Participating in sports and everyday life often requires the same movement over and over. Whether that is throwing a ball, painting a ceiling, swinging a golf club or climbing stairs, there is an increased risk for overuse injuries. Common overuse injuries involve high-use tendons like the rotator cuff in the shoulder or the tendon complex on the outside of the elbow (tennis elbow). Runners often get overuse injuries involving the hamstrings, the Achilles tendon, or the patellar tendon in the knee. Some overuse injuries affect joints, particularly the weight-bearing joints of the knee, hip, and ankle. Other overuse injuries can manifest as a stress fracture or chronic muscle pain.
When an overuse injury occurs, our sports medicine physicians can evaluate your condition and identify possible causes and prescribe treatment. In many cases, overuse injuries are caused by weakness or muscle imbalance, poor core strength, flexibility issues, genetics, or faulty mechanics of movement. We spend considerable time and effort not only evaluating your specific painful condition but the underlying root causes of that condition. Then we can create a personalized treatment plan using evidence-based medicine and work on a long-term plan to prevent this and other overuse injuries in the future.
Overuse Injury Treatments
Depending on your condition, we may prescribe some of the following treatments for your injury:
- Therapeutic Exercise: In many cases, therapeutic exercises help heal tissues and also provide important support for affected body area. Imagine a car with poor tire alignment. You notice your car pulling to one side or shaking at higher speeds, and you see that one or more of your tires is balding quickly on one side. If a mechanic only changes the unevenly balding tires but doesn’t address the improper alignment, the problem will quickly come back. Therefore, a wise mechanic knows to fix the alignment and tire balance (i.e. the root problems) in order to solve the symptoms of pulling and shaking. That’s what we do as sports medicine physicians – look at the whole body, not just the area of symptoms.
- Limited Activity: Sports medicine physicians are champions of physical activity and exercise. We will work with you to stay as active as possible, even if that means finding alternative ways to move and exercise or scaling back your current training. We try not to say, “Take six weeks off and let me know if it still hurts.”
- Ultrasound-guided Injections: Sometimes the pain from overuse injuries can be debilitating, including problems with physical wear, emotional drain, sleep deprivation, not to mention how it can affect work, parenthood, or other important aspects of life. Sometimes we use injections to help manage pain and help the process of healing.
- Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP): PRP has been found to be quite effective for many types of overuse injuries. While cortisone shots help treat pain, PRP helps tissues heal and can be a great option for the stubborn-to-heal cases.