Overuse injuries often occur when the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or other components of the body are used too much, for too long, or in an improper manner. This could be done to any bone or muscle in your body. There are many situations where physical therapy can help you overcome the pain and discomfort felt by these injuries.
What Is an Overuse Injury?
An overuse injury occurs when a person engages in some type of repetitive motion or activity in which the muscle, joint, bone, tendon, or ligament is used over and over again. This typically occurs without allowing that area to heal after a workout. For many reasons, this can lead to pain and discomfort – and it often comes down to simply not giving the body time to recuperate after an intense workout.
Shin splints are a common example, but they can also occur when an elbow, shoulder, or leg muscle ends up not having enough time to heal. Though not as serious as an ACL injury or broken bone, not caring for this injury can lead to numerous health complications over time.
Signs of an Overuse Injury in Young Adults
The first step in addressing overuse injuries in young adults is to recognize who is most at risk for them. Generally, children and teens are at the highest risk for developing these conditions because:
- Their bones and muscles are still growing and, therefore, less resilient to the onset of stress
- They engage in sports or other physical activities that can strain a muscle or pull a ligament
- They may not recognize the difference between soreness after a good workout and muscle pain that relates to a true injury
The following are some of the most common signs that an overuse injury may be occurring. Keep in mind that not all of these require physical therapy, but if the pain is intense or increasing, you should not wait to get in for care.
- Joint pain during an activity that they have done for some time
- Recurring stiffness or difficulty with moving the area after working out
- Swelling in the impacted area
- Limited range of motion in the impacted area
- Paint during the activity that intensifies
- Joint degradation as seen through the early onset of chronic tendonitis or arthritis
The condition can worsen over time. This may occur, for example, when a person is facing injuries but is not getting the care they need or resting in the area. For some, getting manual therapy or simply taking a few days off can offer support and allow for the natural healing process. However, without this, mild pain can become more severe and may be debilitating over the long term.
Most Common Overuse Injuries in Young Adults
The following are some of the most common examples of overuse injuries in young people:
- Jumper’s knee in those who play a sport like basketball
- Shoulder and elbow injuries related to baseball, including those who are pitchers
- Elbow injuries related to tennis
- Back, elbow, or ankle injuries related to strain from gymnastics
- Plantar fasciitis from running
Most sports involve repeated actions in some way that can ultimately lead to the onset of overuse injuries. If your child is engaging in any type of activity like this, it is quite important to take action to get the relief needed – including seeing a physical therapist to find out what your options are.
Preventing Overuse Injuries
Overuse injuries are often those that can be prevented. Preventing them is ideal as it may help to protect the muscles and bones from long-term, harder-to-improve injuries and even help to avoid rehabilitation after an injury occurs. Here are some strategies for preventing such injuries:
Take Time Away From the Activity
For those who are in a single sport, it is recommended that they have at least a three month break from it during the course of the year to allow for full repairing and healing to happen. This allows overused muscles and joints to heal over time and naturally. That does not mean that a person cannot exercise or stay active, but they should step away from vigorous activity, especially in the impacted areas or high risk areas for several months.
Consider a Different Type of Exercise
Another way to reduce the risk of injury is to switch things up. Instead of focusing just on basketball for the entire year, consider moving to swimming in the offseason. By doing this, you are working different muscle groups, and while you are still staying active and engaged, you are less at risk for overuse injuries to occur.
Get Physical Therapy Routinely
There are several types of physical therapy available. Not all forms are related to simply healing from an injury. Some forms of physical therapy can actually work very well as a type of preventative care mechanism. This can help to minimize the onset of injury because it helps to work out muscle, tendon, and ligament concerns before an injury occurs.
Listen to Your Body
When pain develops, that is the body’s communication with the brain, that it needs a break. Take that break. Take time off for a few days to allow your body to heal. If you do not notice that improvement, that often means it is time to seek medical care and support.
Rock Valley Physical Therapy Is Here to Help!
If you believe you could be at risk of or suffering from an overuse injury, let us help you. Learn more about what we do at Rock Valley Physical Therapy. Set up a consultation and exam with our team to find out what we can offer in the form of relief. For many people, our therapy options resolve their pain and improve their overall quality of life. Contact us now for an appointment.