For regular exercisers, overuse injuries are a common development. These are the most common types of injuries in sport. Examples include Runner’s knee and Tennis elbow. They differ from acute injuries in that they happen over a long period from the repetitive force of a given activity and not from sudden trauma, like a single hard impact.
The name overuse injury can be slightly misleading. Sometimes the injury is simply due to repetitive force being applied to the same body part with too little recovery time between sessions. Other times, these injuries may be caused by improper alignment during exercise.
The names of each condition themselves may be misleading as well because in many cases they are named after a specific sport. Although not necessarily limited only to those engaged in the namesake sport, a given injury is generally more common amongst those athletes. Any exerciser engaged in similar movement patterns may also develop the same injury. For Runner’s knee, this means runners, cyclists, hikers, and even walkers.
The treatment for an overuse injury is typically rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching. In some cases, strengthening one muscle group to help alleviate muscular imbalance is recommended. Importantly, recovery requires avoiding the activity that caused the injury in the first place.
For those attached to their modality, or athletes with a specific goal, avoiding a particular exercise may not be ideal. In such cases, it’s still essential to prevent the added strain of the affected area while maintaining fitness in other ways. These types of injuries, although often easy to recover from, have a way of persisting or reoccurring if appropriate interventions are not made early on.
For these situations, changing the modality but not avoiding activity altogether is vital. If for example, a runner develops knee pain, cycling, which takes the weight off the knees, or kayaking, which removes much of the workload from the legs while still providing an excellent workout, might be good options.
If running faster is your goal, you need to run. If a specific sport is not part of your fitness goal, varying your mode of exercise before overuse injuries develop is a smart approach. If your goal is more general, like cardiovascular fitness or weight loss, you need only to regularly raise your heart rate enough to stimulate improvements.
Above you'll find a short video from UC San Diego Health about the way these injuries are diagnosed and treated.