When I was in high school I was on the dance/drill team and routinely would be exercising and practicing on hard surfaces (concrete, tile, gymnasium floor, etc). As a result of the intense workouts I tore the ligaments in my right knee. For about a year after the initial injury I wore a knee brace whenever I did any kind of physical activity and it slowly got better. Once I graduated, I wasn't very active and didn't find the need to use the brace. Well, I have to say, I'm a big doofus. Since I've started the P90X workouts in January, I conveniently forgot that I had injured my knee (it's been 7 years) and when I did remember I figured, it's been so long that I don't need to worry about it.
If someone could have slapped me when I thought that, I would have been extremely grateful. The last time I did the plyometrics workout my knee popped so loud I thought I had broken something. At first it wasn't painful, I frequently have joints popping when I workout and get up in the mornings and have never had a problem. But once I had finished the workout (yes I finished the whole plyometrics after the loud pop) my knee started to feel a little bit more sore than usual. I popped a motrin and pushed the knee out of my mind. The next day my knee was so sore I felt like I could barely walk! I've taken about a week long break from any exercise (family emergency and knee pain combined) and am going to get back into the workout routine tonight, but with my knee brace this time :) This is the brace I used in high school ACE Neoprene Open Knee Brace, One Size Fits All and this is the brace I have currently ACE Plus Open Knee Brace with Side Stabilizers Medium, Advanced.
Had I been more cautious I wouldn't have re-injured my knee and wouldn't have had to take a break in my workout routine. I've compiled a list of some good ways to prevent injuries and to prevent flare ups from previous injuries:
1. Always warm up. I've mentioned this in previous posts, and I don't think I can stress enough how important it is to warm up before doing any physical activity. Depending on the type of activity you are doing, you may want to stretch to warm up, or do some jogging/jumping jacks. Doing a workout with cold muscles is a good way to pull one. This is especially important for people (like me) who have previous injuries to worry about.
2. Exercising on the correct surface. If you are doing yoga, you don't want to be on a super hard surface. Yoga mats or other types of cushion-y surfaces are ideal. If you are doing a high intensity workout, such as plyometrics, you don't want to be on concrete or tile. Being a surface that can absorb the shock is what you should aim for. But you don't want the surface to be too cushion-y because you can twist an ankle.
3. Don't over-do your workout. If you are feeling tired and can't get that last rep in, don't force it. Tired muscles are more susceptible to injuries to your tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage.
4. Recovery time. Make sure you are getting enough rest between workouts as possible. If you workout everyday, you may want to consider taking a 1 day break a couple times a week. If you do not give your body enough time to rest and repair, you are more prone to injuring yourself.
5. Stop if you feel pain. There is a difference between pain and "the burn" associated with a good workout. The burn can be pushed through to the end and feels good, in a weird sort of way. If you feel pain, you should not try to push through it. Pushing through any kind of pain will cause you to injure yourself.
6. Stay hydrated and energized. Make sure you are drinking enough water before, during, and after each of your workouts. During your workout you don't want to overload on the water, but drinking sips throughout is ideal. Keeping yourself energized with the appropriate foods is also important. Eating right before your workout, but not immediately before, and making sure you replenish your body after each workout will prevent you from becoming tired or even ill.