Muscle and joint pain from over-training or doing repetitive movements is one of the most common complaints I see in my office. These types of injuries can be difficult to manage, so in my opinon, the best tool to treat them is prevention and knowledge!
In this short article, I will outline some of the major risk factors for developing an overuse injury and a few things that you might be able to do to prevent them and give you a couple of tips that might help should you get one. Let’s talk about risk factors first.
More often than not, the thing that leads someone to an overuse injury are training errors. Whether it be from improper training scheduling, poor form / position errors, or bad recovery habits; these risk factors can often be more easily remedied by seeking professional advice.
It is a good idea to meet with a personal trainer to design a workout program that is suited towards your goals and to have them assess your movements to make sure that you aren’t making common errors. This is even more important if you are just getting started on a regular exercise routine or starting strength and conditioning training.
Position errors and poor form in the workplace can also be a source of overuse injury so it is also a good idea to have a trained chiropractor or physical therapist assess your posture and make basic workplace ergonomic suggestions suited to your particular vocational responsibilities.
The quality and age of the equipment you are using for any activity can also lead to repetitive strain. If some piece of equipment you use is poorly designed, it can force you to get out of an optimal position to adapt to the it, causing injuries as described above.
It is a good idea to make sure that you are using equipment that is adapted to your body to reduce risk of injury, and replace it when it is worn out. Shoes, in particular, are a good example of this. I personally would recommend replacing shoes that you train in around every 500 miles of use.
Gender and age can also play a role in your risk for developing an overuse injury. In studies done on the incidence of repetitive use injuries in high school athletes it was found that girls were much more likely to develop these types of injuries than boys who played the same sports.
There is some debate about the absolute role that age plays as a risk factor for overuse injuries, but from a physiological perspective it makes good sense. Overuse injuries typically occur when there is microtrauma to our tendons, muscles, and joints. Typically, this type of “stress” is good for improving the strength and resilience of these structures, but the problem begins when we damage these structures repeatedly before our body has a chance to repair them.
As we age, our body’s ability to heal and regenerate itself declines for a number of reasons which open the door for overuse injuries to set in.
The final risk we will discuss is the role that psychosocial factors have been thought to play in overuse injuries. Believe it or not, things like work satisfaction, perception of one’s mental/physical health, anxiety, and coping mechanisms have been implicated as contributors to these types of injuries!
It’s all well and good to know what things may put you at risk for repetitive strain injuries–as knowledge of them alone can be a powerful tool for prevention–but there are a couple of things that you can do on top of that to help yourself.
A few things you can do on your own are:
- Decreasing the frequency, intensity, and duration of offending activities
- Getting assessed by a professional for movement, training, postural, and ergonomic errors
- Adopting good pre-training (warm-up) and post-traning (recovery) habits.
- Eating well – There is thought that eating good quality lean meats, fish, and nuts regularly can help reduce risk and help recovery from overuse injuries
- Taking a graded approach to returning to an activity post injury (find out more here)
If after trying a few of these things your pain doesn’t seem to be improving, your injury may require additional treatment from a chiropractor like myself, or other trained medical professional.
Be sure to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your pain, as I would be glad to help you get back to the things you love as quickly and pain free as possible!