Overuse can be defined as using muscles to the point of overload without adequate recovery. An example of a job where you could overwork your muscles, would be an office worker who spent all day on the computer, keyboarding and mousing; then came home at night and used the computer all night during their leisure time. Another example would be as an order picker and who spent their entire day lifting boxes 30 lb. and up every few minutes. Both of these workers are putting themselves at risk for overuse syndrome.
What happens is that the muscles work all day at one task, usually a task that has repetitive motion too. So the same muscle groups get more and more tired as the day goes on from the constant use. With some jobs your muscles may feel fatigued, but with other jobs you might not feel the fatigue even though it is happening (this is even more risky for overuse syndrome). If you really push your muscles during the day, rest and sleep time at night might not be enough for your muscles to fully recover for the next work day. So when you wake up in the morning, instead of your muscles being 100% rested, they may be only 95% rested. And if you continue on like this, losing 5% every day, the risk for injury increases considerably. Your muscles are just too tired and not recharged enough to avoid injury.
It is important to avoid overuse so you don’t end up with an injury. Some good rules to follow:
- Always take a full lunch break as well as morning and afternoon breaks if they are offered.
- Rest during your breaks and avoid using the muscles you use at work – no walking if you are an order picker, no computer work if you are an office worker.
- If possible, 5 min breaks every hour are better than 15 min morning and afternoon breaks.
- Avoid overtime hours. Work no longer than 8 hours a day.
- Don’t tax your muscles at night. If you work on the computer during the day, avoid it at night. If you have a manual labor job, rest in the evening to allow your muscles to recover.
- Eat nutritious foods to allow your body to rebuild strong and healthy muscle tissue.
- Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and to allow waste products to be flushed out.
- Get a good nights’ sleep. This is essential for proper muscle recovery.
Remember that your body is not a machine – it will break down when pushed too hard. Work in moderation and listen to your body’s needs for rest. An injury is no fun for anyone.