Category Archives: Pain Relief

The Sitting Solution

By Carla Cranbury, PT

Let’s face it, we sit a lot. Between working, commuting, and watching television, the Canada Health Measures Survey found that most Canadian adults spend 9 hours and 48 minutes of their waking time being sedentary. Most of us know that physical activity is good for us, but did you know that just sitting less (regardless of exercise) can also be beneficial in the long term?

A study published in 2009 followed more than 17 000 Canadians for 12 years. Over the twelve years they compared the participants’ daily sitting time and leisure time physical activity with mortality rates of various causes. What they found was that the amount of daily sitting time was positively associated with mortality rates from all causes, except cancer. Basically the more people sit, the higher the risk of mortality. This even includes people who are physically active, showing that high amounts of sitting time cannot be compensated for with exercise, even if it exceeds the current minimum physical activity recommendations.

Other studies have echoed similar findings. A seven year study reported that people who spend less than half their time sitting have a lower risk of mortality than those who spend more than half their day sitting. Another six year study reported that women who spend 16+ hours sitting per day have an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease compared with women who sit for less than 4 hours a day.

These studies are not to say that physical activity is not important – it still is, and it is still beneficial for your health. Physical activity also contributes to decreased time spent sitting.  What these studies are saying is the physiology associated with excessive sitting is different than the physiological benefits of exercise, and therefore excessive sitting cannot be compensated for with periods of exercise.

So now that you know, what can you do?

If you work at a desk most of the day, sitting can be hard to avoid. Some options are:

  • Ask your work if they can accommodate an ergonomically sound standing desk
  • Take frequent breaks from sitting to walk around
  • Go for a walk on your lunch break
  • Walk to your co-workers desk to talk to them instead of sending an email
  • Park at the back of the parking lot to get a few extra steps
  • Take the stairs!
  • Take frequent standing breaks throughout the day
  • Discover new ways to be active during your leisure time – ditch the TV and get outside

It’s the small changes to your daily routine that can add up and make a big difference. The best time to start is today!

BodyTech Physiotherapy

References

Katzmarzyk, Peter T. et al. “Sitting Time And Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, And Cancer”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 41.5 (2009): 998-1005. Web.

“Directly Measured Physical Activity Of Adults, 2012 And 2013”. Statcan.gc.ca. N.p., 2017. Web.

Manson, J.E., P. Greenland, and A.Z. LaCroix. “Walking Compared With Vigorous Exercise For The Prevention Of Cardiovascular Events In Women”. ACC Current Journal Review 12.1 (2003): 29. Web.

Weller, Iris and Paul Corey. “The Impact Of Excluding Non-Leisure Energy Expenditure On The Relation Between Physical Activity And Mortality In Women”. Epidemiology 9.6 (1998): 632-635. Web.

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Shin Splints

RunnerMedial tibial stress syndrome, commonly called “shin splints”, is a term used to describe pain and tenderness felt on the inside, lower border of the shin bone. Shin splints are commonly experienced by athletes who take part in activities involving repetitive running and jumping, particularly after a sudden increase in activity level (either duration, distance or intensity). The repetitive stress placed on the bones, muscles and joints of the lower leg during these high impact activities may result in irritation and inflammation of the shin bone (tibia).

Shin splint pain is usually described as a dull ache. It usually develops slowly over time, first being noticed at the end of activity. Some athletes may complain of pain at the beginning and end of activity, but not affecting their performance. Over time, pain will commence during activity and eventually may be felt during regular day to day activities such as walking. As shin splints progress, they also make the lower leg sore to touch.

Bones- Shin SplintsThere are a number of factors that may predispose an athlete to develop shin splints including: flat feet, rigid arches, muscle weakness, and/or muscle tightness. Other contributing factors may include running downhill, running on hard surfaces, running in worn-out footwear, or playing sports with frequent stops and starts (e.g. basketball, squash, tennis). While the pain presentation is often similar across individuals, there are a variety of bio-mechanical abnormalities in the pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles that can also lead to the development of shin splints.

Proper treatment requires a detailed assessment by a registered Physiotherapist to identify and target the contributing factors as well as the location of pain. Treatment includes rest, ice, specific joint mobilizations, an individualized stretching and strengthening program, and if needed a gradual return to regular activity. During recovery, aerobic fitness can be maintained with low impact activities such as swimming and biking. If left untreated, the repetitive stress on the tibia may result in a stress fracture yielding a longer recovery time.

A physiotherapist can perform a full assessment to determine the exact cause of an athlete’s pain and develop a treatment program to relieve pain, facilitate return to activity, and prevent future injury.

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Physiotherapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is pain, numbness, and tingling, in the wrist and hand particularly in the thumb, index and middle finger. This syndrome affects approximately 3-6% of the general population. The carpal tunnel is a small passageway at the wrist that tendons and the median nerve run through as they travel into the hand. The tunnel is surrounded by bone and connective tissue so it does not easily stretch or expand, making structures within it susceptible to irritation which can cause the median nerve to be compressed. If left untreated and the condition worsens, symptoms may progress to include weakness in the hand.

Causes and Risk Factors
A combination of several of the following factors can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Chronic stress on wrist/hand – typically affecting the dominant hand, often due to working posture or repetitive motions (eg. using computers for several hours a day, assembly-line workers, musicians, using vibrating power tools)
  • Trauma to the wrist (eg. fracture, sprain) – can cause damage to the nerve or swelling to other structures that will narrow the carpal tunnel
  • Pregnancy – hormonal changes can affect tendons and cause swelling
  • Arthritis – bony growths into the tunnel narrow the space
  • Congenital Predisposition – women and smaller individuals may have narrower carpal tunnels, reducing space for the nerve
  • Diabetic or Metabolic Disorders – negatively affect the body’s nerves

Symptoms
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Gradual onset of pain, burning, tingling, numbness or itching in the palm, thumb and/or index and middle fingers
  • Feeling of weakness and swelling in the hand, with difficulty grasping small items, making a fist and performing fine motor tasks
  • Urge to shake out the hand to relieve the tingling sensations

In the early stages, symptoms will often be intermittent. However, as the condition worsens symptoms are more severe and begin to persist for longer periods of time. Pain and numbness tends to be worse at night for a lot of individuals.

Treatment
It is advised to seek treatment from a professional as soon as carpal tunnel symptoms arise as the condition will not typically resolve on its own.

Medication: Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs (eg. Ibuprofen) may provide short term relief from mild symptoms. Corticosteroid injections are a much stronger anti-inflammatory, and may also be a temporary option to help relieve pressure and symptoms for those with relatively mild symptoms.

Physiotherapy: Seeking help from a registered physiotherapist is one of the best options for treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Physiotherapy will include manual therapy on your wrist to improve the mobility of the joints and stretch tight muscles and tendons in the wrist and fingers, helping to remove any scar tissue buildup that may hinder recovery. The Physiotherapist will also incorporate nerve gliding techniques to help improve the mobility of the median nerve through the carpal tunnel. Ultrasound may be used over the carpal tunnel area to reduce inflammation which helps to relieve symptoms. Your physiotherapist may also suggest a brace or splint to immobilize the wrist while working or performing aggravating activities. They will provide education about activity modification to avoid aggravating positions, such as holding the wrist in a flexed (bent) position. Your physiotherapist will also prescribe specific stretching and strengthening exercises for the fingers, thumb, hand and arm to progress through later stages of recovery. They will provide education on proper posture while working to prevent relapse.

Surgery: With very severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome where nonsurgical treatment does not provide any relief, surgery may be an option. The surgery typically consists of cutting the roof of the carpal tunnel, to provide more room for the tendons and median nerve and decrease compression. Full recovery back to original strength in the hand may take 6-12 months.

While carpal tunnel is a relatively common condition, it is often misdiagnosed, thus it is a good idea to seek treatment from a registered physiotherapist upon the onset of symptoms in order to have the best chance of full recovery and to prevent irreversible damage. Your physiotherapist will be able to recommend appropriate treatment options, whether that be manual therapy, bracing, or if necessary, surgical intervention.

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Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly referred to as “tennis elbow”, is a term used to describe pain just above the elbow joint on the outer side of the arm. Contrary to popular belief, tennis elbow is not a condition that is exclusive to tennis players or athletes. The term tennis elbow was coined from the fact it can be a significant problem for as many as 50% of tennis players during their careers. However, less than 5% of reported cases of tennis elbow result from playing tennis!

More specifically, tennis elbow is a tendinopathy at the origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon (the tendon that is responsible for wrist extension). This tendinopathy is due to degeneration of, or damage to the tendon causing inflammation and subsequently, pain. In order to understand what causes tennis elbow, it is important to first understand tendons and how they function. Tendons are like “ropes” made of collagen tissue. They are flexible, but do not stretch when pulled. It is the job of the tendon to connect muscle to bone. In the case of tennis elbow, the area on the bone where the tendons attach, just above the elbow on the lateral side (or outer side) of the arm, are sometimes incapable of handling the force of the arm muscles. Strong forces or sudden impact to the tendons at this point of attachment are what cause damage, like small tears in the fibers of the tendon (similar to a rope becoming frayed).

Activities that exacerbate tennis elbow symptoms are those that involve repetitive motion of the arm, forearm, wrist, and hand. Movements that are commonly associated with the development of tennis elbow are: lifting, gripping something tightly in combination with inward or outward rotation of the forearm, jerky throwing motions, swatting with the hand, and simultaneous rotation of the forearm and bending of the wrist. Racquet sports may be the most “popular” activity to associate with tennis elbow, but as previously mentioned most cases are the result of a wide range of actions that include, but are not limited to: painting/plastering, excessive and repetitive use of a computer mouse, carpentry work, gardening and repetitive lifting and carrying.

Tennis elbow can be suspected when performing routine tasks, such as gripping objects or turning doorknobs, become painful. A physician or physiotherapist can diagnose tennis elbow by discussing symptoms and examining the affected arm. Diagnostic tests are not typically necessary for an accurate diagnosis, however, a physician may request an X-ray or MRI imaging if symptoms do not improve with treatment.

Treatment options for tennis elbow include modifying activities that exacerbate symptoms. Movements that cause an increase in pain should be avoided to help allow the tendon to heal. Pain management is also important to consider. Anti-inflammatory painkillers are commonly used for some symptomatic relief, however physiotherapy remains the most successful tool in the treatment of tennis elbow long-term. A physiotherapist will perform manual therapy on the affected arm, to mobilize the underlying stiff joints and tight structures. Modalities such as ice, and ultrasound, as well as taping may be used to ease pain and encourage healing. A physiotherapist will implement stretching and strengthening exercises to help restore normal function of the arm, and also prevent tennis elbow from occurring in the future.

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Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of treatment which involves the insertion of tiny needles into the skin at very precise points throughout the body. The needles are solid, sterile, and single-use. No medication is injected. The presence of the needles creates a therapeutic effect by encouraging healing, reducing pain, and promoting energy.

Acupuncture

How does acupuncture work?
There are two approaches to acupuncture: classical acupuncture and anatomical acupuncture.

Classical acupuncture is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM theory, energy flows through the body in predictable channels, called meridians. Pain and dysfunction occur when the flow of energy is deficient or out of balance. TCM theory proposes that acupuncture relieves pain and promotes good health by restoring the body’s energy balance. The acupuncture points are located along the meridians. Needles are inserted to correct energy imbalance and restore energy flow throughout the meridian. Therefore, pain and dysfunction in one part of the body can be treated with acupuncture points at a distant location in the body.

Anatomical acupuncture was developed based on Western anatomical and physiological concepts. In this theory, acupuncture has both local and distant effects:

  • Locally, acupuncture needles stimulate the release of endogenous opioids at the site of the needle. Endogenous opioids are natural painkiller molecules that are synthesized in the body and released to decrease pain. Blood supply to the area is increased, which promotes healing by improving the delivery of oxygen and immune cells to the injured tissue. Immune cells, such as mast cells, macrophages, and fibroblasts aid the natural process of tissue healing. The needles also suppress the local inflammatory response, which further helps to decrease swelling and pain.
  • Distal to the needle site, acupuncture stimulates peripheral afferent nerves. Afferent nerves carry sensation signals from nerve endings to the brain (such as sensations of touch, temperature, and pain). The acupuncture needle interacts with the afferent nerves to modulate and suppress the transmission of pain to the brain. This reduces the perception of pain.

What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is effective in treating a wide variety of neurological and musculoskeletal disorders, including:

  • Tendonitis and tendinopathy
  • Ligament sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Myofascial pain and inflammation
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Nerve pain, such as sciatic pain
  • Low back pain and disc bulges
  • Whiplash and other neck pain
  • Muscle tension headache and suboccipital headache
  • Bell’s palsy and trigeminal neuralgia
  • Fibromyalgia

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is used to treat many other conditions:

  • Digestive problems (nausea, vomiting, constipation)
  • Respiratory problems (sinusitis, congestion, bronchitis)
  • Urinary problems
  • Menstrual pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and stress

What can I expect from acupuncture treatment?
The reaction to treatment is unique to each person. Some people feel relief immediately, while others notice improvement after hours or days. Some people require several treatments before noticing improvement. Some people do not respond at all. The number of treatments required varies for each patient and condition. Similar to most types of treatment, acupuncture works best if it is repeated a few times.

Are there any side effects?
There are usually no side effects to acupuncture treatment. The most common side effects are tenderness or slight bruising/bleeding at the needle site, but these only occur approximately 6% of the time. Occasionally, someone may feel nauseous, faint, or dizzy. This occurs less than 1% of the time.

Your physiotherapist will assess you thoroughly to ensure that you are a safe and appropriate candidate for acupuncture treatment.

Preparing for acupuncture treatment
Prior to treatment, have a light meal and be well-rested. Avoid alcohol or sedative medications for 4 hours before treatment, and avoid smoking tobacco for 1 hour before treatment. Continue to take medication as prescribed by your doctor.

After acupuncture treatment avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking tobacco for 1-2 hours. If you are being treated for pain relief, avoid strenuous activity for 1-2 days after treatment, even if you feel pain-free.

Conclusion
Acupuncture is a useful adjunct treatment to physiotherapy. It is effective for treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal and neurological problems, including acute and chronic conditions. Your physiotherapist will assess you thoroughly and create a treatment plan to address your unique needs.

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References
ZQ Zhao. Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia. Progress in Neurobiology. (2008)

ZJ Zhang, XM Wang, GM McAlonan. Neural acupuncture unit: A new concept for interpreting effects and mechanisms of acupuncture. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2012)

SM Wang, ZN Kain, P White. Acupuncture analgesia: I. The scientific basis. Anesthesia and Analgesia (2008).

 

Physiotherapy for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) is a broad term that encompasses various disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). If you experience jaw pain with chewing, jaw clicking/popping, facial pain, or frequent headaches, you might have a TMD. Physiotherapists can diagnose and treat TMD.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Anatomy and Function

The TMJ is composed of two articulating bones: the temporal bone (part of the skull) and the condyle of the mandible (jaw bone). There is an articular disc located between the two bones. The disc is firm but flexible, and its purpose is to reduce friction and cushion the repetitive force between the two bones during chewing, talking, and any other joint movement.

During jaw opening, the condyle of the mandible and the articular disc normally slide forward in unison. The muscles surrounding the joint are responsible for moving the mandible and the disc in sync. If the condyle and the disc are out of sync with each other, this is called disc displacement and is characterized by pain and clicking sounds when opening the mouth.

image1

Symptoms

Symptoms of TMD can include the following:

  • Jaw pain when opening the mouth wide or chewing
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Limited range of motion, or unable to fully open the mouth
  • Painful clicking or popping when opening or closing the mouth
  • Tooth wear and tear from grinding or clenching the jaw
  • Facial pain
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears

Causes of TMD

Often, there is no single cause of TMD. There is usually a combination of factors which predispose a person to TMD.

Poor posture of the neck, head, and shoulders contributes to muscular tension and strain. Poor posture may cause muscle imbalance and changes in muscle length in the neck and shoulders. These muscles pull on the jaw and can alter the resting position of the mandible in the joint, resulting in increased stress on the TMJ and disc. After prolonged time, the joints in the neck and back may become stiff and cause associated symptoms such as neck pain, limited range of motion, and headaches.

image2

In addition, jaw clenching or teeth grinding may contribute to the development of TMD. When the jaw is clenched, the muscles are under increased tension and may pull the disc out of position. It normally happens while the person is asleep, so they are unaware they are doing it. Clenching or grinding can also result from being under stress (e.g., at home or at work) for a prolonged period of time.

Finally, trauma or injury to the TMJ (such as a broken jaw) may predispose a person to TMD.

Treatment for TMD

Physiotherapists assess and treat TMD using non-surgical and drug-free techniques. The physiotherapists at BodyTech Physiotherapy will evaluate your condition to determine the underlying factors contributing to your pain. They will prescribe an individualized exercise and stretching program based on your unique needs. Our physiotherapists are also trained to correct biomechanical changes of the TMJ and neck using manual therapy.

Other options for treatment include:

  • Relaxation procedures
  • Acupuncture
  • Dietary modification to relieve jaw pain during chewing
  • Dental orthotics or mouthguards worn at night. These help to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Medications to relax the muscles of the jaw
  • Surgery, in rare cases

Temporomandibular joint disorder is a complex and multifaceted condition. With all the factors that can contribute to TMD it is important to visit a physiotherapist for a detailed assessment to ensure treatment is individualized to your specific issues.  If you experience jaw pain and headaches, consider seeking help from a physiotherapist.

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Massage Therapy for Injury Prevention

image1When muscles become tight and sore, seeking out the help of a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is always a smart idea. But, why wait until things get bad before working with a RMT? Massage therapy is not only effective in relieving existing pain and discomfort, but it is also an important step in preventing symptoms from occurring in the first place.  Using massage therapy to help you address issues such as muscle imbalances, posture, repetitive strain injuries and stress can prevent future injuries and pain from affecting your daily life.

Massage therapy can be used to help maintain good posture by addressing shortened, tight or sore muscles. Good postural muscle balance is important because an imbalance in the muscles surrounding a joint can cause discomfort and thus lead to injury. Posture is affected by the way you hold your body when sitting, standing, or moving. Improper posture over time leads to changes in muscle length. Possible consequences of poor posture include neck, shoulder, and back pain, or headaches and jaw pain from increased stress on muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. Muscles will become shortened and tight from being in a slouched position, and the muscles on the other side of the joints will become lengthened and weak from constantly being stretched. When this kind of muscular dysfunction occurs, joints and ligaments are not receiving the support they need from the surrounding muscles. Without this stability, the joints and ligaments become more vulnerable to injury. The resulting muscle imbalance limits range of motion, changing the way the body moves, which will affect work or sport performance. Regular massage therapy can be used to restore neutral posture and decrease muscle tension.

Repetitive strain injuries occur when the same motions are being repeated frequently. Common sites for repetitive strain injuries are in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and low back. These types of injuries can be avoided by ensuring there is good muscle balance in the areas of the body that are being most frequently used. This will ensure the joints, ligaments, and tendons are being properly protected from injury.

Stress is one of the most common causes of tight and painful muscles seen by massage therapists. When your body is stressed, the natural reaction for your muscles is to tense up. This is the body’s defense mechanism against injury or pain. Stress can be physiological (ie. from chronic painful conditions), or emotional. Prolonged periods of stress and muscle tightness can cause abnormal muscle tension, as well as mental/emotional symptoms such as irregular sleep patterns, anxiety, and mood disorders. Receiving regular massage therapy has been proven to help relax muscles and restore normal muscle tension, as well as improve sleep quality, mood, and relieve anxiety.

Seeking preventative care from your Registered Massage Therapist is vital to maintaining normal range of motion, correcting posture, and reducing stress. Working with your massage therapist on a consistent basis throughout the year will ensure problem areas are identified before they become painful, and therefore prevent further injuries.

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BodyTech Physiotherapy 519-954-6000