Tue, Aug 06, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Doctor warns about gym injuries

‘STRETCH FIRST’:Exercise accounts for an increasing number of neck and back injuries in men aged 20 to 40, and the number of injuries rose to 158,000 last year

By Wu Liang-yi and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A doctor on Saturday warned about the risks of inadequate warm-up exercises and improper posture before and during weight training, citing recent cases of patients with damaged muscles or intervertebral discs.

Taipei Medical University Hospital neurosurgeon Yang Yi-shan (楊宜珊) said she has treated a man in his early 20s for a herniated disc caused by a weightlifting injury.

“It was likely due to poor posture when lifting the barbell and a failure to stretch first. He said that immediately after he tried lifting the weight, he felt a numbness in his lower back and knew something was seriously wrong,” she said.

The number of people treated for herniated discs is increasing, she said.

Last year, 195,000 people were treated for the condition, up from 183,000 in 2016, National Health Insurance Administration statistics showed.

The number of people with neck injuries rose to 158,000, up from 134,000 over the same period, and male patients outnumbered female patients, the statistics showed.

Many doctors have found that exercise accounts for an increasing number of back and neck injuries in men aged 20 to 40 — the category that has seen the greatest increase in the number of such injuries, Yang said.

A herniated disc occurs when the soft cartilage between vertebrae becomes malformed, changes position or tears, she said.

The cartilage tissue is important, as it holds the vertebrae together and also acts as a shock absorber, Yang added.

People who are new to weight training should enlist the help of a personal trainer, and should also perform warm-up stretches before lifting weights to prevent injury, she said.

In about half of the herniated disc cases, the injury happens suddenly, usually when lifting objects or due to a fall, she said.

If an injury occurs, the person would experience numbness and sluggish movement in their lower limbs, and would experience pain when the injured area is pressed, Yang added.

A magnetic resonance imaging scan is recommended for patients with back and neck injuries so that doctors can see the state of all of the vertebrae clearly, as well as that of the surrounding bone and tissue structure, she said.

Excessive mobile device and computer use is also a factor in neck injuries among young people, who increasingly spend an excessive amount of time slouched over their devices and keyboards, Yang said.

Excessive mobile device use might lead to a stiffening of the neck muscles or arthritis, Taipei Medical University Hospital rehabilitation medicine physician Kang Chun-hung (康峻宏) said.

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