by R. Joseph Grierson, D.O.
The human body is a finely tuned
machine. More than 200 joints
work together, connecting your more
than 200 bones, allowing you to walk
around the block, give your child a hug,
and dance to your favorite tune.
Keep Your Body Out of the Shop
But just like a car’s pistons and gears, your tendons, muscles, and bones sustain wear and tear from repeated use. Overuse injuries usually occur over time. Pain, numbness, and having trouble doing the activity that caused the problem—whether it’s running, tennis, or typing—are red flags.
Shin Splints Shouldn’t Ruin Your WorkoutPain in your shins during and after exercise—known as shin splints—is a common overuse injury. Runners are often victims, but any activity that involves your feet continually hitting the ground—even walking or dancing—can put you at risk.
Several factors can increase the risk for shin splints. These include trying to do too much, too quickly; having flat feet; exercising on hard surfaces; wearing old or insufficiently padded shoes; or not stretching or warming up enough.
If you think you have shin splints, stop or cut back on the activity that’s causing harm. To relieve pain, try icing your shins or taking anti-inflammatory medications. You can resume your old routine once the activity no longer causes pain. But build up gradually and be diligent about warming up and stretching. In addition, stick to softer surfaces and make sure your shoes are well-padded.
Prevent Stress FracturesIf your shin splints don’t respond to treatment—or if you develop pain in your foot when you exercise—you might have a stress fracture. These tiny bone cracks develop when tired muscles transfer their stress to bones. They most often occur below the knees.
Treatment includes six to eight weeks of rest from the activity that caused the cracks. To prevent these painful breaks:
- Never increase the amount of physical activity you do by more than 10 percent each week. This applies to the number of miles you walk or run, the amount of time you spend exercising, or the pounds of weight you lift.
- Cross-train. If you’re a walker or runner, incorporate biking and swimming into your routine. Add some strength and flexibility exercises for the optimal balance.
- Eat a healthy diet. Include a lot of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones.
- Replace your running or walking shoes if they’re worn.
Finding Relief from ‘BlackBerry Thumb’Not every overuse injury is athletic in nature. Too much texting on the tiny keys of a personal digital assistant (PDA) can leave your thumbs and hands sore, swollen, or numb. Thumbs—the least dexterous of our digits—are not designed for the fast, repetitive, and limited range of movements needed in typing.
These strategies can help you avoid pain: To reduce stress, type with the PDA on a pillow or other support in your lap to keep wrists more upright, make messages brief, take frequent breaks, use other fingers to type, and stretch your hands periodically.
Repetitive stress injuries like this can aggravate underlying arthritis, especially in middle-aged or older adults. See your doctor if pain doesn’t subside. Treatments include surgery, pain medication, and new arthroscopic therapies. I am available to provide consultation and treatment.
Don’t Let ‘Little League Elbow’ Bench Your ChildLittle pitchers have big ears, as the saying goes—but what they might not have is good form. Young aces who throw the ball too often or haven’t learned proper mechanics are at risk for an injury we sometimes call “Little League elbow.”
The main symptom is pain while throwing. Follow these tips to ward it off and keep your little player in the game for years to come:
- Don’t let your child play ball while tired or in pain.
- Encourage proper training during the off-season and between games. This includes exercises to strengthen the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and core.
- Make sure the coach sticks to a maximum pitch count. The general rule? No more than four to 10 innings per week, 80 to 100 pitches per game, or 30 to 40 pitches per practice. Children younger than age 14, most sports medicine specialists advise, should not throw curveballs.
- Instruct your child to warm up before each game or practice. Three to five minutes of gentle activity will help prepare muscles and joints. Slow, gentle stretches of the arms, shoulders, and elbows should follow.