Overuse Injuries: Signs, Preventions, & Treatments
Sports are a great way to strengthen the body and mind, build communities, burn off excess energy, and channel competitiveness. But with any sport comes the risk of overuse and injury. Whether you are a 12-year-old joining the school’s soccer team, a 25-year-old training for a marathon, or a 40-year-old maintaining fitness at the gym, it can be easy to ignore our body’s limits.
From experiencing overuse injuries to suffering from an acute injury, physiotherapy can help restore your body to a state of balance and mobility. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience overuse symptoms. Being involved in regular sports, running, school/community teams, and even weight training at the gym can have a toll on your body if you push yourself too far or use the wrong technique.
Remember… More is not always better!
It can be easy to overestimate the body’s limits, especially when involved in competitive group sports. One of the more common injuries amateur and professional athletes share, are overuse injuries. While acute injuries are caused by a single, traumatic event, overuse injuries can occur over time when tendons, bones, and joints suffer repetitive micro-trauma.
Common examples include:
Tennis Elbow: The repetitive swinging of a racket, overly tight grip of a golf club or bat can, over time, inflict damage on the outside of the forearm. When players practice swinging, gripping, hitting for long hours, several times a week, the forearm muscles are not given time to rest and recover.
Jumpers/Runner’s knee: This is common in runners and basketball players. When a player jumps and lands, their knee absorbs the shock. During running long distances, the knee absorbs shock each time the foot hits the ground. Even with professional-approved shoes, intense and frequent training can damage the hips, knees and lower legs over time.
Muscle strains: When specific muscles are overworked to the point of micro-trauma, they become strained. Symptoms include muscle weakness, pain, swelling, and decreased mobility.
Stress fractures: This occurs when repetitive stress and impact are absorbed by the bones. Fractures are common with runners, tennis players, and gymnasts. They occur when the bones are no longer able to handle the load put upon them, which causes cracking of the bone without a complete fracture.
Elbow/Shoulder/Wrist injuries: Sports like softball, baseball, or volleyball can lead to rotator cuff injury if training is too extensive or the body is not warmed-up. Volleyball is a key example of potential wrist or hand injuries if the bones and muscles suffer repetitive micro-trauma.
Many times, a sudden rise in training frequency or intensity can push the body past its limit, leading to these micro-traumas. Without a break or proper treatment, these traumas are not given the opportunity to heal. For young athletes who’s bodies are still growing, an overly vigorous training regiment can cause considerable stress to their muscles, tendons, joints, and bones.
Overuse injuries also occur when a poor technique is repeated and not corrected. While poor technique and form may not immediately create an acute injury, it can progress into serious pain over a period of time.
Repeating a wrong technique in training can also lead to overcompensation pain. This is when certain muscles perform extra hard or perform the jobs of other muscles to get the job done. Over time, they can become exceedingly strained and at risk of developing more serious problems.
Tip: If you are a new athlete, or returning to a sport after some time, go easy on yourself! Overuse injuries can result from diving into a new sport, training for long hours from the get-go rather than easing yourself into it.
Note: Although certain symptoms of wear-and-tear can seem mild, don’t ignore pains which worsen with time or are prolonged. Overuse injuries worsen when poor exercise techniques are not corrected. They also leave an impact when the body’s limits are not adhered to, leaving joints and muscles in a constant state of tension.
What can Physical Therapy do for you?
For new athletes, or athletes re-entering a sport after injury, a physiotherapist can work with you to create a training regiment. Training is unique to each person, focusing on specific strengths and limitations. Since overuse pain is subtle, and shows itself after a period of time, regular physiotherapy can combat it.
If you are experiencing signs & symptoms of overuse injury, physiotherapy can target and treat sights of injury in order to restore mobility and reduce pain. This can allow you to continue your training without suffering any consequences.
For more details on how our physiotherapists can help guide athletes of all ages, check out our Q&A with physiotherapist, Marco Sham, who has experience dealing with a variety of sport injuries.
If you are experiencing symptoms of overuse pain or suspect you might be at risk of it, call now at 905-997-8337 to book a free 15-min consultation with one of our physiotherapists.