CareNow® - May 28, 2021

Whether you are a weekend warrior or work a job that requires you to make frequent or repetitive movements, the wear and tear on your body is something to take seriously. There are many ways to overexert yourself, but no matter what, the results can cause serious complications, leading to pain, soreness or even an injury. 

Proof of how common these injuries are can be found by looking at data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS. According to the BLS, overexertion resulted in 282,860 non-fatal injuries and illnesses in 2018. 

Fortunately, if you find yourself in a situation where overexertion is a risk, there are many ways to potentially protect yourself. In this article, we’ll discuss overexertion and the most common causes and symptoms. We will also break down how to avoid injury due to overexertion and when to seek medical help.

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What is overexertion?

To best understand how to protect yourself from overexertion-related injuries, a basic understanding of overexertion is needed. To put it simply, overexertion is the result of being physically and mentally pushed beyond your personal limits. Putting overarching guidelines in place to prevent injury or illness in a workplace can be somewhat difficult.

Overexertion limits are specific to each individual person and can be impacted by your physical capability, age, strength, genetics and pain tolerance. Overexertion is not just limited to physical ailments; it can lead to both physical and mental fatigue.

Because of this, it is extremely important to understand what the causes of overexertion are and when to listen to your body if you may be at risk.

What are the main causes of overexertion?

Typically, overexertion is related to specific activities or repetitive motions of the body performed over a long period of time. Below are a few of the most common causes of overexertion related injuries.

Frequently repeated movements

When you perform a task over a long period of time, overexertion can occur in the impacted joints or muscles. Through these repetitive movements, potentially harmful strain can be put on your body, leading to things like inflammation, pain and eventually injury.

Incorrect technique or ergonomics

Even if the frequency of the task itself is not the cause, overexertion can be a result of performing a task incorrectly or with your body in the wrong position. This incorrect technique places unnatural stress on the body and is likely to cause overexertion injuries over time.

Sudden body movements

One of the quickest ways to incur an overexertion injury is by moving in a sudden or forceful manner. These rapid movement injuries are most likely to happen when combined with incorrect technique.

Long-term activities

Any activity performed over a long enough period of time will lead to injury if you don’t allow yourself to take regular breaks to recover. Repetitive motions performed for too long put excess physical strain on your body.

Long-term activities can also have mental impacts like feeling burned out after many hours of studying or working. This is especially common with high-stress or redundant tasks.

Extreme temperatures

An additional factor that increases the risk of overexertion is performing an activity in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Hot and cold temperatures place added stress on the body as it is forced to work extra hard to maintain a proper temperature.

Because of this, basic or common activities you might be able to perform at one temperature, can lead to overexertion if performed at another temperature. Overexertion injuries associated with temperature often occur outdoors and are most common with manual labor type tasks and athletes.

Common symptoms of overexertion

If you’ve suffered an overexertion injury, the following signs and symptoms are most common. However, it is important to remember everyone is different. If you are experiencing an injury not listed here, it is best to get the opinion of a medical professional.

Inflammation, soreness or pain

These symptoms are a common sign that the body has experienced overexertion. Pain has a wide range of ways it can be expressed and yours may feel sharp or achy, or it can even cause a burning sensation.

If you have pain that develops over time or occurs rapidly, it is best to stop the activity you feel may be causing the injury immediately. Most often with simple rest and relaxation, these sorts of injuries will heal over time. If the pain continues or does not seem to be improving, speak with your provider.

Tingling, numbness or weakness

Common with many overuse injuries that develop slowly over time, tingling, numbness or even weakness of the impacted area can occur. Some of the better known examples of repetitive strain injuries related to overexertion include carpal tunnel syndrome, hairline or stress fractures and tennis elbow.

Treatment for repetitive strain injuries often calls for rest, ice, compression and elevation of the impacted body part. Other treatments like steroid injections or medications to reduce inflammation and pain may be recommended if conservative methods do not seem to be working.


Although it’s something we all feel from time to time, another common symptom of overexertion is fatigue. Fatigue is unique in that it can be physical or mental in nature. 

Some of the warning signs of physical fatigue include soreness lasting for a long time, reduced physical capabilities and long recovery requirements after performing the activity. Mental fatigue may cause symptoms as well and include difficulty paying attention or thinking or an increase in anxiety or depression. 

With both physical and mental fatigue, rest and healthy lifestyle adjustments are typically an effective treatment. This includes eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol or smoking and getting plenty of sleep.

Frequent injuries or illness

Overexertion has impacts beyond just the muscles or joints that may seem obvious. Overexertion can make it difficult for your body to properly recuperate after performing strenuous activities. 

Additionally, high impact or stressful activities can take a toll on your body and cause a reduction in the effectiveness of your immune system, leading to an increased chance of illness.

If you find yourself continually getting injured or sick, it may be a good idea to take a break from the activity. As with many overexertion injuries, rest and healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way to putting you on the road to recovery.

Difficulty breathing

If at any point during an activity you find yourself unable to catch your breath, beyond what is normal during regular physical exertion, it is time to stop or reduce the level of the activity.

It is always a good idea to seek immediate medical attention if you experience difficulty breathing with dizziness as well as chest pains or pressure. These symptoms together can be signs of an impending heart attack.

Experiencing an overexertion injury?

Overexertion injuries are serious. Not only can they be painful, but they also tend to be progressive and can often be associated with other medical issues that could impact your overall health. 

If you believe you are suffering from an overexertion injury, it is best to immediately seek medical care from a trained physician. Without proper treatment, the initial pain from overexertion and repetitive use can become a chronic issue. 

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The qualified physicians at CareNow® can evaluate your injuries and help to determine a recovery plan that works for you. We have more than 100 CareNow® locations throughout the United States, all open after hours and on the weekend to best serve you.

Be sure to utilize our Web Check-In® service before your appointment to reduce potential wait times.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.