Overuse syndrome is an injury sustained as a result of excessive hard use. The part of the body which is injured may be worked too hard, too long, or too frequently, and it is damaged as a result. On a low level, overuse syndrome can cause mild pain and inflammation. More seriously, people can be so severely injured that they require surgery or other measures to correct the damage. For this reason, it is very important to take overuse syndrome seriously, and to intervene quickly when signs are identified.
Historically, overuse syndrome was especially common among athletes. Athletes sometimes refer to it as overtraining. Overtraining can occur as a result of not training wisely, and can happen to athletes in a wide variety of sports. Today, overuse syndrome is growing especially common in the workforce, where it is sometimes known as occupational overuse syndrome, cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), or repetitive stress/strain injury (RSI). Overuse syndrome in the workplace has been linked with a variety of things, ranging from longer working hours to increased use of technology.
Some examples of conditions linked with overuse syndrome are: shin splints, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and trigger finger. The early warning signs can be stiffness, pain, soreness, inflammation, and heat. Over time, the symptoms will grow more intense and more sustained. Eventually, overuse can lead to permanent damage to muscles, bones, and tendons, which can have serious consequences.
The immediate treatment for overuse syndrome is rest. Allowing the body to rest and recover can give it a chance to heal naturally. People may help the body along with antiinflammatory drugs, applications of hot and cold compresses, and similar treatments. Once someone goes back to work or training, it is important to make adjustments to avoid a recurring injury. These can include working and training differently, working with a physical therapist to improve strength and tone, and asking a coach or ergonomics evaluator to observe and provide suggestions to work out or work more safely.
If someone works through the pain or reinjures the area, more aggressive treatment may be required to address the overuse syndrome. A doctor who specializes in sports medicine or occupational health can provide an evaluation and discuss treatment options with the patient. These can include splinting, surgery, and other measures. In some cases, it may be necessary to give up an activity for an extended period of time to allow the body to recover from overuse.