difference between overtraining and overuse

Overuse injuries in runners happen because of poor mechanics, but overtraining also has a role in developing injuries. Learn the difference between overuse and overtraining below!

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Overuse injuries in runners happen in part due to poor mechanics, but overtraining also has a role in developing injuries. Most runners who are experiencing problems, are training inappropriately. Your body needs time to recover after a strenuous workout. If you continue to push without having a period of rest, it will lead to further breakdown of your body and eventually have problems with injuries.

Many of the overuse injuries that were described in the newsletter can be avoided with proper training practices. The al of a training program is to allow for variation in intensity, frequency, and duration of the activity, while having periods of rest in between. When first starting out, slowly progress into more intense workouts.

Signs of overtraining can be decreased performance, easy fatigability, overuse injuries, mood disturbances and others.

If you develop any these symptoms, a full work-up (including blood work) is often needed to make sure nothing metabolically is wrong. That combined with a decrease in intensity of your workouts for 2-3 weeks, can help point to the cause.

The best prevention is to have varied workouts, and allow adequate rest periods in between workouts. Most “athletes” can exercise 4-5 days a week, giving them adequate rest periods. Exercising 7 days a week is not recommended. Treatment for overtraining is rest, which can be frustrating, thus take the proper steps to avoid it.



Overuse injuries account for greater than 50 percent of injuries seen in sports medicine practices.

The general overuse concepts can be broken down into two main groups microtrauma or macrotrauma.

Mactrotrauma are subliminal injuries from repeated activity can be cumulative over time, and result in inflammation’ characterized by pain and discomfort. An example of this would be Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (shin splints). If repetitive trauma occurs this can lead to macrotrauma. Example of this would be a shin splint leading to a tibial stress fracture.

Predisposing factors leading to overuse injuries can be divided into intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

  • Intrinsic factors include: malalignment of limbs, muscular imbalances, and other anatomic factors.
  • Extrinsic factors include: training errors, faulty technique, incorrect surfaces and equipment, and poor environmental conditions.

There are measures one can take to decrease the likelihood of developing an overuse injury.

  • Proper stretching before and after exercise is very important, focusing on static stretches after a light warm-up. Most advise against dynamic stretching at this point.
  • Also when running long distance in high amounts, it’s important to make sure the shoes are well fitted, and that you are replacing them every 400 miles.
  • Another aspect that is often overlooked in runners is proper quadriceps and hamstring strength ratio.
    • For example, if you can lift 100 lbs. with your quadriceps during knee extensions, you should be able to lift 70 lbs. with your hamstrings during knee flexion. Thus a ratio of 70 percent is a al. This provides the best strength and stability around the knee joint itself.

As far as biomechanical aspects in regards to proper running technique during the phases of heel/foot strike and push off, any abnormalities may present themselves as an overuse injury often involving the knee, hip, or back in runners. A thorough evaluation, possibly including a dynamic gait analysis may need to be performed, as orthotics may be needed to correct the abnormality present. This in turn will lead to proper force distribution while running and prevent the overuse injuries.

For more information, visit UPMCPinnacle.com/SportsMed.

About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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