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Overuse injuries, sometimes referred to as repetitive stress injuries, can be painful and sometimes debilitating. Orthopedic specialists and surgeons often treat patients who have been affected by overuse injuries. Injuries to the muscles, tendons and joints, are often caused by playing sports or exercise, or through repetitive movements at work.

While injuries due to overuse of muscles and joints can be treated by an orthopedic doctor, the problem may be averted by following a few simple rules. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

DO Warm Up Prior to Physical Activity

Whether it be an exercise workout, a physical sport or simply performing your daily job, it’s essential to warm up your muscles before beginning your activity. Physical activity with cold muscles can lead to muscle fatigue, strain or overuse injury.

Perform some simple stretches before you exert yourself. Stretch to help loosen your muscles and avoid muscle strains. Even if your work just has you sit at a computer desk for hours at a time, you might want to stretch your hands and wrist to avoid injury. Doing so may improve your range of motion and reduce pain, as it helps improve circulation.

If you are a runner, perform some stretches and light walking prior to your run. Workplace warm ups are also important, so consider doing stretches before you begin your shift.

DON’T Forget to Change Up Your Routine

Whenever you work out or work at your job, take frequent breaks and change up your routine. Performing the same tasks repetitively may lead to overuse injury. Plan any physical exercise program to change up your workout periodically and don’t stay with the same routine and exercise. Instead, work out various core muscle groups on different days.

DO Practice Good Ergonomics Every Day

If you practice poor ergonomics, you could end up with musculoskeletal problems that may send you straight to the orthopedic doctor. Practice good ergonomics, on the job and at home, to help you avoid overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back pain as you work long hours at the computer.

Whether you work on an assembly line, have an office job, or do manual labor work, be mindful of how you lift, bend, sit and stand. For instance, if you slouch, you may overuse your hands, arms and shoulders. And if you sit too far away from your desk, you may extend your arms and wrists repetitively, which may also lead to overuse injuries and stress.

DON’T Ignore Your Pain

If you feel pain or stress in your joints and muscles, don’t dismiss it as being unimportant. Try not to push yourself through the pain and work harder. If you do so, it may lead to overuse injury. Listen to your body and the signals you are given. If you feel you need to slow down, then do so.

Also, when you have pain after physical exertion, and if swelling is present, ice the affected area to relieve pain and inflammation. Wrap some ice in a towel and keep it on the affected area for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Never place ice directly on the skin, however, as that may cause frostbite.

If your pain persists or you develop an overuse injury, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. Don’t wait until the injury becomes severe and prevents you from performing your daily tasks. Your orthopedic doctor will perform an exam and ask for your medical history. Tests may be recommended which may include x-rays or digital imaging.

Ask your doctor how you may avoid further injury later on and for smart ways to prevent your pain and injury from recurring.