Recognizing the Signs of an Overuse Injury

Your body is resilient and strong, but it has limits. While regular exercise is good for your body, pushing it past those limits can cause it to break down over time or experience a sudden, acute injury. Whether you’re an athlete who practices and competes daily or a person who engages in activities or jobs that require repetitive motions over time, you may be at risk for an overuse injury — but how do you know if you have one?

Dr. Stanley Mathew and our team of experienced medical professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating overuse injuries, so we can help you avoid them when possible, spot the signs, and know when to seek treatment.

Why do overuse injuries occur?

When you lift weights, run, and do yoga and plyometrics, you break down the tissues in your muscles and ligaments so new tissue can grow and strengthen the fibers. This process is essential whether you’re a bodybuilder or a gardener — your tissues need to continuously regenerate to thrive.

But if you accelerate this process beyond your body’s ability to renew cells and tissues, you’re likely to suffer an overuse injury. This can happen when you increase the intensity or duration of your routine or add new motions or activities. 

Overuse injuries can also occur if you change shoes, change the surface of your activity (like running on pavement instead of grass), or change sports. It can even happen if you change your body mechanics to favor a sore or injured part, or to compensate for a misaligned spine, flat feet, or uneven leg lengths.

What are the signs of an overuse injury?

Pain. Pain is the primary sign of an overuse injury. It may come on gradually (micro-injuries), or it may hit you suddenly (macro injuries). 

Micro injuries include small tears in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments that build up over time. Every time you repeat a movement, such as swinging a tennis racquet, lifting boxes, or typing on a keyboard, the tissues keep tearing. 

With not enough time to heal and remodel before you repeat the activity, the micro-injuries continue to worsen until they result in a macro injury, such as a sprained ankle, ruptured tendon, or joint dislocation.

Inflammation that you can’t see or feel is typically the culprit causing the pain in your overuse injury. Some of the most common types of overuse injuries include:

Often, overuse injuries can be prevented by 

Even with the best of intentions, you may end up with an overuse injury. If you do, it’s important to seek professional help to make sure you heal completely and avoid a macro injury that will sideline you for much longer.

Treating your overuse injury

Often rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are all you need to allow your overuse injury to heal completely. But you may need more assistance if your pain isn’t decreasing, and your injury is preventing you from participating in your sport or activity.

Dr. Mathew offers a full spectrum of treatment options and works closely with you to determine which will be most effective for you given the severity of your injury, your lifestyle, and your activity goals. 

From physical therapy and massage, to cryotherapy, steroid and joint injections, trigger point injections, electrical stimulation, and nerve blocks, we can help you manage your symptoms and heal the root cause of your painful overuse injury. 

If you’ve suffered from an overuse injury and can’t seem to get relief from conservtive, at-home treatments, call us at 319-369-7331 or request an appointment online to find out how to get back in the game. 

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