Have you ever felt a gradual onset of pain during work, exercise or continuous movement and immediately started wondering how and why this pain came to be?
At pt Health, we see a lot of patients that come in describing this kind of pain. They’re usually unsure why they’re in pain because there wasn’t a precise incident, like an accident or a fall, after which pain all of a sudden started occurring. So what’s going on here?
Why overuse injuries can cause problems
Chatting with these patients, they often end up describing having to perform repetitive movements because of their jobs or irregular training. These repetitive movements can create overuse injuries that can lead to further issues if they’re not taken care of right away.
Overuse injuries is a term used as a broad category for a group of injuries. These generally affect soft tissue structures such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage and fascia. The most common changes that occur are in tendons and cartilage.
The problem is usually caused by putting the same structures under stress constantly over a certain period. A small load over a long period or a heavy load over a short period can both cause overuse injuries.
Putting tendons at risk
When stressing muscles constantly without rest or recovery, tendons can begin to develop small micro-tears, degenerate and create an influx of inflammation. This combination will create pain or discomfort.
The mistake people often make is to continue to push their bodies through the pain, hoping the pain will simply disappear. By doing so, they risk creating further damage over the structure and putting themselves at risk, potentially developing scar tissue in this area.
Once this occurs, the injury becomes more complex to treat. This change leads to tendinopathy, which can range from mild to intense pain.
Cartilage deterioration is inevitable, as it happens over time, as we age.
However, repetitive use can accelerate cartilage damage and can create premature arthritic change in certain people. This change can create chronic pain, functional disabilities and may lead to early surgical interventions.
Cartilage isn’t very good at repairing itself, even for a very small injury. If left untreated, deterioration to the joint surface may lead to osteoarthritis.
How to prevent overuse injuries
As practitioners, we know that some jobs require people to perform certain tasks or actions that they can’t avoid. Sometimes, repetitive movements are required to complete a task, which is why we work with you to give you practical advice on how to avoid developing injuries in the future while helping you recover from an injury so that you can get back to your normal activity level. For example, we may teach you better techniques or recommend pacing yourself and listening to your body.
Maintenance treatment, management techniques and educational advice are vital to prevent, maintain or heal repetitive strain injuries. If you’re struggling with overuse injuries, find a clinic near you and schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.
This blog originally appeared on Lifemark.ca.