An overuse injury is also known as cumulative trauma disorder. The term refers to injury sustained by bones, tissues, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments due to repetitive action over a period of time.
Forty-two percent of all overuse injuries affect the knee joint, making it the most common overuse injury.
When any of the structures in the knee joint are injured, it may cause pain, swelling, and inflammation in the knee. A knee injury limits your range of motion and you may find it difficult to get up, walk, or bend your knees.
Types of Overuse Injuries in the Knee
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
This injury is also known as Runner’s Knee. One of the most common overuse injuries of the knee, PFPS often affects those who are in running and jumping sports. Constant and repetitive bending and straightening of the knee while running or jumping may irritate the patella or kneecap, and cause a bone bruise. This is characterised by a generalised pain around the kneecap.
There is a small fluid-filled sac situated near your knee joint called the bursa. The bursa reduces friction between the bones and the tendons, muscles, and skin near your joints. It also serves as a cushion between pressure points. When the bursa is inflamed, the condition is called bursitis. Bursitis can be caused by overuse or strenuous activities that require frequent, sustained pressure such as kneeling on hard surfaces.
This condition is also known as Jumper’s Knee. A common overuse injury, this is the result of overstressing the patellar tendon – the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shinbone. Frequent jumping and landing with force on hard surfaces can damage the patellar tendon.
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of joint cartilage that can be caused by an overuse injury. If you repeatedly damage your joints, ligaments, and tendons, it can cause cartilage breakdown. Standing for long periods of time, repetitive bending, heavy lifting, and other movements can also speed up damage to the cartilage.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS)
One of the most common causes of Runner’s knee, this condition occurs as a result of repeated trauma. The Iliotibial Band is a thick band of connective tissues that runs from the hip down the length of the upper leg and attaches into the shinbone just below the knee. It coordinates muscle function and stabilises the knee during running. Inflammation of the Iliotibial Band often occurs as an overuse injury in marathon and long-distance runners.
Tibial Plateau Stress Fracture
The Tibial Plateau is located at the top part of the tibia – the large bone between the knee and the ankle. This injury occurs when there is an increase in training and not enough time to rest.
How to Prevent Knee Overuse Injury
- Always warm up
- Don’t push through pain or discomfort
- Slowly build your exercise routine
- Run on soft, flat surfaces
- Do not run on slanted or uneven surfaces
- Observe rest days
- Ensure you have supportive running shoes
- Alternate hard running with easy days
- Change your running shoes every 500 miles
- Do stretching and strengthening exercises
Some athletes wear orthotics to help prevent running injuries. Orthotics are shoe inserts designed to correct a condition called pronation – a bad alignment between the foot and lower leg. If you run a lot, you may also need compression socks and sleeves to help increase blood circulation.
Four Stages of an Overuse Injury
- The progression of an injury can be broken down into four stages:
- pain or discomfort in the affected area after physical activity
- pain or discomfort may disappear during warm-up but reappears at the end of an activity.
- pain or discomfort that gets worse during the activity
- chronic, unremitting pain all the time, even at rest
Treatment for Knee Overuse Injuries
Mild knee injuries should get better on their own, but moderate to severe overuse injuries may require special attention. To speed up your healing process, we recommend:
- Stopping the activity that caused the injury
- Applying ice to the affected area to ease pain and inflammation
- Compressing your knee with an elastic bandage to keep the swelling down or add support
- Elevating your knee with a pillow underneath your heel while sitting or lying down to help cut down on swelling
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Doing complete physio approved stretching and strengthening exercises
If your knee pain persists or worsens, you may require more help. For instance, if you have bursitis, the extra fluid in your bursa may need to be drawn out. Torn ligament and other knee injuries may take years to heal, or worse, progress to more serious conditions if left untreated.
At Southport Central Physio can help treat your injury in non-invasive ways which include rest, activity, modification, stretches and physical therapy.
Ready for treatment? Book an online appointment with our Physiotherapist and Accredited Exercise Physiologist Kelvin Choi.
You can also call:
(07) 5571 2222
+61 439 406 788
Southport Central Tower 2
Shop 2002, 5 Lawson Street,
Southport QLD 4215