Overuse Pain Patient Handout


Overuse pain is one of the most common forms of musculoskeletal pain. Muscles and joints of the body do not receive proper blood flow or oxygen. The lack of oxygen allows acid and chemicals to build up in the muscles and joints, causing local tissue irritation and pain.


  • In the end stages of healing, blood supply is minimal, and regular movement to the end of your range of movement is necessary to encourage blood flow to the tissue. This blood flow is necessary to finalize the tissue’s healing, repair, and recovery.
  • Maintaining muscles or joints in the same position without change does not allow the tissues to get proper circulation and oxygen. Positions maintained for longer than an hour can cause overuse pain, especially if done on a regular basis.
  • Moving muscles and joints repetitively in the same direction without taking a break prevents the tissues from getting proper circulation and oxygen. Moving tissues for longer than an hour in the same direction can cause overuse pain, especially if done on a regular basis. The tissues may not be strong and healthy enough for this continued stress.


  • The pain comes and goes and is usually located in one area of the body.
  • The pain often starts for no apparent reason; you may be unable to remember a trauma or injury, or the injury may have occurred over a month ago.
  • The pain usually worsens as the day or week goes on.
  • You may describe the pain as tightness, weakness, or fatigue.


1) Recognize and change the position or movement that causes the pain.

  • Take a break from positions sustained for more than 60 minutes; a break may consist of simply of moving out of the posture for several repetitions and then readjusting the position to continue work.
  • Take a break from doing movements in the same direction for more than 60 minutes; a break may consist simply of moving in the opposite direction 10 times and then resuming the original movement.
  • For example, sustaining your wrists in certain positions while typing at the computer may not hurt for short periods, but sustaining those positions for longer periods may cause pain, ad doing this day after day may have a cumulative effect that causes pain. Move your wrists out of sustained positions into the opposite direction or position.

2) Choose a “movement pill,” or movement that alleviates stress on tissue that causes pain and perform it 2 to 4 times a day.

  • Manage your pain with the movement pill. Your pill may be as simple as moving out of the sustained position several times into the opposite direction.
  • Seek the help of ICT Muscle & Joint Clinic to get specific instructions about proper body mechanics and energy –efficient positions and postures to complete daily tasks.
  • For example, if you feel back pain after working at the computer for 3 hours, you can use the movement pill of standing up and bending backward several times to increase the blood flow to that area. Take this pill (backward bending) every hour; it may even prevent the pain from occurring at all.

3) Consider using heat for relief when overuse pain occurs.

  • Use heat to promote blood flow and ice to decrease blood flow. Increased blood flow promotes healing.
  • Apply heat using a hot water bottle, heat wrap, or hot shower. The heat should always feel comfortable.
  • For example, if you work on an assembly line and perform the same movement for 8 hours a day, at the end of each shift your back will be tired. Use heat at home and motions nut used during the day to reduce your pain and restore the tissue to a healthy balance.


Anti-inflammatory medications typically are not effective in treating overuse pain. Keep an open line of communication with us and your family medical physician on progress throughout your treatment plan. 


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