It’s spring! Time to pull out your running shoes, road bike,
and basketball—not to mention our shovel and wheelbarrow—and take your workouts
outside. If you haven’t been particularly active over the winter, be careful: Asking too much
of your neglected muscles is asking for an injury as well.
To assist your transition to spring, we asked Jordan D.
Metzl, M.D., one of the country’s leading sports medicine physicians and author
of The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies, to explain how some of the most common
sports injuries occur—and what we can do about them. Sometimes, says Dr. Metzl, you need to consider the not-so-obvious. Consider
the five everyday pains below. And find out how to beat blisters, stamp out athlete's foot, and more with The Most Annoying Sports Maladies Ever—Cured!
1. SHOULDER OR ARM PAIN
Maybe you tweaked it shooting three-pointers. Or maybe you
just slept on it wrong. But if the pain lingers . . .
The hidden cause: Nerve
roots at the top of your spine supply motor and sensory function to your upper
arms. When you bend or twist your neck, the nerves can be pinched.
The simple fix: As
the pain lessens, stand with your hands interlaced behind your neck. Bend your
neck back and squeeze your shoulder blades. Pause and return to the starting
position. Work up to 10 reps. Once you're pain-free, build neck strength by
2. LOWER-BACK SPASMS
You threw out your back spreading mulch. Herniated disk?
Maybe. But don't visit your doctor just yet.
The hidden cause: Weak
or tight hamstrings, core muscles, glutes, or hip flexors can mess up your
alignment and mechanics, forcing your back muscles to compensate and
The simple fix: Stay
mobile, use ice in the first 48 hours and heat after that, and take aspirin or
ibuprofen. As the pain eases, begin gentle hamstring, glute, core, and
hip-flexor stretches. When you're pain-free, add multidirectional lunges, core
exercises, and body-weight squats.
3. HEEL AND ARCH PAIN
You're ready to blame your shoes or too much running for the
The hidden cause: Your
plantar fascia is connected to your heel bone—and so are your calf muscles, by
way of the Achilles tendon. Tight calves can stretch and strain the fascia.
The simple fix: Sit
on the floor and place a foam roller under your right ankle with your leg
straight. Cross your left leg over your right ankle. With your hands flat on
the floor, roll forward so the foam is under your knee. Roll back. Repeat for 3
minutes; switch legs.
It feels like (and could be) a groin strain, brought on by your
re-introduction to a bike seat. But groin strains improve. If yours doesn't . . .
The hidden cause: You
might have a sports hernia—a strain or tearing of muscles or tendons, usually
caused by an imbalance between your adductors and abdominals.
The simple fix: Unfortunately,
surgery is the only fix for most sports hernias. But you can prevent a hernia
in the making. The key is to address the muscle imbalance by training your
core. Shoot for 5 to 6 minutes of daily plank time on top of your regular
5. KNEE PAIN
Pain around your knee makes you think tendinitis, arthritis, or a meniscus
The hidden cause: If
your core, hips, quads, and glutes are underconditioned or out of balance, your
pelvis will wobble, stressing your knees when you run.
The simple fix: Focus
on dynamic rest. As your pain lessens, try squats, jump squats, multidirectional
lunges, planks, and glute bridges to stabilize your pelvis. Start slowly and,
over several weeks, work your way to 10 to 12 reps and 2 or 3 sets. Do them
every other day.
Don't forget to check out The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies, which includes 1,001 doctor-approved health fixes and injury-prevention secrets that will help you build a leaner, fitter, more athletic body—and maintain it for life!