Repetitive or overuse injuries include muscle strains, tendonitis, bursitis and stress fractures, among others. Some of the most common of these injuries are tennis and golfers elbow, shoulder tendonitis or impingement, as well as patellar tendonitis in the knee and Achilles tendonitis in the ankle. These injuries occur when excessive stress is placed on soft tissues without adequate recovery time for healing, resulting in pain and inflammation. Signs of an overuse injury include pain that does not decrease within a few hours after the offending activity, pain that begins sooner into the activity with each session or worsens with each session, and decreased ability to use the affected area in day to day tasks due to pain. Other signs include swelling and/or point tenderness over the involved area.
Your best bet for addressing an overuse injury is to identify and remove the offending activity and to manage the inflammation with ice and/or anti-inflammatories. Addressing the root cause of the injury will help you to prevent recurrence of pain. Precipitating factors for overuse injuries include muscle imbalances such as weakness or decreased flexibility. Poor training programs can also contribute to increased risk of repetitive stress injuries.
While proper strengthening and stretching of specific supporting muscles can help our body meet the demands of repetitive tasks, increasing your training time or load by no more than 10% per week is a safe rule to curb the risk of developing an overuse injury. This allows your body adequate time to recover and adjust to new loads. Incorporating cross-training into your program helps to reduce the repetitive load to specific structures, decreasing the risk of repetitive use injury while allowing you to stay active. While many are sports related, it is important to note that repetitive overuse injuries don’t always come from hobbies or sports. Many overuse injuries are a result of everyday activities like caring for an infant or job related tasks that require one consistent posture, motion, or activity. In these cases, modifying the way the task is performed or adjusting a work station can help to reduce the repetitive stress to affected tissues.
If you think you may have an overuse injury or want to develop a safe training program to reduce your risk of injury, please contact one of the experts at The Aspen Club Sports Medicine Institute.
Amber Matthews, DPT