We all know that being active is good for us, but even too much of a good thing can be harmful. Have you ever suffered from an overuse injury doing something you love? It can be disheartening, especially if it takes ages to heal.
No one wants to suffer an injury while being active. And you can’t just give up sports and exercise. So what can you do to make sure that you don’t overuse a joint or muscle to the point of injury?
At Thunder Basin Orthopaedics, we specialize in sports medicine and see plenty of overuse injuries. Luckily for you, we know some tips to help you avoid dreaded overuse injuries in many cases.
Here’s what you need to know to help prevent overuse injuries, whether you’re exercising or simply enjoying a sport you love.
What Causes Overuse Injuries?
An overuse injury is an injury to a joint or muscle caused by repetitive trauma or stress. Unlike with a sudden injury, these injuries occur over time, so they often catch you off-guard.
Several common overuse injuries include shin splints, tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures. These injuries may not be life-threatening, but they can make it difficult to enjoy doing the activities you love.
The two most common ways that overuse injuries occur are through training errors and technique errors. For example, using an improper form, pushing yourself too hard, or simply doing too many of the same repetitive movements can all lead to overuse injuries.
Preventing Overuse Injuries
Most people try to prevent common injuries while they’re involved in an activity, but overuse injuries can be sneaky. Something as seemingly insignificant as an uneven running surface or worn-out running shoes can cause an overuse injury, so preventing them takes special attention.
Pay Attention to Your Environment
Exercising on uneven ground, wearing worn-out running shoes, or using damaged equipment can all put undue strain on your body. Use proper equipment designed for the activity that you’re doing. And make sure that you know the proper form for the activity you’re engaging in, so you don’t put any unnecessary strain on your body.
Listen to Your Body
The adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is wrong. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right, so listen to it. Never push yourself to move through pain during a workout or activity. You could be setting yourself up for a severe injury if you do.
Stop if you feel something isn’t quite right. You may want to speak to your doctor or a sports medicine specialist to see if specialized equipment may help. You may benefit from adapting your exercises for a while until your body becomes accustomed to the movement.
Increase Activity Gradually
It’s important to pace yourself, especially if you are new to the activity. It can be tempting to dive in and work extra hard to become good at your new sport, but this can put your body under a great deal of stress that could lead to injuries.
Take the time to warm up before your activity. Then, start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Pay attention to how your body feels with each increase, and ease off if you feel any pain.
Vary Your Workouts
Working the same muscles every single time you workout is a recipe for disaster. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to recover, you could injure them through overuse. Instead, vary your workouts so that you give your muscle groups a chance to rest.
Don’t forget to take breaks during your activities, too. It may be tempting to try and ‘power through’ a workout or training session, but this can increase your risk of injury. Instead, give yourself enough time to rest between bouts of activity and don’t push yourself too hard.
If You Think You Have an Overuse Injury
Sometimes, even our best intentions aren’t enough to prevent injuries while we’re active. For example, if you start to feel pain in a muscle or joint, stop your activity immediately and give yourself enough time for the pain to resolve itself.
You may need to work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the area to prevent the injury from worsening. If resting isn’t enough to provide relief, try over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or a heat/ice treatment for pain relief.
Don’t Let Overuse Injuries Win
Overuse injuries can affect athletes both young and old. They can be a problem whether you’re a professional or just someone who enjoys being active. And they can ruin the fun of being active if they cause you a tremendous amount of pain.
You don’t have to let these injuries win. You don’t have to give up on your active goals, but you may need to change the way you work out. And if you need help with treating or recovering from an overuse injury, we can help.
Thunder Basin Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can help you overcome various orthopaedic injuries so you can get back to the active life you enjoy. Contact us today to see how our specialists can help you get back on your feet.