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What Do You Mean It’s “Overuse”?!

Have you started an exercise routine or sport after a period of inactivity and began having pain? Have you quickly ramped up your training and began having pain? Have you performed a repetitive activity like running or throwing and began having pain? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, you could be suffering from an overuse injury!

What is an overuse injury?

An overuse injury is irritation or damage to muscle, tendon, bone or nerve tissue caused by repetitive micro-trauma or strain to a specific body part. It can be caused by improper mechanics/technique, or general overuse. Common complaints are aching, tenderness, general pain, cramping, weakness or tingling and numbness. Some common overuse injuries you may be familiar with are tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, patellar tendinitis, IT band syndrome, shin splints or stress fracturse to name a few.

Often, there is not a specific moment in time in which you feel like you “injured” yourself. However, these injuries frequently creep up on you over time.

Who is affected?

Anyone that participates in repetitive activities can be at risk for injury. As we age and our tissues become less pliable, we are at increased risk for overuse injuries. Athletes are also at risk for overuse injury secondary to excessive loading, inadequate recovery or improper training. Repetitive activities can include sports like running, throwing, swimming, tennis and golf, but also can include activities like typing, playing a musical instrument or repetitive lifting.

How can I fix my overuse injury?

The first step is to decrease irritation and reduce pain in the involved body part. Hands on treatments including soft tissue mobilization, dry needling and joint mobilization can help improve blood flow and promote tissue healing. Gentle stretches and education for activity modification will help restore motion and decrease pain as well.

To address the long term issue, you must address the root of the problem. If your car is out of alignment causing your tire to continuously go flat, changing the tire is not going to fix your problem. You will need to see your auto mechanic to fix the overall car alignment issue. Your Physical Therapist is the “auto mechanic” of your body. Often overuse injuries are caused by weakness more proximally at the core, shoulder or hip girdle leading to impaired mechanics down the chain. Specific strengthening exercises will target necessary muscle groups that are weak, as well as work on muscle firing patterns for optimal performance. This will allow you to improve your overall technique with activity and diminish strain to the muscle, joints and nerves.

How can I prevent an overuse injury?

The best way to prevent overuse injury is to ensure you are using the best techniques and mechanics while performing your activity. Working on cross training to ensure proper strength and mobility in planes of movement different from your typical, repetitive activity will promote optimal movement. Core strengthening is another key to overall stability to decrease strain to joints with repetitive movements. Your Physical Therapist can help develop an individualized program to maintain necessary mobility and strength in order to help combat common overuse injuries.

Stay tuned for future posts about specific overuse injuries within different sports or activities and how Dynamic Physical Therapy & Wellness can help!

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