Common Overuse Syndromes

Jul 6, 2016

The common types of spring and summer resolutions involve weight-loss oriented activities, such as dieting and exercise.

During the warm months, we at the orthopedic surgery offices tend to see a rise in a number of certain types of injuries. Many of these pains and injuries can be attributed to the sudden increase in activities in individuals who are previously less active. This includes a variety of both acute and overuse injuries.

It is well documented in the medical literature that when sedentary or less active individuals make a sudden significant increase in their level of activity, exercise or sports participation, they are at a much higher risk of injury.

The following are some the most common injuries and sources of pain seen that are related to changes in exercise programs, and may or may not be related to summer resolutions.

7 Common Overuse Syndromes

  1. Achilles’ Tendonitis:  Achilles’ tendonitis is acute, chronic inflammation of the Achilles’ tendon, which is located at the back of the lower leg and heel. This can occur either in the mid-portion of the tendon, several centimeters above the heel, or at its insertion sight on the bone right at the base of the heel. Risk factors for Achilles’ problems include a tight heel cord, history of injury and activities that involve high amounts of running and jumping.  Achilles tendonitis can be a nagging problem and difficult to heal because of the daily demand on it for walking and a relatively poor blood supply.
  2. Patellofemoral Pain:  Patellofemoral pain, also known as runner knee, is one of the most common conditions seen in orthopedic clinics. It presents as pain located on the front of the knee that’s made worse with squatting, bending and jumping activities. Essentially it is an irritation or overload of the cartilage surface on the underside of the knee cap. It’s much more common in females than males due to the anatomy of the hips and knees. There’s an association between significant increases in jumping and running activities and abnormalities in one’s mechanics and the development of patellofemoral pain.
  3. Iliotibial Band Syndrome:  Iliotibial Band Syndrome is a disorder that predominantly affects runners. Risk factors include high amounts of running activities over a short period of time, improper mechanics and poor stretching routine. It presents with pain that is located predominantly over the top and outside portion of the knee. It may have an associated snap or a pop. The main treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome are stretching and rest.
  4. Shin Splints:  Shin Splints, also known as, post tibial stress syndrome, is a disorder that affects the posterior or the back border of the tibia bone in the lower leg. This tends to develop in people who are overloading their legs with a large amount of running and jumping activities, due to the over pull and stress on the back of the bone by the strong calf muscle. The main treatments for shin splints are exercise to stretch and to strengthen the leg muscles and once again rest.
  5. Plantar Fasciitis:  Plantar Fasciitis is a disorder that affects the tissues along the arch of the foot, known as the plantar fascia. Plantar Fasciitis typically presents as heel pain, which develops with increased periods of activities, such as running and jumping. Once the condition has progressed, patients may notice significant pain and discomfort first thing in the morning and after periods of simply standing or walking. Plantar Fasciitis can take months to improve but typically will respond to stretching, orthotics and activity modifications.
  6. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Bursitis of the Shoulder:  Rotator cuff tendonitis and Shoulder bursitis are two conditions that go hand in hand and fall under the same spectrum of rotator cuff problems. They typically present this pain over the front or the side of the shoulder and they feel like it’s radiating down into the deltoid muscle. Pain is typically noticed with overhead activities, including weightlifting, and if severe enough, may be noticed with normal daily activities such as reaching up into a cabinet or closet. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Bursitis, if left untreated, can progress overtime to micro tears of the rotator cuff which, in turn, can lead to full tears. Risk factors include sudden increase and amount and frequency of heavy weightlifting, exercise routines that rely heavily on the shoulders to perform body weight strengthening activities like pull-ups and push-ups, and poor warm up and stretching routines.
  7. Lateral Epicondylitis:  Lateral Epicondylitis or also known as Tennis Elbow, is a condition that causes pain over the outer aspect of the elbow. Nicknamed, Tennis Elbow, for its high incidents in tennis players, lateral epicondylitis can occur in any sport or activity that involves repetitive wrist and forearm motion. The best treatment for tennis elbow is rest from insulting activity, stretch and anti-inflammatory medications.

These are some of the most common injuries that we tend to see during the warmer months, when the people begin to rapidly increase their activity level in an attempt to lose winter hibernating weight or start a new healthy lifestyle.

While exercise is one of the most important aspects of our daily lives, one must use caution when planning out any new exercise routine. If you’ve had a period of weeks or months or years of relative inactivity or wish to begin a new type of exercise routine that your body may not be familiar with, remember the following tips to keep yourself safe.

Warming Up is the Key

No matter the activity, exercise or sport, probably the most important factor in preventing injuries is adequate warm-up period. It’s been well proven that cold muscles are at an increased risk of injury.

  • Setting aside 10-15 minutes of simple warm-up routine and can prevent weeks or months of nagging pain and injury.
  • If participating in classes at a gym, consider showing up 15 minutes early to warm up on the elliptical or stationary bike or treadmill.
  • Performing weightlifting activities, allow a few extra minutes for jumping jacks, jogging in place or light warmup lifts with bands or small weights.
  • For avid runners, consider a short period of fast walking, extremely light jogging, stationary bike or elliptical to warm muscles before beginning a long-distant run.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

You ask any avid exercisers, they’ll tell you stretching is one of their least favorite parts of their workout; because it can be somewhat annoying and because of our busy American lives, we are limited in our time, and stretching often gets overlooked and ignored. This a mistake, as it is essentially a form of warming up the muscles and certainly will help to prevent basically all of the injuries listed above.

A quick 10 minute stretching routine from head to toe that involves the spine, shoulders, elbows, wrist, hips, knees and ankles is highly valuable in injury prevention. Once a stretching routine is developed, one can fly through it relatively quick and painless and get on with the intense activities they enjoy.

Start Low, and Go Slow

This phrase mainly implies to weightlifting routines. Muscles are most vulnerable to injury during the early phase of muscle building. If it’s been sometime since you participated in weightlifting activities, or if you’ve never been a weightlifter, avoid the temptation to jump right in to heavy weights.

  • Begin with sessions of lower weights and higher reps until your muscles become more attuned to the demands these routine place on them.
  • Also avoid the temptation to try to keep up with fellow lifters and exercisers, who may be currently at a higher level.
  • Remember the long term goal of making strides and gains while remaining injury free.

All of the above conditions and more can typically be prevented whether severity shortened by following some of tips listed using good common sense. If an activity causes pain, back off of the intensity or rest until the pain is gone. If it continues to cause pain, figure out the reason, whether it’s overuse or improper mechanics. Continuing to try to push through activities that cause significant discomfort can result in injuries that try to nag and persist. Most of the above injuries can be easily diagnosed with an exam and x-ray, and most are treated with physical therapy, anti-inflammatories and occasionally cortisone injections. Rarely, these overuse syndromes will go on to require surgery to help the bod heal.

Mountainstate Orthopedic Associates

If you feel you may have an overuse injury or suffer an acute injury while trying to fulfill your summer resolution and take up a vigorous exercise routine, contact our office, and come pay one of our Morgantown orthopedic surgeons a visit:  304-599-0720

We’ll be happy to work with you to treat and prevent an injury, and ultimately help you achieve your goals of a healthy lifestyle. Just remember, keep the big picture in mind, and try not to overdo it as you begin into a new exercise season. Follow these tips, and hopefully you can avoid winding up in an orthopedist’s office!