Overuse injuries and how to avoid them

Our bodies are highly adaptable and, if you increase your training load, they will change in order to meet these new demands. Big spikes in training, however, can negatively impact recovery and increase risk of injury.

For example, while training for a marathon, your heart and lungs become more efficient, your tendons become more ‘springy’, and your muscles become better able to deal with the stresses placed on them. This, however, does take time, meaning that if the stressor is applied too quickly, your body can’t adapt fast enough and structures become overloaded and painful.

As appropriately termed, ‘overuse injuries’ can start to arise when insufficient recovery is allowed. 

When the body takes a beating during an intense exercise session, there are small microtrauma changes that must be given time to heal and recover. Muscles develop greater strength, tendons can withstand greater loads and there is notable progress. But rushing this process can put you at risk of injury.

Overuse injuries are hugely related to the sport or hobby you perform. If you’re a keen runner for example, it is unlikely you will develop an overuse injury to the bicep tendon. The chances of developing Achilles tendon changes are much more likely.

You can’t completely negate the risk of developing overuse injuries, but you can reduce the risk of them developing.  Simple advice is – give sufficient rest between training sessions. For example, if it was a particularly hard upper body session one day, don’t repeat the same the following day.

The best thing you can do is to proactively reduce the risk of injury. Monitoring sleep and HRV (Heart Rate Variability) are both easily accessible to people these days with smart watches. Both provide high value in how ready you are for an intense exercise session.

If you didn’t sleep well the night before, don’t put stress on the body with a hard session… take it easier – maybe a lighter jog, a less demanding gym session or a shorter distance on the bike.

HRV is complex but can be made simple to understand. When your HRV value is low, your body is still recovering from a previous bout of exercise/stress. When your HRV is high, you are ready for a higher demanding task and can push the body harder.

The take home message is the sooner you start training, the slower the week-on-week increases can be and therefore, the less risk there is of injury. Considering how prepared your body is for exercise is also important to avoid injury. Ensuring sufficient rest has been given will optimise performance and reduce injury risk.

If you have any questions or would like some advice, just get in touch at info@techniquehealth.org