Does your neck hurt reading this? Spending alot of time on the computer can cause shoulder, neck and mid-back tightness and pain. That can lead to other problems like pinched nerves, compensations and muscle degeneration. Other times you might experience muscle tightness and spasms from a sports injury or ‘over-doing it’ either in the gym, on the playing field or just in the garden!  Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) can alleviate chronic and acute pain.

TDN is a treatment for muscular tightness and spasm which commonly follows injuries and often accompanies the degenerative processes. This muscular tightness and spasm will cause compression and irritation of the nerves exiting the spine. When the nerves are irritated, they cause a protective spasm of all the muscles to which they are connected. This may lead to carpel tunnel, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, decreased mobility and chronic pain.

How does TDN work? Small, thin needles are inserted in the muscles at the trigger points causing the pain referral. The muscles then contract and release, improving flexibility of the muscle and decreasing symptoms.

This is definitely a helpful therapy technique that relieves pain for many people. If you think it might help you, contact Foothills Sports Medicine–North Central Phoenix or Old Town Scottsdale for a Rapid Recovery® assessment.  https://foothillsrehab.com/contact-us.html

Our backs are involved in everything we do and are the foundation for every movement we make.  We cannot sit, stand, walk, or reach without involving our back. And, since approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, it is crucial that we understand our backs better.

So, how do you know when your back pain really needs professional attention or when it’s okay to just stick-it-out with an ice pack? Here are some guidelines that may help:

How much does it hurt?

If you are experiencing back pain for the first time, congratulations, you are old.  Not really.  It is common for 1st episodes of back pain to occur in the mid-twenties to early thirties.  They often resolve quickly but may be associated with more trauma since most of us tend to be more active in that age range.  If you have one or two occasions a year when your back hurts, don’t wait for the next one.  This could mean that your spine has some significant mobility issues that need to be addressed.  You don’t want to put off getting your back examined because those one or two episodes could turn into three or four occurrences or one big incidence of back pain that can really leave you immobilized.

Where is the pain located?

If your pain is localized to a small area of your low back it is likely that your injury is not as severe.  If, on the other hand, your pain travels down into your buttocks and into the back of your thigh or leg, then you should consult a healthcare professional.

Is your back irritable?

You can often tell something about the severity of a back pain by how irritable it is.  If you find that every movement bothers your low back then it is definitely more severe than someone who only has pain when they bend to one direction.  Try to pay attention to which movements trigger your pain because it can help your doctor and physical therapist determine the problem.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Some back pain episodes are precipitated by a pop or significant pain.  Next, the pain goes away only to come back intensely the next morning.  This often suggests that chemical irritation (which takes time to develop) has occurred and a significant inflammatory process is occurring.  This is a good instance where you should see a healthcare professional.  They need to determine the extent of the damage and possibly control the inflammation.

Is it getting better?

If you notice steady improvements day by day then your body is naturally healing.  Try to be careful though, you don’t want to justify mild improvements.  If you haven’t seen a total recovery in one week then you should consult a professional just to be sure.  If you are noticing a regression then, obviously, your back does need some help

We need to be vigilant about taking care of our backs now. Let’s face it; we only have one spine and a long life to live with it. If you aren’t sure – be proactive. Foothills Sports Medicine offers free Rapid Recovery® injury assessments. Call or email us at www.foothillsrehab.com/contact/ to schedule a visit with a physical therapist.

Visit our blog next week and learn the ‘Core Essentials’ – 3 great exercises to keep your back and abdominals strong.

Hint: It has nothing to do with a gun.

A trigger point usually consists of a small band of muscle which feels knotty. It is sometimes painful when touched, but the pain is often referred to another area of the body. A trigger point in the shoulder, for example, might cause a headache.

What causes a trigger point? Acute trauma or repetitive micro-trauma may lead to the development of stress on muscle fibers and the formation of trigger points. Trigger points are thought to be due to an accumulation within deep muscle of the waste products of physical activity. This causes localized muscle tension and spasm which may make the points feel like small nodules.

Patients may have regional, persistent pain resulting in a decreased range of motion in the affected muscles. These include muscles used to maintain body posture, such as those in the neck, shoulders, hip and pelvic girdle.

Trigger points may manifest as tension headache, jaw pain (TMJ), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), decreased range of motion in the legs, low back and neck pain. Trigger points have also been found to be related to shoulder pain, carpal tunnel, sciatica, hip/knee pain and foot/ankle pain. Usually, a physical therapist will ‘feel-out’ a hypersensitive bundle, or knot, of muscle fiber associated with a trigger point. Hands-on pressure of the trigger point will elicit pain directly over the affected area and/or cause radiation of pain toward a zone of reference and a local twitch response.

Physical therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments to inactivate trigger points and provide prompt relief of symptoms. Physical therapy treatment, such as the strain/counter-strain technique, ischemic compression, cupping, massage, myofascial release, active release techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, joint mobilization therapy and corrective exercises, are used to ease the tension, numbness and pain associated with trigger points.

The key to success with trigger point symptoms is to be consistent with therapy and to know what caused the tightness in the first place so that you can avoid it in the future.

Every few years it seems there are buzz words in the fitness industry that gain popularity. Lately it’s the phrase “functional movement”. Although this is certainly nothing new in the arena of physical therapy, it has caught-on in mainstream exercise classes around the country.  The question is…

 What is Functional Movement?

Functional movements take place in multi-planes of motion with the use of multiple joints. These movements require the firing of multiple muscle groups in various positions, ranges of motion and varying intensity to achieve a common goal. For instance, in order to swing a golf club you have to tighten your right hip, rotate your shoulders over your hips, raise your arms across your body while maintaining your head still, allowing rotation through the spine along one axis. Pause, and reverse that entire process in a near mirror image back to the same point at which you started. Another example of functional movement is as simple as bending down and reaching over to pick-up your child and rotating through your core to put him/her in the car seat (or to help down a slide as seen in the photo). Functional training can be utilized after an injury or in preparation for an activity to mimic those actions and break them down into more basic components in order to achieve your “functional goal.”

 Why is Functional Movement Training Important?

Research has shown incredible gains in strength, balance and overall decreased joint pain with functional training. Functional training develops a healthy and well-developed body. It promotes kinesthetic awareness and body control, balanced musculature and a stronger core. Thus, functional training may decrease the number of injuries sustained in an individual’s life and sport.

 Who Can Benefit From Functional Movement Training?

Anyone can benefit from functional movement training. From the simple task of standing up from a chair or getting in and out of a vehicle, to training for your next tennis match, functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.

How Can I Tell if I Have Functional Movement Limitations?

There are many functional movement assessment tools. One simple test for the shoulder is to reach behind your back with both arms, one from above your head and one from behind your back, try touching your finger-tips together in the middle of your back. Another movement in the lower body is to assume a lunge position, with feet a good distance apart, then slowly lower your back knee down to the ground and back up again. If you are unable to perform either of these activities, you may want to seek a professional assessment from your local physical therapist.

Our backs are involved in everything we do and are the foundation for every movement we make.  We cannot sit, stand, walk, or reach without involving our back. And, since approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, it is crucial that we understand our backs better.

So, how do you know when your back pain really needs professional attention or when it’s okay to just stick-it-out with an ice pack? Here are some guidelines that may help:

 How much does it hurt?

If you are experiencing back pain for the first time, congratulations, you are old.  Not really.  It is common for 1st episodes of back pain to occur in the mid-twenties to early thirties.  They often resolve quickly but may be associated with more trauma since most of us tend to be more active in that age range.  If you have one or two occasions a year when your back hurts, don’t wait for the next one.  This could mean that your spine has some significant mobility issues that need to be addressed.  You don’t want to put off getting your back examined because those one or two episodes could turn into three or four occurrences or one big incidence of back pain that can really leave you immobilized.

Where is the pain located?

If your pain is localized to a small area of your low back it is likely that your injury is not as severe.  If, on the other hand, your pain travels down into your buttocks and into the back of your thigh or leg, then you should consult a healthcare professional.

Is your back irritable?

You can often tell something about the severity of a back pain by how irritable it is.  If you find that every movement bothers your low back then it is definitely more severe than someone who only has pain when they bend to one direction.  Try to pay attention to which movements trigger your pain because it can help your doctor and physical therapist determine the problem.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Some back pain episodes are precipitated by a pop or significant pain.  Next, the pain goes away only to come back intensely the next morning.  This often suggests that chemical irritation (which takes time to develop) has occurred and a significant inflammatory process is occurring.  This is a good instance where you should see a healthcare professional.  They need to determine the extent of the damage and possibly control the inflammation.

 Is it getting better?

If you notice steady improvements day by day then your body is naturally healing.  Try to be careful though, you don’t want to justify mild improvements.  If you haven’t seen a total recovery in one week then you should consult a professional just to be sure.  If you are noticing a regression then, obviously, your back does need some help

We need to be vigilant about taking care of our backs now. Let’s face it; we only have one spine and a long life to live with it. Be proactive and consult your physician or a physical therapist on what you can do to avoid back pain.  There are many facilities that offer core conditioning classes that will strengthen and develop your trunk muscles which may help curb pain and/or prevent back injury.

How many times were we reminded as kids to sit/stand up straight? Unfortunately for most, it is an afterthought when we’re sitting in therapy with back pain. Being proactive and protecting the spine are important parts of our overall health. And the spine is quite easy to protect- just start with the basics…your posture.

“Posture” is very important both at home and on the job. Sitting and standing posture, as well as sleep positioning, are paramount to good spinal health. Maintaining a neutral spine will reduce biomechanical strain and can help you avoid back pain.    

What does “neutral spine” mean? Neutral Spine is the natural position of the spine when all body parts are in good alignment. Typically, when your spine is in neutral, it looks like an “S” from the side and the natural curves of the cervical and lumbar spine are maintained. Below are some brief guidelines on how to maintain good posture while standing, sitting and sleeping.

Standing posture: Keep your head directly over the shoulders (chest out, head back’). Keep the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Tighten the core abdominal muscles. Tuck in the buttocks. Place the feet slightly apart, with one foot positioned slightly in front of the other and knees bent just a little bit (not locked).

All of the steps above may not come together at once. Remember to change standing positions often and  try to become more aware of your posture while standing. It may feel strange at first, but after awhile it will feel natural.

Sitting Posture:  Many people experience discomfort while sitting for long periods of time at work. To maintain a good ‘sitting posture’ at a desk adopt a user-friendly workstation by adjusting the office chair and desk position so that the work position is elbow high. Adjust your computer screen so that it is exactly eye level – or exactly where your gaze would be if you were to sit in front of your computer, shut your eyes then open them- where is your natural gaze?  Adjust your screen to meet that gaze.

Many people sit towards the front of their chair and end up hunching forward to look at their computer screen. It is better to sit back in the chair and utilize the chair’s lumbar support to keep the head and neck erect. Take stretching and walking breaks if sitting in an office chair for long periods of time.

Car – sitting posture: It is important to sit with the knees level with the hips. Use either a small rolled-up towel or a commercial back support placed between the lower back and the back of the seat for more comfort and support of the natural  curve of the low back.

Drivers are advised to sit at a comfortable distance from the steering wheel. Reaching increases the pressure on the lumbar spine and can stress the neck, shoulder and wrist, so sitting too far away can aggravate back pain. However, sitting too close can increase risk of injury from the car’s airbag. 

 Sleep Posture: Position while sleeping is often ignored. If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to provide the low back support and neutral spinal position. Similarly, if you sleep on your side, place that pillow between the knees to protect the low back. If you must sleep on your stomach (which we do not encourage) place a pillow under your stomach.

The therapists at Foothills Sports Medicine are happy to help you learn how to find that proper standing and sitting posture to avoid back pain and injuries. Please stop by any of our locations so that we may assist you.

The ASTYM System

We are pleased to announce that Foothills Sports Medicine has several ASTYM certified physical therapists throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan area.  The ASTYM system has been used in clinical settings by certified health professionals since 1996. But many of you may not know what ASTYM is really all about and how it can help you with chronic and acute injuries.

What is ASTYM?

ASTYM is a soft tissue mobilization technique that is designed to effectively treat scarring, fibrosis, and degeneration that can occur in soft tissues. This technique uses ergonomically designed instruments and can be very effective on both new injuries as well as chronic, nagging conditions. The ASTYM instruments are used along the surface of the skin to identify abnormal soft tissue areas and begin the body’s healing process. This healing response or inflammatory process results in the resorption and remodeling of scar tissue and/or abnormal tissue and helps to regenerate degenerative tendons.

ASTYM has been proven to be effective with a number of common orthopedic injuries including IT band syndrome, hip bursitis, shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome, medial and lateral epicondylitis (golfer’s and tennis elbow).

ASTYM has many advantages over conservative PT treatments. ASTYM often allows patients to remain active or continue to work while undergoing treatment. It also has an 88% success rate with patients, achieving improved function and decreased pain, even if the condition is chronic or previous treatment was not successful. It can reduce the need for surgical intervention and achieve maximum results with minimal treatments. Finally this technique has been supported by an extensive outcomes database, clinical experience, and most importantly, by scientific research.

The ASTYM technique may be mildly uncomfortable with some patients. ASTYM is applied to not only the affected or painful areas but to the areas above and below the injury that may be contributing to your condition. During the treatment, you may feel areas of “roughness”, which are the problem areas that will be addressed. As these areas become less rough or smooth over, the pain begins to decrease and improved function also occurs. It is not unusual to have some mild bruising or tenderness over the abnormal or “rough” areas; this is the first indication that the new healing response has started. A comprehensive stretching and strengthening program will also be introduced to help guide the healing process, rebuild healthy tissue, and ultimately, get you back to your desired activities without any pain or limitation.

In my first year of using ASTYM, I have had great personal success with my patients having chronic tendon injuries, plantar fasciitis, and other painful conditions. This technique is used to complement our manual and hands-on techniques, not replace them.

We have several clinics offering ASTYM treatment: Ahwatukee, South Chandler, South Gilbert, Old Town Scottsdale, Surprise, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park. Please click on a location near you to schedule a Rapid Recovery FREE assesment to see if ASTYM is right for you.