How to Avoid Common Overuse Injuries

Tenosynovitis: With tenosynovitis, the tendon is not inflamed but rather the surrounding lining, known as the tendon sheath. As the tendons slide through this inflamed lining during movement, it causes inflammation of the sheath surrounding a tendon. It can be accompanied by a grinding sensation on the tendon when joint movement is occurring. If the tendon sheath becomes inflamed, the tendon inside will rub against the irritated sheath causing pain and discomfort. Each one of these is accompanied by pain but can be treated differently. Ice and rest will help alleviate pain and inflammation but may not solve the problem. Rest alone may not solve the problem, but combined with light resistive exercises the tendons will adapt and repair themselves.

Examples of light resistive exercises are leg extensions performed with very light weight; double leg squats with little to no extra weight; aqua aerobics or deep water aqua jogging with a flotation belt; and riding a bicycle or stationary bike. These exercises should be performed three times per week and used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory treatments. If the problems persist you should seek treatment from a qualified medical professional.

The most common non-tendon related overuse injury is known as shin splints. This is a catch-all term used by athletes when describing any pain in the front of the lower leg. Technically called medial tibial stress syndrome, or MTSS, it is caused by micro-traumas along the medial or inner border of the tibia (large shin bone). MTSS is usually associated with general pain and discomfort along the shin and can be treated with ice and rest. Most MTSS can be avoided with the use of proper footwear.

Athletic shoes should be supportive and should fit perfectly on the date of purchase and not require a break in period. If the shoes require a break in period, they are not the right shoes. Most running specific stores can do a foot analysis and determine the right training shoes for you. If the shin pain becomes more localized or specific to one area, you should seek advice from a qualified medical professional, because MTSS can develop into stress fractures if left untreated.

Prevention

Most overuse injuries can be prevented by taking certain precautions. A proper amount of recovery time is crucial when training for any sport. By allowing your body to naturally recover and heal injuries caused by chronic use can be avoided.

There are many misconceptions about what proper recovery is. Many athletes think that a light workout helps them recover from the more intense training days. This can be true over short periods of time. For example, a light workout once a week can cause the body to feel rested, but if this is persistent over the course of a few months, your body will continue to break down and overuse injuries can still occur.

A more useful form of recovery is to take one day off per week. This is a day when there is no workout performed. During this day off, the body has time to adapt to the training program that is being performed. By allowing the body one day of recovery, you are allowing damaged muscles and tendons to begin repairing themselves without further damage.

The right amount of sleep can also help you to avoid overuse injuries since the body repairs itself during sleep. Hormones are released in larger quantities during sleep which allow natural healing to occur. Periods of prolonged rest during the training season can also allow the body to heal and adapt to the training. Taking a week to have multiple days off and to train at a very light intensity can let your body fully recover and also prepare it for more intense training in the future. Rest and recovery is the key to avoiding overuse injuries.

If you are experiencing problems caused by chronic exercise, you should seek advice from a qualified medical professional such as an orthopedist, podiatrist, physical therapist, or a certified athletic trainer. They can help you get over your injury and keep you pain-free.


Athletic trainers are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to optimize activity and participation of patients and clients. Athletic training encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and intervention of emergency, acute, and chronic medical conditions involving impairment, functional limitations and disabilities. The California Athletic Trainers Association represents and supports members of the athletic training profession through communication and education.

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