Column: 8 tips to avoid overuse injuries

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Commentary by Dr. David Sullivan

If you are like many Americans, you may have made a New Year’s resolution to improve your health. Overuse injuries occur when we begin an exercise program that is too aggressive or when we step up the speed or duration of our current routine. The extra stress is placed on muscles, tendons and bones that are not ready for that level of activity.

Overuse injuries occur in many sports and even walking and include:

  • Tendonitis, or inflamed tendon, is commonly associated with jumping or side-to-side motions such as those required for soccer, dance and tennis.
  • Plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia which runs along the sole of the foot, is caused by overuse of this tissue. The heel pain from plantar fasciitis is usually worst in the morning when you first get out of bed.
  • Stress fractures are tiny breaks in the bone that plague athletes such as distance runners and basketball players.

Overuse injuries of the foot can be avoided. Some prevention methods are as follows:

  • Do some gentle stretches before beginning your activity – but always warm up before stretching with some easy jogging in place.
  • Don’t work through any pain, as discomfort is your body’s signal that something is wrong or that you are overdoing it.
  • Follow the 10 percent rule. Increase your activity level, such as running distance or duration, by only 10 percent per week as you work toward your goals.
  • Whenever possible, run on soft, flat surfaces.
  • Mix up your routine. Alternate hard training days with easier ones. Put your running shoes aside for a day to do weight training.
  • Choose the right footwear for each activity.
  • Replace your running shoes every 500 miles.
  • Women and teen girls should get enough calcium to reduce their risk of stress fractures.

A board-certified foot surgeon and wound specialist, Dr. David Sullivan is the owner of Westfield Foot and Ankle, LLC. Contact him at drs@westfieldfoot.com.

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