Dr. Amadeus Mason of Emory Sports Medicine explains biomechanical injuries and how they can be prevented and treated.
In sports medicine, we see a lot of biomechanical injuries. A biomechanical injury is caused by the overuse or incorrect use of a joint or muscle. This type of injury generally occurs when the joint has been stressed in the wrong way or overstressed repetitively over a short period of time. While any joint can sustain a biomechanical injury, at the Emory Sports Medicine Center, I see a lot of runners who come in complaining of knee pain.
Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, is a biomechanical injury. It usually presents as pain on the outer side of the knee and is a common complaint among middle-distance runners or in athletes when they try to do too much running too quickly. This usually occurs early in the season or when athletes increase the intensity of their training, e.g., moving up from 5K to 10K distance.
To prevent a biomechanical injury, no matter where in the body it is, you need to be cognizant of how you’re stressing your joints and give your body enough time to accommodate the increased stress. If you’re a runner, start slow with low mileage (1–2 miles) and a moderate pace and slowly increase distance or intensity, but not both. If you’re lifting, start with a lighter amount of weight and a higher number of reps in each set and then, as you increase the weight, decrease the number of reps per set.
If you think you might have a biomechanical injury, you should be evaluated by a sports medicine specialist who understands biomechanical injuries. He or she can correctly determine the source of your pain and initiate the appropriate interventions so you can get better. If you’re in pain but not sure what type of injury you have, don’t take chances—come see a specialist here at the Emory Sports Medicine Center.
Things to Keep in Mind if You Have (Or Suspect You Have) a Biomechanical Injury:
- This type of injury will not just “heal on its own” with rest. You need to address the cause of the pain, or the symptoms will come back when you return to whatever activity caused the pain in the first place.
- Don’t push through the pain. This pain is telling you that you’re doing something wrong. This is not a no-pain, no-gain situation.
- There’s no quick fix. There’s no pill or quick shot that can cure a biomechanical injury. The best approach is to correct the problem using a holistic approach, which may include therapy, medications, modalities, and injections (as needed). Physiotherapy, in conjunction with steroid injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, can help reduce inflammation and, in turn, alleviate pain and facilitate addressing the underlying biomechanical issues. This is why it’s important to seek the help of someone who understands this type of injury.
Have you had a biomechanical injury? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below.
R. Amadeus Mason, MD, is an assistant professor in the Orthopaedics and Family Medicine departments at Emory University. He is board certified in Sports Medicine with a special interest in track and field, running injuries and exercise testing. He has been trained in diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection. Dr. Mason is Team Physician for USA Track and Field and the National Scholastic Sports Foundation Tucker High School, and Georgia Tech Track and Field.
- Dr. Mason Runners’ Chat Transcript Part I
- Dr. Mason Runners’ Chat Transcript Part II
- More Runners’ Chat Questions Answered
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) Information Sheet (PDF)