Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 20, 2020
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your median nerve and nine tendons pass through a tube called the carpal tunnel that goes from your forearm to your palm. Repeated motion, like texting, typing, or video gaming, can inflame the tube and push on the nerve. This could cause hand pain, numbness, tingling, and a weak grip.
It’s the most common cause of pain on the bottom of your heel. The ligament that connects the front and back of your foot and supports your arch gets swollen and irritated.
Though it’s hard to know exactly what causes it, you’re more likely to get it if you repeat the same impact on your feet (when you run, for example). It’s more common when you start out.
Small fluid-filled sacs called bursa cushion your joints and smooth the friction between muscle and bone. You can inflame them if you do the same motion over and over, like lifting boxes or serving a tennis ball. It can hurt enough to make it harder to do basic things like dress or comb your hair.
The shoulder is the most common spot for bursitis, but it can happen in your elbow, hip, knee, and anywhere else bones meet.
Almost half of adults who play racquet sports (tennis, squash, racquetball) get this at some point. The repeated arm swing inflames the tendons that join your forearm muscles to the outside of your elbow (tendinopathy, sometimes called tendinitis).
Other motions -- turning a screwdriver, pulling weeds, swinging a hammer -- can also cause it. You may have pain and burning, especially when you use your arm. Your grip can get weaker, too.
This is also a type of tendinopathy. Repeated running or jumping may cause degeneration of the patellar tendon at the lower edge of your kneecap.
If you run a lot, like if you jog or play basketball, you can inflame the bone, muscle, and connecting tendons along the edge of your shinbone. It can get especially bad on hard surfaces like concrete. The wrong shoes might make it worse.
Afterward, it could be tender to the touch. A new workout or a sudden jump in how long you do it could cause it and might make it worse.
Running, basketball, tennis, or any activity where you pound your feet over and over can cause tiny cracks in your bones, especially in your lower leg and foot. Doing it more often makes it more painful. Several weeks of rest is needed if you don’t want to make things worse.
IT Band Syndrome
The IT, or “Iliotibial” ligament runs along the outside of your leg. Repeated movement, like running, biking, or weightlifting, can rub this “band” against the bone and cause irritation, pain, and swelling. It may hurt more when you walk or run down a hill or stairs.
A warmup could ease the pain, but don’t let that fool you: If you don’t rest the injury to give it a chance to get better, it may turn into something worse.
Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, this is when one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. The condition has its name because when your finger straightens, it can do so with a snap -- like when a trigger is pulled. If you have arthritis, particularly RA, it’s pretty common. It can also happen when you’re doing things like gardening, clipping, or using a computer mouse.
Prevention: Warm Up
How do you keep these injuries from happening to you? Warming up before you push yourself is a good start. Whether you’re going to play an intense game of pick-up basketball or a casual round of golf, it’s a good idea to loosen up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. Walk, run in place, or do some jumping jacks. All it takes is 5-10 minutes -- a small price to pay to avoid injury.
Prevention: Start Slow
You may be pumped to start your new exercise plan. But try not to overdo it. When you start a workout you haven’t done before, your body needs a chance to get used to it. Then, depending on your form of exercise, you can slowly add speed, distance, weight, or intensity, and track your response along the way.
Prevention: Do It Right
The most common cause of overuse injury in sports is bad technique. The slightest error or change in the form can have a huge effect. Even musicians can injure themselves this way. Trainers, coaches, teachers, and physical therapists can help make sure you’re doing things safely.
Prevention: Mix It Up
You can help avoid overuse if you vary your activities. For example, you might swim for your heart, lift weights for your muscles, and stretch to stay flexible. Or try something off the beaten path: Yoga combines strength, flexibility, and balance training, and adds meditation that’s good for mental health.
Home Treatment: RICE
It’s the first treatment when you’re in pain from any overuse injury, or any other injury for that matter. It stands for:
Rest: Lie down and keep your weight off
Ice: 20 minutes at a time
Compression: Use a wrap bandage for support
Elevation: Raise the hurt area (above your nose if possible)
You can also use anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain and swelling.
When to See Your Doctor
Make an appointment if pain hangs around or gets worse after a few days. Get to an emergency room right away if a joint looks oddly shaped or if the pain is intense. Tell your doctor about changes in your workout. They’ll likely suggest you stop the sport or motion that causes your pain, at least for a while. You may still be able to do other exercises that don’t aggravate things.
This will depend on what causes your pain and where it is. Besides RICE, your doctor may suggest physical therapy exercises to help make the area stronger. Splints, casts, and braces might help you keep things still and protect the injured spot from more injury. Prescription medicine could help ease pain and swelling. In some cases, you might need surgery to make a full recovery.
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American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Shoulder Pain and Common Shoulder Problems,” “Stress Fractures,” “Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs,” “Shin Splints,” “Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis).”
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine: “Overuse Injury.”
American Society for Surgery of the Hand: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."
Emory Healthcare: “IT Band Syndrome.”
George Mason University Center for Arts and Wellness: “Overuse Injury in Musicians.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Tendonitis.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Overuse Injuries.”
Mayo Clinic: “Overuse injury: How to prevent training injuries.”
Merck Manual: “Bursitis.”
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Tendinitis,” “Sports Injuries.”
Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Related to Texting & Laptop Use.”
University of Rochester Medical Center Encyclopedia: “Overuse Injuries.”