Shoulder Pain

Do you lie awake at night with an aching shoulder? Do you feel sharp grabs of pain while reaching up into the cupboard or into the back seat of your car? Did your shoulder pain start one day without any injury that you can remember? Shoulder pain can keep us awake at night and limit our day-to-day activities – even the most basic ones like washing our hair or getting dressed. In this article we are going to talk about how shoulder problems can start and what there is to do about it.

First let’s talk about what is inside your shoulder. The shoulder is what we call a ‘ball and socket’ joint. This means that the top of the upper arm bone has a ‘ball’ like surface, and this ball connects with the concave surface of the shoulder blade, similar to a golf ball sitting on a tee. This type of joint (like your hip joint) is build for maximum mobility. Having so much mobility is a good thing because it allows our shoulder and arm to reach in all different directions. However, this excess mobility can also predispose the shoulder to injury.

Almost everyone has heard of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles responsible for protecting the shoulder. These are often the muscles that are injured in the shoulder because they can become pinched inside the joint (referred to as ‘impingement’). The rotator cuff muscles work alongside the muscles of your shoulder blade to ensure that the ball is always positioned in the centre of the socket so as to avoid pinching, inflammation and pain. Impingement can occur if any of these shoulder muscles become tight or weak or if the neck and upper back are too stiff to allow for proper arm movement.

People that spend a large portion of their days sitting often become very weak in their shoulder blade muscles while at the same time also becoming tight in their chest, upper back and neck. Others spend a lot of their workday doing repetitive movements with their arm that also can create irritation and muscle imbalances in the shoulder. At night many of us tend to lay on our ‘favourite’ side while sleeping which squeezes the blood out of the shoulder thus causing further irritation and preventing recovery from the strain during the day.

If you start to have shoulder pain the best strategy is to avoid the movement that is creating the pain and to ice the shoulder for 15 minutes 2-3 times per day for the initial 3 days (after 3 days switch to heat for 20 mins, 2-3 times per day to increase blood flow/healing). Make sure to continue to move the shoulder in motions that don’t hurt in order to prevent your shoulder from getting stiff. Also try as best as you can to not sleep on the painful shoulder at night in order to allow healing.

If the pain does not subside within a week it is advisable to see your health care professional so that the specific reason for the shoulder pain can be diagnosed. In physiotherapy, pain control and stretching out tight muscles are usually the initial goals. Treatment then fairly quickly progresses to focusing on strengthening specific muscles as well as increasing overall flexibility. Often the conversation of prevention will focus on daily stretching or Yoga as well as emphasizing good posture while sitting.

I hope that you have learned a little bit about how the shoulder works and what can cause shoulder pain. If you are starting to have nagging shoulder pain or tightness, remember that it is much easier to deal now then ‘down the road’. Happy spring (summer) everyone!

The Latest on Lower Back Pain

The Latest on Lower Back Pain

Physiotherapy » Posts by Graham Gillies, M.Sc.PT, CAFCI, FCAMPT, MCISc(MT), CGIMS

The Latest on Lower Back Pain

With all of this mild weather we have been experiencing in the Okanagan it really does feel like spring is just around the corner. I’m sure many of you have started to do some work in your yards in preparation for the gardening season. Each year during the start of spring there is something that comes along with the longer days and warmer temperatures: lower back injuries.

So what can we do to avoid hurting our backs?

A recent study published in the Journal of Arthritis Care and Research looked at just shy of a thousand patients over the age of 18. They found 8 different risk factors for lower back pain. In order of highest to lowest risk the 8 factors were: distraction during a task, manual tasks involving awkward postures, manual tasks involving objects not close to the body, manual tasks involving people or animals, manual tasks involving unstable or unbalanced objects, manual tasks involving heavy loads, moderate or vigorous physical activity, fatigue/tiredness. Being fatigued tripled the odds of suffering a lower back injury, while distraction increased the risk by 25 times! So based on this recent information when you are getting outside to do your yard work or gardening this spring make sure to remember this list and try to avoid these risk factors. Take frequent breaks during your day to avoid fatigue. When lifting, bring objects close to your body and focus on what you are doing to avoid distraction. When lifting, bend at your hips and knees (sticking the butt out) while keeping a straight spine to minimize dangerous pressure on the spinal discs and joints. As well, a recent study done at the University of Sydney in Australia found that almost half of the lower back injuries they looked at occurred in the morning between 8 and 11 am. The cause is yet unknown but it is thought that it may be due to the fact that your spinal discs fill with fluid overnight, making them more susceptible to pressure in the first few hours of your day. It makes sense then to take your time in the morning when possible and make sure your muscles and joints are warmed up before jumping right into your ‘spring cleaning’. Of course we don’t live in a perfect world where we can always completely avoid risk of injury. But keeping some of these latest study results in mind I hope that you can stay healthy during this upcoming spring season.

Sun City Physiotherapy Locations

Downtown

1468 St. Paul Street, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-861-8056
[email protected]
more info

Glenmore

103-437 Glenmore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-762-6313
[email protected]
more info

Lake Country/Winfield

40-9522 Main St., Lake Country, BC
Phone: 250-766-2544
[email protected]
more info

Lower Mission

3970 Lakeshore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 778-699-2006
[email protected]
more info
Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

Physiotherapy » Posts by Graham Gillies, M.Sc.PT, CAFCI, FCAMPT, MCISc(MT), CGIMS

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS): What is it and how can it help get rid of your chronic pain?

In this article I am going to focus on the treatment of chronic muscle and nerve pain and why it can be so difficult to find a solution for this type of pain. It is estimated that over one third of the adult population in North America suffers from chronic pain. That is a staggering statistic! This means that 1 of out of every third person out on the street is dealing with ongoing daily pain. Research shows that suicide is nine times more prevalent in people with chronic pain than with depression and it is estimated that in the United States, chronic pain affects more people than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined.

So is chronic muscle and nerve pain so common? To understand this question we have to look at the gradual process that happens to all of our bodies to some degree over many years. As harsh as it sounds, the reality is that as we age our bodies are slowly ‘rotting’. By the time we reach our 50’s and 60’s we will all get some amount of arthritis in our spine. How fast we ‘rot‘ depends on a variety of factors including our overall fitness levels, nutrition, the types of jobs we do, family genetics and any traumatic injuries we sustain along the way ie. motor vehicle accidents. As the arthritis in the spine progresses, the nerves that exit the small spaces between each spinal bone (vertebrae) start to become irritated. In response to this irritation, the muscles that these nerves supply then start to form tight bands. These bands are the ‘knots’ you feel when you rub sore muscles. The muscle bands not only cause pain but they also begin to pull at joints and tendons as well as compress the already sensitive nerves at the spine. These tight bands often do not respond to traditional treatment approaches such as stretching, massage and spinal manipulation.

A form of treatment that has been gaining popularity in the last 5 to 10 years for chronic muscle and nerve pain is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). This treatment technique was developed by a Doctor in Vancouver by the name of Dr. Chan Gunn. Dr. Gunn developed this technique while working with people who were injured on the job and whose pain was not going away with traditional treatment approaches. What he found in these patients was that by stimulating their tight muscles with an acupuncture needle, the pain very often significantly improved or in many cases disappeared.

So the key to addressing this chronic pain process is to release the muscle tension. In an IMS treatment, when the needle enters the taut band the muscle will ‘grab’ the needle and a deep, cramping sensation is felt. Once the muscle grabs it then typically will ‘reset’ itself and begin to relax. When the tight muscle relaxes, a decrease in pain should follow. IMS is now being recognized and used by physiotherapists and doctors around the world to treat chronic pain of musculoskeletal origin. If you are suffering from ongoing muscle or nerve pain and haven’t had success with traditional types of treatment, IMS may be worth trying. For more information about IMS visit:www.istop.org

Sun City Physiotherapy Locations

Downtown

1468 St. Paul Street, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-861-8056
[email protected]
more info

Glenmore

103-437 Glenmore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-762-6313
[email protected]
more info

Lake Country/Winfield

40-9522 Main St., Lake Country, BC
Phone: 250-766-2544
[email protected]
more info

Lower Mission

3970 Lakeshore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 778-699-2006
[email protected]
more info

Hip Strengthening

Your Hips: The ‘Core’ of the Problem?

I think most of us by now have heard about the importance of strengthening your ‘core’. But did you know that the most important part of your core for preventing hip, knee, and ankle injuries are your hip muscles? Your hip muscles or ‘glutes’ are the largest group of muscles in your lower body and are a part of your core that are often much weaker than they should be.

So what exactly are the hip muscles responsible for? Strong hip muscles keep your spine, pelvis, knees and ankles in alignment. If your glute muscles aren’t strong enough your hips rotate and drop, your knees move inward and your feet flatten (pronation). All of these motions create more strain on the joints, ligaments and tendons of your lower body. This excessive strain often leads to injury and persistent pain. Achilles tendinosis, patellofemoral knee pain, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, and piriformis syndrome are all common injuries linked to weak hip muscles. Research is also showing that hip weakness is a major risk factor for non-contact ACL (knee ligament) injuries.

So why do our hip muscles become weak in the first place and what can we do about it? The latest research done by Dr. Powers who is a physiotherapist in Los Angeles, shows that our brains have only a very small area dedicated to controlling the hip muscles. It is unclear why this is the case but it may explain why the majority of us don’t naturally use our hip muscles during activities such as: running, walking and hiking. The good news is that the same research shows that exercise can change the way our brains work.

In the study, patients that took part in specific hip strengthening exercises, actually showed changes in brain function. The areas on the brain controlling the hip muscles became larger after only a week of exercise! This is important because the larger the area of your brain dedicated to a certain muscle group is, the easier it is to ‘turn on’ and strengthen that muscle. Keep in mind though, these strengthening exercises need to be done for a minimum of 3 months in order to get significant strength improvements in the muscle.

So if you suffer from ongoing hip, knee or ankle pain, strengthening your hips may be the key to getting over your injury problems. Visit your local physiotherapist and ask for an assessment on your hip strength. If your muscles are weak your physiotherapist will give you the proper home strengthening exercises to address the weakness. Through these exercises you can change your brain to help change your pain.