Overuse injuries result from repetitive activities that cause excess stress on the tissues of the body leading to damage over time. Under normal stress, tissues undergo minor injuries and adaptive changes when they heal. With repetitive stress however, there is little time to heal and injuries lead to tissue degeneration. Overuse injuries may damage muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and even bones.
Overuse injuries are commonly associated with sports, often caused by overzealous participation, inappropriate technique and improper equipment. They may also be caused by repetitive activity from other recreational, occupational or habitual activities.
Symptoms include pain, swelling, popping, clicking and erythema (redness). When you present with these symptoms, your doctor will review your history and ascertain the activity causing the injury. A physical examination of the affected area is performed. Imaging studies may be ordered to identify areas of tissue damage or other pathology.
Overuse injuries are usually treated conservatively by first avoiding or modifying the activity causing injury. Physical therapy is often recommended and includes exercises that encourage healing of the tissues, and improve strength and flexibility without causing further injury. Advice on proper technique, use of equipment and prevention of sports injuries may be offered. Occupational and vocational therapy may be recommended to help you return to work and avoid further injury. Surgery is recommended when conservative treatments do not provide adequate relief and a correctable problem is identified. It is usually performed to decompress nerves and repair ligaments.