Your Game Plan for Taking on Overuse Injuries

by | Aug 17, 2018

Whether you’re a Ram gearing up for fall sports, a Tomahawk performing skate drills, or a neighborhood runner working on their personal best, it’s always going to pay to be measured in your training.

Our bodies have great potential, but they still have boundaries. Growing stronger means regularly breaking our bodies down on a cellular level so they rebuild themselves in ways that perform even better than before.

If you push too hard, however, or work so often that your body never gets much of a chance to rebuild itself, odds are higher that you’re going to pay for it in the form of an overuse injury.

Overuse injuries are part of the wide world of sports injuries, but they don’t come from high impacts or sudden wipeouts. Instead, they tend to arise from repetitive, forceful motions or a sharp rise in intensity.

Since the feet and ankles are often carrying our body weight and constantly distributing force when we hit the ground, we tend to see plenty of these types of injuries come through the door. They often take the form of stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendinitis.

When you have an overuse injury, it’s a good sign that something in your workout routine needs to change—but first you need to recover.

So, what’s the plan?

Don't let an overuse injury set you back

Time to Rest

Anytime you experience persistent or intense pain in your foot or ankle, it’s time to give us a call. We can help you discover the root causes of the problem and provide effective treatment and advice tailored to your needs.

Even before you see us, however, there’s still plenty you can do to help yourself out—or maybe we should say not do.

If pain arises during an activity, it’s your body’s way of telling you to stop—at least for now. Do not try to “push through” and finish your planned routine, game, or whatever it is you were doing that might have been causing or aggravating the problem. This is a ticket to potentially making things worse!

Following the RICE method is a good form of initial treatment until you can get in for an appointment:

  • REST – Get your weight off the affected foot or ankle, as much as reasonably possible.
  • ICE – Apply 15-20 minutes of cold to help reduce pain and swelling. Do not apply extreme cold directly to the skin, however, and remove the source if the area starts to feel outright numb.
  • COMPRESS – If you know how, wrap the area to help reduce swelling and add stability. (If you don’t know how, have someone else do so, if possible.)
  • ELEVATE – Keep your affected foot or ankle comfortably elevated above the level of your heart to further reduce swelling and pain. A small stack of pillows to rest the foot on at night can also be quite helpful.

Over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can also be effective at increasing comfort. Follow directions as indicated, and do not take for more than a month without consulting your primary care doctor.

Time to Review

Once you have pinpointed the specific causes of your injury (hopefully with our help!), it’s time to take action to aid your recovery and help prevent this situation from happening again.

Often, an ideal response to an overuse injury is more than just choosing not to push yourself so hard next time. Don’t get us wrong—it’s a good attitude to have! But there is often more to it than that.

Re-revaluate the level and progress of your workouts and training. A good plan will increase the intensity by no more than 10% per week, as well as incorporate rest days depending on your level and frequency of activity. This should give your body enough downtime to recover while still providing a buildup of challenge.

It is also worth taking a look at your equipment. Have you been wearing the right shoes for your activities? Are they in good condition, or are they worn down and failing to provide proper support?

Then there is the structure of your feet themselves. If you have high arches, flat feet, or another type of structural abnormality, it may be causing an unequal distribution of forces along the foot and ankle, adding undue stress to certain areas.

If this is the case, we will likely recommend custom orthotics to adjust for these abnormalities, as well as provide additional support and cushioning to your feet. If you don’t have these, however, at least purchase shoes that are designed more for your arch type and other factors in mind. A trained sports store associate is often well knowledgable in finding the right shoe form for you.

Perhaps your arches are fine, but your calf muscles are too tight. If they are placing too much strain on your heel bones, that can also increase the rises for developing injuries in that area.

Stretches and exercises can help condition problematic muscles to provide less strain, which helps with pain during recovery and prevention afterward! We can teach you the best types of moves and how often to perform them for results.

Person wrapping another person's ankle injury

Always Sooner than Later

When it comes to overuse injuries, don’t hold off on receiving the diagnosis and treatment you need. The sooner you have an exact plan in place, the faster and more effectively you’re likely to heal and get back to the activities you love!

No matter how hard you play, our offices in Johnstown and Ebensburg are ready to help whenever you’re hurting! Call us at (814) 472-2660 or fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out to you.