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How to avoid overuse injuries
By Mayo Clinic staff
Are you looking to be more physically active? If you're planning to do more exercise or play more sports, beware of overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries are any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that's the result of repetitive trauma. Overuse injuries typically occur because of training or technique errors.
How overuse injuries occur
Going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of activity can strain your muscles and lead to an overuse injury. Improper technique also takes a toll on your body. If you use poor form when swinging a golf club or doing strength-training exercises, for example, you may overload certain muscles and cause an overuse injury.
How to prevent overuse injuries
Thankfully, most overuse injuries are avoidable. Try these suggestions to prevent an overuse injury:
- Use proper form and gear.
Whether you're starting a new activity or have been playing a sport for a long time, taking lessons can help ensure you're using the correct technique.
- Pace yourself.
Avoid becoming a weekend warrior by spreading your aerobic activity throughout the week. It's also helpful to take time to warm up before physical activity and cool down afterward.
- Gradually increase your activity level.
When changing the intensity or duration of a physical activity, do so gradually.
- Mix up your routine.
Instead of focusing on one type of exercise, build variety into your fitness program. Doing a variety of low-impact activities prevents overuse injuries by allowing your body to use different muscle groups.
What to do if you may have an overuse injury
If you think you have an overuse injury, consult your primary care provider. You will likely be told to take a break from the activity that caused the injury and use medication for any pain and inflammation. Tell your provider if you've recently made changes to your workout technique, intensity, duration, frequency or types of exercises. Identifying the cause of your overuse injury will help you correct the problem and avoid repeating it.
Once your injury has healed, ask your provider to check that you've completely regained strength, motion, flexibility and balance before beginning the activity again. Pay special attention to proper technique to avoid future injuries.