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Overview of Neck Pain
The complaint of neck pain is commonly brought to the attention of primary care physicians and physical therapists alike. What we hope to do here is to shed some light on the structure of the neck region, possible causal factors of pain and treatment options available to sufferers of this common ailment.
Structure of the Cervical (Neck) Region
The cervical spine is made up of 7 vertebrae that extend from the skull to the base of the neck. Its primary function, to put it simply, is to support the head while allowing a wide range of movement in multiple directions. Various muscles contribute to both the stability and motion of the cervical spine. Some of these muscles attach only to the cervical segments but others attach from the shoulder girdle to the cervical segments.
The high demand placed on the cervical region to provide both stability and dynamic mobility make it a region of high complexity when compared to simpler joints of the body such as the elbow or knee. This high level of complexity also leads to frequent dysfunction in this region.
As discussed above, the cervical area is made of a complex muscular system. Again, with complexity come more possibilities of dysfunction. Factors that can lead to dysfunction are listed below.
- Workplace set up
- Poor exercise technique
- Poor sleeping position
- Flexibility deficits
- Joint stiffness
The list is numerous which is why neck pain is experienced by so many individuals. Hope is not lost, however, because a physical therapy evaluation takes all of these factors into account to come up with strategies to return you to your prior lifestyle.
People suffering from neck pain symptoms often rely on medication for relief of their symptoms. Occasionally this approach works but more often than not the medication simply masks the underlying cause of pain and results in frequent return of symptoms. Physical therapy offers a more thorough approach that involves various treatment techniques aimed at addressing the underlying issues causing your pain. These techniques can include:
- Manual therapy (massage, mobilization and stretching)
- Postural education
- Stability training
- Body mechanics education
- Workplace set up instructions
- Strengthening exercises
If you or someone you know is currently experiencing neck pain, please feel free to contact either office and we can come up with a plan aimed at addressing your pain and limitations.
Risk Factors and Prevention of Low Back Pain
Did you know that 60-80% of the population will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime? Low back pain is certainly not a rare experience! People all over the world complain about the “ooh’s” and “ouches” brought on by the symptoms experienced from their lower backs. But what causes it? And what can we do to avoid it?
Most importantly – stay educated! It’s important to know and understand the causes and risk factors of low back pain. The lower back is subject to a lot of mechanical stress and strain, making it highly prevalent and at times, debilitating. Low back pain can be the result of herniated discs, muscle or ligament strains, spinal fractures, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. Although these are all very common disorders, low back pain may develop even without a specific cause.
Low back pain is multifactorial. Some potential risk factors include (but not limited to): genetics, age, prior back pain history, obesity, depression, smoking, and occupation. Low back pain also has a high re-occurrence rate – 60% within the first year, and 85% within a lifetime.
What better way to avoid low back pain symptoms than to prevent it from happening in the first place…
Here are some ways to prevent low back pain:
- Participate in physical exercise. Blow off some steam and burn off some calories! Work on increasing your strength and endurance to allow your body to function better. Make sure to stretch before starting your workout!
- Use proper body mechanics. Lift with your legs, not with your back! When lifting heavy weight from a lower surface, be sure to bend the knees and keep your back straight.
- Practice good posture. Always make sure you’re sitting upright and standing up tall! You may need to modify your work or home environments to ensure your getting enough postural support.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. It’ll put less strain on your back.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces blood flow through your spine and can eventually lead to degenerative disorders
- Stock up on some Vitamin D. Keep your bones strong!
Taking action by making the right choices could lead you down a path to a pain-free and healthier lifestyle. However, if you have been experiencing low back pain and haven’t sought out medical advice yet, it may be time to do so. Catching early signs and symptoms and working with the right health care professional can certainly decrease the level of disability you may experience in the future. If you have any questions or concerns regarding back pain, JPT is here to help!
What is an ankle sprain?
There are thousands of people who sprain their ankles everyday, whether it’s through sports or stepping on an uneven surface- it can happen to anyone. A sprain occurs when the foot twists or turn beyond the normal range of motion causing the ligaments to over stretch and sometimes even tear.
The type of sprain may vary and can be classified as acute, chronic, or recurrent. An x-ray may be ordered by your doctor to rule out any type of fracture or an MRI to determinate the severity of the sprain.
At the time of the sprain you may experience pain, swelling, and/or the inability to weight bear on your affected ankle. With a severe sprain, you may hear a “pop” or “snap” which could indicate a tear of the ligament. After a sprain, RICE should be applied immediately.
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Some sprains may require physical therapy to help relieve the symptoms and to provide appropriate treatment to avoid future injuries. Without proper care other issues could arise such as decreased range of motion, chronic pain, swelling, and instability that would hinder your normal routine of daily living.
How can we prevent such an injury?
Using body awareness and balance training, performing exercises to correct imbalances and weakness of specific muscles, performing exercises to improve mobility, and adhering to a progressive functional training program that would allow you to gradually and safely return to your activities.
Treatments in Physical Therapy:
- Range of motion exercises- to restore full motion.
- Muscle strengthening exercises- to restore any muscle weakness.
- Body awareness and balance training- to reeducate your muscles to respond to environmental changes.
- Functional training- to return to prior level of function.
- Activity specific training- to help achieve other goals specific to your life style.
If you feel you have suffered from a sprain and feel it is impacting your function, feel free to contact us so that you can begin the road to recovery.
Avoiding Shoulder Injury From Resistance Training
The shoulder joint is one that has the capability to move in many different directions. This fact makes it very prone to injury. There are specific weight lifting exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder. However, if the exercises are not performed with “good form,” injury can occur.
A common injury seen from performing exercises improperly is referred to as anterior instability.
Examples of exercises that may cause an anterior instability are those that put the shoulder joint in the “at risk position.” This position is when the elbow is bent up to ear level while the hand is slightly above the head. Exercises that require the shoulder to be in this risky position include the:
- Latissimus pull-down performed behind the neck
- Shoulder overhead press performed behind the neck
- Wide-grip bench press
- Pectoralis fly
There are alternatives to exercising in the “at risk position.” The latissimus dorsi pull-down to the chest can be substituted to train the latissimus dorsi. The overhead press should be done with the hands and elbows in front of the shoulder. One way to accomplish this is to use the overhead press machine while sitting backwards on the seat. This will insure that your hands and elbows are out in front of your shoulders, avoiding the “at risk position.” Placing your hands 1.5 times your shoulder width will keep your shoulder safe during the bench press exercise. Using the pectoralis fly machine is a good way to protect your shoulder from over stretching during this exercise. The machine can be set to limit the range of motion, putting less stress on the shoulder.
The next time you are in the gym, you may want to consider substituting these simple and effective ways to avoid shoulder injury. Happy lifting!
Aquatic Exercise Program
Aquatic exercise programs offer improvements in fitness and physical functioning for people in a fun and dynamic environment that helps break the monotony of standard exercise routines. Improvements in balance, strength and endurance have been noted in people who participate regularly in aquatic exercise programs. As with most subjects concerning fitness and physical therapy however, one approach rarely offers the complete solution for everyone. The following will attempt to outline where aquatic therapy fits into a well balanced exercise/rehabilitation program.
A commonly seen condition that often comes up in the conversation of aquatic exercise programs in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body and can be a source of significant pain and functional limitation. Exercise is a commonly prescribed treatment for this condition but difficulty arises with choosing the proper type of exercise program that offers relief without aggravation of symptoms. Aquatic therapy offers numerous benefits with regards to addressing the needs of this population. In the aquatic environment, a person experiences less compression of the joints secondary to the buoyancy of the water which results in increased exercise tolerance without aggravating the symptoms of their arthritic joints. Secondary to their ability to tolerate more exercise and movement, these people can achieve greater gains in range of motion, endurance and strength that they otherwise could not achieve performing a land based exercise program solely.
Another group of people that can benefit from participation in an aquatic exercise program are those who suffer from the neuromuscular condition- multiple sclerosis. Those with this condition are sensitive to increased body temperature and often experience severe fatigue as a primary symptoms of their condition. However, it has also been shown that these people benefit significantly from a well structured exercise program. Aquatic exercise offers this population a viable exercise opportunity that allows them to maintain a cooler body temperature and moderate their intensity level in a manner that prevents adverse effects associated with fatigue while maximizing benefits.
As previously discussed, aquatic exercise programs offer people a powerful tool for improving their physical functioning. However, given the amount of variables that exist between individuals, it is important that people who wish to gain the maximum benefit of aquatic exercise consult with a physical therapist who can design an appropriate program that addresses all of their individual needs appropriately. Also, consulting with a physical therapist can offer you the ability to learn of facilities that offer the appropriate equipment and resources to achieve all of your exercise and rehabilitation needs. Aquatic exercise can and should be seen as a valuable tool that, when implemented appropriately, can achieve maximal gains in a fun and dynamic environment.