What to Do if You Hurt Yourself at the Gym

gym injury


“Train hard, play hard,” but overdoing it can result in severe workout injuries that can keep you away from the gym for good. Learn about the most dangerous sports injuries a fitness buff should be on the lookout for, along with the latest recovery methods to make mild injuries less of a hindrance.

Dangerous Workout Injuries

Beside your run-of-the-mill sports injuries like muscle strains, sprains, and joint pain, there are some serious incidents that can happen at a gym.

Some of the most severe workout injuries and incidents include:

  • Rotator cuff tears caused by repetitive stress or too much pressure on the anterior joint capsule of the shoulder
  • Back and neck injuries caused by slips, falls, defective or improperly used equipment
  • Broken bones caused by improper technique, slips, falls, faulty equipment
  • Joint dislocation caused by improper moves or severe blunt trauma
  • Heart attack/ Stroke caused by strenuous exercise and/or cardiovascular disease
  • Disc herniation caused by aging, repetitive stress, heavy lifting, and aggressive moves
  • Biceps tendon tears usually caused by heavy lifting or improperly executed dumbbell exercises

Many of these serious injuries require immediate medical attention, medication, plenty of rest, and probably therapy to fully recover. So, let a professional handle them, be it a certified gym staff member, independent therapist, or a medical doctor.

And if these serious injuries were caused by the negligence of a third party, such as the gym owner or equipment manufacturer, and have resulted in hefty hospital and medical expenses, talk to a personal injury attorney.

Personal injury attorneys at the Bader Scott Law Firm are specialized in handling such personal injury claims and work on a contingency basis, which means that they will handle your case on a “no win, no fee” basis. They can also tell you if you have a strong case based on your personal circumstances while giving you the freedom to decide on whether to pursue or not legal action.

Less Serious Workout Injuries

For less severe workout injuries such as muscle pulls and strains, including shoulder strain, lower back pain, and shin splits, things are less complicated as no doctors or lawyers need to be involved.

With a mild workout injury, there are two popular injury management methods you could try to promote healing:

  • R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)
  • M.E.A.T. (Movement, Exercise, Analgesics and Treatment)

Injury Management Methods to Promote Healing


The RICE protocol has been used for years to help heal acute sports injuries, but it has steadily fallen out of fashion because it is not as effective as the MEAT protocol. RICE involves:

    • Rest of the injured area: This means halting every activity that may put additional stress on that area.
    • Ice: Applying ice packs to the injured area to decrease swelling and pain 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After two or three days the swelling (inflammation) should be gone. Now add heat packs to the sore area.
    • Compression: Wrap the injured area firmly but not too tightly to decrease swelling. Just like rest and elevation, compression is supposed to minimize blood flow to the affected area to reduce inflammation.
    • Elevation: Elevate the injured limb above the level of your heart with pillows whenever you sit or lie down. The idea here is to lower blood flow to the sore area to minimize swelling.

The RICE approach’s major downside is that it focuses too much on reducing inflammation, which is your body’s natural reaction to an injury to promote healing. But cartilage, tendons, and ligaments are already body areas that naturally don’t get much blood flow going, so cutting the blood supply to those areas can lead to longer recovery periods.


That’s why, the MEAT approach has proven more effective at speeding up recovery. By contrast, MEAT focuses on increasing blood flow to the affected areas to speed up healing and it stands for:

    • Movement: Focus on gentle moves to keep the blood flow and lymph going to the affected area but don’t over do it. If it hurts, you are doing it wrong.
    • Exercise: Take this step once the swelling and pain have subsided and much of the movement is restored. Focus on exercises that can bring back mobility and flexibility to the affected body part. Just like movement, exercises get fresh blood supply to the affected area which further promotes healing.
    • Analgesia: This step includes any pain management methods, be they chemical or natural.
    • Treatment: This step includes ice and/or heat packs, physical therapy, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), massage therapy, joint mobilization, and more.


Each workout injury is unique, and its severity may range from mild to extremely severe. For acute sports injuries, there are at least two tried-and-tested recovery methods you can try to speed up healing: RICE and MEAT protocols. When it comes to more severe injuries, however, it is best to let professionals handle the outcomes.

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About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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