By Laura Williams
Ending your workout with an, “Oh, ow!” is no one’s idea of a good time. Serious injuries don’t just leave you sore and hurt, they also sideline you from your routine and slow down your progress in the gym.
Of course, the best approach to dealing with exercise-related injuries is to prevent them in the first place, but hindsight is always 20/20. Despite your best intentions, if you find yourself in serious pain after a workout, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention — the last thing you need is to make an injury worse by incorrectly treating it at home.
If your pain is low to moderate, and there are no obvious deformities, use these tips to start self-treatment at home.
Running on uneven surfaces or playing recreational sports often provide “opportunities” for twisted or sprained ankles. When you step on a rock or another player’s foot, your ankle may invert (turn inward) or evert (turn outward), resulting in a ligament stretch or tear.
Ankle sprains can be mild or severe, and some are hard to differentiate from a fracture. If you experience significant swelling or deformity, or if you can’t bear weight on your foot, hightail it to a doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.
That said, if you can bear weight and the pain is moderate, start by implementing the RICE approach (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation):
Stop your regular workout routine and take it easy for a few days to give your ankle time to heal. You can sub in exercises that don’t specifically place weight or pressure on your ankle, such as deep water jogging (if it feels comfortable). After a few days, start testing the waters with low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, or yoga.
Applying ice during the first 48-hours after an injury is a good way to help reduce swelling. Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies, wrap it with a thin towel, and apply for roughly 20 minutes to your ankle. Take a break, and repeat periodically.
Compression can also reduce swelling and keep your ankle immobilized, reducing the likelihood of further injury. Try wrapping your ankle with a tensor bandage.
While seated or lying down, elevate your ankle so that it’s above hip-height. This, likewise, reduces the effects of swelling.
Prevent Future Sprains
One of the best ways to prevent sprains is to actively work on strengthening the small, stabilizing muscles of your ankle. Incorporate unilateral lower-body exercises, such as lunges, or single-leg dead lifts into your routine, and consider incorporating balance training on a regular basis.
Try standing on one leg on a balance disc or BOSU ball for 10 seconds at a time, working your way up to 30-second repetitions. Perform a total of three to five sets per leg.
Hamstring pulls can affect athletes of all types, from sprinters to football players to weight lifters.
There are a number of factors that contribute to hamstring injuries, but a major factor is the combination of muscle tightness through the hamstrings and an imbalance between the strength of the quadriceps and hamstrings.
Like ankle sprains, when hamstring pulls occur, the resulting injury can be mild, moderate, or severe. If you’re able to walk around after you feel a “twinge,” your best course of action is to follow the same RICE method used with ankle sprains.
Prevent Future Pulls
Correcting muscular imbalances through strengthening and stretching exercises is an excellent way to prevent hamstring pulls.
For instance, make sure you’re incorporating hamstring- and glute-specific exercises into your leg routine, including dead lifts, glute bridges, hip thrusts, and hamstring curls. Before your regular routine, warm up and use a foam roller or massage stick to roll out your muscles to help prep them for work. After your routine, take the time to stretch your entire lower body, including your hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and quads.
While hamstring pulls are typically due to shortened or “tight” muscles, they’re often shortened or tight because of weakness or immobility through the glutes and hips, By approaching your prevention plan with a holistic approach, you’re more likely to avoid future injury.
Blisters and Chafing
Blisters and chafing are both attributed to the same cause: good ol’ friction.
Blisters are more common when skin rubs against a sock or a piece of equipment, like a barbell, while chafing often occurs when skin on skin rubs repeatedly against each other, or an item of clothing.
Luckily, most chafing and blisters aren’t serious, and aside from being painful, they’re easily treated at home. That said, if ignored, they can become infected, so do take the time to manage them correctly.
You’ll usually feel a blister developing as a “hot spot,” or an area of skin that feels warm and mildly uncomfortable to the touch.
The best course of action is to catch the blister at this stage to prevent it from becoming a full-fledged, fluid-filled monster. You can do so by stopping the activity you’re performing to apply a bandage to the spot to prevent additional rubbing.
- If the rubbing continues and separates the top layer of skin from the bottom layer of skin, fluid will fill the space, creating a sensitive “bubble.” As tempting as it may be to pop these bubbles, don’t! The blister’s skin helps protect it from infection, so it’s important to keep it clean, dry, and covered. A low-friction bandage may be all that’s required to self-treat a small blister.
- If the skin of the blister tears away, the most important thing is to keep the skin clean to help prevent infection. Wash the area with soapy water, leave the flap of skin intact and over the injured area, then apply petroleum jelly and a bandage over the blister to “seal it” as it heals.
Avoid the activity you were doing to cause the blister to form to limit further irritation. If you have a very large or painful blister, or if your blister shows any signs of infection, you may need to seek treatment from a medical professional.
Treatment for chafing is very similar to that of blisters. You should clean the affected area, apply petroleum jelly to prevent additional rubbing from taking place, and give the area time to heal.
The goal is to keep your skin cool and dry. This may mean switching up your workout temporarily until you’re no longer experiencing discomfort.
Prevent Future Blisters and Chafing
If you’re prone to blisters or chafing, preventatively apply bandages or wraps to commonly-effected areas, such as your heels, toes, or nipples. If the skin can’t rub, blisters and sores can’t form. Second, wear moisture-wicking, high-quality socks, shoes, and apparel that helps lift away moisture and encourage rapid drying. Finally, apply petroleum jelly to limit friction from skin-to-skin contact, especially between your thighs, around your underarms.
About the Author:
Laura Williams has a Master's Degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. After managing gyms for six years, she became a freelance fitness writer, currently writing for Verywell, Men's Journal, Thrillist, The List, and Bodybuilding.com.
When she's not busy writing content for other sites, she creates programs and workouts for her own website, Girls Gone Sporty.