You’ve noticed that your elbow has developed more and more twinges over the past few months. Perhaps your knee bothers you when you bend a certain way, and it’s getting worse. You need to see a doctor.
The team at Urgently Ortho, a walk-in clinic serving Phoenix and the surrounding area, has board-certified orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic physician assistants available to help you seven days a week. No appointment is necessary.
After a physical exam, review of your medical history, and careful testing, usually including an X-ray and sometimes other tests such as an MRI, your Urgently Ortho physician explains the diagnosis, which in some cases will be an overuse injury.
They explain that repetitive motions, such as swinging your arm during tennis, can damage the tendons and ligaments over time. Your body is always producing new cells to replace old and dying cells in your tissue. If the replacement cells don’t reproduce as rapidly as the old tissue, the constant wear and tear causes injury.
You’re definitely susceptible to overuse injuries if you play sports on a regular basis. Overuse injuries also occur in workers who have a job that entails physical labor requiring the same motion over and over, such as a carpenter hammering nails or a warehouse worker lifting heavy loads.
Treating overuse injuries
Here are useful strategies to treat overuse injuries.
Once your physician diagnoses an overuse injury, you need to give the injured joint time to rest so it has a chance to heal. Refraining from playing tennis for a few weeks is better than being out for the whole season if you continue to try to play. A minor health issue now could become a major problem later.
Use ice and anti-inflammatories
Use ice or heat as directed by your Urgently Ortho physician as well as over-the-counter pain medication to lessen inflammation.
Examine your equipment
The equipment you use in your sport or at work can make a difference in your health. If you’re a runner and your overuse injury affects your knees, your running shoes could be the problem. Are they old and worn out, not giving you the proper support?
Are they the right kind of shoes for your foot? Prescription orthotics might help. They’re useful for all runners, because most people either overpronate (your foot rolls inward when you move) or underpronate (your foot rolls outward). The orthotics help stabilize your foot while you’re moving.
If you work at a computer all day and you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the angle of your hands over the keyboard is likely causing your injury. Transitioning to a split keyboard may solve the problem.
Use an exercise rehabilitation program
If your Urgently Ortho physician feels that physical therapy is needed, they’ll prescribe it. Physical therapy uses passive and active modalities to help you regain range of motion in the injured joint and reduce pain and inflammation. If your doctor feels the injury is minor, they may give you exercises to do at home. Once the inflammation has calmed down with rest, ice or heat, and medications, you’ll begin to perform gentle range-of-motion exercises, starting with small movements and increasing them as you heal.
Preventing overuse injuries
These strategies can help you prevent overuse injuries. Some overlap with treating the injuries, such as examining your equipment.
Warm up before exercising or using a joint that is susceptible to injury
If your work involves repetitive motions, learn to perform gentle range-of-motion exercises before starting for the day. If you play sports, warm up before every workout. These types of movements lubricate your joints, getting them ready to move and reducing the risk of injury.
Cross-training helps prevent injuries. If you’re a runner, alternate the days you run with biking or another aerobic activity. If you always use the same weights at the gym, try using new machines or free weights on alternate days. This way, you’re strengthening all of your muscles instead of overusing just a few.
Work with a fitness coach specializing in your sport
If you’re a serious sports enthusiast, you may gain help from a fitness specialist or coach in your sport. If you’re a member of a gym, management should be able to make a recommendation. The coach can observe your play, give tips on specific movements that could be problematic, and discuss injury prevention with you.
Make ergonomic changes
As noted previously, if your work involves repetitive motion, you may need a slight adjustment to your environment that can make a big difference.
If you’re working at a computer or in a warehouse all day performing a repetitive motion, you should take a short break every 25-30 minutes if you’re able to.
If you suspect you have an overuse injury, call Urgently Ortho or simply walk in to be treated. We’re here for you.