November 18, 2019

A Quick (and important!) Guide to Overuse Injuries

Jamie Fullerton
,
Head Physiotherapist

What is an overuse injury and how does it occur?

An overuse injury typically stems from training errors. Training errors occur when you quickly take on too much physical activity. Exercising for too long, going too fast, or simply doing too much of the same activity can strain your muscles and potentially lead to an overuse injury (i.e. micro trauma to the tendons, joints and/or bones).

Overuse injuries differ from acute injuries (which might occur from a traumatic incident) as they occur gradually over X amount of time and it is important to note that these injuries are not limited to athletics. Any job/activity in which repetitive strain, incorrect body alignment or improper equipment is used, puts strain on areas of the body which then leads to the increased risk of injury.

Exercise applies stress to the body. Your body adapts by thickening and strengthening the various tissues involved. Muscles get stronger, firmer and sometimes larger. Tendons get stronger and bone density increases.

However, if exercise is applied in such a way that gradual adaptation cannot occur, the excessive overload can cause microscopic injuries, leading to inflammation, i.e. the body’s response to injury.

Why it is important to take an overuse injury seriously…

Whilst we refer to overuse injuries as micro-traumas, they are not to be underestimated. Prolonged overuse injuries can cause high levels of pain, which for long periods of time can be physically and mentally deliberating. In extreme cases and without correct medical attention at the first sign of injury, surgery may later be needed to properly rectify the problem.

The Four Stages of an Overuse Injury:

1. The discomfort disappears during warm-up

2. The discomfort may disappear during warm-up, but reappears at the end of an activity

3. Discomfort that gets worse during the activity

4. Pain or discomfort all the time.

What do we consider an overuse injury?

We hear the term frequently, but what actually  qualifies as an overuse injury? We’ve given some examples below…

  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Jumper’s Knee
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Runner’s Knee
  • Shin Splints
  • Stress Fractures
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Bursitis Knee
  • Cramps
  • Achilles Tendon Rupture


Prevention of overuse injuries


  • Warm-up (including stretching) and warm-down (including stretching) before and after all exercise.
  • Use proper equipment
  • Increase at a gradual rate, conditioning your body as you progress
  • Practice and concentrate on the correct technique rather than rushing to the next weight or time challenge
  • Listen to your body - pain is a warning that something is wrong. Early identification and treatment will allow you to continue your activity in the long run
  • Identify and correct the cause of pain or discomfort
  • Ensure full injury rehabilitation, e.g. a sore right leg can cause an overuse injury in the left through compensation

Thanks for taking the time to read and we hope that you find this information on overuse injuries useful! As always if you have any questions in regards to any pain or injury you have, we'd be happy to help. Just call 0151 559 1107 or contact us here.

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