Most overuse injuries are avoidable. To prevent an overuse injury:
- Use proper form and gear. Whether you’re starting a new activity or you’ve been playing a sport for a long time, consider taking lessons. Using the correct technique is crucial to preventing overuse injuries. Also make sure you wear proper shoes for the activity. Consider replacing your shoes for every 300 miles you walk or run — or at least twice a year if you regularly exercise.
- Pace yourself. If you’re starting a new fitness program, avoid becoming a weekend warrior. Compressing your physical activity for the week into two days can lead to an overuse injury. Instead, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week. It’s also a good idea 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 a physical activity, do so gradually. For example, if you want to increase the amount of weight you’re using while strength training, increase it by no more than 10 percent each week until you reach your new goal.
- 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 — such as walking, biking, swimming and water jogging — in moderation can help prevent overuse injuries by allowing your body to use different muscle groups. And be sure to do some type of strength training at least twice a week.
Recovering From An Overuse Injury
If you suspect that you have an overuse injury, consult your doctor. He or she will likely ask you to take a break from the activity that caused the injury and recommend medication for any pain and inflammation.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve recently made changes in 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.
When you think the overuse injury has healed, ask your doctor to check that you’ve completely regained strength, motion, flexibility and balance before beginning the activity again. When you return to your activity, pay special attention to proper technique to avoid future injuries.
Playing It Safe
Don’t allow an overuse injury to prevent you from being physically active. By working with your doctor, listening to your body and pacing yourself, you can avoid this common setback and safely increase your activity level.