I’m sure at some point in your life you will have heard a teacher, or your own mother say “sit up” or “stop slouching.” Did you ever think they might have a point to their preaching?

Listening to their advice might not have been such a bad idea after all!  In this day and age, nearly everything we do, whether it’s sitting in front of a computer, on our phones, or watching the television, is usually performed sitting down. According to the New York Times, about 80% of the jobs in the United States are sedentary, or require only occasional movement. CNN reports that on average, adults watch television for nearly four hours per day, and teens spend about nine hours a day on an electronic device.

Sitting for extended periods of time, day in and day out, is actually hard work on your body and can lead to neck, upper back, shoulder, and even arm pain.

Sitting with poor posture for extended periods can increase stress placed on the junction between your cervical and thoracic spine, and your shoulder joints. This happens because we usually sit with our heads in a forward flexed position with rounded shoulders. Over time, our bodies start to become used to this position, and physical changes to our muscles and joints occur.

Typically, what happens is that the muscles in our chest, namely the pectoralis major and minor become tight, and draw our shoulders forward, making the joints in our thoracic spine become stiff, and difficult to get into a neutral position. The added stress in these areas can start to cause impingement of the shoulder joint tendons, and degeneration of cervical and thoracic discs can also occur.

In addition to this, upper back musculature can start to develop trigger points or “knots” because they are not strong enough to support our prolonged improper sitting. This is where things start to get painful; headaches, radiating arm pain, pain when reaching in certain directions, or when turning your head. If you’re noticing that you’ve already gotten to this point, then it may be time to seek help from a physical therapist for low back pain therapy.

Some easy tips to help promote better posture during the day include frequently getting up from your desk to stretch out your chest. Setting up your workstation to be more ergonomic is a great way to help promote upright posture while sitting at work. Last, but certainly not least, try to become more active, and limit the amount of screen time for yourself.

If these tips aren’t enough to improve your posture, check out your local Foothills location for an assessment. Spring is the best time of year to enjoy the outdoors, and one of the main reasons why we live in Arizona!

Do you ever find yourself constantly rubbing that sore spot on your neck, or in the middle of your back? Do you wonder why it never goes away? Well, those sore spots – or knots, as they’re commonly known – are actually trigger points. A trigger point is a tight band of muscle that is in a shortened, contracted state and cannot release. It is tender to the touch, and it can sometimes refer pain to a different area of the body. Trigger points are thought to develop due to trauma, increased demand on the muscles, or prolonged periods of muscle contraction, such as while sitting or standing for hours at work. Other influential factors that contribute to the development of a trigger point, which we all experience, are stress and illness. Trigger points can contribute to decreased functional range of motion in a joint or even lead to tendonitis in a muscle.

Trigger point dry needling (TDN) is a manual therapy technique performed by trained physical therapists that uses an acupuncture needle to help release trigger points throughout your body to help reduce pain and improve function. Does that mean physical therapists are practicing acupuncture? The answer is no. Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine, and its purpose is to help balance energy flow through the body to help with pain reduction. The intent of trigger point dry needling, on the other hand, is to “improve muscle function, induce relaxation, and decrease pain,” according to APTA President Scott Ward (2009). Both practices use acupuncture needles, but to different effects.

TDN has made a positive impact on recovery time for patients by reducing the number of visits they need before seeing positive results. In fact, dramatic changes in range of motion, pain, and sensation of muscular tightness can be noticed immediately after treatment by retesting painful and/or dysfunctional movement. Other non-invasive manual techniques such as massage, myofascial release, or trigger point release (which PTs also use) can help to reduce trigger points, however trigger point dry needling has a much more direct effect and makes physical changes to the muscle. The needle provides a stimulus to the trigger point, causing it to contract then relax, thereby restoring the muscle to its normal length. The treated muscle is now able to function through its normal range of motion.

There are a variety of conditions that TDN can help with. Some of these include headaches, neck, back, shoulder, hip, and knee pain, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, tennis elbow, and many more. If you think trigger point dry needling is something that could help you, please contact our Scottsdale physical therapy clinic with any questions!

Foothills Sports Medicine provides hands-on, high quality therapy services to patients experiencing all different types of conditions. Our expert staff offers a free evaluation of your physical therapy needs, which can be scheduled online here. For more information and advice about trigger point dry needling, check out our blog.

Jennifer Rivera earned her doctorate in physical therapy and has worked with a wide variety of patients from children to the elderly throughout her career. She explains why you might be suffering from symptoms of vertigo and what you can do to solve it.

Do you ever feel dizzy? Does it happen to you when you’re in a certain position? If so, you may have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). The name may be a mouthful, but it’s actually the most common disorder affecting the vestibular system – the system that controls balance and movement. In order to understand what BPPV is and if you might be affected by it, we must first understand the anatomy and function of the inner ear.Ear Image for Vertigo Explanation - Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

The inner ear can be separated into two different organs— the cochlea and the three fluid-filled semicircular canals. The cochlea is the body’s microphone that helps convert sound pressure impulses from the outer ear into electrical pulses for the brain through the auditory nerve. These signals basically tell our brain what we are hearing. The semicircular canals are more important in understanding BPPV, as they are the body’s balance organ that sense angular acceleration as we move front to back, side to side, and up and down. The canals contain small hair cells that are able to detect movement of the fluid in your ears that is caused by your head and body moving in different directions.

Connected to the end of the semicircular canals is the utricle, and connected to that is the saccule. These two organs provide information about head position when it is not moving. The utricle and saccule also have sensory hair cells, but attached to the ends of these hair cells are microscopic calcifications of calcium carbonate called otoconia. If you’ve ever heard someone say you have rocks in your head, this might have been what they were referring to. These calcifications are gravity-sensitive, so when you move your head they bend the hair cells and provide information to your brain about where your head is positioned.

So what does all this have to do with getting dizzy? Well, as we get older the otoconia or “rocks in our head” start to change. They can become fragmented or the links between each otoconia can weaken. Because of this, they can start to break free from the hair cell they were once attached to and migrate into one of the semicircular canals; most commonly the posterior canal. The canal now becomes gravity sensitive, which is not its normal function. This gives the individual an immediate false sense of motion, known as vertigo.

This dizziness does not happen all the time, and the intense feeling of vertigo usually only lasts for 5 to 45 seconds. The patients that I treat for BPPV generally report symptom provocation with certain head positions. The most common complaints are rolling in bed, lying down, getting up from lying down, reaching for an object that is overhead, washing their hair, or lying back in a dental chair.

There are several predisposing factors that can cause the migration of the otoconia. These include head trauma, falling, inner ear disease, osteopenia or osteoporosis, or prolonged head positioning. People that go undiagnosed tend to reduce and or change their normal daily activities to avoid becoming dizzy, and they may have a higher risk of falling.

BPPV can be easily and quickly treated by a physical therapist in only one or two visits if properly diagnosed. Our Scottsdale physical therapy clinic offers a free rapid evaluation that will direct you to the right course of treatment, or refer you to an MD if you have a sudden onset of dizziness or imbalance. BPPV is just one of many vestibular disorders, so talking to healthcare professionals about symptoms is extremely important.

Schedule a free consultation at Foothills today if you have questions or concerns about vertigo, or any other issues we could help with. To learn more about physical therapy and what Foothills can do for you, follow our blog!