What are Overuse Injuries & Conditions?
Overuse injuries and conditions can include stress fractures, bursitis, patellofemoral stress syndrome, rotator cuff disorders, and more. They result from wear and tear on joints and muscles from too much exercise of the same type, working out hard without building up to it, and using the improper form when exercising or playing sports.
- The area in which you feel pain, weakness, or numbness, or where swelling is present, depends on which joints and muscle groups you are overusing. These can include shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, back, neck, heels, and other areas.
- If you play a sport, you may first notice an injury when you realize you aren’t performing up to par, or you are not able to complete a motion in your usual way.
- Parents should be particularly observant of their children, whose technique in a sport may be modified to accommodate pain.
Perhaps you’ve suddenly taken up baseball and are determined to be the best pitcher possible. Using your rotator cuff muscles over and over again during wind-ups can cause injury; swimming can result in similar shoulder injuries. Skiing the same trail, twisting your knees over and over again, can affect those muscles and ligaments. Speed skating, gymnastics, tennis — sports that use the same muscle groups over and over again — can cause you to have an overuse injury. Occupations can have the same overuse affect: if you lift bags of mulch or luggage, work with heavy machinery, or even do the same physical office activities every day, you are in danger of overusing certain muscles and subjecting them to injury.
“Determining that an injury is being caused by overuse is really just the first step in the evaluation,” says William Giliberti, MD, an orthopedic physician at OINJ. “The injury itself — whatever it is, a sprain, a fracture, a strain, bursitis, a torn ACL, knee pain, for example — has to be treated. Once that condition has been resolved, the next step is prevention. Proper stretching, strength exercises, and warm-ups go a long way.”
“The best way to prevent an overuse injury is rest and variation,” says Jerome Rosman, MD, another orthopedic physician at OINJ. “Rest doesn’t necessarily mean staying still. It could just mean finding different activities. While adults understand this, kids often get so focused on one sport that they don’t realize the harm it does to use those same muscles over and over again in the same way. Most doctors would recommend switching up sports with the season, so muscles can still get strong and flexible, but can be used in a different way. You don’t want to risk your child having permanent injuries that can result from stress being put on the body while they are growing.”