Frequent injuries
August 27, 2008 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Is it normal that I get injured so easily?

Every time I tried something just a little bit physically demanding for the last half year or so, I seem to injure myself. I hurt my wrist after an afternoon of rowing, I hurt my knees after playing DDR half an hour every day for a week. I hurt my shoulder after playing bass half an hour once or twice a day for a week. I hurt my other shoulder after playing Wii Sports for less than an hour one day. I find it difficult to describe the severity, but in all cases I really thought it was bad. When I hurt my shoulder it was so bad that I could not lie comfortably in bed, I could not turn around and needed help getting up. I could not turn my head around at all. The wrist pain was only tolerable once fixated. The knees were not quite as bad, but it still hurt quite a bit.

I think I did the right things: I did the easy levels on the videogames, I was really not pushing anything, I have a great supportive strap for my bass and I never practiced for more than half an hour at a time (because I was busy, not because I was worried about injuries). The rowing thing was longer, but there were two rowers in the boat and we took breaks and turns. It was relaxed rowing, not for speed. I can understand a muscle ache after each of these activities, but I wonder if it is normal or common to get such severe pain so often.

The pain always comes up quickly, but not immediately. It is not that I feel something snap or crack and immediately stop playing, the pain starts a few hours afterwards.

The pain does usually go away rather quickly. It is usually very painful for a few days, after that it becomes a muscle ache kind of pain and then it goes away completely.

I don't have any other health problems, but after giving birth (five years ago) I had quite severe pelvic pain that also went away completely within a few months. Recently, I notice that the pain sometimes is back. It is not severe at all, but it is there, while I was completely pain free for years. I don't know if that's relevant.

It is strange to me to suddenly be so fragile. I wonder if this could be a symptom for something, or if it is likely just bad luck.

I don't want to go to a doctor now, unless there really is reason for concern.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Without watching the movements that led to these injuries, yes, it does sound like there might be a problem. Might not, too, but I'd say it's definitely well over the bar for "go see a doctor."
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:53 AM on August 27, 2008

I've been having similar problems this year. I've returned to physical activity after a long time away, and I keep injuring myself. It's frustrating.

When I finally went to see a doctor, he told me that much of the problem was that I was "as flexible as a two-by-four". He gave me a list of stretches to do several times a day. This helped a little, but not completely, so he had me go to physical therapy. I've been working at this flexibility thing for a couple months now and am seeing a little progress. I've also considered taking up yoga.

Your mileage may vary, of course.
posted by jdroth at 6:11 AM on August 27, 2008

It's not normal. I think you should see a doctor.

If you won't see a doctor, then I think you should plan out a very slow and gradual program involving really low-impact activities, beginning with a yoga class for people with injuries and working from there. Walking is good, as is swimming, too, but again you want to begin very gradually, not like jumping from zero to DDR every day.

You want to build yourself a program kind of like the couch-to-5k one, but more like couch-to-moderate-movement, and then from there to more ambitious goals.

But honestly, talking with a sports medicine person would be a really good idea.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on August 27, 2008

You might want to see a doctor but I would like to you regular go to the gym? Do you do physical exercise in a regular basis. When I started playing basketball the first 6 months i kept on twisting my knees, and once got my lower back really injured enough that I had to leave a job.......Going to the gym, loosing weight and doing cardio on a consistent basis, has made me very the point where I am now very athletic and my only problem is having the stamina to match my movements on the court.
posted by The1andonly at 6:20 AM on August 27, 2008

I suggest you take up Tai Chi. It's low impact, but it teaches you body and surrounding awareness.
posted by spec80 at 6:25 AM on August 27, 2008

Sounds like DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) to me. The pelvic pain is interesting - what was the cause of that? It's generally not normal to have pelvic pain that lasts for months after childbirth.
From what you've said, I'd guess general DOMS from activity differing enough from what your body is used to. You do sound a bit fragile. I'd suggest some body work/massage, of course, as a massage therapist I am biased, but you sound like many women I see. There is possibly an immune response going on. I 'd suggest gentle modalities such as Myofascial Release - the very light flavour, NOT the deep sort (release fascial restrictions, pain, etc) & lymphatic drainage (verrry relaxing, immune system booster) that will relax your body and not aggravate DOMS like firmer massage can, such as deep tissue work.
Damp heat is usually the best self treatment for DOMS, have a hot bath or hot shower, use heat packs, go sit in steam room/sauna. Also gentle stretching, get someone you rub the sore spots or use a ball to self massage.
posted by goshling at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2008

I'd agree, it would tend to depend on how fit you are otherwise. If you've spent fifteen years doing nothing but sitting in a chair, and now you're doing these things, your muscles are going to struggle. Knees for instance have a lot of muscles that, if they're not up to strength, will fail to support it properly, and you'll wind up with injuries.

Otherwise, not normal...
posted by opsin at 6:28 AM on August 27, 2008

I don't know. I am very fit (like Ironman triathlon/marathon runner/yoga fit), and I have gotten hurt from too much DDR and also hurt my shoulder from Wii boxing. The DDR was mostly because I have flat feet and never go without shoes otherwise, but the Wii boxing was definitely an overuse type of thing.

Personally, I wouldn't call them injuries, just issues that arose from a new activity or doing too much at once (even though "too much" seems like not much at all). They did stick around for a few days in all cases. I'm like you in a way, my body just kind of needs more time to adapt to new things than other people's. I wouldn't worry about it if these things are resolving on their own in a few days. Chalk it up to "I overdid it".
posted by smalls at 6:49 AM on August 27, 2008

It sounds like you may have some deficits in flexibility or strength or kinesthetic awareness or some combination of the three. As others have indicated, a gradual but consistent training program is the best way to address these. Tai Chi or a gentle beginners yoga class (not an advanced class) would be a good way to start.
posted by tdismukes at 7:13 AM on August 27, 2008

When I was a teenager, the oral surgeon who was treating my TMJ surprised the hell out of me by grabbing my thumb and bending it to touch my forearm. He told me I was loose-jointed and therefore prone to joint pain/injuries. Can you hyperextend any of your joints? The thumb thing is a good indicator.
posted by Ruki at 7:43 AM on August 27, 2008

Have you been to a doctor for any of these things? Have you gotten a diagnosis for anything? Because I suspect it's hard for anyone to advise you at all unless we know what kind of injuries we're talking about.

The pain always comes up quickly, but not immediately. It is not that I feel something snap or crack and immediately stop playing, the pain starts a few hours afterwards.

The pain does usually go away rather quickly. It is usually very painful for a few days, after that it becomes a muscle ache kind of pain and then it goes away completely.

To me this sounds like ordinary muscle soreness. It can last a few days and get worse on the second day if you're not used to whatever you're doing. But: you say you hurt your knees. Was the pain in the joint, or in the muscle right above it? I find it really easy to get serious muscle ache at the bottom of my quad. But if the pain was really in the joint, then you've got bigger problems. You say you hurt your wrist -- was it in the wrist, or in the muscle of your forearm? You can get muscle ache there from holding things tightly.

If it's just muscle soreness, then they're not "injuries", they're just the result of being unused to the activity. If this is in fact the case, then you could try going to a gym and using all of those fancy Nautilus machines they have to build more muscle...but you'll feel really sore for the first few weeks. Also I've read that magnesium helps reduce muscle ache and cramps, so you might want to try that...and ibuprofen. And stretching afterwards can help reduce soreness as well.

If I were you, though, I would wait until the next time it happens and then go to the doctor and ask him what it is.
posted by creasy boy at 7:44 AM on August 27, 2008

Note: it seems, on googling around, that iron deficiency as well as magnesium deficiency can lead to increased muscle soreness. But I am not a doctor, yours or anyone's.
posted by creasy boy at 8:07 AM on August 27, 2008

All the exercises you cited are repetitive motion exercises. If you haven't built up to it gradually, then a half an hour is a long time to repeat the same motion and carry the same weight in the same position. All of those activities require motion that you might not get to do repeatedly in your normal daily functioning. For Wii, rowing, ddr, did you have on proper shoes? Did you stretch the muscles after your workout?

Not belittling your injuries, and it certainly could be something more serious, but it sounds like classic weekend warrior syndrome. I'm not sure of your age, but many people struggle with this as they get older. The decline in general fitness and flexibility are contributing factors.
posted by 26.2 at 8:11 AM on August 27, 2008

With all due respect, goshling, my doctor has specifically advised me to avoid massage because it boosts my immune system, and I have an autoimmune disorder.

So if there is an immune thing going on, massage might be the wrong treatment.

I say see a doctor; although I doubt it's anything horrible, it does sound abnormal. Maybe they could point you toward some sort of over-the-counter or free treatment.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:12 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding sondrialiac and goshling-- it sounds like a mild auto-immune thing, and the fact that it developed in the wake of pregnancy can only add to that suspicion.

I think you should try to get a referral to a rheumatologist just in case there is something going on that needs to be monitored and managed.
posted by jamjam at 8:57 AM on August 27, 2008

This doesn't sound normal. Remember that this could either be a problem with your tissues (e.g. your tissues/muscles are weak and are getting physically injured), or with your sensory system (e.g. your tissues are fine, but your nervous system is hypersensitive, and interprets non-pain stimuli as pain). The pelvic pain is a big red flag that it's the latter. There's a medical phenotype of people who have diseases like pelvic pain, interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, and migraines, and who are generally more sensitive to pain than others. It could be that some traumatic event (e.g. the stress of childbirth) upregulated your central nervous system, so that you now sense pain more easily.
posted by wireless at 11:12 AM on August 27, 2008

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