Four Common Overuse Injuries: Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Jumper’s Knee, Achilles Tendonitis

The human body has remarkable capabilities. Far from a static system, the body is constantly changing and adapting to the ways that you choose to move. Through exercise and activity, we can literally build a stronger and more flexible body in a process known as “remodeling,” which simply means the break down and buildup of tissue.

But sometimes in our devotion to the sports and hobbies we love, we may stretch our capabilities too far and too fast. What happens when the repeated stress on your body causes the break down of tissue to happen faster than the buildup? That’s when you have an overuse injury.

What are the most common overuse injuries?

According to Dr. Andy Harcourt, an expert on non-surgical sports medicine at Baldwin Bone and Joint, four of the most common overuse injuries he sees involve the tendons. You might know them by their colloquial names:

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) – pain on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow

Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) – pain on the inside of your elbow

Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis) – pain in the front of your knee

Achilles tendonitis – pain in the ankle and legs

“Tendons are tissues that connect muscle to bone, and they are very susceptible to overuse,” Dr. Harcourt said. “Tendonitis, or the inflammation of the tendon, starts as pain around the areas where the tendon is inflamed. Activities that we enjoy may continue to irritate the tendon. The tissues continue to break down and the body will come in and try to repair it. As the process continues, the body will eventually stop trying to heal the tendon. Scar tissues may build up inside the tendon, and you will now have a much more serious condition called tendonosis.” Dr. Harcourt emphasized that these conditions are not easily remedied with self-care and rest, adding that it is important to catch tendonitis early—as it can develop into a more aggressive medical problem after just six weeks. He recommends two treatments for overuse injuries.

What are the recommended treatments for overuse injuries?

Physical therapy – The goal of physical therapy is to modify the activity that is offending and to make some smart changes to your routine. For many people suffering from overuse injuries, physical therapy alone is a sufficient treatment. In addition to activity modification, physical therapists may use therapeutic modalities such as ultrasounds or friction massage to stimulate and relax the tissue. “The body wants to return to normal and these therapies will encourage the tendon to repair itself,” Dr. Harcourt explained.

Injections – If physical therapy is not enough to treat the overuse injury at hand, injections of biologics is another promising therapy for the patient to consider. For this treatment, the physician will inject either platelet rich plasma (PCP) extracted from the patient’s blood or stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow into the affected area. These biological agents will encourage the renewal of the tissue that has failed to heal. “We’ve seen tremendous success with orthobiologic injections and stem cell therapies,” Dr. Harcourt said. “We have had patients that were candidates for surgery who were healed – through injections – without undergoing surgery.”

A member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Dr. Andy Harcourt is a fellowship-trained physician in non-surgical sports medicine and an expert in treating medical issues affecting athletic performance. If you think you may have an overuse injury, don’t wait until it progresses further to get the right treatment. To find out more about your condition and to learn about the treatments available, call (251) 625-2663 to schedule a medical consultation with Dr. Andy Harcourt or another expert at the Sports Medicine Center at Baldwin Bone and Joint.

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Tips for weekend warriors: preventing back and neck injuries

neck injury As an athlete, you know all too well that taking care of yourself is the #1 most important factor of success. No weekend warrior can win without putting his or her health first. Why let a preventable neck or back injury keep you from scaling every Kilimanjaro and all the amazing scenic trails to run? Back and neck injuries, along with severe neck and back pain, are some of the most common issues that athletes and fitness enthusiasts face.

Common back and neck injuries

Muscles strains and ligament sprains – some of the most common injuries that can be caused by heavy training, improper techniques, insufficient stretching, and trauma. Cracks and stress fractures in the vertebrae – often experienced by athletes who practice sports that require intense twisting or hyperextension of the spine, like gymnastics. Stingers – injuries to the nerves around the neck and shoulder most often occurring with contact and collision sports like football. (North American Spine Society) If you are having problems with neck injury or back injury, the physicians at Baldwin Bone and Joint can help. We are experts on sports medicine with extensive education in the musculoskeletal system, trusted by several athletic teams in the state, including the University of South Alabama Jaguars. Injuries can put you out of commission for awhile, meaning you’ll be stuck at home instead of out and about basking in the sun, so here are a few tips from us help you prevent them:

Do this and you’ll reduce the risk of neck and back pain

1. Warm up – Loosen your joints and get your blood flowing to the muscles. A warm up session before you start your workout will help prevent injuries by improving flexibility. Since most of us are tied to sedentary 9-5 desk jobs, you’ll need to warm up your spine by moving it in ways that it’s not used to before you start exercising. It really only takes a few minutes to get your spine ready for a great workout. 2. Strengthen the core – If your abdominal muscles are weak, it means that back muscles are working extra hard to support the spine, and the extra burden can cause back pain. A stronger core will reduce the strain on back muscles and reduce the risk of back pain. 3. Make sleep a priority – Your spine needs to rest just like the rest of your body. Make sure you are getting a good eight hours of sleep every night so that you can give your neck and back some much needed time off. 4. Choose the sport that fits you best – If you have a past or ongoing issue with neck pain or back pain, you may want to consult your doctor on the best sport to play. Some sports that require intense twists or jumping (think about making a slam dunk) may not be the most ideal. Other alternatives like swimming or skiing could actually be fun and exciting, yet safe to practice. Click here to schedule an appointment with us today.
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