Tag Archives: Physiotherapy

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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What is Trauma?

Physiotherapy is an effective tool to treat injuries that can range anywhere from minor to catastrophic. Occasionally, regardless of the severity of the injury, some people experience symptoms such as hypersensitivity or emotional stress as a product of, or in addition to, their physical trauma. For some, these psychological and emotional stressors can act as a difficult obstacle to overcome, and can actually hinder the success of physical injury recovery. Physiotherapists will often recognize these psychological and emotional symptoms, and will recommend the injured person see a qualified therapist who specializes in dealing with trauma. Working with a therapist is a great adjunct to physiotherapy and helps the client to achieve their recovery goals. The following article is a guest blog post by John Roche from Transformation Counselling

What is Trauma?

Trauma. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around without ever really being explained. Derived from the Greek word for “wound,” trauma could refer to an overwhelming psychological experience or the psychological imprint left by such an experience. Either way, it’s important to know how to recognize trauma and post-traumatic stress and how to recover from them.

Trauma is caused by an overwhelming experience in which someone perceives their survival to be threatened and/or their fundamental beliefs about themselves and the world are shattered. Sexual assault, military combat, child abuse, car accidents, and natural disasters are well-known examples of traumatic events.

Lesser known instances of trauma involve what’s called “attachment trauma.” Children’s development is extremely dependent on the attentiveness and responsiveness of their “attachment figures” (usually parents), and if an attachment figure is not attuned and responsive to the needs of a child, then, as far as that child’s brain is concerned, its survival is threatened and it will adapt accordingly.

Post-traumatic symptoms are painful and overwhelming, but, as scary as they are, they’re simply the result of the brain’s adaptation to traumatic situations. From an evolutionary perspective, this adaptation is an attempt to ensure the person’s survival, which is pretty much the brain’s number one priority.

Imagine that every brain has its own smoke detector. When it’s functioning properly, this smoke detector alerts us to legitimate threats and cues the release of protective firefighters who come and rescue us: heightened alertness, a pounding heart and restricted digestion to make sure we have plenty of energy to fight or run away, rage to help us fight off attackers, or, as a last resort if escape or self-defence aren’t possible, a freeze response like a deer in headlights.

Trauma hyper-sensitizes the smoke detector. At the slightest hint of smoke, these firefighters come rushing in to put out a fire that doesn’t actually exist.

People who have experienced trauma therefore tend to struggle with anxiety, rage, concentration difficulties, digestive issues, feelings of disconnectedness, and hypersensitivity to perceived threats. Understandably, survivors of trauma also tend to feel depressed, develop addictions as a means to escape their pain, and avoid anything that might trigger their smoke detectors.

Faced with such nightmarish symptoms, trauma survivors tend to imagine they’re broken. In reality, their brains have done exactly what they were supposed to do: adapt to threat and facilitate survival. Once upon a time, these adaptations made perfect sense and helped them survive. Unfortunately, such adaptations persist beyond the traumatic event and cause pretty major problems.

Recovery from trauma is essentially about training the brain to re-establish an internal sense of safety and leave behind survival adaptations that are no longer necessary. EMDR therapy in particular has been proven to be extremely effective at eliminating post-traumatic symptoms by healing trauma at its roots.

If you’re a survivor of trauma, you are not crazy. Your brain has actually done exactly what it was intended to do and, as unbelievable as it may sound, full recovery is possible. If you’re ready to get on with your life, contact us today to get started.


John Roche, MDiv, MSW, RSWheadshotsfull-9edit

John is a therapist with two Master’s degrees in counselling and three years of clinical experience. He has specialized trauma training in both Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In his spare time, he loves to hike, reflect on the meaning of life, and eat nachos.

The Truth behind Core Activation

Development of a strong core can be a common goal for numerous reasons, such as:  improving physical physique, preventing/relieving back pain, improving performance in recreational or competitive activities and building a stable base for our arms and legs to perform normal activities of daily living. This article will correct any myths about proper core activation. It will explain how development of a strong core will improve overall function for not only the lower back, but our bodies in general.

The first key to a strong core is developing a stable inner core. The inner core works as a unit to create dynamic stability around the spine and pelvis.

The inner core is made of up of four muscle groups:

  • transversus abdominis
  • pelvic floor muscles
  • multifidus
  • diaphragm

 

Transversus Abdominis (TA):

pic 1Transversus abdominis is a muscle that lies deep within the abdomen, attaching to fascia at the spine and wrapping forward towards the belly button, creating an internal corset. The function of the TA muscle is to stabilize your low back and pelvis prior to moving your arms or your legs. This muscle should be engaging subconsciously with any arm/leg/back movement throughout the day; however for many of us this is not the case. Reasons for inhibition of this muscle include: low back pain, surgery to the low back or abdomen, or pregnancy. To re-educate this muscle you must learn to tighten your lower abdomen without tilting your pelvis or puffing out your chest. Engagement is achieved by gently drawing your belly button inpic 2 towards your spine feeling tension develop on the sides of your pelvic bones. Make sure you remember to breathe naturally from your abdomen as you hold this contraction. Once the muscle is activated, movements of the arms and legs can be added to increase the difficulty and by integrating TA contractions into activities of
daily living.

 

Pelvic floor:

The second wall of the inner core is composed of the pelvic floor musculature. This creates the floor or base of the inner core unit. Contraction of these muscles can be achieved by envisioning that you are stopping your urine flow midstream. This exercise is very similar to the traditional Kegel exercise, and adds a second component of stability to our inner core. Please note that if you are experiencing any incontinence or retention issues you should visit a pelvic health physiotherapist before starting pelvic floor exercises.

 

Multifidus:

pic 3The third component of our inner core is the multifidus muscle. Multifidus is located on either side of the spine. This muscle is a segmental spinal stabilizer, and atrophy can be seen at one or multiple levels.  To retrain this muscle you will likely need the help of a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will palpate (touch) the sides of your spine and you will be asked to swell the muscle under their fingers. This is difficult for many of us to do without the help of additional muscles. Common ways we cheat to mimic this muscle function is by tipping the pelvis forward, flexing the hips or tightening the muscles of the buttock. A good way to feel multifidus activate would be to take a step forward while palpating the gutters beside the spine; you will feel a small bulge of muscle under your fingers as multifidus contracts.

 

Diaphragm:

The fourth component or roof of the inner core is the diaphragm muscle. To ensure correct stability/function through this muscle, make sure you breathe from your stomach (abdominal breathing) rather than from your chest during the inner core contraction. Breathing from the chest is less than ideal for proper core function and limits the use of the diaphragm muscle.

 

Why Core Engagement Helps Prevent Muscle Injury:

Dysfunction of the inner core results in increased pressure placed on passive structures (ligaments, bone/joints, discs, capsules) of the lumbar spine due to lack of support and stabilization when moving. If the passive structures are not supported with the core, repeatedly or over a prolonged period of time, injury or dysfunctions such as stiffness or poor movement patterns may occur, creating pain.

 

Lack of Proper Inner Core Strength Can Lead to Injury:

Often exercises that are meant to strengthen the core can lead to injury. A common mistake individuals make is performing exercises that challenge outer core muscles without proper endurance of the inner core. Performing exercises such as sit-ups and planks without a stable foundation can lead to injury of the lower back/pelvis due to the lack of dynamic stabilization around these joints. Without a strong core, maintaining the correct exercise position is also difficult and can lead to injury. Similarly, if an individual performs a lift without anticipatory engagement of the inner core, increased load is placed on the passive system of the back and pelvis, possibly leading to an injury.

 

Functional Retraining of Proper Core Engagement:

The core acts as a foundation or stable base on which all body movements are generated to maintain back and pelvic stability. Strength of core musculature enables effective load transfer throughout the body with functional movement and activity.

The exercise strategies listed above can be utilized to re-educate use of the inner core muscles. Once inner core activation is successfully achieved, activation should be performed in differing functional positions and levels of difficulty. Following successful re-training of the inner core, your physiotherapist will begin to introduce outer core exercises (to challenge your rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques). Isometric outer core engagement will be integrated while performing arm and leg movements, ensuring that the spine remains stabilized in neutral throughout.

The outer core can be categorized into four sling systems, which exist in the body to help with stability around the trunk and pelvis. Your physiotherapist can create a graduated outer core retraining program using these slings once correct inner core engagement is achieved.

 

Outer Core Sling Systems:

Four sling systems (specific groupings of muscle) exist in the outer core. These sling systems are designed to help with Force Closure to the joints of the low back and pelvis (SI joint). Force closure describes use of the muscular and fascial system to assist with stability around joints.

 

Posterior Oblique Sling:

The posterior oblique system assists with force closure by use of the following muscles/fascia:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Opposite latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Thoracodorsal fascia (band connecting trunk to lower extremity)

pic 4An example of an exercise that incorporates use of the posterior oblique sling is bird dog.

Functionally the posterior oblique system is used during walking and rotational activities (ie. swinging a golf club).

 

Anterior Oblique Sling:

The anterior oblique system assists with force closure by use of the following muscles/fascia:

  • External obliques
  • Opposite internal obliques
  • Transversus abdominis

pic 5An example of an exercise that encourages use of the anterior oblique sling is dead bug.

Functional use of the anterior oblique system is used during the acceleration phase of throwing.

 

 

Longitudinal Sling:

The longitudinal sling system assists with pelvic stability. The muscles/fascia making up the longitudinal sling include:

  • Erector spinae (low back extensors)
  • Multifidus
  • Thoracodorsal fascia
  • Sacrotuberous ligament (ligament at the SI joint)
  • Biceps femoris (outer hamstring muscle)

pic 6An example of an exercise that would engage the longitudinal sling is the reverse boat pose in yoga or a superman exercise.

The longitudinal sling is functionally utilized during walking and running activities.

 

Lateral Sling:

The lateral sling is important for force closure across the pelvis, and also ensures positional control of the pelvis during single leg stance and walking. Muscles/fascia included in the lateral sling system are:pic 7

  • Gluteus medius and minimus
  • Opposite hip adductors (inner thigh muscles)

Exercises designed to promote activation of the lateral sling are often performed in a single leg stance position, ensuring correct core and pelvic control. Specific exercises for the lateral system include: step ups, step downs and side step ups.

The lateral sling is used functionally during walking and any single leg activity.

pic 8The final step to successful core retraining is to obtain full function. Performing functional movements while maintaining controlled trunk and limb movements in changing environments is the first step in functional retraining. Once you are comfortable with this activity, speed of activation and increased load can be added to challenge the core further. Further information and a staged exercise program can be discussed with your physiotherapist.

Diane Lee & Associates: training for the deep muscles of the core (Internet). South Surrey: D G Lee Physical Therapist Corp;  (cited 2016 Jan 12). Available from: http://www.dianelee.ca/article-training-deep-core-muscles.php

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.

BodyTech PhysiotherapyBodyTech Physiotherapy 519-954-6000

Physiotherapy Treatment for Headaches

headacheMost of us have experienced a headache at some point in our life. For some people they are a more frequent occurrence and can have a significant impact on their daily lives. Over the counter medication is the most popular choice for immediate symptom relief, however for certain types of headaches, while medication may help to relieve the symptoms, the underlying cause of the headaches is not being treated, and symptoms are likely to return. What most people don’t realize is that Physiotherapists can treat the root cause of most headaches, not only relieving the immediate pain, but prevent it from reoccurring. Headaches can typically be grouped into three main types, tension, cervicogenic, and migraine. Each type is characterized by different causes of headache pain.

Tension Type Headache

Tension headaches are the most common. Pain from a tension headache is usually described as a dull pressure or tightening sensation. The pain is typically felt in the forehead, both temples and the back of the head. A tension headache can last anywhere from thirty minutes to seven days. A tension headache will not cause nausea but it may cause either increased sensitivity to light or sound. There are numerous causes or risk factors that can contribute to a headache. The most common triggers include muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, poor posture or sustained postures for an extended period of time, and eye strain. Stress, dehydration, hunger, and hormonal changes are additional factors that may contribute to tension headaches.

Cervicogenic Headache

Another common type of headache is a cervicogenic headache. Approximately 1 out of 100 people experience this type of headache. A cervicogenic headache, as the name implies, is cervical in origin. The headache pain is perceived as occurring in the head but the actual cause is in the neck. The pain is usually a dull, one sided ache that starts in the back of the head and spreads to the forehead, temples and behind the eyes. The person may experience pain in the neck, and possibly difficulty turning the head. This type of headache can last days or even months and can be constant or reoccurring. The most significant causes or contributing factors are stiff joints in the neck, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), poor posture, upper back pain or stiffness, muscle weakness or tightness in the neck shoulder and back area, whiplash or other neck injury, and poor sleep positions. Additionally, cervicogenic headaches can develop months after a concussion or head injury indicating dysfunction in the joints of the neck.

Migraine

Migraine headaches, according to the international headache society, are a genetic neurological disease. Migraines can be categorized as being with or without an aura. An aura is described as visual or sensory symptoms or speech disturbance. Visual symptoms can be flickering lights, seeing spots or loss of vision. Sensory symptoms can include pins and needles, and numbness. The diagnostic criteria for a migraine states the aura must last longer than five minutes but less than one hour. A migraine headache can last from four to seventy-two hours. It is usually described as a one sided, pulsing type of pain. The pain is usually moderate to severe and aggravated with activity. A migraine may cause nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. The sufferer may experience pre-headache symptoms such as food cravings, mood changes, and fatigue or muscle stiffness.

How Physio Can Help:

There are many other sub-categories of headaches, and although we have categorized them, it is possible for one type of headache to cause another type of headache. For example, a tension headache if left untreated can trigger a migraine for some people, making it more complex to diagnose what type of headache you have. Migraines are generally not treated by a physiotherapist, however if the you have pre-headache symptoms such as muscle tightness, pain or joint stiffness in the jaw, neck, upper back or shoulders these can often be the factor that trigger the migraine. The approach with physiotherapy in this case is to eliminate the muscle and joint issues to diminish the number of triggers.

Tension type headaches and cervicogenic headaches are the two main types that can be treated by physiotherapy. The most common contributing factors to these two types of headaches are poor posture, a combination of weak or tight muscles known as muscle imbalances, or joint stiffness which can be in the neck, jaw, back or shoulders. An issue in one or more of these areas is often the cause of re-occurring headaches because all of these areas are closely connected. If someone is experiencing headaches, but also has a shoulder problem, the two issues are not always considered in combination however, when it comes to treating headaches they should be linked as the muscles in the neck also help with movement or stability in the shoulder. In order to treat tension and cervicogenic headache a detailed assessment of the neck, shoulders, and upper and lower back would be required. The assessment should identify postural discrepancies, muscle dysfunctions such as weak, tight or overactive muscles, and joint mobility issues such as too much or too little movement.

Once specific areas of dysfunction have been identified, an individualized treatment approach can be developed. Treatment should include postural education and correction for specific postural positions. Postural awareness training on how to activate the correct group of muscles to achieve optimal posture is crucial in decreasing this contributing factor. Posture can also be corrected with specific taping techniques that can either help you turn on certain muscles or prevent you from falling into a poor posture. Taping can provide quick relief of discomfort but is only used temporarily until you are able to stretch and strengthen to achieve a good posture actively.

The next step in treatment is usually specific active and passive stretching of the shortened and tight neck and shoulder muscles. Stretching improves the muscle balance in the neck and will reduce the tension in the muscles surrounding the joint and thereby relieve pain. Stretches should be specific to isolate one muscles instead of general neck stretches which can further aggravate a headache.

Once the muscle tension has been reduced, strengthening of the weak neck, back and shoulder muscles should be started. Strengthening is important to help correct posture and eliminate strain of the muscles and joints when in certain positions. Weakness in certain muscles is often the cause of ongoing pain and inability to maintain good postural alignment. The focus with strengthening should start with the deep stabilizing muscles of the neck and back; these muscle require a combination of strength and endurance to support our upright postures throughout the day.

For tension and cervicogenic headaches, stretching and strengthening exercises alone are not enough to reduce the occurrence of a headache. Underlying the muscle tightness and weakness is usually cervical spine joint stiffness or lack of movement. This lack of movement in the neck joints needs to addressed in order to decrease the strain in the neck. Physiotherapists that are trained in manual therapy can help to loosen a stiff or locked joint through a technique called joint mobilization. Joint mobilization is a specific technique used to improve movement in a joint to restore range of motion and decrease the tension in the muscles around the area as well as reduce pain.

In addition to manual therapy and exercise there are other modalities a physiotherapist can use to help relieve pain. The application of a heating pad to the neck, shoulders and back can help to reduce muscle tension by increasing circulation in the area. The reduction in muscle tension provides relief of pain. Interferential current (IFC) can be used to provide immediate pain relief. IFC is the application of mild electrical stimulation to the muscle and nerve endings that cause pain. This blocks the pain receptors and decreases the pain, which in return helps to relax the muscles in the area.

Acupuncture is a common modality used to help relieve headaches and muscle tension. Acupuncture stimulates an increase in blood flow, which relieves muscle tension and thus relieves the pain in the surrounding area. It also helps in stimulating the production of our natural pain killers and anti-inflammatories. Often patients are too sore or tender to tolerate stretching or massage in the affected area; acupuncture is a great option to decrease the local soreness and allow treatment to continue.

To effectively treat headaches all of the contributing factors must be considered and addressed. Active participation from the patient is a necessity to be successful. Just as important is correcting or modifying aggravating activities or postures to decrease the severity and occurrence of pain. Additionally, continual prevention is an important step, if you are aware of stressors that contribute to your headaches you should try to modify or change these factors.

Prevention

It is important to follow through with a prevention or maintenance program to reduce reoccurrence of future headaches. There are many options when it comes to preventative measures including massage therapy, relaxation and stress management techniques, postural awareness, workplace ergonomics, stretching and strengthening programs, regular aerobic exercise, and a headache diary.

A massage every couple of months can aid in reducing tension in the muscles, will help to maintain good posture and will also provide relaxation and stress relief. Regular massages can also help to point out problem areas before they become a pain causing structure. This will help with headache management as it may signify the need to restart certain exercises or visit your physiotherapist.

The ability to de-stress and relax is very important for headache sufferers as stress can affect blood flow and cause muscle tension. For some people stress may be one of the main contributing factors of their headaches. Yoga is an effective method to relax, stretch and de-stress the mind and body. Regular aerobic exercise is another effective method to help increase blood flow to the muscles which will help to reduce tension. When it comes to relaxation it is an individualized approach, and each person should strive to find what works for them.

If posture was identified as a main contributing factor for headache pain, steps should be taken to ensure your workplace station or home office is set up ergonomically for your body. An individualized ergonomic set-up will aid in maintaining good posture throughout the work day and decrease the stress and strain on your muscles and joints. Stretching frequently throughout the day will also reduce tension, as well as avoiding prolonged sustained positions will help to decrease stiffness and strain. Stretches should be held at a comfortable position, not into pain, for a minimum of 30 seconds and repeated throughout the day as necessary.

A headache diary can help to identify triggers or contributing factors. If you know what these factors are it is easier to avoid or modify them and will help reduce or eliminate your headaches.

A detailed physiotherapy assessment and complete physiotherapy treatment approach are necessary to address all of the contributing factors and therefore the root cause of a headache. Over the counter medications only treat the symptoms of the headache and not the pain. If headaches have become a normal part of life for you or someone you know, a physiotherapy assessment with a trained manual therapist should be considered to help solve the underlying issues.

BodyTech Physiotherapy

BodyTech Physiotherapy
519-954-6000

Running Injury Prevention Part 1: Dynamic Warm-Up for Runners

Why should you never skip the warm-up before exercise? Cold muscles do not function efficiently, which results in a decreased ability to absorb shock and impact and makes the body more susceptible to injury. A suitable warm up safely prepares the body for the increased stress of exercise by gradually raising your heart rate and getting your muscles ready for activity by increasing circulation, which improves mobility and performance. An activity or sport specific warm-up should be done before strength training, aerobic exercise and stretching. It is the key to exercising safely and effectively.

The Difference Between Warm-Up Exercises and Stretching

One point of clarification that should be noted is that stretching is not the same as warming-up. The confusion usually arises from the difference between the types of stretching; dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching should be included in the warm-up before activity, whereas static stretching should be after the activity. Dynamic stretching is essentially a warm-up that takes your body through motions that mimic the sport or activity without holding at the end position (we will call this a dynamic warm-up to avoid confusion). The warm-up and post activity stretches are both important for an optimal workout and to maintain good mobility and function, therefore helping to prevent injury. During warm-up exercises you are increasing your body temperature and slowly preparing your body, the working muscles, and joints for the increased demands that are to follow. When performing static stretching after activity you are focusing specifically on improving flexibility.

Benefits of Warming-Up

A warm-up reduces your risk of injury and helps to improve movement, function, efficiency and performance. Pre-existing conditions or injuries to certain areas of the body may be identified during a warm-up, and your activity should be modified based on these injuries in order to prevent further injury. A visit to a Registered Physiotherapist would be recommended to address these concerns, as activity modification alone is usually not enough for effective recovery.

Additional benefits of a warm-up

  • Preparation of your muscles for more intense or quick movements
  • Gradual increase of your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Lubrication of your joints and decreased stiffness
  • Reduction of the chance of soft tissue (ligament, tendon and muscle) injuries by allowing your muscles and joints to move through a greater range of motion easier
  • Increased movement of blood through your tissues, making the muscles more mobile and efficient
  • Increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles
  • Improved coordination and reaction times
  • Promotion of hormonal changes in the body responsible for regulating energy production
  • Preparation mentally and physically for exercise

BodyTech Dynamic Warm-Up for Runners

  1. Hip swings – While holding onto something stable for support, swing one leg forward and backwards and then repeat. Keep your core strong and your back straight. Perform the move 10 times each side.
  2. Hip circles – Standing with your feet hip width apart and your hands on your hips, rotate one hip by lifting your foot and bending your knee and moving your hip in a clockwise circle, and then counter clockwise ten times with each leg.
  3. Walking lunges – Step forward with your right leg into a lunge position, dropping your back knee towards the ground. Make sure your front knee does not come in front or your ankle. Push yourself straight up by using your right leg to lift you. Then step forward with the left leg to repeat the same action. Perform the lunges in a slow and flowing motion, taking 10 steps forward.
  4. Lateral Lunge – Start with good posture and your feet wider than your shoulders. From there, squat your hips down and over to the right while keeping your left leg straight. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, use your right glute to push you up to your starting position. Repeat on the left side and do 10 total.
  5. Butt Kicks – Walk forward slowly while kicking your heels in towards your glutes for a total of 20 kicks (10 per leg).
  6. High Kicks – With your body tall, walk forward while lifting your legs straight in front of you. Do not bend your knees. Do it 10 times on each side.
  7. Marching on the spot – 15-30 seconds.
  8. Jogging on the spot – 15-30 seconds.

Warm-Up Guide:

  • A proper warm-up should be done before any exercise session or participation in physical activity regardless of how long that activity will be. A warm-up should be done before cardio, weight lifting, or stretching (yoga).
  • A warm-up should aim to gradually increase your heart rate over a 5-10 minute period. Start at a slow pace and gradually increase to match the activity. Be sure to include all the large muscle groups of the body.
  • Your warm-up should last at least 5-10 minutes. The higher the intensity of the activity, the longer the warm-up should be (or slightly longer in cold weather).
  • The warm-up can be a low intensity, low impact version of the workout you are about to do. Or it can be a set of exercises that mimic the motions of the sport or activity. For more serious participants or athletes, the latter option is recommended. The warm-up should always increase your heart rate and warm up the muscles that will be used during the activity.

An activity specific warm up should always be included as a part of your workout and only takes a few minutes to ensure your body performs optimally. This essential part of injury prevention is something every runner and athlete should make part of their routine. Stay tuned for the second part of our running injury prevention series as we cover the stretches you should do after your run.

BodyTech Physiotherapy

BodyTech Physiotherapy
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