How Overuse Injuries Can Derail Your Fitness
By Jamie Logie, PTS, NWS
Your training is going great. You’re getting stronger, fitter, losing weight and seeing results.
And then … Bam! You get injured.
Nothing derails progress more than an injury. It stops any pursuit of fitness in its tracks and leaves you stuck to deal with it. If you’re not able to be active, your progress goes backward and this can leave you frustrated and depressed. Let’s look at overuse injuries and the problems they can cause for your long-term training.
What Is An Overuse Injury?
It’s self-explanatory, but to be more specific, an overuse injury is caused by repetitive trauma. This can be any type of muscle or joint injuries such as tendonitis or a stress fracture. These are both things building up over time and then appear abruptly.
Some common types of overuse injuries include:
- Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
- Swimmers shoulder (rotator cuff tendonitis and impingement)
- Runners’ knee
- Jumpers’ knee (infrapatellar tendonitis)
- Little League elbow (comes from too much throwing and caused by repetitive stress to the growth plate on the inside of the elbow)
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints
The last two are the most common and familiar, and it’s important to point out that with all the other examples you don’t have to be playing sports to get them. They are common if you are constantly doing repetitive motions. They even show up in lower intensity movements. If you are using a keyboard and mouse all day, you know the toll it can take on your body over the long term.
What Causes Overuse Injuries?
They are caused by a combination of repetitive stress, but also training errors when you are engaged in fitness and workouts. They can also happen when you take on too much physical activity too quickly. Other causes include doing an exercise too fast, exercising for too long, or doing too much of one type of activity. This causes an unnecessary strain on your muscles, joints, and tendons.
The other big cause is poor technique. When you use poor form during an exercise, it can have a bad impact on your body. With poor form during a workout, you can overload certain muscles leading to an injury. Another big problem occurs when trying to lift weights that are too heavy. The form turns sloppy and you can end up putting more force and strain on your joints as they struggle with the weight. The muscle you are intending to train doesn’t get properly engaged as your ligaments and tendons are taking on the brunt of the weight.
If these overuse injuries hit you, it can derail your training as you can aggravate them further by trying to work through them. You will also need an extended recovery time to allow them to heal which derails any progress. To help avoid an overuse injury you want to focus on a few things:
- Master exercise form before progressing with increased weight. Perfect your form and the weights will naturally go up.
- Wear proper shoes. If you are always running in worn shoes you set yourself up for an overuse injury such as shin splints. You should replace your shoes every 400 to 800 km, even if they still look new.
- Mix up your training. If you are always doing the same activity, you risk overuse injury as well as your body becoming accustomed to the workout, slowing down your results. Add in some low-impact activities such as swimming or biking to give your body a break, but still get a good workout.