What are Overuse Syndromes?

There it is again. That pain. You may have had it so long you’ve begun to overlook it, and just go about your routine. But should you? Pain is always a signal that something is going wrong. Perhaps your body is trying to tell you that it is being pushed past its limits by over-use. Many people are not familiar with overuse syndromes, but they are a very real health issue that can lead to debilitating and or chronic issues such as osteoarthritis (also known as wear and tear arthritis).  Basically, overuse syndromes are about doing too much, too soon, and too often.

Overuse Syndromes

Overuse syndromes, also known as cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) are caused by repetitive motions and ongoing micro-injuries or irritation to certain body areas such as the knees, shoulders, ankles, elbows, and hips. Almost any area of the body can be injured and then re-injured over a period of time, due to repetitive strain and overuse. These injuries can occur at any age, although they can be more common in certain ages and groups, such as sports enthusiasts, sports professionals, and manual labor workers. Athletic adolescents involved in gymnastics, little league, or other sports are also at risk for overuse syndromes as they may be encouraged to shake off pain and continue playing.

Common overuse syndrome injuries include:

  • Shin splints - pain along the shin can lead to full on stress fractures of the bone, chronic external compartment syndrome (an exercise induced nerve and muscle disorder that causes swelling and severe pain) and periostitis (inflammation of the bands of tissue that support and surround the bone) of the tibia.
  • Patello-femoral syndrome - also known as chondromalacia patella, this disorder causes swelling on the anterior (front) part of the knee, due to damage to the cartilage under the kneecap.
  • Chronic ankle sprain - lateral ligaments are especially vulnerable to overuse. If the ligaments are stretched enough, they can also rupture.
  • Little league elbow - also known as pitcher’s elbow, or medial epicondyle apophysitis, is a common disorder among adolescent baseball players, resulting in painful swelling of the elbow.

Other common overuse syndromes include Osgood-Schlatter disease (jumper’s knee), stress fractures, golfer’s knee, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder separation, and other injuries caused by long term repetitive movements. To help prevent overuse syndromes, always have any injury evaluated by a qualified physician. Additionally, make sure to listen to your body when working out or playing sports.

Moderation while exercising is critical when athletes are still growing, as they may have an increased rate of injury that can lead to life-long, serious issues related to chronic overuse and stress. Besides bracing, wearing the correct protective gear, using warm-ups and cool-downs, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding appropriate training geared to your body’s specific needs, and make sure to eat a diet that promotes wellness and allows adequate nutrition for healing.

If you have questions or concerns about overuse syndromes, or need any form of orthopedic or sports medicine related care, please call OrthoUnited today at (844) 469-2663 or request an appointment online. At OrthoUnited, it’s our mission to care about you.