No Pain, No Gain?
Spring is the season that many of us try to remove the winter coat we put on over the holidays. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, we arise from the sofa and begin that resolution that never had a chance in January. Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies don’t adapt as well to sudden changes in exertion and the result is often an injury to a muscle that you previously didn’t know you had. These overuse injuries can set you back many weeks if they occur, so let’s discuss how you can avoid them.
Overuse injuries happen when you first begin a sport or activity and try to do too much too soon. These injuries are often subtle and gradually occur over time. They are the result of repetitive microtrauma to the tendons, muscles, bones, and joints, and can be quite challenging to diagnose and treat.
Training errors are the most common cause. This could be from rapid acceleration of the intensity of the activity or poor technique. Proper technique is critical in avoiding overuse injuries and, for this reason, personal trainers or therapists are very helpful in prevention. Some people are more prone to injury due to anatomic or biomechanical factors, but the usual reason is imbalances between strength and flexibility around certain joints.
Treatment depends on the specific diagnosis, but normally cutting back the intensity, duration or frequency of the offending activity brings relief. Alternate the difficulty of the workouts and cross train with other activities that allow you to maintain good overall fitness while you recover from the injury. Ice, compressive treatments and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are also commonly used during treatment. If symptoms persist, you should contact your doctor to avoid further injury.
Most overuse injuries can be avoided with proper training and common sense. Listen to your body and remember that "no pain, no gain" does not apply here. The 10% rule is very useful. You should try to not increase your training program or activity more than 10% per week. This rule applies to mileage for runners and to weight added in strength training programs. This allows your body proper time to recover and adapt. Remember, nothing will kill that New Year’s resolution faster than a hamstring pull, so let’s take it slow and have a happy and healthy return to the land of the fit.