5 Signs That Your Injury May Be Serious

5 Signs That Your Injury May Be Serious

Oct 07, 2019
A weekend athlete, ambitious gardener or eager Pilates participant can each suffer a debilitating injury and not realize it. Anyone engaging in physical activity needs to develop a body awareness to interpret the signals muscles and nerves send, to separate the everyday pain of exertion from the acute pain that could spell trouble.

Here are five warning signs that can indicate serious injury and that should not be ignored. They all point to the need for prompt medical attention.


The shoulders are one of the most complex areas on a person’s body. The shoulder joint unites arm to torso and involves the humerus, scapula, and clavicle (upper arm bone, shoulder blade and collar bone) plus several ligaments and major muscle groups. Due to the human shoulder’s complexity, it is a common area of discomfort and pain, even from everyday activity.

An additional challenge to the shoulder area comes from the gym. Because of the visible response to overuse the upper arm muscles exhibit, this area is also commonly part of any fitness routine. Biceps hypertrophy (increase in size from exercise) as readily as the major leg muscles and give satisfying results quickly.

The diligent gym rat or weekend warrior should never ignore some shoulder pain signals, including:

  • Dislocation: When the humerus (arm bone) comes out of the shoulder socket, nerves and ligaments can be damaged. Two signs of dislocation are a visible change in joint shape and size and pain when a person attempts to move the joint.
  • Separation: A separated shoulder separates the collarbone (clavicle) from the scapula (shoulder blade). Signs of a separated shoulder are intense pain, shoulder or collarbone tenderness, swelling, bruises and, again, a deformity.
  • Difficult movement: The pain may be minimal, but the arm has little strength or cannot be lifted; this often indicates a rotator cuff tear.
  • Deformity: While dislocations and separations show deformities, other issues like bone breaks in the humerus or clavicle can lead to unexpected raised areas or a crooked arm.

Neck and Back

Neck and back injuries must always be taken seriously, as the spine is the body’s highway for nerve response and muscle control. Besides obvious signs from bleeding or open wounds, back and neck injuries that require immediate medical care include signs such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision, loss of vision, double vision or dissimilar pupils
  • Abdominal pain
  • Numbness or tingling in limbs, shoulders, or neck
  • Bladder and bowel control problems
  • Fainting, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion or convulsions
  • Inability to move the neck or head in a natural way

Care should be taken to distinguish lower back muscle pain from joint pains along the spine and neck. Lower back pain coming from muscle stiffness or tension should not be ignored (if muscle pain persists, the sufferer should seek medical care, which can include chiropractic treatment or physical therapy), but spine and neck joint pain is far more serious and needs immediate treatment.


Knees bear much more than a body’s weight. With every stride in running, the body’s weight pushes down on flexing joints as they hinge. The knees are one of the most common injury sites in active people.

Signs to seek immediate medical care for a knee injury include:

  • Swelling: Small swelling or very short-lived swelling may not be unusual, but the body protects a torn ligament or a fracture by making the area balloon up.
  • Sounds: Tears to anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) are often audible to teammates around the player sustaining the injury.
  • Buckling or bending in the wrong direction: A compression injury from jumping can send the knee joint into unexpected directions and twisting during basketball can do the same thing.
  • Locking or an inability to extend the knee: In either case, knee trauma affects a wide range of motion and is a certain signal to seek medical help.


The ankle is a complicated intersection of bones, ligaments, and tendons. The ankle can suffer sprains, strains, and breaks in any of three bones (the tibia, fibula and talus). Inability to move the ankle or put weight on it is a sign of serious injury. An overused peroneal tendon can cause tendinitis, which is a chronic, not acute, problem.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Most serious injuries happen at joints, but what of muscle, ligament and tendon trauma? Soft tissue injuries include strains and sprains.

  • Strains: Muscles and tendons can suffer strains, which are often relieved with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). For acute pain that does not go away with this self-care, the injured person should seek medical care.
  • Sprains: Sprains involve ligaments and fall into Grades 1 through 3 (mild through severe). Sprains can often be treated with the same RICE care as strains. Grade 2 and 3 sprains mean partial or full tearing of a ligament and require medical help.

For help with any injury or body pain, contact Multi-Care Medical today for proper diagnosis and treatment. Our three convenient South Florida locations are ready to serve you and your family.
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