When you’re motivated, it can be tempting to over-exert yourself. It’s hard to tell yourself to take it easy when you’re in the zone, but this can lead to overuse which is one of the leading causes of sports injuries.
According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), overuse injuries account for 50% of all sports injuries. That’s a staggering number when you consider that these injuries are preventable.
What is an Overuse Injury?
When bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons endure ongoing stress and have no time to heal, you can end up with an overuse injury that could put your goals on the back burner.
Since overuse injuries are the result of repetitive trauma, they typically take some time to develop. Here are some of the most common ways these injuries happen:
- Training/technique errors
Techniques like incorrect form during yoga poses or while pitching a baseball are going to affect your performance levels. Improper training causes excessive pressure to joints and muscles that can lead to injury.
- Pushing yourself in a new sport
It’s tempting to go all-in when you’re starting something new and exciting, but pacing yourself will help your body get used to the requirements of your new hobby. Ease into it and you’re likely to have much better outcomes.
- Not giving your body time to rest and heal
Even the most seasoned athletes need downtime. That’s because just playing in one game could cause a minor injury, like a pulled muscle. If you were to push yourself through the pain, your injury could become even worse.
- Focusing on only one activity
Putting all your energy into one technique, like running, can increase your chances of an overuse injury since your body isn’t cross-training and working on other muscles.
What Are Some Common Overuse Injuries?
If you don’t follow the rules of the game or listen to what your body is telling you, you increase your chances of developing:
- Shin splints
Micro-tears in muscle and bone tissue in the front and lower leg.
- Tennis elbow
Damage to the muscles that extend the wrist and fingers.
- Achilles tendinitis
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
Inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones.
- Stress fractures
Cracks in weak bones due to excessive, repetitive force.
Young athletes face the most risk when it comes to overuse, since their bodies are still developing. Any injury to growing bones or growth plates can result in long-term health issues.
What Are the Symptoms of an Overuse Injury?
The severity of symptoms will likely increase over time and the more you exert yourself. Some of the most common indicators include:
- Pain during or after physical activity
- Aches and soreness in the muscles
- Swelling or tenderness
- Decreased speed or strength levels
These symptoms will present themselves in the area of the body that you’re overusing. For example, if you’re an avid runner you may develop shin splits. Or if you’re a baseball pitcher, your throwing shoulder could become tender or swollen.
How Can I Prevent an Overuse Injury?
Fortunately, overuse injuries are preventable! Make sure to follow these tips to avoid unnecessary problems:
- Follow your coach or trainer’s guidance
- Always use the proper gear and equipment
- Increase activity levels slowly
- Warm up before beginning an activity
- Increase activity levels gradually
- Change up your workout routine every now and then
- Take breaks and prioritize rest so your body can heal
- Get a sports physical before every new season starts
- Listen to your body’s signals and stop an activity if pain occurs
Download our guide for more tips on preventing sports injuries
What is the Treatment for an Overuse Injury?
If an overuse injury happens, your condition will determine the best treatment plan. Some injuries will have lengthy recoveries with long-term health concerns. But many overuse injuries in their early stages can be treated with:
- Taking a break
Taking time off from an activity that is causing you pain will help your body heal itself. Continuing to exert yourself while you’re in pain will only intensify your injury.
- Physical therapy
A physical therapist works with all different types of injuries and can establish a treatment and exercise plan that will help you get your strength back.
Anti-inflammatories can help relieve pain and control inflammation. But if the pain is too severe or doesn’t dissipate quickly, you should consult a specialist to confirm your diagnosis and establish an appropriate treatment plan to minimize your down time.
- Ice/heat treatment
Using an ice pack or a heating pad can relieve swelling and acts as a pain reliever. The type of injury you have will determine whether you need heat or cold therapy, so you should consult with a physician.
Don’t let yourself get burnt out – mentally or physically – from an activity you love! If you’re motivated to become the next Serena Williams, keep your goals in mind. But always prioritize what your body is telling you. There’s nothing worse than dealing with an injury that could have been prevented!
If you have questions about overuse injuries, contact one of our offices.