Top 5 Posts of 2017

Entering the new year here’s a look back at last years 5 most popular blogs.

Happy New Year – 2018 is already under way. Hope you all had a great break.

Last year was a busy year with the blogs. Here are the top 5 posts from last year in case you missed them.

5. The Office WOD

  • How many of us at work get stuck in the same position and forget to move?
  • This post was offering some general strengthening and postural awareness exercises to follow regularly at work.
  • Try getting into a routine with these types of exercises. It should help prepare you better for training.

4. Trigger Points – what are they?

  • Those knots felt in your traps after a busy day at work are more than likely trigger points.
  • This blog goes into explaining what they are, how they’re caused and how they’re treated.

3. Recovering from DOMS

  • This was a popular topic as we all love a bit of DOMS.
  • Understanding how to manage your recovery and training while in the DOMS phase will make it more tolerable.
  • Also knowing the difference of pain between DOMS and an injury will help avoid making anything worse.

2. Improving front rack position

  • After doing many mobility assessments, the front rack shape is what most people struggled to hold passively without a bar.
  • This was one of a 4 part series of shoulder shapes we should be achieving to help make movement more efficient.
  • It offered a range of mobility exercises to open the shoulder into the front rack.

1. Anterior knee pain in CrossFit

  • One of the most common injuries in sports and top 3 with CrossFit athletes is a knee injury.
  • This blog looked at anterior knee pain and the common causes. It offers some basic suggestions to self managing the injury.

The purpose of these blogs has been to provide a wider understanding of your body and give you more control of it. Wishing you all an injury free 2018 and keep checking for the new blogs.

What’s causing my muscle tightness?

Muscular tightness is one of the disruptions to normal movement and if not managed well can lead to possible injury. Identifying your tightness and using specific strategies will help relieve tension.

One of the main issues patients struggle with is muscular tightness. They get a feeling of pain or tightness and an inability to relax the muscle.

What is tightness?

When looking at patients I need to find out if they have mechanical stiffness or the “feeling” of tightness or a combination of both, as this would direct my treatment plan.

Is the range of movement limited? does it have a soft or hard end feel? Are movements a struggle at end range, feeling heavy? What’s the rest feeling like, is it a constant tightness?

While we can have mechanical tightness of a joint or muscle, there are also the “feelings” of tightness. You might get your hands to the floor with your legs straight and feel the hamstrings tightening. While another person could do the same, get to their knees and not have tightness.

What causes the feeling of tightness?

Tightness is a sensation like many others, including pain. What we understand from pain is that this is not always brought on physically, but also by the perception of threat.

pathway-of-a-pain-message-via-sensory-nerve-in-injured-muscle,2324600

So like pain, tightness is a protective mechanism from the central nervous system to avoid danger. On a number of levels it detects stressor’s that expose the whole body or specific region to threat.

Examples of this…..

  • Prolonged sitting, without movement we often notice tightness in certain areas, possibly through reduced oxygen supply and increased metabolic toxicity.
  • Stressful situations cause rising cortisol levels and increased activity of the Vagus nerve leading to muscular tightness.
  • Repetitive movement over a period of time causes increased tension.
  • Posture muscle tightnessInjury or pre-existing weakness can cause a guarding response from the nervous system.

Using tightness as a warning sign for these potential threats might allows us to acknowledge the situation and quickly act upon it.

What will help my tightness?

Like all movement patterns, we improve with practice. The same goes for muscle tightness. If we regularly bombard it with neural messages to remain tight we develop trigger points and chronic tightness through a process called central sensitisation. Which makes the tissues more sensitive to pain and tightness.

If we can regularly supply our nervous system with input that is non-threatening we can slowly help desensitise the muscle. But this takes time and regular repetition.

Stretching

Most people with tightness, especially after prolonged rest feel the need to stretch out. But depending on our intended goal there are different types of stretches.

  • Static stretches
  • Active stretches
  • Dynamic stretches
  • PNF (Contract-relax)

While these stretches will help, it might only be temporary without regular repetition and reinforcing the nervous system with good movement.

Strengthening

There is a misconception that resistance training causes our muscles to feel tighter. Mainly due to the effect of DOMS. That feeling of soreness you have the day after a hard workout. But some recent studies have shown that strengthening can be equally, if not more beneficial than stretching.

Improvements in flexibility coming from improved ability to handle higher levels of metabolic stress and lower levels of inflammation. By lowering the threat to the nervous system through increased strength, it allows you to work the muscle through a wider range, without getting a stretch reflex.

Massage and other soft tissue work

Another way to help desensitise these tight muscles is to apply pressure. This could be with the use of a foam roller/lacrosse ball or other manual therapy techniques like deep tissue massage, myofascial release, trigger point release, dry needling.

Relaxation techniques and breathing mechanics

Like in the previous blog, an overactive or dominant sympathetic nervous system can cause muscle tightness. Finding ways of breaking poor postures or shallow breathing using a range of methods like kapalbhati, wim-hof, meditation, yoga etc. Using these methods are just part of the process to lowering overall tightness.

Usually, just following one of these methods individually is not going to be as effective as combining them together. Try to deal with the tightness from all angles.

If guidance is required or manual therapy techniques feel free to call 09 5290990.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Whether your running, rowing cycling or lifting. Repeated knee flexion may irritate structures on the outer knee. It is important to get on top of this condition to stop it hindering your training.

Setbacks are the perfect opportunity to grow

Iliotibial band syndrome is most commonly experienced with runners. But also in all sports that require repetitive knee flexion under high load. Early signs and symptoms often go unnoticed (or ignored) until it’s blown up into a fully-fledged injury.

What is the Iliotibial Band?

Iliotibial band

The Iliotibial Band (ITB) is a thick fibrous band of strong connective tissue running down the lateral side of the thigh. Its attachment points at the hip are from the Glutes at the back and Tensor Fascia Latae at the front. The bottom connection feeds into the outer border of the knee and patella. It’s at this attachment point that pain and inflammation develops and would be classed as Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

The role of the ITB is to provide the knee with stability and to abduct the hip outwards. When we walk, run or squat it’s working hard to keep the knee in the correct position and force is distributed evenly.

What are the symptoms of ITBS?

Problems arise when the lower limb moves in abnormal directions repeatedly, causing the band to flick over bony structures of the knee, leading to irritation. It may also get tighter than normal through shortening or over activity of the Glutes and Tensor Fascia Latae. This results in the ITB becoming a tighter band pulling more at its attachment and compressing other tissue around it.

ITBS usually is a sharp pain or burning sensation in the lateral knee. Generally, felt during exercise when the knee flexes repeatedly through mid-range. This range of 30-40 degrees is when pressure of the ITB against the bone is at its highest. If this movement is repeated enough, it causes friction and irritates the tissue.

What causes ITBS?

There are a number of factors that can cause a stir up of ITBS. Physically there could be a muscle imbalance, with tightness or weakness around the pelvis, hip or knee, reduced balance, and reduced ground reaction time. Mechanically, often due to the physical limitations that cause incorrect movement patterns, poor weight transferring and distribution of load.

On top of this are issues with training error. How quickly a programme is progressed, especially if it involves load or speed. From running to weight lifting, training loads need to be gradually increased to reduce the risk of injury.

Management of ITBS

Initially you may be restricted from doing the activity that caused your pain while your body recovers. An assessment will help you identify what factors are triggering your ITBS. Treatment will be multifaceted providing advice for tissue loading, gait retraining and specific muscle strengthening and stretches. Additionally, soft tissue manipulation, strapping and dry needling.

With the improved running form, increased strength and flexibility you will gradually be introduced back into the activity. This will make you overall better at your sport and reduce the risk of this problem returning.

Evidence shows that ITBS responds well to conservative management with a success rate as high as 92%.

If you’re struggling with recovering on your own contact me on 09 5290990

The effect of food on your recovery

When feeling sore or recovering from injury there are other lifestyle factors to consider. Your diet may be slowing down your rate of recovery.

Your nutrition could be what tips the scales on your road to recovery

You’ve come in for treatment of your shoulder. It’s to be expected that it will consist of some manual therapy and education, followed by a home exercise routine to develop strength or improve mobility. But then there are other factors that can impact your recovery. Lifestyle factors such as stress levels, sleep and diet. While carefully rehabbing the injury it’s important to consider what foods your putting into your body.

There are many studies that show the relationship of improved nutrition on overall health outcomes with chronic diseases. More importantly it’s specific role in reducing inflammation.

Making some dietary and lifestyle changes may help with weight loss, feeling emotionally stronger, and reduce pain intensity. Nutrition could be that missing link to recovering from your injury and also help prevent injury.

Many of you may have already found the right nutritional balance in your life. For those that may still need to make changes here are some recommendations based on evidence. Theses are the common problems associated with pain that can be alleviated with diet.

1. Inflammation

Large amounts of inflammatory foods, including refined sugars and vegetable oils, populate the Western diet. Most clinical studies show that a traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fatty acids, fruits, vegetables and fiber, provides anti-inflammatory benefits. There are other diets with smaller evidence bases that have similar anti-inflam benefits such as paleo and Keto.

Studies have also shown for specific conditions. The Med-diet is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants that provides anti-inflammatory effects that benefit individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence shows an optimal diet can reduce inflammation and fight chronic diseases.

2. Obesity

One of the fastest growing problems across the western world. Obesity contributes to numerous chronic pain conditions. Multiple Studies show that weight loss is vital to overall pain rehabilitation.

3. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the gradually degeneration of joint surfaces, one of the main causes of increased OA is obesity. Studies have shown that obesity is the most modifiable risk factor for knee OA. Pain levels of knee OA have been found to half when reducing 10% body weight.

One systematic review found scientific evidence to support some specific nutritional interventions–including omega 3 fatty acids–to relieve symptoms among patients with OA. Studies also show various nutrient deficiencies, including vitamins C and D as well as selenium, contribute to OA.

4. Autoimmune disease

Over 80 autoimmune disorders exist, including Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. Genetic predisposition and environmental factors play major roles in the development of autoimmune diseases. But increasingly, researchers believe adverse dietary changes over the past 50 years. Including gluten intolerance, altered gut bacteria, and vitamin D deficiency contribute to an increased rate of autoimmune diseases.

Those main changes being a high-sugar, high-salt, processed-food heavy diet that paves the pathway for autoimmune diseases. Nutrient depleted diets only worsen this problem with a studies showing vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and flavanol deficiencies contribute to autoimmune diseases.


Most patients I treat deal with inflammation in one way or another. But if you suffer from any of the other of the above issues, adjusting your nutrition could be the needle-mover to alleviate pains and helps your recovery.

This is only a recommendation for adjusting your diet if you think there could be something exacerbating an inflammatory response. For any major dietary changes seek the advice of a nutritionist.

Foods that fight inflammation

Recovering from DOMS

Delayed muscle soreness after intense exercise is expected. There are proven ways of reducing these pains quickly to get back into your normal level of training

Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow

So we’ve discussed the specific differences of muscle soreness after a workout and soreness from an injury. When you get Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) it is quite annoying trying to continue with training. Knowing that with DOMS we get the following problems.

  • Strength can be reduced by up to 50%
  • Range of movement will be limited
  • Pain will last between 48-72 hours

Understanding these limitations, its important to scale the weight, the depths and distances to accommodate for these temporary draw backs. But there are ways of accelerating the recovery or at least making it more tolerable.

Protein BCAA glutamine1Proteins 

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. As muscle damage is the precursor to DOMS, supplying it with a good source of Amino acids has been show to assist in recovery. While having a well balanced diet, additional supplements of glutamine and BCAA’s can reduce the inevitable weakness post workout. It may even help with soreness. (1,2,3,4)

Vitamin D

vitamin-d-en-fb.jpgGetting a little bit of sunshine might not be enough. The latest NZ Ministry of Health stats showed 32% of the population had lower than normal Vit-D levels. There is a link between people low in vitamin D and increased pain sensitivities (5). Taking supplements of Vitamin D3 may help additional soreness.

1023029.jpgHeat

Jumping in the spa pool or a using the hot water bottle. Heat is always soothing but it has longer lasting benefits to use heat with DOMS for the overall recovery (6,7).

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry Juice muscle.jpgThis one is an unusual remedy but the benefits have been shown in this study (8). Following Exercise there was a 22% less weakness from the cherry drinking group, but no effect on pain. There are many natural anti inflammatory agents in cherries that is thought to help.

CoffeeCoffee Muscle soreness

I for one am pleased this is on the list, it gives me more reason to drink it! Studies have shown that caffeine helps lower pain levels and improve weakness during DOMS (9,10). Also helping increase number of reps compared to control groups.

Compression sleeveCompression Garments

Not necessarily for training, but post workout studies show that wearing compression tights or tops can reduce weakness and pain levels (11,12).

backsquat technqueTraining with DOMS

Even following the above strategies you will still have soreness and weakness. Consider this when training. You want to ensure your training for quality not quantity. Studies show training with soreness is acceptable and will temporarily reduce pain levels (13,14).

Myofascial Rolling (Foam Roller/Lacrosse ball)

Using foam rollers and lacrosse balls into tight tissues is a good way of preparing tissue for working through full ranges of movement. Through changes to mechanorecptors and nociceptors. There are studies showing benefit post workout and regular intervals during 48-72hours of DOMS (15,16).

References

  1. Song-Gyu, (2013), Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutri
  2. Volek et al, (2013), BCAAs reduce muscle soreness (DOMS) J Int Soc Sports Nutr.
  3. Tajari et al, (2010), Assessment of the effect of L-glutamine supplementation on DOMS Brit J Sports Med
  4. Glyn et al, (2012), Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc of Sports Nutri
  5. Plotnikoff et al, (2003), Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Mayo Clin Proc
  6. Mayer et al. (2006), Continuous low-level heat wrap therapy for the prevention and early phase treatment of delayed-onset muscle soreness of the low back: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehab
  7. Petrofsky et al, (2017), The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Cl J of Sport Med
  8. Connolly et al, (2006), Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damageBr J Sports Med.
  9. Maridakis et al, (2007), Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise. J Pain
  10. Hurley et al, (2013),  The Effect of Caffeine Ingestion on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. J Strength Cond Res
  11. Hill et al, (2014), Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis. Brit J of Sports Med
  12. Armstrong et al (2015), Compression socks and functional recovery following marathon running: a randomized controlled trial. J Strength and Con Res
  13. Zainuddin et al, (2006), Light concentric exercise has a temporarily analgesic effect on delayed-onset muscle soreness, but no effect on recovery from eccentric exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab
  14. Trevor et al, (2008), Effects of a 30-min running performed daily after downhill running on recovery of muscle function and running economy. J Sci and Med Sport,
  15. Pearcey et al, (2015), Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Ath Training
  16. MacDonald et al, (2014). Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Med Sci Sports & Exs

Understanding shin splints

There is no satisfaction without a struggle first

Those that have experienced shin splints know how frustrating it can be to train. Whether it’s running, skipping or box jumping. Pain can be so intense that we stop doing these movements for a short period or permanently out of fear. With shin pain, there are many different factors that cause it. This is why having it assessed and treated appropriately can help you ease back into these activities with more control over symptoms.

  • Shin splints is a vague term used to describe overuse or repetitive strain of structures in the lower leg.
  • In athletics and military, “shin splints” can affect up to 35% and is more prominent with females. (1)

Take a look at the several muscles in the shaft of the lower leg, and the layers we have in our bone.

It’s very easy to label the condition as “shin splints”. But looking at the different structures involved with shin pain a more accurate diagnosis would help direct treatment and management of the problem. Shin pain can also be produced by other conditions.  Another reason to get assessed.

Shin splints (other conditions)

Bony shin splints

The outer layer of bone called the periosteum has a great blood and nerve supply. This makes it a common area for feeling shin pain. When training under normal stresses with adequate rest the density of bone increases which allows us to tolerate running for longer. If stress forces increase with little rest time in between, inflammation and pain develops. Pain ignored for long enough could result in a stress fracture.

Rest period of stress fracture: Depending on the severity and nature of the fracture it may take 4-12 weeks. Having it assessed and possibly X-rayed will help guide the timeframe.

Rest period for inflammation of the bone: This requires a shorter rest time but should be closely monitored to ensure we identify the cause of extra stress to the bone. Usual rest periods will be 4-6 weeks.

Muscular shin splints

Compartments of lower leg.gif

Muscles of the lower leg are held within compartments wrapped up by fascia. During running for example these compartments build up in pressure. As the pressure rises, oxygen levels lower, toxicity builds and then results in pain. A condition known as Exertional Compartment Syndrome (ECS). If ignored this could lead to chronic exertional compartment syndrome which often requires surgery . 

Rest period for ECS: Similar to the inflammation of bone, it may require between 2-6 weeks of rest. In this time, it is about identifying the issues causing the problem and building up a tolerance to the activity.

Tendon shin splints

Tendons are the pulleys of muscles, they connect to specific bony points to cause a movement. Inflammation of the tendon can be cause by excessively loading the tendon . Three tendons that lead to shin related pain are the Achilles, tibialis posterior and the peronei. Most common being tibialis posterior.

Shin splints tendinopathy

The Tibialis posterior muscle supports the arch and if it fails can result in many changes to the foot and ankle. Catching this fault early will allow you to correct the problem easier.

Rest period for a tendinopathy: This really depends on the length of time you’ve suffered, the severity and foot mechanics. Recovery time can take up to 12 weeks. Giving time to offload the tendon and building up stress’ again.

Managing shin splints

As mentioned above, it’s important to make a clear diagnosis to provide adequate rest and adjust back into your activity. Along with normal hands-on therapy and exercise prescription, physio can help shin pain specifically through adjustments made to the following:

  • Training error – over training, excessive distances, change in running surface.
  • Poor foot mechanics – A foot with a high arch or that rolls in poses a higher risk for stress fractures and tendon pathologies when running.
  • Footwear – Shoes lacking adequate arch support for an unstable foot causes muscles/tendons to work harder.
  • Running form – Analysing running form will help identify weak structures and correct poor patterns.
  • Movement and balance control – Good balance at the ankle, knee, hip and a strong “core” of your trunk muscles play vital roles in evenly distributing the force.
  • Muscle flexibility – Tightness of muscles can put excessive load on the tibia while running.
  • Ankle mobility – Increased ankle range of movement with joint mobilisations and stretches can reduce stresses on the lower leg.
  • Muscle strength and endurance – The strength of a muscle helps maintain a good position while running or jumping. But it also requires stamina to repeatedly hold position.

Returning to running

Returning to normal running with shin splints is always an uphill battle and is never a smooth transition. It’s a learning experience, understanding what your body can withstand and tailoring your rehab appropriately. It can be frustrating, but having patience with the process will get you back into your activity.

Disc Prolapses that Reabsorb

A recent study shown that re-absorption of disc prolapses is higher than previously thought.

Zhong 2017

The Concern and fear that the words “slipped disc” “disc bulge” or “degenerative disc disease” can be worse than the actual symptoms of pain. The image of being broken and not being able to recover. But as previously noted in another blog about MRI scans, a large number of the general public suffer with a disc prolapse without symptoms. They manage to carry out a normal fulfilled life.

This new study of pooled data from the UK and Japan showed a significantly high number of lumbar disc re-absorption. To be precise it was 66.6% (82.94% in the UK I might add!!). All patients received conservative treatment, there was no invasive treatments like surgery or steroid injections.

This goes to show that with patience in your recovery and the right guidance, spinal problems will resolve without being too hasty for surgery.

 

Original Abstract

BACKGROUND: Lumbar disc herniation (LDH), a common disease, is often treated conservatively, frequently resulting in spontaneous resorption of the herniated disc. The incidence of this phenomenon, however, remains unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To analyze the incidence of spontaneous resorption after conservative treatment of LDH using computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.

STUDY DESIGN: Meta-analysis and systematic review of cohort studies.

SETTING: The work was performed at The Suzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

METHODS: We initiated a search for the period from January 1990 to December 2015 using PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library. Two independent reviewers examined the relevant reports. The references from these reports were also searched for additional trials using the criteria established in the PRISMA statement.

RESULTS: Our results represent the pooled results from 11 cohort studies. The overall incidence of spontaneous resorption after LDH was 66.66% (95% CI 51% – 69%). The incidence in the United Kingdom was 82.94% (95% CI 63.77% – 102.11%). The incidence in Japan was 62.58% (95% CI 55.71% – 69.46%).

LIMITATIONS: Our study was limited because there were few sources from which to extract data, either in abstracts or published studies. There were no randomized, controlled trials that met our criteria.

CONCLUSIONS: The phenomenon of LDH reabsorption is well recognized. Because its overall incidence is now 66.66% according to our results, conservative treatment may become the first choice of treatment for LDH. More large-scale, double-blinded, randomized, controlled trials are necessary to study the phenomenon of spontaneous resorption of LDH.

Chiro.jpg

Reference

Zhong et al, (2017) Incidence of Spontaneous Resorption of Lumbar Disc Herniation: A Meta-Analysis. Pain Physician

Sitting Posture – How important is it really?

Sitting posture is something that get’s heavily criticised and over analysed. There could be more to it than simple ergonomics.

Your best posture is your next posture

In the last several years sitting posture has been classed as the “new smoking” or a dangerous position that will ruin your life. There are various arguments for and against sitting from different health experts and research. My opinion on this topic comes from my own clinical experience and taking value from all of the other respective parties.

First of all, sitting is not dangerous. But the longer we sit over a prolonged time is not healthy

Our body is dynamic and multi-functional, one of these functions is sitting. What’s up for debate is length of time and position. Recent studies have documented the following long term health risks from prolonged sitting.

diabetes-infographic

**These studies are predictors for potential health risks, but are also contributed by poor nutrition, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise.

What’s the physical problem with sitting?

In unsupported sitting (i.e. on the floor, perched sitting) we have some activity from core muscles that stabilise the spine. With no activity we would collapse into a heap.

Our central nervous system cleverly adapts to positions we hold most in the day. In supported sitting our body adjusts, slowly loosing flexibility in the thoracic spine, hips and hamstrings. The trunk muscles, “the core” reduce activity in sitting and loose their primary function of support when doing physical activities. Other muscles like the glutes, scapular stabilisers and posterior rotator cuff become short or weakened.

With the lack of support our body naturally falls into the path of least resistance and this is when changes in posture begin to happen. Essentially causing us to hang off the tension of ligaments and other soft tissue, instead of support from the tone and strength of stabilising muscles.

Chemical changes are brewing while sitting

The longer we sit without movement puts more stress and pressure specific tissues. Causing reduced blood flow to that area, meaning it gets less oxygen and less removal of metabolic bi-products. The muscle becomes increasingly toxic and acidic.

Luckily our tissues hold acidic sensing Ion channels that detect changes to PH levels. When in an acidic environment it sends our brain a signal and we get the feeling of discomfort.

Choosing to ignore the discomfort and stay in the same position causes an increase in toxicity and will result in the development of the trigger point phenomenon. Another phenomenon called central sensitisation may also happen. When pain signals constantly bombard the brain with pain signals it lowers your pain thresh-hold, making you more susceptible to pain in stressful environments.

Whats the answer to sitting?

Looking at the physical and chemical changes that happen in a sustained position you can see that any position for a prolonged time is not beneficial to us.

A posture that doesn’t move isn’t a postural problem, it’s a problem of movement.

“Neutral” spinal and postural alignment is all well and said. But even sitting in an ergonomically aligned position will feel uncomfortable if sat this way for 8 hours.

To counteract the negative effects of sustained sitting positions, here are some recommendations:

1. Position variation

Look at the postures below. Some of them were traditionally classed as “bad” postures. But these postures vary the tensions and stress’s applied to different tissue. By regularly changing these forces it will allow you to tolerate sitting for longer. Making a conscious effort to change position every 15-20 minutes (remember you can still work, just change position).

Sitting variation

2. Get up and move

Offload the stress and compression of your toxic butt! Giving a chance for tissue to oxygenate and flush unwanted toxins away. Also reducing eye strain, stress levels and fatigue. Not to mention all the other long term health benefits displayed above.

Studies have shown improvements in performance with intermittent breaks every 30 minutes (4). Consider standing when taking a phone call. Think about how many calls you get a day!

3. Sit-standing desks

Standing desks have taken off and are all the rage in open plan offices. Standing gives those stablising muscles a chance to work their magic. But even with standing you should consider regularly changing standing positions to offload pressures. Using a perching stool or foot stool to alternate step-standing.

4. Exercise

If this component is not included all of the above strategies will be wasted. Standing desks are not an exercise, it encourages a little more activity and is more sustainable. But your body needs to be challenged in other positions other than the one you hold most of the day. The long term health benefits are well documented for exercise.

Remember if you are just starting to exercise and coming from prolonged sitting over a number of years, ease into exercise gradually. Start off with regular power walks or exercycle. But as your fitness improves try to challenge it more, through other sources like pilates, yoga, resistance training or team sports.

Sitting isn’t the problem, it’s not moving enough. 

  1. Bell et al, (2014) Combined effect of physical activity and leisure time sitting on long-term risk of incident obesity and metabolic risk factor clustering. Diabetologia
  2. Schmid et al, (2014) Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers. J Natl Cancer Inst

  3. Katzmarzyk et al, (2012) Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis. 
  4. Thorp et al (2014), Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers. Occup Environ Med.

Trigger points – what are they?

Trigger points are the most common source of muscle pain. There are many factors that affect a trigger point and for best results they should all be identified.

I’m going to put a wild bet out there that everyone has a trigger point in at least one muscle of their body. Some have more than others. Who of you are regularly rubbing their shoulders or elbows? More and more we are sitting at the computer or looking down at our phones (sorry for writing this blog) causing prolonged tension on muscles around the neck and shoulder, resulting in the development of trigger points.

What is a Trigger point?

It is defined as a hypersensitive palpable nodule in taut bands of muscle fibers. Meaning very small bundles of muscle fiber have become contracted/”knotted” due to a chemical imbalance within the tissue.  The area is very painful and can cause you to jump or cramp on palpation. It can cause referred pain, weakness and restriction through movement. Which makes doing normal activities and training difficult.

Triger Point diagram
Diagram of trigger points within a muscle

Trigger points of individual muscles have a very specific referred pain pattern and can mimic other problems. For example pain in the forearm and wrist can be referred from Infraspinatus, a shoulder muscle. Without a detailed assessment and clearing other areas this could be misconceived as a tennis elbow.

What causes a trigger point?

A TP can be brought on in a number of ways. 

  • Poor postures held for a prolonged period, causing certain muscles to work harder while trying to support structures like the head, eventually causing TP’s.
  • Repetitive strain on muscles from overuse over multiple days, weeks and months. How many clicks of the mouse or typing are your doing? How much swiping of the smartphone? These repetitive movements take their toll.
  • Emotional stress and poor sleep can cause muscle tension. Particularly the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • A lack of movement will develop TP’s when sitting or on bed rest for a prolonged time.
  • Heavy lifting can cause the development of TP’s when the muscle is placed under excessive loads which it is not familiar with.
  • Trauma to a muscle, either as a reflex to pain or overcompensating for the weak and injured structure. This is quite common with car accidents or sports injuries.

Our muscles sit within a biochemical “soup” of  hormones, nerve transmitters and chemicals, all affecting the PH and Oxygen levels of the tissue. Your body knows the perfect recipe to keep everything balanced, but when we overload it with one or more of the above, it causes changes to the recipe, resulting in a drop in PH (becoming more acidic) and reduces the oxygen supply. This leads to the development of TP’s.

How do we treat a trigger point?

Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same. 

The following treatments for trigger points will help settle them down, but if we provide the same environment they will return.

  • Trigger point release – sustained manual pressure applied to the trigger point causes increased blood flow to remove toxins from the area, interrupts the pattern of pain and spasm and encourages the production of natural pain relieving endorphin’s.
  • Trigger point dry needling – There is a growing evidence base for trigger point dry needling. The needling causes local twitch responses which are a central nervous system reflex. This helps disrupt the pain feedback loop but also reset the acidic biochemical “soup” the muscle is sitting in, back to its normal levels.
  • Myofascial release – the surrounding tight myofascial tissue that feeds into and over the trigger points could also be restricted, causing further exacerbation of the area. Using this technique will give some length back to these structures and can alleviate the trigger point.

Once the hands on therapy has been applied it is not the end of treatment. The muscles with the TP’s will need to be stretched to help prevent their return. Postural correction and stability exercises for surrounding muscles may need to be followed. Changes ergonomically may need to be enforced to prevent falling back into poor habits. Also looking at ways of alleviating stress through improved sleep, meditation, breathing techniques and increase of general exercise.

All of these factors will need to be considered to provide long lasting benefit and avoid their return.

  1. Travell & Simon (1999). Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual
  2. Shah et al (2008) Uncovering the biochemical milieu of myofascial trigger points using in vivo microdialysis: An application of muscle pain concepts to myofascial pain syndrome. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
  3. Simons, (2008), New Views of Myofascial Trigger Points: Etiology and Diagnosis, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Myofascial Release

Myofascia interweaves through our muscles and takes up to 80% of muscle mass. Consider this when you’re doing your stretching and but not getting the results you wanted, it’s possibly due to fascial restrictions.

What is Myofascia?

Fascia is the largest system in the body with the appearance of spider’s web. Fascia is very densely woven from the top of the head to our toes, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, all our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. In this way, you can begin to see that each part of the body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like a fitted suit.

How would it affect me?

Myofascia interweaves through our muscles and takes up to 80% of muscle mass. Consider this when you’re doing your stretching and but not getting the results you wanted, it’s possibly due to fascial restrictions.

I’d like you to try something. Reach behind your back with your right hand, grab a handful of the shirt/top in the middle of your back. Now try and lift your left hand above your head, it will likely be restricted and wind up in certain areas. Think about the tightness and restriction you might feel doing an overhead lift or in the back when squatting, it could be the fascia pulling on these areas.

One study has shown that tightness in the posterior neck muscles can cause a significant decrease in hamstring length and strength. (1)

What causes it to get tight?

Postural adaptations, trauma, inflammatory responses, and surgical procedures create myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, MRI scans, etc.)

What does Myofascial release involve?

The MFR technique appears quite light as it puts a slow sustained shearing force on the superficial layer of fascia that lies beneath the skin. The superficial layer taps into other deeper structures within muscle and other systems of the body. There is no oil used as it allows for more feedback detecting for fascial restrictions into the therapist’s hands. There is extensive evidence that shows myofascial release is an effective tool in improving flexibility and reducing pain (2,3,4,5)

How does it differ from a deep tissue massage?

With DTM this is more directed to muscle tissue that has adhesions or is tightened and needs deep pressure to bring back some length and lower its tone. Although the deep pressure can be painful depending on how sensitive the tissue is and pain tolerances of the individual.

 

  1. McPartland et al (1996) Rectus capitis posterior minor: a small but important suboccipital muscle, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
  2. Hsieh et al,  (2002) Effectiveness of four conservative treatments for subacute low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. Spine.
  3. Wong, K.-K. et al, (2016) Mechanical deformation of posterior thoracolumbar fascia after myofascial release in healthy men – a study of dynamic ultrasound. Physiotherapy
  4. LeBauer et al, (2008) The effect of myofascial release (MFR) on an adult with idiopathic scoliosis. J Bodyw Mov Ther.
  5. Ajimsha et al (2012) Effectiveness of myofascial release in the management of lateral epicondylitis in computer professionals. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabi.
  6. Ajimsha, M.S. et al, (2014) Effectiveness of Myofascial release in the management of chronic low back pain in nursing professionals Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies