Avoiding overuse injuries

By | July 27, 2014

With 2014 still young, you only need take a look at the pavements and sporting fields to see that there are lots of people enthusiastic about their training at the moment.

While this enthusiasm is a great thing, many of these avid trainers may suffer burnout either physically or psychologically by the time the weather starts to get cool.

Overuse injuries are a common risk associated with the rigors of physical training. Unlike acute injuries, which are usually the result of a single traumatic event, overuse injuries are subtle and usually occur over time, making them more challenging to diagnose and treat.

How do overuse injuries occur?

Many overuse injuries can be the result of ‘too much, too soon’, with those who rapidly increase the intensity, duration, or frequency of activity at the most risk. Overuse injuries are also common in people returning to training after injury or a break, who are keen to get ‘back in the game’.

It’s important to note that some people are more prone to overuse injuries, with body alignment issues such as knock-knees, flat or high arches and bow legs sometimes contributing to these issues. Also, any joints where there’s imbalance between strength and flexibility are potential problem areas.

Tips to avoid overuse injuries

  • Gradually increase your training workload by just 10 percent each week. This will help to reduce the risk of muscle or joint injury such as tendonitis or stress fractures caused by repetitive trauma.
  • Always remember to warm up and cool down effectively before and after training.
  • Incorporating strength, flexibility and core strength work into your training will help minimise overuse injuries.
  • Check your technique with a professional to make sure you’re looking after your body and any potential weak spots.
  • Listen to your body and use ice after an activity if you have any minor aches and pain.
  • Allow adequate recovery time between sessions of activity. When initially resuming exercise, 48 hours is optimal, especially with same-activity sessions (e.g. two long runs only a day apart is risky).
  • Set realistic short and medium term goals to help you to self-moderate while staying motivated.
  • Make sure you are using appropriate equipment, such as the correct footwear for your planned activity and any other safety gear that may be required. You may be keen to get started, but throwing on your Dunlop Volleys, which you usually mow the lawn in, to go for a run is fraught with danger for overload injuries.

In essence, keep the progressive changes in your activity levels gradual, listen to your body, and make incremental adjustments in time and intensity until you reach your new fitness goals.

As your body gets conditioned to increased levels of activity, there will be some normal mild soreness but if you’re experiencing pain of an intensity which is affecting your ability to carry out normal daily activities, or the pain is persisting/not improving after 48 to 72 hours, it may be time to make an appointment with an Allsports physiotherapist.

To read more on overuse injuries, click here.

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