How to Care for Repetitive Use Injuries
Whether it’s throwing a baseball, typing at a desk, turning a wrench or jogging the usual route, your regular activities can wear your body down. At first you may ignore the twinge, but a simple ache can grow and grow.
“When you do a movement over and over too frequently, the tissue — the muscle, ligament or cartilage — gets microscopic injuries,” said Brandon Fites, MD, sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon with Avera Orthopedics.
Your body’s repair mechanism cannot keep up, so the injury builds up and becomes even more symptomatic.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain, described in a variety of unique ways: dull, throbbing, stabbing, etc.
- Weakness that makes it difficult to lift something with your arm or put weight on your leg
- Swelling and/or warmth in the affected area
Overuse injuries, also known as repetitive strain injuries, are common in older adults, whose bodies are more susceptible to wear and tear, and athletes, who overtrain without proper rest days. However, most everyone will experience an injury such as this sometime over the course of their life.
Types of Overuse or Overtraining Injuries
Examples of overuse or overtraining injuries include:
- Shin splints
- Stress fractures
- Runner’s knee
- Tennis elbow
- Muscle aches
- Synovitis (inflammation of the joints)
“Typically, the ache of a heavy workout alleviates after a day or two,” said Fites. “With overuse injuries, the ache persists for weeks, months or years if it’s not addressed.”
Treating the Repetitive Strain Injury
The first step to treating overuse injuries is rest and time.
“Continuing the activity that’s causing or exacerbating your pain will not only cause it to last, but the weakening and swelling could lead to a worse injury,” said Fites.
The best home remedy to try is RICE — Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. When this doesn’t work, it’s time to see an expert.
Sports medicine aims to resolve repetitive strain injuries through nonsurgical measures. Your personalized care plan might involve a combination of:
- Physical therapy
- Cortisone shots
- Anti-inflammatory medication, such as over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Specially prescribed pain medication
In rare occasions, your orthopedic expert will turn to surgery only after exhausting a personalized approach of nonsurgical options. If surgery is necessary, your physician will use minimally invasive techniques to remove the damaged tissue from the joint, tendons, etc.