Overuse injuries, or cumulative trauma disorders, result from placing too much stress on bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons without allowing for adequate healing. Achilles tendinitis, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and plantar fasciitis are examples of common overuse injuries.
Standard treatment of overuse injuries includes correction of the biomechanical issue that led to the injury, strengthening of muscular imbalances, correcting training errors, rest, stretching, oral medications and certain types of bracing or supports. Steroid injections are less frequently recommended.
A tendinopathy, a term used to describe many tendon injuries, is one of the most common overuse injuries, which account for one-third of the visits to general physicians, but also one of the most difficult to treat.
In the past, the prevailing thought was that the tendon injury was from inflammation, but there has been a paradigm shift to considering these injuries as degenerative — related to cellular changes as well as changes in the underlying collagen. The theory is that a tendon becomes injured because it cannot adapt to the stress placed upon it.
It is thought that a chronic tendon injury does not heal because it stays in what is called a “chronic proliferative” or “under-healed” state, and there is ongoing research into technology that promotes healing. These developing technologies are a part of emerging research in an area of medicine referred to as regenerative medicine. Although still considered experimental/unproven, these treatment options offer great promise.
Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) is used to stimulate healing by applying acoustic pressure waves to the skin. This treatment is thought to stimulate underlying neurochemical processes, improve blood circulation, and stimulate the growth of bone, tissue and cartilage.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection Therapy involves processing some of the patient’s blood to concentrate the platelets and then re-injecting that platelet-rich blood into the injury site to encourage healing. The theory is that when PRP is injected into the injured tendon, the platelets release many growth factors to stimulate healing in the cells that influence collagen and tendon repair.
These are just a couple of emerging regenerative treatment options currently being explored by the medical community and may help speed up recovery times. Still, early diagnosis and treatment can dictate a favorable prognosis.
So if you suspect that you have an overuse injury, don’t wait for your injury to progress. Consult your doctor as soon as symptoms appear so an adequate treatment plan can be developed for your recovery.