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Fitness Enthusiasts: How to Avoid Overuse Injuries

Whether you favor the treadmill, the streets, or the trails, make sure your enthusiasm doesn’t outstrip your abilities. Launching into a workout routine without proper preparation can often put you at risk for overuse injuries such as stress fractures and muscle tears.

Dr. WertzJessica Wertz, DO, a family and sports medicine physician at Inova Sports Medicine, shares some solid get-fit tips:

Start with strength

“Running is great exercise, but your muscles need to support the repetitive stress that the activity demands,” Dr. Wertz says. “Prepare with squats and lunges — gradually increasing the number of reps and sets — to strengthen leg muscles.”

Increase activity slowly

As tempting as it might be to go from the couch to a 5K, doing too much too soon can make you vulnerable to injury. Dr. Wertz suggests keeping a training log so that you can increase activity by 10 to 20 percent per week.

Build in recovery days

“No matter how much you run, you need rest days for your body to recover,“ Dr. Wertz notes. “One or two days per week are ideal, and you don’t have to spend them lounging. Pursue active recovery options like yoga, Pilates or swimming.”

Mix it up

Among athletes of all ages, Dr. Wertz tends to see overuse injuries in those who specialize in one sport, which means they’re repeatedly stressing the same muscles, tendons and joints. To minimize risk, consider some cross-training, such as doing strength training a few times a week to balance out any cardio work. If you’re not sure how to combine them, Dr. Wertz suggests talking with a personal trainer or physical therapist to create a plan.

Don’t ignore nagging pains

She adds that overuse injuries tend to show up gradually over time, worsening with more activity. If you’re experiencing any nagging pains after activity — especially if the pain lingers after icing and rest — check with your doctor to make sure you’re not dealing with something more serious like a stress fracture, or muscle or tendon tear.

Inova’s got help for chronic ankle problems

For athletes sidelined by chronic ankle problems including arthritis, help is at hand. The Inova Total Ankle Replacement Program brings together a multidisciplinary team for a surgical procedure that treats end-stage ankle arthritis. The surgery preserves motion and significantly reduces joint stress.

Inova also offers non-surgical treatment options and minimally invasive procedures such as arthroscopy to remove damaged cartilage and tissue. Talk to your doctor about what options are most appropriate for your ankle issues. Find out more at inova.org/ankle.

Need an ortho, sports medicine, or P.T. appointment in Northern Virginia?

Inova offers a full range of services including joint replacement, sports medicine, minimally invasive treatments, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. If you need to make a doctor’s appointment, you can get started here:

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