With big muscles come big-time aches and pains. If you’ve been weight training for any appreciable length of time, chances are you’ve encountered an overuse injury such as tendonitis or bursitis at some time in your career. Because of the repetitive nature of weight training, overuse injuries are for all intents and purposes part of the game. Although careful attention to detail in your exercise program (i.e. allowing enough recovery time between workouts, proper manipulation of sets/reps/weight, etc.) can help to minimize these injuries, they still occur.
Recovering from overuse injuries typically requires some form of rest from activities that aggravate the injury. Unfortunately, many serious bodybuilders often view rest as a form of weakness. Rather than taking time off for injuries to heal, some people search for other methods to help them get through their workouts.
One common quick fix is to use an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) or sodium naproxide (Aleve). Other common quick fixes require a little more diligence as they necessitate a visit to a physician.
Related: Coping With Injury
Desperate bodybuilders often seek out prescription-grade NSAIDs, that are higher in dosage than their over-the-counter counterparts, and corticosteroid injections when looking to get back in the weight room. While these treatments certainly have their time and place, avid trainers often disregard a critical part of appropriate care for these overuse injuries. Additionally, the risks of these more aggressive treatment options are either overlooked or minimized.
Before popping a pill or getting an injection, you should be aware of both the pros and cons of each treatment.
Although using available drugs is sometimes inevitable to recover from an injury, one must take proper care not to rely on these drugs as a continual crutch to get you through your next workout session. Their long-term use may lead to serious complications, including a severe tendon rupture.
Most medical professionals who prescribe a prescription-grade NSAID and/or corticosteroid injection will also advise complete rest from activities that aggravate the injury for 7–21 days. Ice and rehabilitation from a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist are also recommended.
Once the inflammation and pain have subsided, a methodical progression into your exercise program, perhaps with some slight modifications so that the injury doesn’t reappear, is critical for a successful return to the weight room.
Many weight trainers make the mistake of resuming workouts too soon and not allowing enough time for proper healing.
Remember that just because the NSAIDs and/or the corticosteroid injection successfully decrease the pain you previously had, that doesn’t mean the injury is healed. Keep this fact in mind next time you have a nagging pain that requires medication.