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The Chain of CommandYour spine is essentially the chain that forms the ‘backbone’ of your entire body. Without it you would be a blob of muscles, organs and soft tissue piled on the floor. Your spine commands respect because it is the pillar that supports your body, allows you to walk, stand and sit, as well as touch and feel; because it forms the canal connecting the nerves from your body and limbs, to your brain. While your heart may be the vital organ that keeps you alive, without your spine you wouldn’t be able to move. There are three natural curves in your spine that give it an "S" shape when viewed from the side. These curves help the spine withstand great amounts of stress by distributing your body weight. Between the bony vertebra are spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. The lumbar spine (or lower back) connects the thoracic spine to the pelvis, and bears the bulk of your body's weight. Your spine is not rigid though. It allows movement through the intervertebral joints connecting the bony vertebra. These joints allow you to twist, to bend forward and backward, and from side to side. Large groups of muscles surrounding the spine, pelvis, hips and upper body all interact to allow for movements like walking, running, jumping, and swimming. However, there are also muscles deep in your body that work constantly just to maintain your posture when you’re sitting and standing. It is essential that all elements of the spinal ‘chain’ work harmoniously together to ensure fluid movement without overloading structures resulting in injury and pain. Any link in the chain that becomes ‘stuck’ will not only affect that spinal level but also the movement and strength of the chain above and below it. If the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength and length (flexibility) this too can affect the ‘chain’, altering the alignment and motion of the links. Taking care of your spine now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later. Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics, or how you move and hold yourself, when you do daily tasks and activities.
Taking Care of Your SpinePay attention to early warning signs or pain. Although back pain is very common and nearly every person will experience at least one episode of back pain in a lifetime, it is essential to address any symptoms promptly. It has also been shown in studies that early treatment and rehabilitation can prevent recurrent bouts of back pain and prevent the development of chronic lower back pain which can be very debilitating, stressful and depressing. It can affect your ability to work, play sport, socialise and sleep, all of which can further compound your pain cycle. Your back pain could be due to inflamed ligaments, damaged intervertebral discs, nerve irritation, bony formations on the spine, muscle imbalances such as weakness or a lack of flexibility, leg length differences, or muscle strains, to name just a few. Even the way we move (or don’t move) at work, school or sport can all be an underlying cause to the current pain.
How Pottsville and Cabarita Physiotherapy Can Help with Back PainYour physiotherapist can treat the pain or stiffness experienced from back pain using massage, soft tissue mobilisation, spinal manipulation, heat, acupuncture and other devices. It is important that you, together with your physiotherapist work through a rehabilitation program (specific exercises and stretches) to correct underlying muscle weaknesses, flexibility issues, and the sequence in which the muscles around your spine work to provide stability. A physiotherapist can also give you advice on correcting posture / technique for work and sport. Chat to us today about what we can do to help Ph: 0266764000 / 02667644577
Back Pain and Sleep IssuesOne of the most common issues back pain sufferers experience is sleep disruption so we have put together an interactive Back Pain and Sleep Guide to help you banish those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed. The guide includes:
- 6 Strategies for Improving Your Sleep
- 8 bedtime stretches to relieve back pain (with video links)
- Sleeping positions that will help relieve pain (with links to videos)
- 7 Yoga Poses that will help cure most back pain issues
- A morning stretch routine that will help ease pain from a restless night (with videos)
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
- The information contained in this article is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case.
Water is the basis of all life, in fact we can only survive for 3 days without water.• We are made up of 75 % water: the brain is 80% water and the blood which transports all the nutrients around the body is 82% water • This water gets rationed differently to various parts of the body with the brain getting absolute priority. The brain is 1/50th of your total body weight but receives 20% of the blood circulation. • Our health is entirely dependent on the quality and quantity of water we drink • If the water supply is running low the brain will cry out for help. What is the body’s warning signal? – PAIN! • Water is essential for all the chemical reactions that occur in our body ALL OF THEM – nothing works properly if we don’t have enough water! Water is our primary source of energy, it is essential for life.
There are so many great ideas that can be used to infuse water.How about trying one of these?
Let massage help you through the winter SeasonFor most of us winter means hot drinks, extra layers of clothing, more hours spent in doors and therefore less physical activity and for some a case of the winter blues as the sun sets earlier and the air gets cooler. The good news is that massage therapy can be a great tool to help you through the season.
The benefits of massage in winter:
It will boost you immune system:The winter months can often bring an influx of colds and flu's, so it’s extra important to have a healthy functioning immune system to fight off these viruses. Being less active in the winter months can also mean poorer lymphatic flow, which means less circulation of the body’s white blood cells. White blood cells are what help your body fight away infections and disease. Studies have shown that massage encourages the flow of your lymphatic system, and therefore white blood cells. The more white blood cells circulating, the stronger your immune system and the less likely you are to get a cold/flu this winter!
It will encourage circulation:In cold weather muscles contract to conserve heat, which constricts blood flow and therefore delivers less oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. This also makes it more difficult for cellular waste and toxin removal. This restriction of blood flow decreases muscle health and function, and at times causes aches and stiffness. Luckily the soft tissue manipulation that is used in massage therapy is a brilliant way to increase circulation and improve your health.
It will keep away those winter blues:For some the colder weather can bring upon stress or feelings of being ‘low’ or ‘under the weather’. One of the beauties about massage is that it releases serotonin and endorphin's, which are hormones that relieve stress/sadness and make you naturally feel happy.
Don’t let the winter blues get you down this season, feel good and get a massage today!
14 Tips to get a better night sleep
- Eat for sleep: your body needs whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables to produce melatonin and serotonin – the sleep hormones
- Have your last meal 2 hours before bed so that digestion is complete, your blood sugar has stabilised and your body is ready for rest and rejuvenation. Make sure you are not going to bed hungry
- Drink enough water so you are not waking up thirsty during the night
- Make a lavender spray for your pillow (with water and pure lavender essential oil) lavender produces a deeper more restorative sleep
- Have a hot shower or bath 1-2 hours before bed – we sleep better on a decreasing temperature. As you get out of the hot bath your temperature will slowly decrease triggering sleep hormones to kick in
- Put lavender essential oil and magnesium salts in the bath. Magnesium is a known muscle relaxant and will help you wind down
- Have plants in your room to keep the air fresh (especially if you close all the windows)
- Switch off all electronic devices 2 hours before bed – back lit devices prevent melatonin from being released (which is our sleep hormone)
- If your mind is busy try reading a book in bed to calm the mind.
- Check your room temperature is somewhere between 18 and 25 degrees
- Expose your eyes to sunshine as soon as you wake up to stop melatonin and balance the bodies sleep / wake cycle
- Have a sleep routine: aim to go to bed and get up at the same time every day
- Avoid alcohol in the evening– it might help you to get to sleep but your sleep will be lighter, disruptive, and less restorative.
- 10pm is when melatonin production should be at its highest - so be sure to get to bed by 10pm every night.