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No Pain, No Gain Is Not Always the Best Policy: How to Protect Yourself from Acute and Overuse Injuries

By Maria Cuevas, DPT

The phrase, ‘no pain, no gain’ can certainly be motivating, but it isn’t always the best policy if you want to avoid acute and overuse injuries.  As the weather begins to warm up, many people rush into doing some type of outdoor activity.  It is important to know that if you’ve been sedentary during the cold winter and spring months, rushing into a sport can lead to serious injuries.

There are two types of injuries to be aware of when starting a new activity: acute and overuse.  Acute injury is usually caused by a traumatic event.  This could be spraining your ankle, dislocating your shoulder, or tearing a ligament in your knee.  Overuse injuries are different.  The most common cause of these is repetitive movement.  Overtime, these can cause micro-tears or trauma to the tendons, bones, or ligaments.  Have you ever heard of tennis elbow?  That’s a common example of an overuse injury.  Tennis elbow isn’t just caused by playing tennis.  It can also occur when someone starts gardening after long winter months indoors or weekend athletes who work at a desk all week and are just getting back into softball and baseball on the weekends.

Other examples of overuse injuries are impingement syndrome and tendonitis.  Tendonitis can occur at any joint but is very predominant in the elbow, shoulder, and knee.  All overuse injuries occur because of weak musculature surrounding a joint that is being tasked to do a repetitive action.  Overuse results in inflammation of the joint or tendon that is causing deep aching pain during movement.  If it is tendonitis-related, there will be tenderness to touch over the overused tendon.

While some people may already be predisposed to these types of injuries because of body alignment or biomechanical factors like lack of mobility, muscle imbalances, and flexibility issues.  Anyone can suffer an overuse injury in their lifetime.

There are ways to prevent these injuries.   Here are a few tips to follow:

  1. Don’t skip your warm-ups!

                -Warm-up properly before an activity.

-Give yourself enough time to stretch.

-Know the correct stretches to perform to properly warm up your joints, muscles, and tendons before activity.

-This will help increase the blood flow throughout your body.

  1. Know your boundaries!

                -Don’t go all out on your first day.

                -Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts week by week.

                -Allow enough time for your body to recover

  1. If you are having new pain, use the RICE Method

                -Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate on any areas that feel sore or are inflamed.

-Apply ice for at least 10 to 15 minutes after you complete an activity

Lastly, if you are having any pain or are suffering from an injury, don’t wait until it’s too late to get help.   Sometimes, ‘No pain, no gain’ is not always the motto to follow.  Playing through a sprain or a strain can lead to more serious issues and prolong the recovery phase of treatment.  The physical therapists at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center will work one on one with you to design a treatment plan that helps you meet your goals.  Call us TODAY to speak to a member of our team: 703-450-4300.