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    How to avoid overuse injuries

Mayo Clinic Square Sports Medicine golfing cage for practiceAre 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 injuries that are the result of repetitive trauma, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture. Overuse injuries typically occur because of training or technique errors.

“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,” says Dr. Steven Perkins, a Family Medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System. “Improper technique also takes a toll on your body. If you use poor form when swinging a golf club or doing strength training exercises, you may overload certain muscles and cause an overuse injury.”

Thankfully, most overuse injuries are avoidable. Dr. Perkins offers these suggestions for prevention:

  • 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 an exercise or 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.

If you think you have an overuse injury, Dr. Perkins recommends consulting 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,” he says. “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.