We explain some of the most common gym injuries that we can help treat in our physio clinics in Sydney

Get gym injury pain treatment in Sydney from a physio

Switch has physio clinics in Sydney that provide specialist physiotherapy treatment for sports injuries suffered while on a playing field, or more commonly, when you are working out at the gym. Our physio team can provide treatment, assist with management and provide education on the prevention of sporting injuries so that you don’t experience back, should or even knee pain.

Physio providing treatment for shoulder pain from a gym injury

Common injuries that we can treat

It is a part of everyday life that at some stage you will suffer an injury to your body where you might feel back pain, shoulder pain or some other form of joint pain. Injuries and dealing with pain in your body is a part of daily life, in a sporting or gym context it may require special rehabilitation provided by a physio to overcome a particular injury like a muscle tear.

At our physio clinics in Sydney we have a team of physiotherapists who collectively have many years of experience helping our clients recover from feeling pain, regain movement & get back to what they love doing in the gym or sports field. Our physios have helped people with sports injuries from rugby union, soccer, AFL, rugby league, netball, tennis, athletics, cricket, baseball, swimming, hockey, gymnastics, dance, basketball and a range of gym workout levels.

The most common sports injuries that we treat in our physio clinics in Sydney include, but are not limited to:

Ligament sprains

  • Muscle strains
  • Muscle tears
  • Dislocations
  • Joint injuries
  • Over-use injuries

How do we assess an injury that needs physio?

Physio providing treatment for neck pain from a gym injury

At Switch the philosophy that our physios work by is to understand the pain that is being suffered, but then to spend time understanding what leads to that occurring. We don’t just treat the immediate pain, we will help you understand the underlying cause as well as how it can be prevented in the future.

The way we achieve this is by providing;

  • An accurate diagnosis – this involves a comprehensive analysis of your injured area, analysis of movement patterns and assessment of factors that may have led to injury
  • An agreed outcome – helps us understand your expectations as to what it is that you want to achieve. Often a gym or sport injury can impact many areas of our lives including work, recreational and family life, so although returning to sport or your gym activities are important and the primary goal, we need to look at the big picture also.
  • Creating a treatment plan – this includes expected timeframe for prognosis and return to play or activity so that we reach the specific goals set out
  • Physio treatment – this will often include manual therapy and a comprehensive exercise rehabilitation program which not only guides you back to sport but also helps you self-manage your injury.
  • Education & prevention – helping you to understand your injury, your rehab and correct the underlying causes so you don’t have the same issues recur in the future.

Does physio speed up recovery from a gym injury?

Physio providing treatment for back pain from a gym injury Photo

Over the years the most common types of gym injury that we have treated include shoulder, lower back and knee injuries that are exercise induced most typically from over exertion or lifting incorrectly. Getting physio on an injury can help speed up your recovery time because we can assis with;

  • Stabilisation techniques using tape or bracing.
  • Manual therapy treatment for joint restrictions or stiffness.
  • Active exercises to restore flexibility, strength, endurance and balance.
  • Creating new movement patterns

How can you avoid getting an injury at the gym?

Physio providing treatment for knee pain from a gym injury

Most gym injuries can be avoided by doing some form of warm-up, consisting of either some cardio or stretching prior to starting your session. Soft tissues that have been warmed-up and stretched before activity are far less likely to get injured as they are ready for the physical activity that is about to begin.

Some other suggestions include;

  • Develop a fitness plan that includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility.
  • Alternate exercising different muscle groups and exercise every other day.
  • Cool down properly after exercise, cooling down should take twice as long as warm-ups.
  • Use the right equipment or gear and wear appropriate shoes.
  • Learn the correct techniques for the gym workout you are undertaking.
  • Rest when tired, avoid exercise when tired or in pain.

If you get a gym injury what should you do

The most obvious thing you should do if you suffer some type of gym injury or are feeling pain is to stop what you are doing. Yes we realise that sometimes you want to push your body, but in many cases this can simply make the injury worse.

The simplest thing you can do is referred to as RICE which stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate to treat an acute soft tissue injury. The objective of early RICE therapy is to control the initial inflammation and get the healing process started quickly. What you will notice is in the immediate phase of a gym injury, there is swelling, redness and warmth that results in pain. Cold therapy (icing) helps alleviate this while compression with a soft bandage limits swelling. Elevating the injured area is critical even up to first 48 – 72 hours after the injury, as it reduces swelling due to gravity.

Step 1: Rest
When you experience an injury, stop your activity immediately and rest as much as possible for the first 2 days. Avoid putting weight on the injured area for 24 – 48 hours. Resting also will prevent any further bruising.

Step 2: Ice
Apply an ice pack that is covered with a light, absorbent towel for 15 – 20 minutes every 2 – 3 hours during the first 24 – 48 hours of being injured. The cold is useful to reduce pain and swelling. If you don’t have an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas or corn will also do the trick.

Step 3: Compression
Wrap the affected area with an elastic medical bandage to prevent swelling. The wrapping should be snug but not too tight as to interrupt blood flow. Loosen the bandage if the skin below turns blue or feels cold, numb or tingly.

Step 4: Elevation
Raise the injured body part above the level of your heart. This reduces pain, throbbing, and swelling. A pillow can be used to achieve elevation. The injured area should be kept raised whenever possible.

Should you keep going to the gym if you have an injury?


An injured body part will struggle to heal if it is repeatedly used after an injury. Pain is an excellent indicator of an ongoing injury and should not be ignored, even if that means resting from daily activities. Even if the pain has subsided, you may not have fully healed and can re-injur yourself quickly. It is often best to immobilise the injured area with a splint or brace and rest it completely to allow complete healing. Continuing to use the injured body part may aggravate an acute injury and turn it into a chronic one, making it more likely to recur and more difficult to treat.

Minor sprains or tears typically improve significantly after 2 weeks of rest and a break from sport. A lack of improvement should warrant a consultation with a sports doctor. A thorough clinical examination and imaging tests such as x-rays or scans will confirm the diagnosis and help focus the rehabilitation strategy to enable a faster recovery with limited complications. Understanding the nature of the injury also helps enormously with the mental preparation during recovery.

What are the top 5 gym injuries that we treat in our physio clinics?

 

1. Lower back pain

Problem: David injured his back from deadlifting at the gym.

 

How/why: He was doing his 6th and last repetition of his 4th set before he felt a sharp twinge in his lower back as he was lifting the barbell off the ground. Back pain is one of those injuries that can happen with any movement at the gym, whether it be a big, heavy movement like a deadlift or small movement done incorrectly like a bicep curl. Your back is the “meat in the sandwich” of your body, if something isn’t moving correctly, usually your lower back will take the brunt of it. But, the lower back isn’t designed to take a massive amount of load all by itself, it needs the support of other strong body parts like your hips and thoracic spine.

 

 

Possible Solution: One core (no pun intended) part of preventing lower back pain is teaching effective breathing when lifting. This will help to improve your stability through your mid-section, to support your lower back better when you get fatigued towards the end of your set! Ask one of your physios at SWITCH about how we can help you if you’ve got lower back pain, for a full assessment!

 

2. Shoulder pain

Problem: John would also get a pinching sensation in his shoulder at the bottom of a bench press, push-up or a shoulder press.

How/Why: He kept pushing through it since he thought it was just a small niggle, but on his last rep, when he tried to push off, he felt a sharp pain which turned into a strong ache afterwards. Overhead presses, bench presses, pull ups are all movements which greatly involve the shoulder joint, and all movements which have resulted in injuries to a lot of clients! The shoulder is the most unstable joint in the body, but is so because its also the most mobile joint in the body. The shoulder’s ability to reach above your head is an amazing process, but is equally as technical, meaning there are many things that can go wrong. Your shoulder consists of 2 main joints (actually consists of several, but we’re going to focus on just 2), your glenohumeral joint (ball and socket joint, basically where you’d point to if someone asked where your shoulder is), and the equally as important scapulothoracic joint (the shoulder blade moving on your rib cage). Both of these joints need to be moving in sync for you to lift your arm above your head, and if one of these isn’t moving right, then you’re going to struggle to gain stability and strength!

 

 

Possible Solution: Gaining strength in your shoulder generally revolves around allowing both of these joints to move in tandem, and then linking that to the rest of the body! If you’ve got shoulder pain, it’s best to jump on it early to prevent any compensations from popping up!

 

 

3. Neck Pain:

Problem: Cathy was feeling neck and shoulder pain after the gym.

How/why: Cathy was completing her last set of the bent over barbell row exercise, giving all her effort to finish off workout. She was seen initiating the movement by throwing her head forwards then backwards. Neck pain is not the injury people think of the most when in the gym, but is usually one of the first things that tightens up following a heavy workout. The reason for this is because the gym, mixed with some sedentary work throughout the day, will result in a massive amount of muscle fatigue the next morning, especially when your body isn’t used to it. It’s also due to the fact that most people, when struggling to pump out that last rep, will tense through their neck to help them lift the weight. Not only does it look super sketchy, but it’s also not the best in terms of efficiency.

 

Possible Solution: Becoming more aware of your body’s position can help reduce tension through your neck muscles. If you feel the need to tense your neck muscles when doing a pulling movement, it means the weight is too heavy for you. A great cue you can use is thinking about getting pulled from the top of your head in the same angle that your body is in. This will help lengthen your body and offload your neck and shoulder muscles.

 

 

4. Knee Pain:

Problem: Jenny would always get a sharp pain in her knees when doing step-ups during her high intensity gym class. This bothers her as she has to sit out of the class for 5 mins while everyone else is working hard. She has tried to find an alternative but also feels uncomfortable when doing squats or lunges.

 

 

How/why: In the first few weeks back in the gym, people tend to overdo it on the treadmill, start squatting the weights they were doing prior to lockdown or return to a high-intensity class too fast. They then find themselves with some knee pain they’ve never had before. This is because the knee is designed to be a hinge between the hip and the foot, and with poor technique or high load, can become the spot which is overloaded!

 

 

Possible Solution: Working on the alignment of the knee is key to keeping knee pain down, so focusing on keeping the knee tracking in line with your second and third toe for all squatting type movements will help massively with knee pain. Ask us in the clinic how you can change this!

 

 

5. Elbow Pain:

Problem: Brian started to feel a dull ache pain during bench press and push-ups but thought it would go away with rest. It wasn’t until he tried doing his normal bench press weight after a few months having this dull ache pain, when he felt a sharp stab and weakness through his elbow.

 

 

How/why: For so long, elbow pain has been seen as a death sentence, and something you’re stuck for until you can get surgery or a cortisone injection, but that’s not true at all! Tennis elbow and golfers elbow are 2 sides of the same coin, regularly seen when overdoing it at the gym. Tennis elbow is more associated with the outside of the elbow (common attachment of the wrist extensors), and golfer’s elbow is associated with the inside of the elbow (common attachment of the wrist flexors). Both of these muscle groups are activated when having to grip and hold a weight, so overdoing these movements commonly can result in elbow pain popping up.

 

 

Possible solution: One reason why people tend to overload the elbow during gym movements could be because of an issue either one joint above or below the elbow. In other words, the issue could actually be coming from the shoulder or the wrist. You can also decrease the pain through a simple exercise, called isometrics.

Getting physio treatment in Sydney for gym injuries


We hope that explains some of the reasons and causes of gym injuries that require physio treatment and rehabilitation. It is one of the most common causes of injury that we treat in our clinics as so many people in Sydney love to keep fit by going to the gym. Each one of our trained physios enjoys treating the pain, but really understanding what caused it in the beginning so that you can avoid it occurring again.

Picture of JAMES BECERRA

JAMES BECERRA

Founder of Switch Physiotherapy. We have physio clinics located in Penshurst, Concord & Maroubra that focus on getting people out of pain and moving again.

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