Treating Overuse Injuries

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Treating Overuse Injuries

Treating Overuse Injuries
Treating Overuse Injuries
Treating Overuse Injuries
When you get too much of a good thing.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Treating Oversue Injuries

You will usually feel discomfort from an overuse injury within 24 hours. The main symptoms are a dull ache, a twinge when the joint moves a certain way, or a burning or shooting pain when the injured area is touched or weight is put on it. You may have swelling. And exercise will probably cause discomfort or pain.

Overuse injuries are caused by repeatedly stressing the same muscle or joint. The most important treatment is to stop the action right away. You should then see your doctor to find out if you need treatment. It can take 2 or 3 weeks for the swelling to go down. Your doctor might want you to take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen to make this swelling, or inflammation, go down. You might also need a shot of cortisone.

Ice (or frozen peas)

During the first 48 hours after the injury, apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. If you don't have an ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables will work.

It's important to know what caused the injury so you can avoid it in the future. You may need to cut back on a certain activity, or switch to one that is less stressful on your joints. (You might switch from running or walking to swimming or cycling). Check your equipment, too. A tennis racket that is too heavy or too tightly strung can lead to tennis elbow. Shoes that are too stiff can strain the tendons in the bottom of the foot leading to (plantar fasciitis).

To avoid a repeat injury, you'll need to improve the strength and mobility of the affected joint, along with its related muscles. A physical therapist can work with you to identify your weaknesses, and teach you exercises that will increase your range of motion.

Strains and sprains

"Strains" and "sprains" do not describe the same type of injury. When you strain (or "pull" a muscle), you have over-stretched or torn the muscle. You've strained yourself when you push harder than usual. For example, you decide to sprint down the street when you are not used to running. A sprain is a torn or over-stretched ligament. (Ligaments are the tough, flexible cords that link bone to bone). You can sprain a joint but you can't sprain a muscle.

Two of the most commonly strained muscles are the hamstrings (rear thigh muscles) and the muscles of the inner thigh (groin). Treat a strained muscle with ice for at least 72 hours. Heat can be used to allow stretching, but the injury should still be iced after exercise.

Before working out, take 5 minutes to warm up, and loosen these muscles. If you strain yourself, stop doing that particular exercise for several days, until the muscle repairs itself. To speed the healing process, you can apply ice to the injured area. RICE treatment may also be used for sprains, such as a sprained ankle.



Last updated June 10, 2014

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