OVERUSE INJURIES

Overuse injuries are the problems that creep up onyou, that begin with the slightest of irritations andbuild to the point where they can be more painful,and more difficult to deal with, than the kind ofdramatic injuries we’ve been discussing. They’reusually the result of overusing a particular muscle or tendon (or bone, even), and they often come about because of some change in your activity. A change indistance run, number of classes taken, sets played, rehearsals attended, terrain traversed—even a newinstructor, or a new racquet or pair of shoes—any of these changes can bring on an overuse injury. Mostpeople ignore them until they’re so painful or debilitating that they simply can’t ignore them any longer. Bythen something minor may have turned into a serious problem. Especially so as these injuries tend to migrate,and what began in the quads, say, might lodge in the hip. You may be able to treat the latest symptoms, but it’sharder to track it all back to the source. And if you don’t get back to where it began, it’ll just keep recurring.

The single most common source of overuse problems from the waist on down are weak quadriceps.We’ve discussed how weak quads can affect the knee (see chapter 5, “The Knee”); they can cause problemsin the hip as well, and most overuse problems in athletes are in the hip rather than the thigh. Probably the onlypeople who have lots of overuse injuries in the thigh are track and field athletes, and these are often residualproblems from old thigh tears and strains. Overuse injuries usually lodge at one end or the other of the musclewhere it attaches to tendons—in this case, the hip area, where so many muscles begin. (Muscles that beginat the femur lack tendons. The muscle connects directly to the bone.)

To treat overuse injuries effectively, you have to be aware of these changes, aware of the subtlebeginnings. That’s where a doctor who will take the time to talk with you, to ask questions and listen toanswers, can be of real service in helping you monitor your activities. But it may not be necessary to go to adoctor for many of these things. If you don’t, you must become your own monitor. For the only lasting way todeal with overuse injuries is to find out why they occurred, to track them back to their source, and eliminatethem there.

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