What is an overuse injury?

An acute injury is often from a single traumatic event like rolling your ankle or tearing your hamstring. A chronic overuse injury on the other hand, can creep up on you a little slower.

Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive trauma to various body tissue including muscles, tendons and bones. Shin splints and angry tendons such as an achilles tendinopathy are examples of overuse injuries that can result from repetitive forces such as running.

How do you get an overuse injury?

Whilst there may be technique or equipment issues that contribute, more often than not the injured structure is simply asked to do more than its current capacity will allow.

This means there is too much load or stress placed on the tissue too quickly, and the body can not adapt fast enough. This is why I prefer to call these types of injuries “overcapacity injuries”.

For example, during lockdown a lot of people are taking up running to get outside, get the lungs going and the heart pumping which is great to see.

Even if you are incredibly strong and can shift huge weights in the gym, running is a new type of load (stress) on the body that relies on tendons working like a spring (the tendon stretch-shortening cycle) along with joints and bones absorbing repetitive forces of high impact.

If we go from doing no running at all to suddenly running 20km per week, structures like our achilles tendon might not currently have the required capacity to withstand this. We need to build this capacity incrementally, and ensure recovery is optimised.

How do I avoid an overuse injury?

Our bodies can tolerate and withstand some pretty crazy demands, provided we introduce new exercises and new loads at the right frequency and intensity. You just have to get the dosage right.

If you need help introducing a new type of exercise or need some assistance with a program that will see you succeed, talk to someone who has a good understanding of exercise prescription, such as a physiotherapist, exercise physiology or strength and conditioning coach.

Reach out if you need help with rehabilitation from an overuse injury, we are here to help.