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Category: Trending Treatments
At Pacific Medical Group in Canby, we are starting to see increasing numbers of patients with overuse injuries.
Warmer weather means Oregonians are out doing the things they love: gardening, biking and hiking to name a few. Kids are also playing spring sports. As a result, we are seeing more injuries to the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and other joints.
It is also important to recognize those that have daily jobs that involve repetitive gripping, typing, lifting or position changes, as these folks can develop similar aches and pains at any time.
I encourage my patients to remember these three tips to reduce overuse injuries:
- Stretching: Even 5 minutes of stretching before and after physical activity, including physically demanding jobs, can be effective in preventing injury.
- Balance: with athletic activities, cross-training is an important way to maintain balance and avoid overloading specific joints. I am a runner, but I could not be one without some time on the elliptical machine or on the bike to give my knees a break!
- Rest: all demanding physical activity calls for rest. Your body needs proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep in order to build and rebuild healthy tissues. Remember to listen to your body: “no pain, no gain” is not always correct.
What is an overuse injury?
Many people have had a single event leading to a single injury: for example, a broken bone or a back strain. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, tend to be the result of repetitive and relatively minor stress on an area, which accumulates over time. Examples of these include:
- Tennis elbow: pain at the outer elbow due to repetitive gripping
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain and numbness in the hand and/or wrist due to overuse of the hand muscles
Of course, you do not have to be a tennis player to have tennis elbow: you simply need to be doing similar repetitive motions or activities. Be mindful of whether an overuse injury could be affecting you.
Can children develop these injuries?
Yes, and because children are still growing, it is critical to intervene early to prevent long-term damage. Many overuse injuries in children are due to participation in sports. Common examples include shoulder and elbow pain in baseball and softball pitchers, and foot pain in track runners and soccer players. If a young athlete complains of pain, they likely need to rest. If that pain continues, they should be evaluated by a health professional.
One of the most common questions I get asked when diagnosing these conditions is: “I’ve been doing the same thing for years and never had a problem. Why now?” This speaks to the amazing ability of our bodies to adapt and heal in response to stress. However, with overuse injuries, stress essentially overpowers your body’s ability to adapt and heal over time.
I recently saw a gentleman in the office who has had the same job for over 5 years as a machinist. It was not until recently that both his wrists started hurting. When he asked me “Why now?” I replied: “Because of the last 5 years!” The difficulty sometimes then becomes how to reduce doing the very things that have led to the injury in the first place, especially when it involves a job.
How are overuse injuries diagnosed?
The diagnosis can often be made during an office visit, based on your symptoms and an examination by the provider. Sometimes it may be necessary to order additional tests, such as x-rays, or perform injections in the office to assist in the diagnosis. Other times we may refer individuals to an orthopedic surgeon, physiatrist, or other health professional to assist in the diagnosis and possible future care.
How are overuse injuries treated?
This depends on the type of injury, and your individual situations and stresses. We often consider many options including but not limited to:
- Relative rest: it is not that you need to (or necessarily can) completely stop all motion in a given painful area. However, cutting back on certain activities can give your body time to heal.
- Bracing: sometimes using a brace or support sleeve, especially in the short term, may support a painful area during activities that stress an injured area, such as having a machinist wear a wrist brace.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: these may be over the counter, or prescription.
- Injections: rather than taking an anti-inflammatory pill through your entire body to get local pain relief, sometimes it is helpful to inject anti-inflammatory medication right at the site of your pain. This can reduce side effects from pills and possibly give you longer-term relief as well.
- Physical therapy: this can assist you in working through your discomfort in a structured way. Physical therapy is also sometimes helpful in order to promote muscle balance: although you may have a specific pain in a specific area, it is important to balance and strengthen other related muscles and joints.
Where can I get more information?
The providers at Pacific Medical Group are here to serve you. Please ask!
There is a wealth of information on youth injury prevention for health professionals, trainers, parents and athletes at: www.stopsportsinjuries.org