What Is an Overuse Injury Anyway?
Written by Heidi Christensen, MD
While acute injuries typically occur as the result of a single, traumatic event, overuse injuries develop more gradually over time. They are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to bones, tendons, and joints and can occur in both adults and kids. Common examples include Achilles tendinitis, tennis elbow, and stress fractures. Because overuse injuries can be subtle and are often not associated with trauma, they can be difficult to diagnose. They can be very challenging to treat, as well, as treatment typically differs from that of acute injuries.
Overuse injuries are very preventable and training errors are the most common cause. Here are some helpful recommendations to prevent overuse injuries:
- Know your limits — Pushing yourself beyond your body’s capabilities is not always a good thing. While it can be good to challenge your body so you continue to reach new heights in your sport or workouts, going to the extreme can cause injury.
- Pace yourself — Abrupt increases in training commonly lead to overuse injury, such as stress fractures, amongst other injuries.
- Imbalances in strength and flexibility — Ensuring that your body is properly conditioned for the sport or recreational activity in which you participate is commonly overlooked. Stretching and building strength in muscle groups that are essential for the sport you play are key.
- Get the correct equipment —Whether footwear or protective gear, it is more important than you think to use the proper equipment for your sport.
- Get the correct diagnosis — It is important to seek medical advice from a physician who is trained in diagnosing and treating overuse injuries, such as a Sports Medicine physician. Although some injuries can be successfully treated at home by some good old ice and rest, many people incorrectly diagnose themselves. Getting an accurate diagnosis allows for implementation of plans for treatment and future prevention that are tailored to you and your injury.