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What are Overuse Injuries?

By Alex Terris
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Overuse injuries are injuries to the joints or muscles that are caused by repetitive strain or force. For example, activities such as running put a large amount of force through the knee joint with each step, which can cause an injury. Overuse injuries are sometimes known as cumulative trauma disorder as they don’t occur at a certain moment but instead build up over time. Examples of overuse injuries include tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow.

Repetitive strain injuries can be caused by any movement that puts a muscle under strain in a repetitive way. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome affects the wrist and occurs when a person spends too much time at a computer or desk with his or her wrist in the wrong position. This causes micro traumas within the muscles and tendons that, over time, develop into an overuse injury.

Many overuse injuries can be treated with rest. Continuing to perform the same action will only make the issue worse. For this reason, repetitive strain injuries are especially difficult for athletes to deal with as training has to be reduced or modified until the problem disappears. Repetitive strain injuries such as wrist tendinitis are also a common reason for time being taken off work by people who work at a computer.

Overuse injuries can also affect the joints. For example, chrondromalacia is a degeneration or irritation of the underside of the patellar, which can be caused by bad kneecap tracking and repetitive movements such as running. Generally, if a part of the body has to work in a way that it is not able to rest for a long period of time then an overuse injury will occur to that region of the body.

In some cases, an overuse injury may occur because another part of the body isn’t functioning correctly. For example, ankle injuries can sometimes be caused by tight calf muscles that put excess strain on the joint. For this reason treatment of overuse injuries doesn’t always focus on the region itself but instead the parts of the body that can affect it.

Chronic overuse injuries often occur when a person continues to perform the activity that caused the problem. For example, if a runner continues to jog despite suffering from patellar tendinitis, then this may eventually lead to a permanent degeneration of the tendon. When chronic injuries occur resting may not solve the problem completely and surgery may be required.

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