‘I’ve just started with a personal trainer, but some of the exercises she has given me make my knee hurt. I want to continue but am worried I am damaging my knee after such a long time of not doing any real exercise.’

We all know that taking part in physical activity is good for us. So when it sometimes results in an injury, it can put you off! So don’t be put off; stay safe when doing sports and exercise, especially in the cold, winter months. When it is cold you are particularly at risk of an injury if you don’t properly warm up your muscles before exercising.

Poor exercise technique, overstraining or pushing yourself too hard can also cause sports injuries.

Common symptoms of sports injuries included pain, swelling and restricted movement of limbs. Parts of the body typically affected include joints such as the hips, elbows, ankles and knees, bones, muscles, ligaments (bands of tissue that connect one bone to another) and tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones).

‘I spoke with my local pharmacist who suggested I should stop the exercises that hurt and speak with my trainer at our next session so they could tailor my routine. This was the best advice as I was nearly ready to cancel! Now a month or so later I feel energised, fitter and my knee is not hurting anymore.’

If you feel pain while exercising or playing sport, stop straight away. Continuing to exercise if you are injured can cause further damage and slow your recovery time.

You can usually treat most minor sports injuries yourself at home by:

  • Resting the affected body part and elevate if possible
  • Using an ice pack, or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, on the affected area for between 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours for the first 48-72 hours.

You could also take over the counter painkillers, such as anti-inflammatories that will help to relieve pain as well as any inflammation. Check these are safe for you to take by visiting your pharmacy and making sure you are using the right painkillers for your condition. They will also be able to advice you on how to manage your injury.

So to prevent sports injuries:

  • Always warm up before exercising and stretch to cool down after exercising
  • Increase your activity levels slowly and don’t push your body beyond your current fitness level
  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear for the type of activity you are doing
  • Use recommended safety equipment for specific sports, such as shin guards or a gum shield
  • If you start a new sport, get advice and coaching from a qualified sports coach.

Most sports injuries are minor and it is important to remember that the health benefits of physical activity outweigh the risk of an injury. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing serious diseases in later life such as heart disease and some types of cancer. It can also improve your self-confidence and wellbeing as well as helping you to maintain a healthy weight.

If you have any concerns or questions on sports injuries and how to treat them, speak to your local pharmacist.