Overuse injuries can be one of the most challenging and frustrating things we treat in an orthopedic office. Injuries typically are either acute or chronic. Acute injuries are like broken bones, torn ligaments, dislocations of joints, and muscle pulls. Chronic injuries result from repeated micro-type trauma to a structure. Repetitive activities to a certain tendon, bone, or joint can gradually add up to a level of symptoms causing pain and discomfort. Tennis elbow, shin splints, and impingement syndrome of the shoulder are some examples.
Many athletes and weekend warriors will experience these aches and pains at some time or another in their career. Unfortunately, as the cure cannot be immediate, many people become frustrated and have a difficult time accepting the fact that the cure is not obtained by visiting the doctor.
Our bodies have an incredible amount to handle heavy loads and stresses. Usually, repetitive exercises strengthen the muscles, tendon, and ligaments and make them more resistance to injuries. However, expecting a certain level of performance from a part of our body before it is conditioned can lead to injury. If you run too far, lift weights too heavy, or play soccer without conditioning yourself prior to the activity you are getting ready to get injured. This is an overuse injury.
A mistake in training is a prime culprit in leading to an overuse injury. Typically, it involves too much frequency or duration too early. Preparing for a marathon should take 6 months. Gradual increases in speed and distance are the best way to avoid injury, as the body conditions itself for this activity.
Using proper techniques in training are very valuable. There is so much literature available now on every sport either at a good bookstore on the Internet that every person should prepare himself prior to beginning any new sport. Technical and biomechanical considerations should be understood, as these help inform you of what muscle groups to concentrate your training. Some people are more prone to overuse injuries, as imbalances between flexibility and strength around the knees, shoulders, and hips predispose us to injury.
Proper equipment, like correct running shoes to match your individual foot and the sport you are pursuing can prevent lower extremity injuries. Hard vs. soft soles, low vs. high arch, wide vs. narrow: shoe design is important.
Treatment depends on the injury. Sometimes X-rays and MRI's are necessary, but usually the correct diagnosis can be made from a good history and physical. Most individuals will resolve their problems with cutting back the intensity, length of training time, and frequency of the workouts. Cross training is a relatively new concept, allowing individuals to mix difficult/moderate/easy workouts during a given week. This prevents undue stress on the body, yet promotes the body to become conditioned.
Most overuse injuries can be avoided. As we get older, we lose flexibility and strength. We all know this, as we all wish we had the body we had in our younger years. We heal slower, are quicker to injury, and don't have the stamina we once had. Knowing key principles in training, being in real touch with your body, and setting realistic goals based on gradual improvement are the secrets to avoiding injuries that can hamper your performances and frustrate your desires.