Even the casual sports fan at some point has probably seen a slow-motion replay of an athlete going down to an injury.
In those cases, the genesis of the injury is usually obvious and sometimes even wince-worthy. However, athletes, weekend warriors and skilled craftsmen alike may also find themselves on the sidelines in less dramatic fashion due to another type of damage: overuse injuries.
Put simply, an overuse injury occurs due to repeatedly stressing a bone, joint or muscle without giving it enough rest. There are a variety of common overuse injuries, including shin splints, tennis elbow, jumper’s knee, stress fracture and a variety of shoulder issues among others.
DIFFERENT AGES, DIFFERENT RISKS
Dr. McSpadden has treated overuse injuries in people of all ages. He says the reasons for these types of injuries though, are often different for kids and adults.
“Kids get overuse injuries when they don’t take any time off from their sport.”
Unlike past generations where children played a variety of sports throughout the year each using predominantly different muscle groups, kids today often begin specializing in a single sport much sooner and are in leagues nearly year around.
“I’ll see a case of bicep or rotator cuff tendinitis in a volleyball player and ask when the last time they took anytime off, and they can’t remember,” says Dr. McSpadden.”
Meanwhile, adults may get an overuse injury by trying to do too much too soon when beginning a new workout routine or activity. Often, the motivation for adults hitting the gym or running trail is to lose weight. But Dr. McSpadden reminds his patients that while getting active is great, changing their diet is far more important than working out regularly.
“Weight loss is about 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise,” he says.
For adults reacclimating to exercise, he recommends following the 10 Percent Rule.
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“Don’t increase your activity by more than 10 percent week in terms of either distance or weight.”
He also recommends that people who already exercise regularly take a week off every few months to give their body time to more fully recover.
PREVENT, DETECT, REACT
In addition to getting enough rest, there are other steps people can take to prevent overuse injuries:
» Warm-up and cool down before and after exercise
» Always use proper equipment and shoes that fit right
» Vary exercises – avoid constantly using the same muscle group
» Ice areas of inflammation
The telltale sign of an overuse injury is inflammation, which may include aching, swelling, redness, pain when touched, and movement pain or discomfort.
“If you think you may have an overuse injury, start with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory. You may need to take it consistently for a week or two during a flare up,” advises Dr. McSpadden.
And of course, rest the injury. If the pain hasn’t gone away after a significant amount of rest, it’s probably time to see a doctor.
Whether it’s sports, working out or physical labor, to help prevent and recover from an overuse – or any other type of injury – Dr. McSpadden has one simple golden rule:
“Listening to your body is the biggest thing you can do,” he says. “I tell people 10 times a day, if it hurts don’t do it.”