Loading: Not too much, not too little

A common reason for sustaining injuries is often due to a sudden sustained increase in activity, which puts more load on the body than it is used to.

This can be if you have gone from running a regular 5kms twice a week to then increasing to 8-10km 3x/week in preparation for an upcoming race; or quickly increasing how much you are deadlifting at the gym; or getting outside and doing a lot of gardening because the weather is nice and you’ve left it a long time. This is true for any area of the body: Achilles tendinopathy from increased running, low back pain from increased deadlifts or rotator cuff tendinopathy due to repetitive digging. All of these are examples of a sudden increase in the acute loading on the body.

Generally, our bodies don’t like sudden sustained increases in loading. Having said that our bodies are strong and robust and can cope with spikes, but there is a limit to that. What we need to consider is how our acute work load (ie what we are doing this week) compares to what we have been doing over the last month. This is called the acute:chronic workload ratio (Gabbet, 2016). This means that if we are doing significantly more than what we have been doing over the last month our risk of injury increases.

So, the issue of overloading leading to injuries can therefore come down to being chronically underloaded. To be able to do more we need to have a gradual increase in our activity to increase our chronic workload capacity. This means that while overloading can be the reason for the onset of the pain, the real cause may be because the area was being underloaded for a much longer time.

In order to rehabilitate from injuries stated above and to protect against potential future injuries, part of the answer is in modifying our activity to match our current level and then gradually increase it to improve our overall capacity. So if you are experiencing pain or having issues with managing training load come in to the clinic to get some help to make you more robust!

Declan Price - Physiotherapist