Athletes, weekend warriors and skilled craftsmen alike may find themselves on the sidelines due to overuse injuries.
“In medical terms, an overuse injury may occur when the break down rate of a muscle, ligament, tendon or bone is greater than the recovery rate,” explains Dr. Richard Jelsma, a double board-certified Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Physician at Baylor Scott & White Surgical Hospital at Sherman.
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. Jelsma 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,” he explains. 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 baseball player and ask when the last time they took anytime off, and they can’t remember,” said Dr. Jelsma.
Meanwhile, adults may get an overuse injury by trying to do too much too soon when beginning a new workout routine or activity. Dr. Jelsma reminds his patients that while getting active is great, start out with modest goals until you build stamina, flexibility, and strength.
For adults reacclimating to exercise, he recommends following the “10 Percent Rule”— “Don’t increase your activity by more than 10 percent a week.”
He also recommends that people who already exercise regularly to take a day off occasionally 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
- Apply ice to 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. Jelsma. And of course, rest the injury. If the pain hasn’t gone away after a reasonable 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. Jelsma has one simple golden rule: “Listening to your body is the biggest thing you can do,” he says.
Physicians provide clinical services as members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health’s subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and do not provide clinical services as employees or agents of those medical centers or Baylor Scott & White Health.