Have you done too much?
By Jett Trembath
Physiotherapist – A.I.M Muscles and Joints
You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, right? As many people are now over a month into their New Year resolutions, some may be experiencing pain and discomfort in specific areas of the body. Not allowing sufficient gradual progression or training too frequently may put these areas under excessive degrees of stress resulting in an overuse injury.
Common areas of pain:
- Low back
- Calf muscles
Inflammation, swelling and stiffness are common symptoms you may experience due to an increase in mechanical loading or stress being placed on the tendon, bone, muscle, or ligaments.
Stress fractures account for approximately twenty percent of all overuse injuries. Bone is constantly remodelling throughout the lifecycle. This is done by two cell types; osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Old bone is removed by osteoclasts and new bone is formed by osteoblasts. Changes in bone structure accommodate for mechanical stress, bone ageing, nutrients, and hormonal factors. Stress fractures occur due to an imbalance in this cycle where breakdown exceeds formation.
When we train at the gym, the goal is to place a certain amount of controlled stress on our muscles to stimulate them to improve endurance, increase in size, or strength depending on the training goal/phase.
How to prevent overuse injuries? Correct dysfunctional movement patterns and gradual progression of activity and rest.
Dysfunctional movement patterns may occur due to an imbalance in muscle length, strength or incorrect muscle pattern activation. Daily activities and work commitments can heavily impact movement patterns. For example, sitting at a desk for the majority of the day may result in tight hip flexor muscles and overactive glute muscles. This can lead to abnormal gait or movement patterns for a period of time, putting abnormal stress on other tissues.
Heavy deficit dieting is another factor which may influence the onset of overuse injuries. Dieting in a deficit for a long duration can deprive the body of the nutrients required to assist the tissues to heal and recover.
A gradual increase in physical activity and training ensures stresses are placed on the body in a controlled manner to allow for adequate tissue and bone remodelling. This permits maximal benefit from your exercise program and reduces your risk of injury.
Rest is also a vital component of injury prevention and reducing the risk of overuse injuries. This allows muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone to recover and remodel adequately. Gentle exercise such as a light walk, swim or bike ride are an excellent way to allow for appropriate rest and active recovery.