elevated surface such as a table, bed, or sofa. Lean your chest forward toward your knee. As you pull your hips back, you’ll feel this stretch through your hips and the hamstring muscle.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 3 times

Frequency: 1x per day

Doorway Pec Stretch with Forward Step at 90 Degrees Abduction

Standing doorway stretch, a stretch that stops swelling pain from workouts

Begin in a doorway with your elbow and shoulder angled at 90 degrees, allowing your forearm to rest on the doorframe. Keeping your arm in this position, step forward, feeling a stretch in your chest, and hold.

Hold: 30 seconds

Repeat: 1 time

Frequency: 1x per day

If you still have problems with pain or swelling after a day or two of following these stretches, there may be a larger problem causing your pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our expert physical therapists and get to the root of your pain.

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