From “text neck” to carrying heavy bags, here’s how you can avoid overuse injuries from common daily activities
While we all know that exercise, including strength training and other forms, can improve your health in a variety of ways, in some cases, putting too much strain on your muscles and joints can cause injuries over time. Overuse injuries happen because the motion you’re repeating causes physical stress to a specific set of muscles or joints, and although many people will never experience an overuse injury from daily activity, below are a few of the common ways you may find yourself more prone to one.
Technology-related overuse injuries
Injuries that come with using a computer, tablet or smartphone every day may include back, neck and shoulder pain, or even eye strain and headaches from excess blue light exposure during screen time. However, amongst frequent tech users, the most commonly experienced injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome and neck strains.
Carpal tunnel syndrome manifests as a result of excess pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve runs down the forearm and through the wrist on the palm side through the carpal tunnel, and this area of the hand and wrist is often strained by the position and pressure that can be caused by frequent and prolonged use of a keyboard. Carpal tunnel syndrome may cause feelings of numbness in the fingers or hands, soreness and pain in the wrist and limited mobility in the joints as a result. If left untreated, pain may worsen over time. Depending on the severity of carpal tunnel syndrome, treatment options can range from using anti-inflammatory medications and stretching techniques, to the needs for a brace or splint, to in the most severe cases, surgery.
Because of the rise of the use of mobile devices, “text neck,” has become a common way of describing a specific type of neck strain which can occur due to poor posture while using a smartphone or tablet. Use of mobile devices can position your head and neck in a way that results in excess strain on the spine, which for some, can lead to upper back and shoulder muscle tightness and pain over time.
To prevent technology-related overuse issues, consider trying a few of the following:
- Invest in an ergonomic chair for better posture.
- Give your body and your eyes a break by frequently looking away from the computer screen.
- Get up from the desk to stretch or walk around periodically.
- If you use a keyboard with a mouse, use the mouse close to the keyboard and at the same height.
- When using a mobile phone or tablet, try your best to bring the screen closer to eye level to avoid neck strain.
Carrying a heavy bag
Carrying an excessively heavy handbag, briefcase or backpack every day can become a health hazard. Walking around with excess weight can cause injury to both children and adults, including muscle, nerve and skeletal damage. This can result in painful or numbing sensation in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and fingers.
If you find yourself in a situation where you must carry heavy weight, make sure to take it slow, wear proper footwear, and most importantly – don’t overdo it. You know the limits of your body, if it feels like too much weight to carry, it probably is.
Wearing the wrong shoes
Wearing the proper footwear is a very simple way to prevent every day injuries. From slipping and falling in stilettos, to running in sneakers with worn down tread, your shoes can make all the difference in preventing pain and joint damage.
As it relates to overuse injuries, though, improper footwear choices can lead to recurring and excess strain and pressure resulting in injuries ranging from bunions to pinched nerves, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and more.
Below are a few tips to help reduce your risk for a footwear-related overuse injury:
- If you’re a woman who wears heels often, choose a wider, chunkier heel for more stability in your stride.
- If you’re a runner, make sure you get properly fitted for your shoes and replace them often – low tread can result in extra impact to your joints.
- If you experience frequent shin splints or arch pain while exercising, you may want to consult with your doctor about orthotics.
Exercise-related overuse injuries
Daily jogging, sports training, and exercise classes–while all great for your physical fitness–if not approached properly, can take a toll on your joints and muscles. Here are a few problems you could face while trying to stay in shape:
- Chronic tendonitis: Joints that move constantly can tear, heal poorly, build up scar tissue and tear over and over again.
- Heel pain: Athletes often injure their heels from excess use and putting constant weight on their feet.
- Knee pain: Athletes who train on hard surfaces may develop muscle and tendon tears that affect the knee joints.
- Shin splints: Athletes who train hard but don’t stretch fully can damage their shin bones, muscles and tendons.
- Stress fractures: Athletes who experience constant blows to leg, arm and shoulder bones cause hairpin breaks in the bones, which can worsen over time.
- Tennis elbow: Tennis players, golfers and baseball players overuse elbows, leading to cartilage and tendon damage.
Does your lifestyle put you at risk for overuse injuries? Visit Mercy.com to make an appointment with a sports medicine doctor or other specialist to find out.