As research has shown, exercise is extremely beneficial for both our body and our mind. It keeps the body strong and healthy so it can fight off illness successfully and it elevates our mood, keeping depression at bay.

Unfortunately, we can’t always exercise as much as we might like, due to injury. We’re all familiar with major injuries — also called acute injuries – such as broken bones or sprained ankles that result from a single blow or fall. Most of us are less familiar with overuse injuries, injuries that result from frequent, repeated use of muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and bones.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries, also categorized as microtraumas, result over time from repeated action. They include minor sprains to ligaments, muscle strains, overstretched tendons and small tears in the connective tissues and fibres of our muscles.

Exercise generally strengthens, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones by breaking down old tissue and allowing new tissue to grow. However, if tissue breaks down faster than it can be rebuilt, overuse injuries occur. When we engage in a physical activity too intensely or for too long (such as typing), or we do too much before our body is ready, our body’s structures don’t have enough time to rebuild before they are used again.

Improper technique while exercising can also put stress on the body and lead to overuse injuries, as can favouring a particular body part, such as an uninjured ankle when the other is sprained. Overuse injuries can also result from changing equipment, such as the shoes you wear during exercise.

The causes of overuse injuries can be categorized as poor core stability, muscle imbalance, incorrect equipment, faulty technique, biomechanical issues or lack of necessary strength or endurance.


You are likely to have an overuse injury if:

  • You feel pain immediately or within 12 hours of exercising;
  • You feel pain while exercising, but it doesn’t prevent movement and disappears afterward;
  • You feel pain during exercise and it prevents certain movements, but disappears afterward; or
  • Chronic pain that prevents you from moving and doesn’t improve.

Overuse injuries often show signs of inflammation, such as minor swelling, warmth to the touch, impaired function and/or redness.

How Are Overuse Injuries Treated?

In treating an overuse injury, the first step is to remove the cause. Don’t use the injured body part until it has time to heal and the pain disappears. You can ice the affected area and use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and relieve symptoms.

You’ll also want to consult a physiotherapist for a proper course of treatment. They will prescribe exercises that help heal and strengthen the injury and its supporting structures. As you heal, they will adjust the type, frequency and intensity of these exercises.

Once you are ready to use the injured part regularly, you’ll need to warm up properly before each exercise session. Your physiotherapist can also advise you on a proper warmup routine. You may also want to consider varying your workouts or activities.

How to Avoid Overuse Injuries

It’s worthwhile taking precautions to prevent overuse injuries. Some of the strategies you can use to stay fit and healthy include:

  • Listening to your body and resting when you feel soreness or pain;
  • Warming up properly before each exercise session;
  • Gradually increase the intensity, duration and distance for your activity;
  • Obtaining instruction from a trainer on how to use equipment correctly;
  • Planning on two rest days each week so your tissues have time to rebuild;
  • Using the proper equipment; for work-related injuries, being sure that your work station is set up ergonomically.

Your body is, as they say, your temple; worship it and it will serve you well in return.

Overuse Injury Causing You Trouble?