Guide to Overuse Injuries & Tips to Prevent Them
Overuse injuries can happen to anyone and to nearly every part of the body, not just pro athletes with chronic knee pain. Caused by doing repetitive motions, overuse injuries can even develop in those who are typing for too long, or engaging in their favorite hobbies, such as knitting or video gaming. Overuse injuries can take you out of the game—they can also prevent you from working or engaging in everyday activities. Fortunately, you can prevent overuse injuries by taking a handful of precautions.
Overuse, or doing one motion repeatedly, causes stress to bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Without giving the affected area some rest, the stress of overuse can traumatize these body tissues in ways that cause chronic joint inflammation, painful tendonitis, and even arthritis. Overuse injuries may develop as the result of doing one motion too many times, or by performing a motion for too long.
In many cases, taking a rest gives the affected tissue time to heal. Over-the-counter pain relievers and gentle exercise can help too. Laser therapy can also help. Using the power of light energy, laser therapy stimulates the body’s own healing properties to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Specifically, laser therapy utilizes specific wavelengths of red light that target the energy-production centers of body cells, known as mitochondria. Targeting the mitochondria in this way increases the production of energy inside the cell to optimize the healing process.
Common Activities that Cause Overuse Injuries
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some of the most common overuse injuries and their treatments, along with ways you can avoid experiencing these painful injuries.
Overuse injuries are common in sports, as athletes often engage in repetitive motions and intense workouts. Sports injuries include plantar fasciitis, “tennis elbow,” “jumper’s knee,” and “golfer’s elbow.”
Preventing sports injuries associated with overuse includes stretching before and after playing sports, by using the right sports equipment, and by using proper form when playing sports or working out. It is also important to change up your activity—this particularly important in sports that involve running, jumping, or swinging your arms.
Back & Neck injuries
Overuse and repetitive motions can cause a wide variety of back and neck injuries. The lower back, or lumbar area, is prone to muscle strain and other overuse injuries; this is particularly true for those who are overweight, have weak back or abdominal muscles, or play sports that involve a lot of pushing and pulling. Sitting at a computer for too long can cause overuse injuries of the neck, as can playing certain sports.
To prevent back and neck overuse injuries, use proper form with lifting, maintain good posture, and change position frequently.
Walking & Standing
Even walking can cause overuse injuries. If you are like the average American, you walk up to 2 miles each day—that’s 3,000-4,000 steps every day! All of this walking can cause overuse injuries in your feet and ankles, such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Even standing in one place too long can bring about pain. Overuse injuries of your feet and ankles can contribute to additional stress and injury to your legs, knees, hips, and back.
Resting your feet and wearing well-fitting shoes suitable for walking and standing can help reduce foot pain from overuse injuries; engaging in stretching exercises can also help.
Arthritis & Tendonitis of the Wrists & Hands
Wrists and hands are particularly vulnerable to overuse injuries, in that many everyday activities involve repetitive motion involving your wrists and hands. Cooking, operating a vehicle, playing a musical instrument, typing, or even playing the latest mobile phone game strains the joints and connective tissues in ways that can lead to overuse injuries of the hands, such as arthritis and tendonitis.
Taking frequent breaks from typing and playing mobile games can help you prevent overuse injuries of the wrists and hands. Performing forearm and arm stretches can alleviate the pain and stiffness of overuse injuries.
The overuse of digital devices can cause physical strain on the entire body, but especially on the back, neck, and shoulders. Poor posture, such as rounded shoulders and looking downward, while using digital devices can contribute to overuse injuries, strain, and pain. Digital device overuse can also increase stress and depression, decrease productivity, and lead to work-related insomnia
To prevent injuries from digital device overuse, take a break every 20 minutes: stand, stretch, dance, or take a walk around the block. Maintain good posture by positioning the keyboard so that your forearms sit a few inches above your waist, aligning the top of the screen with your eyebrows so that your eyes look downward slightly at the screen, and keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor.
Don’t let overuse injuries take you out of the game or stop you from enjoying life. For more information about overuse injuries, their treatment, and how to prevent them, consult with your healthcare professional.