Overuse Injuries

min read


The Sports Injury Clinic

September 1, 2020


Not all injuries occur as a result of a traumatic or acute event such as a fall or twist. Many injuries begin gradually and progressively worsen over time. These injuries often have no symptoms and are thought to be just a muscle ache. Then suddenly, we can experience a sudden onset of pain and debilitation. These injuries are commonly referred to as overuse injuries.

Common examples of overuse injuries include:

  • Stress fracture
  • Apophysitis (E.g. Osgood Schlatter's disease or Severs disease)
  • Tendinopathies (E.g. Tennis elbow, golfers' elbow, patellar, Achilles)

But what causes these injuries?

When completing an activity, whether through individual training or daily life; our muscles, bones, cardiovascular and other body systems are put under some degree of stress. If these stresses are greater than our normal day to day demand, then it causes a greater pressure on the body to adapt to this task over time. This is why we grow bigger, fitter, faster, stronger or better at completing these tasks or activities so we can cope to completing these tasks in the future. This is called a training response.

When our body fails to adapt or is unable to cope with the increased load and demand we are placing on it; it often results in a gradual onset or overuse injury. It means we are attempting a task or amount of task our bodies are not yet conditioned for. These changes in load can be quite subtle and small over time and often resultant from a combination of causes. These can include:

  • Activity / training errors

- Excessive or rapid increase in volume, length or intensity of activity or training.

- Change in; type of activity/task or starting a new task you haven't completed in some time.

- Inadequate recovery or rest

- Poor technique or completing task or training under fatigue

  • Body variables

- Muscle weakness or imbalance, lack of flexibility

  • Mechanical variables

- Inappropriate footwear or equipment (too heavy, too long, too bulky etc.

  • Environmental variables (surface of ground, hills etc.)

- Temperature -hot, cold or humid.

- Surface of activity (hilly, rough, smooth, soft)

What do these injuries feel like?

Depending on the area or structure of the body that is affected different symptoms can be experienced. These include:

  • Constant dull ache
  • Sharp pain or "pinching" on specific movements
  • Pain that initially is felt at the beginning at the activity, then eases but returns at the end or after the task or activity.

The longer the symptoms are ignored, the worse and more frequent the symptom can become. Often when we do feel the pain, we don't usually link them with the "niggle" or "ache" we felt at the same spot days or weeks prior. Worsening of symptoms often lead to pain and difficulty with completing normal daily activities as well as impacting sports performance.

What do I do if I think I have an overuse injury?

If you think you are suffering with an overuse injury, it is important to get an assessment by a Physiotherapist. Early intervention is key to identifying the cause of the injury and address it before symptoms get worse. This will help prevent any of those early niggles or sore spots turning into anything more serious and effect your daily life or sporting performance.

A Physiotherapist can help by providing the following services:

  • Advice and education
  • Pain management
  • Load management (task and training adjustments)
  • Manual therapies
  • Strengthening/stretching program
  • Return to sport/task plan

If you have any aches and pains or a persistent "niggle" when exercising, book in to see one of our Physiotherapists for an assessment. Call us on 9783 9990 or book online.


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The Sports Injury Clinic acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the Bunurong people, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
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