Most people understand the importance of exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity can control your weight, improve your mood, increase your energy, and strengthen your muscles and bones. Keeping fit and staying healthy has many positive benefits.
Still, too much of a good thing can sometimes have negative consequences. People who exercise too much, with too much intensity, or start up an exercise program too quickly put themselves at risk of overuse injuries. One body part often affected by overuse injuries is the foot because it bears so much of your body weight.
Overuse injuries can develop either quickly or over time, and how easily they resolve depends a lot on how soon you recognize the issue and seek help from an experienced podiatrist from the team at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists. In this article, we discuss the most common overuse foot injuries, how they are treated, and how they’re prevented.
Understanding Overuse Injuries
An overuse injury develops when there is damage to ligaments, muscles, tendons, or bones due to repetitive stress without time for adequate recovery. Overuse injuries can occur in people who run consistently every day, in gymnasts, in someone who ramps up an activity program too quickly, or in anyone whose workouts put stress on a specific area of the body. There are other risk factors for overuse injuries, including:
- If you’ve had a prior injury
- If you have an insufficient level of conditioning
- If you’re an adolescent
- If your training schedule is overly heavy
Common Types of Overuse Foot Injuries
If you’re a sports enthusiast, an athlete, or like to work out on a daily basis, you are likely to suffer an overuse injury. There are many types of overuse injuries, but some are more common than others.
A shin splint develops when there is stress on your shinbone, and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to your bones become inflamed. Repetitive stress on the shinbones can cause this painful condition that is often treated with ice, pain management, and rest. Shin splints can become stress fractures, so it’s important to rest while they heal.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that are caused by repetitive force. When the muscle is fatigued and unable to absorb the shock of this force, a stress fracture can develop. Runners and athletes who jump up and down are at a higher risk of a stress fracture due to overuse.
Plantar fasciitis develops when the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes becomes inflamed. One primary symptom is intense, sharp pain near the heel that often feels worse in the morning. This overuse injury can be treated with rest, ice, and stretching, but you need to see a podiatrist to be sure it’s diagnosed correctly.
Tendinitis develops when the tendons that attach muscle to bone become inflamed. This overuse injury causes tenderness and pain outside the joint. It can be treated with bandaging, bracing, and rest.
Ways to Prevent Overuse Foot Injuries
The best way to treat an overuse foot injury is to avoid it in the first place. Taking just a few minutes to learn about overuse foot injury prevention can save you a lot of pain, time, money, and enjoyment.
Rest and Recover
The number one thing that you can do to prevent overuse foot injuries takes very little effort. All you need to do is rest and relax regularly after exerting yourself. This is especially important if you are new to exercising or engaging in a new sport.
Build up Your Tolerance
Your body does not like sudden change. If you jump into an activity too quickly and don’t ramp up your exercise slowly (a good rule of thumb is to up your training by 10% at a time), injuries can happen. And they can be much harder to fix once they develop.
Warm up and Cool Down
Stretching and warming up your muscles, as well as cooling down your body slowly after a workout or game, are important for reducing overuse injuries, and both only take about five minutes each.
Overuse injuries are often associated with repetitive movements such as running, playing tennis, or doing gymnastics. Cross-training can help strengthen your body as a whole and make it more difficult for overuse injuries to happen.
Check in With Your Body
Some minor discomfort is normal when you’re getting better at a physical activity. But if you’re feeling foot or ankle pain consistently before, during, or after a workout, be sure to talk to a podiatrist. Overuse injuries can go from minor to severe if you don’t listen to your body and take care of any problems that arise.
One of the best things you can do is talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regime, sport, or physical goal that could impact your health. At Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, we are happy to meet with you before you dive into a new exercise routine or sport.
Warning Signs of Overuse Foot Injuries
Acute foot injuries are pretty obvious: they usually come with a specific incident, such as a fall, that causes sudden pain. You may also hear a pop or a snap. Overuse foot injuries, on the other hand, can be more subtle, and you may not notice them at first.
When to See a Podiatrist
- Redness or swelling
- Pain or stiffness when you walk
- Pain that decreases when you are active
- Pain that gets worse during a workout
- Pain that increases when you’re not active
- Dull pain that follows you before and after workouts
- Pain that is getting worse over time instead of better
- Chronic pain
Overuse Foot Injury Treatments
It is important to catch overuse foot injuries early, so they’re more easily diagnosed and can be treated with more simple solutions, such as rest and ice.
When overuse injuries are not caught early, treatment can be more complicated and involved, and they may take longer to heal. A person with a serious foot overuse injury may be treated with pain medication, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and even surgery.
What to Do if You Experience Overuse Foot Pain
If you are experiencing pain you think may be from overuse, it’s vital to see a podiatrist and get a diagnosis before things become worse and recovery becomes longer or more difficult. No one should have painful feet, and no one should be prevented from a healthy and active lifestyle because of foot pain. At Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, we’re here to help.