Those who enjoy working out or playing sports reap plenty of mental and physical health benefits. However, there are also risks. Too much exercise, repetitive workouts, training, and/or physical activity can cause overuse injuries that may damage the bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the feet and ankles.
Types of Overuse Injuries in the Foot and Ankle
Feet are incredibly complex, with 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 tendons and ligaments in a single foot alone. They endure constant daily stress, which is why foot overuse injuries are so common. The mere impact of your feet hitting the ground repeatedly can cause an overuse injury. Athletes, runners, gymnasts, and dancers who take hard landings on a regular basis often experience overuse injuries. These types of injuries include:
Also known as “medial tibial stress syndrome,” shin splints refer to “pain along the inner edge of the shinbone.” Athletes, runners, and anyone who increase or changes their exercise routine can overwork the bone tissue, tendons, and muscles in their legs and develop shin splints.
Plantar fasciitis is another common overuse foot injury. It occurs when there is inflammation to the thick band of tissue connecting the toes and heel—the plantar fascia. This inflammation causes pain in your heel that can worsen over time. Although this overuse injury is common in runners and athletes, those who are just beginning an exercise program are at an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Also, those who are overweight, stand on their feet all day, or wear shoes that have no support can experience this condition.
Achilles tendinitis is a painful overuse injury of the Achilles tendon that occurs when the band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone becomes inflamed or irritated. Runners who abruptly increase their workout routines and those who infrequently engage in sports are likely to experience Achilles tendinitis.
Sprains and Strains
Ankle sprains and strains are common overuse injuries. Most ankle sprains are acute and happen after one, specific injury such as tripping while playing basketball or falling on a slippery surface. Strains, on the other hand, can be acute or chronic. A chronic strain typically occurs because the ankle muscles are being overused over time. Football players, gymnasts, and marathon runners often experience chronic ankle strains.
Symptoms and Prevention
Pain is usually the first sign of an overuse ankle or foot injury. Other symptoms may include:
- Redness or warmth
- Limited ability to walk
- Pain that decreases after warming up
- Pain that worsens after completing an activity
- Constant pain, both at rest and during use
The best way to avoid overuse injuries is through prevention. Be sure to:
- Train properly. If you participate in a sport, work with your coach to ensure you are executing the proper technique. Many overuse injuries occur not just through repetitive motions but incorrect motions.
- Allow your body recovery time. Don’t overdo your training or include an excessive amount of workouts. Your body needs time to rest.
- Start cross-training. Include different types of movements and exercises into your routine to prevent injury.
- Pace your activity increase. Do not progress at a rate faster than 10 percent per week.
- Listen to your body. If you have a concerning amount of strain or soreness, don’t ignore it. Even subtle pains are a signal that something’s wrong.
Overuse injuries are best treated when they are caught early. They are usually diagnosed by a physical exam, which will provide guidance as to what treatment is best. Depending on the severity of injury, you may be advised to simply rest and ice the area. In more serious cases, physical therapy, prescription medications, or even surgery might be recommended.
Working with a podiatrist can help minimize your pain and potentially reduce your recovery time. Podiatrists are able to diagnose a wide variety of foot and ankle injuries, including those from overuse. They can advise you on ways to avoid future overuse injuries by recommending a change in footwear or introducing orthotics. They can also recommend available treatments that correct the alignment and function of your foot mobility.
Are You Looking for a Sports Injuries Expert in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for sports injury care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.