Keep moving with kneecap painPain in the front of the knee, around the kneecap can be a common issue in people presenting to Physiotherapy. This issue can be caused by an irritation of the patellofemoral joint, the joint between your kneecap and the base of your thigh bone. Often pain can occur in this joint when running, walking up or down stairs or during other exercise such as squatting. Pain in this area often relates to pressure on the kneecap as it articulates with the bottom of your thigh bone – your femur. The force on this joint is mainly influenced by two things: the amount of force being produced by the quadriceps muscles on the top of your thigh, and the amount of knee bend or flexion that occurs when the joint is under load.
Here are a few strategies you could implement to reduce your patellofemoral pain whilst continuing to exercise:
- Choose exercise activities that gradually expose the knee to greater stresses.
- Modify your current exercise program to reduce the stress on the knee joint.
Lateral hip pain
Pain on the outside of the hip is a common complaint especially for those who have shifted towards an increase in their physical activity or ceased physical activity leading to a stress to the tendons that surround the hip.
Some times this pain can also be a result from an inflamed bursa in the hip but it is important to note that there is often an issue with the glute tendon itself and so this muscle and tendon also needs to be addressed in order to restore pain free movement.
To help manage this pain it is important to reduce compressive loads on the outside of the hip, so try to avoid sleeping on that side or crossing your legs, as this stretches and puts pressure on these structures. If you do sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. Also try to avoid stretching out the glutes as this also puts compressive pressure on the area of pain. Until you build more strength around the hip, it is best to reduce walking up hills and stairs. Putting an ice pack or frozen peas right over the widest part of the hip is helpful to reduce the pain.
A really helpful exercise in the early management of this pain is a simple exercise using a belt or a tied up scarf around your thighs. You can do this in sitting or laying on your back with the feet on the bed and the knees bent up. Once you have the belt around your thighs, simply press the affected side into the belt and hold. This is called an isometric exercise, where you switch on a muscle and keep it switched on so as to stimulate blood flow and it is also a really good way to desensitize the area of pain. It is a gentle way to begin activating these glute muscles so that you can then progress slowly with more challenging glute exercises once the pain settles more and more.
Be patient with yourself, lateral hip pain can be tricky and can sometimes take a while to get on top of. There are other treatments that can help, such as shockwave therapy and corticosteroids injection but as this pain is often a result of an issue in your glute tendon, it is important that you rebuild the strength and control around your hips.
Tennis Elbow - Why is my elbow hurting? Lateral epicondylitis (also known as Tennis elbow), is considered an overload injury of the extensor tendons of the forearm where they attach at the lateral epicondyle. It affects up to 3% of the population, and symptoms may persist for up to 1 year in 20% of people. Up to 17% of workers within the highly repetitive hand task industries such as factory workers, admin workers and tradesman, experience lateral epicondylitis. What does it feel like? Lateral elbow pain presents as pain and tenderness over the outside of the elbow when doing activities such as:
- Writing or typing on the computer
- Lifting an object (even as light as a sheet of paper)
- Opening the car door or those horrible pasta sauce jars
- Doing your best to avoid repetitive tasks
- Use the unaffected hand
- Adjusting your work environment (e.g. height of work chair)
- Wearing a brace to disperse load from tendon]
- Tennis elbow is an OVERLOAD injury.
- Don’t do nothing. Learn how to modify your daily tasks to avoid overloading the wrist extensor muscles
- Cortisone injections may be good for a quick fix, but think long term
Exercise GuidelinesMany clients ask how much exercise should I be doing? It is a question that is often asked and not many people seem to be able to answer. In many cases, injuries are caused by deconditioning and muscle atrophy, which leads to problems with pain and loss of physical function. It is important that people get sufficient exercise to maintain their level of function and current fitness levels, however it is important that people know how much activity they should be doing.
General Exercise GuidelinesThe Australian Government department of health states that adults between the ages of 18-64 should accumulate a total of 300minutes of vigorous exercise per week, including completing specific muscle strengthening exercise on 2days. For people aged 65 years + it is recommended that people complete 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.
What is vigorous exercise?Vigorous exercise is counted as exercise where you are breathing hard and fast, with a moderate increase in your heart rate.
What is moderate intensity exercise?Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can't sing the words to a song.
Is walking enough?People often ask if walking is enough. If you are walking at a moderate intensity as described above, for 30 minutes per day, then you should be meeting recommended exercise guidelines for people aged 65 +. However, if your physio advises strengthening a muscle group or area, then walking is not sufficient.
How to build strength?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tM1LFFxeKg Strength is often recommended to rehabilitate an injury and protect an area of the body. Strength is built by placing the tissue under stress so that you are causing microscopic damage to the tissue. Once this damage occurs, the body will heal the area, making it stronger and able to withstand greater stresses in future. Our bodies have adapted to be able to cope with the demands of everyday activities, so it is important that when strengthening a muscle you are placing it under sufficient loads that are greater than what the body typically experiences. If you are not meeting the recommended exercise guidelines including 2 sessions of muscle strengthening per week, you may be vulnerable to muscle loss or atrophy, and may be developing a greater risk of injury. In summary, completing adequate levels of activity are important for maintaining physical functional and limiting the effects of injury. Physiotherapists are experts in instructing people on how to exercise in the presence of injury or pain. If you are unable to meet your activity levels due to injury, then ask the physio how to work around the injury whilst we help the body to heal.
Why can neck pain cause vertigo, dizziness and/or headaches
There have many different hypotheses for this conundrum over the past few decades. Few have stood the test of scientific rigor. Below are a few that have:
1) Proprioception. This occurs more often in acute traumas like whiplash from car accidents. Where the damage in a joint or tissue can lead to abnormal afferent input into the vestibular nucleus. In turn disturbing vestibular input. In normal terms it kinks the balance link between the inner ear, brain and muscles. This is times by 10 due to the fact we have significantly more proprioceptors in the upper cervical joints then any other joint in your body.
2) Sympathetic dysfunction. Your sympathetic part of your autonomic nervous system controls the survival mechanism of our body hence the "fight or flight". When damage occurs to your cervical spine it may stimulate sympathetic nerve fibres changing blood volume in the vestibular arteries supplying the brain stem. Hence constricting blood vessels in the vertebro-basilar system resulting in dizziness and/or vertigo. We have many of these sympathetic nerve plexuses around our spinal column.
3) An obstruction in the vertebral artery. A stenotic obstruction in this artery can lead to all of the above symptoms. Neck rotation can block this artery leading to VBI (vertebral artery insufficiency).
4) Cervicogenic vertigo associated with chronic migraines. The trigeminal nerve which is one of the cranil nerves has reciprocal connections to the vestibular nuclei. The trigeminal nerve innervates a lot of the upper cervical area in which could be an explanation to the symptoms stated above
Summer is on its way, which means so is the emergence of the iconic Aussie summer sport cricket. You will even see our Senior Physio / resident athlete Kai Allison playing for the Pottsville cricket club this summer! The demands of the sport of cricket can be variable depending on whether the player involved is a speed or spin bowler, and whether they field infield or outfield. For those who are bowling fast or consistently throwing from the boundary, the forces needed from their shoulders to generate speed on the ball are very high and with repetition this can lead to injury if the players shoulder musculature isn’t ready for the task. That is common sense, right?! To do difficult tasks with your shoulders they need to be strong. What is not common sense is the impact that the players ability to create forces through their lower body and trunk will have on their ability to bowl or throw with speed. With specific training of stepping patterns and trunk rotation patterning and strength, we can significantly reduce the risks of shoulder injuries in the overhead throwing athlete as well as improve performance. Studies published by Oyama et. al (2009) and Richardson et. al (2015) showed that with poor control of stepping patterns and trunk rotation sequences there is an increase in electromyographic activity in the muscles of the rotator cuff and all of the stabilisers of the shoulder blade, as well as an increased external rotation range of motion in the cocking phase of the throw. That is technical talk to say that the amount of force going through your shoulder muscles is increased and the positions that your have to get into to achieve force in the throw are more precarious if you don’t have good control of your trunk and stepping patterns. The other way to look at the information from the studies above is that we are able to reduce the forces through our rotator cuff (deep shoulder muscles) by adding rotation and stepping patterns which is great for injury prevention and performance, but it also suggests that if we are trying to specifically drive rotator cuff and scapular adaptation from our training, then we need to train them in isolation. So the take away from the above info is that for building strong and resilient shoulders in the overhead athlete we need to be training both isolated rotator cuff / scapular muscle strengthening AND full body stepping + trunk rotation + shoulder rotation strength and patterning. The other major aspect of maintaining shoulder health is throwing athletes is the ability to control acceleration and deceleration of our upper limb at the start/end of the throw. This wont just happen by itself with regular strength exercises, we need to be specific with our training. That’s a lot of information about WHAT to do, so lets go through some examples of HOW to go about it. The following exercises are a non-exhaustive example program of some ways to target the goals above (I will put a video of these on our Instagram and Facebook in case the photos and explanation don’t make sense).
- Band / Cable shoulder internal & external rotations
- Weighted Ball accelerations/ decelerations
- Single and double hand Palloff press
- Swiss Ball DeadBug
- Cable weighted step & rotate
Feeling The Pinch?
The Stubborn Shoulder Impingement SyndromeDo you get a sharp, debilitating pain in your shoulder when you are performing tasks like brushing your hair, putting on certain clothes or showering? During these movements, where you raise your arm out to the side and then upwards over your head, do you alternate between no pain and pain? For example, during the first part of the moment you don’t feel any pain, and then suddenly your shoulder “catches” and there is sharp pain, followed by no pain again as you continue to move your arm upwards. These are all signs of a condition called Shoulder Impingement Syndrome (SIS), where the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles that stabilise your shoulder get trapped as they pass through the shoulder joint in a narrow bony space called the sub-acromial space. Impingement means to impact or encroach on bone, and repeated pinching and irritation of these tendons and the bursa (the padding under the shoulder bone) can lead to injury and pain. Shoulder complaints are the third most common musculoskeletal problem after back and neck disorders. The highest incidence is in women and people aged 45–64 years. Of all shoulder disorders, shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) accounts for 36%, making it the most common shoulder injury. You shouldn’t experience impingement with normal shoulder function. When it does happen, the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and swollen, a condition called rotator cuff tendonitis. Likewise, if the bursa becomes inflamed, you could develop shoulder bursitis. You can experience these conditions either on their own, or at the same time. The injury can vary from mild tendon inflammation (tendonitis), bursitis (inflamed bursa), calcific tendonitis (bone forming within the tendon) through to partial and full thickness tendon tears, which may require surgery. Over time the tendons can thicken due to repeated irritation, perpetuating the problem as the thicker tendons battle to glide through the narrow bony sub-acromial space. The tendons can even degenerate and change in microscopic structure, with decreased circulation within the tendon resulting in a chronic tendonosis.
What Causes Shoulder Impingement?Generally, SIS is caused by repeated, overhead movement of your arm into the “impingement zone,” causing the rotator cuff to contact the outer tip of the shoulder blade (acromion). When this repeatedly occurs, the swollen tendon is trapped and pinched under the acromion. The condition is frequently called Swimmer’s Shoulder or Thrower’s Shoulder, since the injury occurs from repetitive overhead activities. Injury could also stem from simple home chores, like hanging washing on the line or a repetitive activity at work. In other cases, it can be caused by traumatic injury, like a fall. Shoulder impingement has primary (structural) and secondary (posture & movement related) causes: Primary Rotator Cuff Impingement is due to a structural narrowing in the space where the tendons glide. Osteoarthritis, for example, can cause the growth of bony spurs, which narrow the space. With a smaller space, you are more likely to squash and irritate the underlying soft tissues (tendons and bursa). Secondary Rotator Cuff Impingement is due to an instability in the shoulder girdle. This means that there is a combination of excessive joint movement, ligament laxity and muscle weakness around the shoulder joint. Poor stabilisation of the shoulder blade by the surrounding muscles changes the physical position of the bones in the shoulder, which in turn increases the risk of tendon impingement. Other causes can include weakening of the rotator cuff tendons due to overuse, for example in throwing and swimming, or muscle imbalances between the shoulder muscles. In summary, impingement usually occurs over time due to repetitive overhead activity, trauma, previous injury, poor posture or inactivity. When your rotator cuff fails to work normally, it is unable to prevent the head of the humerus (upper arm) from riding up into the shoulder space, causing the bursa or tendons to be squashed. Failure to properly treat this instability causes the injury to recur. Poor technique or bad training habits such as training too hard is also a common cause of overuse injuries. Over time pain can cause further dysfunction by altering your shoulder movement patterns which may lead to a frozen shoulder. For this reason, it is vitally important that shoulder impingement syndrome is rested and treated as soon as possible to avoid longer term damage and joint deterioration.
What are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?Commonly rotator cuff impingement has the following symptoms:
- An arc of shoulder pain approximately when your arm is at shoulder height and/or when your arm is overhead
- Shoulder pain that can extend from the top of the shoulder down the arm to the elbow
- Pain when lying on the sore shoulder, night pain and disturbed sleep
- Shoulder pain at rest as your condition worsens
- Muscle weakness or pain when attempting to reach or lift
- Pain when putting your hand behind your back or head
- Pain reaching for the seat-belt, or out of the car window for a parking ticket
Who Suffers Shoulder Impingement?Impingement syndrome is more likely to occur in people who engage in physical activities that require repeated overhead arm movements, such as tennis, golf, swimming, weight lifting, or throwing a ball. Occupations that require repeated overhead lifting or work at or above shoulder height also increase the risk of rotator cuff impingement.
How is Shoulder Impingement Diagnosed?Shoulder impingement can be diagnosed by your physical therapist using some specific manual tests. An ultrasound scan may be useful to detect any associated injuries such as shoulder bursitis, rotator cuff tears, calcific tendonitis or shoulder tendinopathies. An x-ray can be used to see any bony spurs that may have formed and narrowed the sub-acromial space.
What does the Treatment Involve?There are many structures that can be injured in shoulder impingement syndrome. How the impingement occurred is the most important question to answer. This is especially important if the onset was gradual, since your static and dynamic posture, muscle strength, and flexibility all have important roles to play. Your rotator cuff is an important group of muscles that control and stabilise the shoulder joint. It is essential the muscles around the thoracic spine and shoulder blade are also assessed and treated as these too work together with the entire shoulder girdle.
To effectively rehabilitate this injury and prevent recurrence, you need to work through specific stages with your therapist.These stages may include:
- Early Injury: Protection, Pain Relief & Anti-inflammatory Treatment
- Regain Full Shoulder Range of Motion
- Restore Scapular Control and Scapulohumeral Rhythm
- Restore Normal Neck-Scapulo-Thoracic-Shoulder Function, including posture correction
- Restore Rotator Cuff Strength
- Restore High Speed, Power, Proprioception and Agility Exercises
- Return to Sport or Work
WHAT IS AN ANKLE SPRAIN?An ankle sprain is a stretch or tear in one or more of the lateral (outside) ligaments of the ankle. Ankle ligaments are slightly elastic bands of tissue that keep the ankle bones in place. Because the ankle is responsible for both weight-bearing and mobility, it is particularly susceptible to injury. The relatively small joint has to withstand large forces exerted when walking, running and jumping, especially if the surface is uneven. Most ankle sprains happen when the ankle twists or rolls suddenly, usually a rapid and uncontrolled movement. The most common injuries happen when the foot rolls onto the outside of the ankle, straining the outside ligaments of the ankle joint. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include; pain, tenderness and swelling, bruising, trouble moving the ankle, and sometimes an inability to put your full weight on the ankle.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HEAL?Most people recover completely from mild sprains within two to six weeks. More severe sprains can take up to six months before you can return to full activity, or sport. Once a significant sprain occurs, without good rehabilitation the joint may never be as strong as it was before the injury. It is not surprising therefore that many people have a history of repeated ankle sprains. With the correct rehabilitation however, you can help your ankle become even stronger than it was before the injury.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?Tissue injury usually involves damage to small blood vessels that results in bleeding at the site of injury. This bleeding leads to inflammation, part of the natural healing process. However, the body tends to overreact to sudden traumatic injury and as a result excess inflammatory fluid accumulates which can result in ‘scar’ tissue production. Too much scar tissue may prevent normal function with reduced flexibility and increased risk of re-injury. It is important to get medical advice to gain a positive diagnosis and
ADVICE HANDOUTFollow the PRICE guidelines immediately after injury and for at least 3 days afterwards before doing anything else. Your local physio therapist as well as most massage therapists can assist you with this: PROTECT - Protect the injured tissue from undue stress and avoid ALL movements in the same direction as when the injury occurred. REST – Unload the joint (take the weight off it) as much as you can in the first 72 hours after injury. Try and avoid walking on the joint as much as possible. ICE – Ice is an amazing natural healer and a great short-term pain reducer. It is also believed to have a beneficial effect in reducing swelling and promoting healing. The optimal amount of time to apply ice is around 10-15 minutes in bony areas such as the ankle. It can be applied as often as desired to achieve pain relief, ideally every 1-2 hours. COMPRESSION - This is advised for the first 72 hours, but only while your foot isn’t elevated. The compression can be firm if it doesn’t cause pins and needles or any loss of feeling around the joint. ELEVATION - Reduces the flow of blood to the area which helps reduce swelling. Elevation is recommended in the first 72 hours after injury. However, remove any compression while your foot is elevated unless you are wearing just a light compression bandage. When following PRICE it is also important to avoid HARM, hence the saying: ‘Give PRICE and avoid HARM’. HARM is an acronym for Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage. Following this acute management phase, your physical therapist will start some ‘hands-on’ treatment to mobilise and strengthen the joint. This phase of treatment is crucial to ensure you return to full function and prevent future injury. Adequate preparation for activity is key and weight-bearing should progress gently. Drastic changes in activity level and performing unpractised skills expose your ankle to re-injury. Gradually build up your fitness level. Your ankle, and the rest of your body, will thank you for it! WHY IMMEDIATE TREATMENT IS IMPORTANT The success of injury healing can be boosted by appropriate, effective and timely action particularly in the early stages of an injury (ie. the first 72 hours). Any ‘soft-tissue’ is subject to injury including ligaments (which join bones to bones), tendons (which join muscles to bones) and to muscles themselves. The immediate reaction of the body to injury is similar irrespective of the soft tissue structure and is known as an inflammatory reaction. Injuries can be caused by overstretching, bruising or crushing. A strain describes overstretching of a muscle, while a sprain describes overstretching of a ligament or tendon. THE INFLAMMATORY REACTION Tissue injury usually involves damage to small blood vessels that results in bleeding at the site of injury. This bleeding leads to the four main signs of inflammation:
- Heat – chemicals released from the damaged tissue causes dilation of surrounding blood vessels to bring healing agents to the area. The result is more blood and therefore heat
- Redness – is due to the increase in blood to the area
- Pain – is caused by the chemicals released from the injured tissues as well as the increased tissue pressure from the fluid acting on nearby nerve endings
- Swelling – is the result of this accumulation of extra fluid.
THE ART OF THE BREATH Breathing correctly promotes a sense of calm, helps us to de-stress and also promotes physical healing. We are all breathing all day everyday but most of us are not breathing correctly! Some common mistakes are: -breathing too quickly -breathing too shallow using our neck muscles rather than our diaphragm -breathing unevenly with lots of sighs and yawns -breathing through our mouth Start learning to breath properly again by focusing on the following: 1. Be sure to breathe through your nose - in and out all the time, even when exercising. Your nose is designed to filter air and make it the perfect temperature and humidity. 2. Focus on each breath becoming smoother and slower. We should aim to breathe 12 times per minute (many of us are breathing 16+ times per minute) 3. Your breathe should be even and silent - avoid noisy sighs and yawns 4. use your diaphragm and belly muscles to breathe. Your shoulders should not move up and down to breathe. Learning to improve your breathing will help improve so many physical and psychological ailments.