Have I Injured Myself Stretching?

I think I'm injured. What should I do now?
Ashleigh Flanagan
September 8, 2021

All flexibility related injuries are overload injuries. The overload can be 'acute'; for example, you lose control and slip while stretching, or it can be 'chronic', which means you have been doing too much, too soon, with inadequate recovery. Chronic overload puts you at significantly increased risk of an acute overload incident.

Acute Overload Injuries

If you lose control in a stretch, your body may preferentially 'pop' a muscle or tendon to protect more valuable tissue (eg a joint). Acute overload injuries present as;

If you experience these symptoms, you have likely done some tissue damage, and you should stop training straight away. The risk of increasing any harm if you continue training is high. Usually, the severity of the injury is masked by adrenaline, endorphins, endogenous opioids, heat and your enthusiasm to continue. 

What to do after a 'pop'

Immediately stop training, rest, elevate and compress the injured area, if possible. The scientific consensus is that ice isn't essential but can help manage pain. Taking anti-inflammatories *may be helpful in the short term, but they also slow your bodies natural healing ability (inflammation is an essential part of the healing process). I think anti-inflammatories have a net benefit when pain affects your sleep or your ability to complete rehabilitation.

After an acute overload injury, it's important to consult a  medical professional experienced in managing these injuries (eg a sports physio). Even if you have experienced a similar injury in the past, it's worth a review, as it's challenging to manage your own rehabilitation and recovery. It's very common for people to shortcut their rehabilitation and end up re-injuring. 

Chronic overload injuries

Most stretching related injuries are chronic overuse injuries. Often they occur when you increase your training load and neglect active recovery at the same time. Chronic overload injuries can be more challenging to identify.You may have a chronic overload injury when;

What to do if you think you have a chronic overload injury

Firstly, keep moving but manage the risk of further injury by reducing your training load and minimising aggravating movements. Next, increase any active recovery activities (EG Gentle stretching, heat, ice baths, mindfulness, walking, massage). Acknowledge any unhelpful emotions you are experiencing and take practical, positive steps and to improve your recovery. If you experience the above symptoms with minimal improvement over a week, or if it's affecting your training or general life,  it's worth getting an expert opinion.  A professional will be able to help you get back to training as usual as soon as possible and reduce your risk of re-injury.

To see an experienced physio and get back to your training sooner: Book a physio assessment

To learn more about stretching and injury risk:

Stretching and Injury Risk

Factors Increasing the Risk Training Flexibility

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