Fall Prevention by Krista Smith, Physiotherapist

While many people consider seeing a physiotherapist to help with their recovery after an injury or surgery, few consider scheduling a physiotherapy appointment for injury prevention. When it comes to fall prevention, we observe and assess functional movements including your walking pattern, balance and lower extremity strength. A personalized program including education and home exercises can then be designed based on the information we gather from the assessment to help improve your strength, balance and walking pattern.

To avoid tripping while walking, it is important to develop a safe walking pattern. The swing through leg should be lifted high enough to properly clear the ground. A shuffle pattern can result in catching the toe and tripping. Also, since a large portion of walking is spent standing on one foot while the other leg is swinging through, we want to assess balance and stability on the stance leg. If unsteadiness is noted while standing on one foot, a walking aid such as a cane or walker can be beneficial to add stability and support. A physiotherapist can adjust a walking aid and provide instructions and a demonstration. A physiotherapist can also teach safe and effective exercises to help improve walking pattern and endurance for those who feel weak or unsteady while walking.

It is very important to stay active and keep moving. Daily physical activity is essential to maintain aerobic endurance, lower extremity strength and balance. It is never too late to start an exercise program. It is best to think of exercise as a slow gradual progression rather than an all or none activity. It is important that you find an activity that is enjoyable to you to stay motivated and keep active. This may include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, tennis or golfing. In addition to aerobic activity, a physiotherapist can design an appropriate home exercise program to help improve endurance, balance, coordination and strength.

Krista Smith is a Registered Physiotherapist at the Sun City Physiotherapy downtown location.

Shoulder Health. By Jordan Ruder, Physiotherapist

Get Your Head Around Your Shoulders this Summer!

With summer fast approaching, many of us are jumping back into one or more of our favourite fair weather activities, be it golfing with an orchard view, volleyball on the sandy beach, swimming in the crystal clear Okanagan lakes, playing tennis with friends or a little extra gardening for all of you green thumbs! Whatever the summer activity of choice, we all hope this warm weather finds us ready to tackle the ‘fun in the sun’ at full steam without having to worry about those pesky aches and pains that often set in over the winter.

One aspect that many summer activities have in common is that you will undoubtedly require a pair of healthy shoulders to fully enjoy them. As a practising physiotherapist treating patients with various conditions and injuries for almost a decade, I must say that shoulder pathology and dysfunction are some of the most common conditions walking in and out of our clinics on a daily basis.

When you dissect this shoulder issue further, there are a few key things that make the shoulder one of the most biomechanically impressive but also one of the most vulnerable regions to injury in our body.

First of all, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. The ‘ball and socket’ anatomy of the shoulder allow for movement that we see in no other body region. Whether it be flexing the shoulder 180 degrees overhead to smash a beach volleyball or fully externally rotating your shoulder during your golf swing follow-through, the shoulder girdle demonstrates phenomenal flexibility.

This fantastic mobility in the shoulder girdle however comes with a price. In order for this flexibility to be functional when teeing off with your driver on 18 or lifting heavy pot of flowers up on your deck, the shoulder requires a significant amount of dynamic stability. This dynamic stability is accomplished by work of a few important muscles that surround the very flexible shoulder joint…most notably, the rotator cuff as well as other scapular stabilizing muscles.

For our shoulders to remain healthy and function at the high levels required for our summer fun, this balance between flexibility and stability must be maintained.
Some common conditions and injuries that we as physiotherapists assess and treat where shoulder flexibility and stability become compromised include; Shoulder Impingement, Tendinitis/Tendinopathy, Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Tears, Shoulder Dislocations/Separations, Frozen Shoulder, and Scapulothoracic Dysfunction.

If your summer involves getting or staying active and you want your shoulders to be ready for the action, book a consultation and some treatment with your physiotherapist to ensure your shoulders are ready to shoulder the load!

Jordan Ruder is a Registered Physiotherapist and Associate at the Downtown location of Sun City Physiotherapy. He is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and is also a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physical Therapists (FCAMPT). He can be contacted by phone at (250) 861-8056 or by email at downtown@suncityphysiotherapy.com.

DeQuervain’s Syndrome and Physiotherapy. By Krista Smith, Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy Can Help with DeQuervain’s Syndrome

Do you experience pain in your wrist near the base of your thumb? Did it come on gradually? Is it sore when you move your thumb or wrist? Does it hurt to grip, write, garden, hold a cup of coffee, cut vegetables or pick up a baby? If so, you may have a condition known as de Quervain’s syndrome.

DeQuervain’s syndrome involves the abductor pollicis longus tendon and extensor pollicis brevis tendon. These tendons connect muscles in your forearm to bones in your thumb. To help reduce excessive friction, these tendons travel in a tendon sheath. When a high load is placed on these tendons, such as a repetitive movement of the thumb or wrist, it can result in a thickening of the tendons and the sheath. Initially, symptoms are usually only present with certain aggravating activities, but if this injury continues to worsen you may experience pain at rest, swelling and tenderness at the base of your thumb and wrist.

Rest is the first step to treating de Quervain’s syndrome. This is often difficult when we use our wrist and thumb dexterity for so many daily activities. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see people who have had this condition for weeks to months at a time, with no significant change in symptoms. As a general rule, try to avoid any positions or movements that cause pain. A protective splint may provide some benefit in the initial stages of healing to help immobilize the wrist and thumb.

Physiotherapy can help treat this injury using a combination of education, modalities, manual therapy, soft tissue techniques and a progressive home exercise program. Since the tendons and sheath are often aggravated by repetitive movement or prolonged positions of the thumb and wrist, it also may be necessary to address your home or work ergonomics. When possible, modify to a neutral thumb and wrist position and take frequent breaks from your activity.

De Quervain’s syndrome usually begins with a gradual onset of symptoms, often when a new movement or activity is introduced that places increased demands on the tissue. An example is a mother with the new task of repetitively picking up a newborn baby. Physiotherapy can be quite helpful in the management of this condition. If you experience pain at the base of your thumb as the result of a trauma, such as a fall on an outstretched hand, it is advisable that you follow up with your doctor to determine if further investigations, such as an x-ray, are required prior to starting physiotherapy.

Krista Smith is a registered physiotherapist at the Sun City Physiotherapy downtown clinic. She can be contacted at downtown@suncityphysiotherapy.com

Running techniques to race fast and remain injury-free. Sun City Physiotherapy

This is the time of year where you are starting to ramp up your training for triathlons and running races. It has been shown that as many as 80% of runners sustain a running-related injury in a given year. So what are the reasons for so many running injuries? And how can they be avoided? 

Training schedule, running technique, and tissue strength/tolerance are three major determinants as to whether or not you will be sidelined with an injury this season. 

Here are more detailed explanations of the three common causes for injury:

Too much too soon. An overly ambition training schedule is a classic mistake. It is believed that as much as 80% of running injuries occur because of training errors. An easy to follow guideline is the 10% rule: avoid increasing your running mileage more than 10% from the previous week. 

Poor or inefficient running technique. A potential cause for injury is technique, or rather, a poor technique. It can result in too much impact too quickly (vertical loading rate) as you land. A high vertical loading rate can be caused by any of all of the following: heel striking with your foot too far in front of your hips (over-striding), a lack of bend in your knee or hip during landing, a lack of strength in core/hip musculature to help absorb impact. Instead, gradual increased training in a flatter/minimalist shoe (to reduce heel striking), increasing step cadence to approximately 180 steps per minute, and aiming to land softer or ‘quieter’ are all ways of reducing tissue overload.  
Core and hip muscle weakness. It has been shown that a lack of gluteal muscle strength can lead to increased stress on the knee and foot, resulting in a greater chance of tissue breakdown. Taking part in a consistent individualized strengthening program throughout the year can be a key component to avoiding injury. 

Remember, don’t wait until minor aches and pains turn into significant injury. Every runner is different, so book an appointment with Sun City Physiotherapy to determine how best to avoid injury this season.  Call 250-861-8056 to book your appointment today.

Swim techniques to race fast and remain injury-free. Sun City Physiotherapy

Swimming has a relatively low risk of sport related injury, yet, swimmers often complain of shoulder pain. This can be caused by muscle overuse and incorrect technique. By making stroke adjustments, you can not only minimize pain and prevent injury, but also improve performance.

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia (PABC) recently outlined some simple steps, call the Physio-4, that swimmers can use to reduce their chances for injury, prevent pain, and swim more effectively.

The Physio-4 for swimming:

Be mindful of body rotation. Never swim with a “flat body” as this limits the rotation of the shoulder along the axis of the spine. Develop a symmetrical way to rotate your body for an efficient breathing pattern and this will greatly reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.  

Enter the water with a flat hand. A hand directed outwards when entering the water leads to unhealthy internal rotation.  This is one of the most common causes of acute pain in the shoulder as it overuses the muscles.  It is best to enter the water with a flat hand, fingertips first. 

Maintain good posture. The saying “shoulders back, chest forward” applies both in and out of the water. Hunched or rounded shoulders can lead to a wide arm recovery that causes shoulder injuries and “cross-overs” in your stroke. Strengthening the muscles at the back of the shoulder and stretching those at the front will help prevent injury, and help you to swim faster.

Incorporate bilateral breathing into your swim workout. Breathing only on one side will develop the muscles on that side more than the other.  This can eventually lead to shoulder problems.  By breathing on both sides with every workout you can prevent this from happening.

Aside from these injury-prevention techniques, there are important things to remember when swimming outdoors. Never dive head first into water unless the depth is known. When swimming in lakes or oceans be aware of any natural hazards such as tides and rapids, never swim alone, and always let someone know where you are training. And always be mindful of boaters – because they may not always be looking for you.

If you are injured or in pain during or after swimming, or require an exercise program to help avoid or overcome shoulder injury, Sun City Physiotherapy can help. Call 250-861-8056 to book your appointment today.

Shoulder Pain by Graham Gillies, Physiotherapist

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!

Graham Gillies is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield and is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapy and a certified Gunn IMS practitioner.

The Latest on Lower Back Pain by Graham Gillies, Physiotherapist

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.

Graham Gillies is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield and is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapy and a certified Gunn IMS and acupuncture practitioner.

Bladder Incontinence by Sabina Lee, Physiotherapist

This one’s for the ladies.

Ladies, have you notice the increase in the number of bladder leakage commercials on TV these days? Brands like Poise and Always have caught on that there are a large number of women who experience bladder leakage on a daily basis. These commercials are great in one aspect because they open up doors for women to have conversations. This is important because these issues may be embarrassing to discuss with friends and therefore are often sealed behind tight lips or talked about only in doctors’ offices. The downside to these commercials is that they make you feel like a pad is the best way your bladder leakage can be addressed. Many women who have bladder leakage do not seek information regarding the underlying cause, the type of bladder leakage they have or additions ways it can be addressed.

To fill in some of the gaps – there are essentially three types of bladder leakage. First there is stress incontinence (loss of bladder control). This type usually occurs because the pressure exerted on the pelvic floor is too forceful for weakened muscles during a cough, sneeze, laugh or any event that increases intra-abdominal pressure.

The second type of incontinence is called urge incontinence. This type of leakage is usually behaviour driven and occurs because of toileting cues and conditioning surrounding your learned habits. For example, you just pulled into your drive way – before you pulled up there was no urge to go to the bathroom. However, now that you are in the driveway you are frantically rummaging through your purse to grab your keys, you found them. Now, to make it to the front door you waddle the whole way there because all you can think about is emptying your bladder and by the time you get the lock open you may have already leaked before you made it to the toilet.

The final type of incontinence is called mixed and is a combination of stress and urge. In addition to using these products there are other ways to treat bladder leakage. One of the treatments for stress incontinence comes from gaining body awareness and control of your pelvic floor muscles and retraining them to turn on before a cough and sneeze. The treatment for urge incontinence involves behavioural retraining surrounding your current toileting habits.

Now that you are aware there are more options, perhaps it’s time for you to take control of your leakage and contact a physiotherapist who treats women’s health in an effort to reduce or eliminate leakage.

Sabina Lee is a registered physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy’s Winfield/Lake Country clinic.

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) by Graham Gillies, Physiotherapist

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

Graham Gillies is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield and is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapy and a certified Gunn IMS practitioner.

Know Pain or No Gain by Nick Black, Physiotherapist

The phrase “no pain, no gain” would probably be the leading misconception about pain that I hear – live by this slogan at your own risk. Why? Because first and foremost, pain is a protector. Pain is a wonderful and fascinating perception that helps to keep us out of danger. I can certainly sympathise that when you’re experiencing persistent or intense pain, its hard to see it as “wonderful” or “fascinating” but it truly is a remarkable defence mechanism that we possess.
When you step on a nail, twist your knee or tweak your back, what comes to your defence first? The simple answer is pain. It’s your first warning of actual or even potential tissue damage. Yes, that’s correct – “potential” tissue damage, meaning your body is smart enough to tell you to withdraw from danger before the damage is done. Wow! When tissue damage does occur, such as a strained ligament, tendon or muscle, your body sends all its best healing products to the area in the form of ‘inflammation’. The brilliance of inflammation is that it increases the sensitivity of the danger detectors (receptors) in the damaged area, which send more danger messages to the brain where they are processed and a pain experience can result. What do you think of that? Essentially, your body doesn’t just heal you with inflammation but it also tells you about it through the feeling of pain as a way of changing your behavior, allowing the area to rest and heal more effectively.

If you understand that the experience of pain is a critical response when the body feels threatened or in danger, then you will see how the slogan “no pain, no gain” will quickly lead you astray. Instead, us ‘pain geeks’ like to encourage the slogan – “know pain or no gain”, meaning that if you understand why you are experiencing pain and what it means, you are more likely to adopt the appropriate behaviour to encourage recovery.

The story of pain can get rather complex but equally as fascinating. Like any of our body systems, our defence systems can sometimes get a bit carried away and malfunction. This is often the case in the event of persistent pain – a story that will have to wait for another time. Until then, remember “know pain or no gain”.

Nick Black is a registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield.