Most injuries are the result of too much stress exerted on a specific body part (bone, cartilage, tendon, muscle, etc.). Let the body adapt to change by leaving enough time for it to become stronger. This video demonstrates how to assess mechanical stress quantification in order to prevent injuries.




What is mechanical stress?


The most important tool in the prevention and treatment of running injuries is mechanical stress quantification, also known as load management.

The human body is made of many kinds of adaptable tissues, such as bones, muscles, tendons and cartilage. During an activity like running, these tissues undergo various forms of stress such as tension, compression, and torsion.  In addition to sports, other aspects of life can also put stress on the body’s tissues, such as our professional lives and everyday activities. Combined, these areas lead to daily stresses that fluctuate over time. If you’re active, the sports/physical activity area usually exerts the highest levels of stress on our tissues, and we should pay close attention to how much stress is being applied over time.  Mechanical stress quantification consists of determining the amount of stress exerted on our tissues so that we can manage it in a way that can help us to prevent overloading/injuries.

The level of stress and the tissues affected vary depending on the sport/activity. For example, the forces exerted on the Achilles tendon during swimming is minimal, whereas explosive jumps and plyometrics cause more stress/load on the Achilles tendon. Speed can also vary the amount of stress; for instance running at higher speeds will exert more force than lower speeds.



The key to avoiding injury: stress quantification


It is important to note that if there is no stress applied to the tissues, our body will not adapt. Loading and stressing the tissues is a good thing, as long as the amount does not exceed our body’s capacity to adapt. At the other end of the spectrum, when you overload the tissues and exceed your maximum capacity for adaptation, you are at higher risk for an injury to occur. Some signs that you might be exceeding your capacity to adapt are pain during the activity, pain following the activity, stiffness in the tissues the morning after, and swelling.


Ideally, you want to apply minimal stress frequently so that your body can adapt to the stress and increase its tolerance. This is how your tissues get stronger, which then allows you to increase the intensity without the risk of injury.


Mechanical stress quantification applies to injury prevention as well treatment of recent injuries.  However in the case of chronic conditions, sometimes your body signals pain even though you are not exceeding maximum capacity. If this is the case, you may want to see a health care professional. Another thing to consider is that the maximum capacity of adaptation is not a static line. Fatigue, psychological stress and anxiety are but a few factors that can inhibit your body’s tolerance level and reduce its ability to heal. Conversely, being active, happy and well rested makes it easier for your body to adapt.


In summary, the body adapts as long as the applied stress is not greater than its ability to adapt. Quantifying mechanical stress remains the best way to avoid injury.