Shoulder, knee, hip, ankle, back, neck, elbow, wrist. You name it, it is susceptible to overuse injuries. Overuse injuries bring volumes of patients into doctors offices every year and cause countless moments of frustration with time off of training. How do you feel if you can’t exercise? If you’re like me not only do you suffer physically, but your emotional health takes a hit as well. Luckily, there is something you can do about it.
Overuse injuries occur when the work you put on your body exceeds the ability of your body to do that work. In other words, when you do too much. This can happen one of two ways: with a drastic increase in training over a short period of time, or through compensations of your body over a long period of time. For most people, overuse injuries occur slowly overtime, and they don’t even realize there is a problem until they have pain. Let’s take a look at some signs that you may have an overuse injury brewing.
1. Lack of stabilizing exercises in your exercise routine. Stabilizing exercises target the smallest muscles that are closest to the skeleton. These muscles hold the joints stable while the bigger muscles move us. If these small stabilizing muscles are missed in your normal exercise routine, they will become underworked and weak. Your body will compensate, requiring other muscles to work more until they become overworked to the point of injury and pain. Targeting these small muscles takes focused and intentional work and the benefits are many.
2. Inadequate strength training. Like it or not, our bodies sit way more than they are meant to. Because most of our work is done in front of us every day, exercise training should work in part to counteract these forces. In order to counteract this daily force, the focus on weight training, even body weight training, should be more on the back of us than the front of us. A good rule of thumb that I have found is 3:1 posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, back) exercises to anterior chain (chest, biceps, quads).
3. Improper flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is how well your muscles move and mobility is how well you move globally. Mobility includes motion at the joint as well as with the muscle. Home tools such as foam rollers can help with flexibility and joint mobilization with physical therapy or chiropractors will help target restricted joints.
4. Imbalance between the stability, strength, and flexibility/mobility in your body. Some people may have strength, but they do not have adequate stability and control over their strength. Others have a great deal of stability but have limited range of motion in their muscles and joints.
5. Lack of coordination between their strength, stability, and flexibility. This is common in people finishing up rehabilitation programs from an injury. The focus of rehabilitation programs is to get the affected area, say a sprained ankle, back to working order. However, the next step needs to be re-coordinating the movements of the healed ankle to work again with the rest of your body. If not, the compensations in your body that developed as you hobbled around on that sprained ankle will remain.
There is so much that can be done to minimize the risk of overuse injuries. It begins with understanding HOW overuse injuries occur. Our ebook, “Where do injuries come from?” is the best resource to increase your understanding of overuse injuries, and how to evaluate your existing exercise program for areas of improvement.