A recipe for jaw pain by Nick Black, Physiotherapist

The fact of the matter is jaw pain can be down right miserable. Talking and eating are two of our most important functions in daily life and the jaw plays a large role in both. If wrapping your teeth around a big juicy Okanagan apple has lost its sweet satisfying crunch and been replaced by pain, then seek some help.
Many structures in and around the jaw can contribute to pain. The teeth and their attachment to the jaw and skull are obvious contributors that your dentist is well equipped in managing. Infection or dysfunction within the ears, sinuses, salivary glands or lymph nodes are problems best addressed by your family doctor. However, other structures such as the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) and associated ligaments and tendons are common contributors to jaw pain that are often left untreated. Dysfunction in the neck can also refer pain and/or dysfunction to the jaw. Another, often overlooked contributor to jaw pain, is the effects of our mental health. It is well documented that stress, anxiety, exhaustion or depression will not only effect our head and neck postures but also how the nervous system reacts to messages sent from dysfunctional tissues, such as those in and around the jaw. A sensitized nervous system can increase one’s experience of pain.
Pain is complex but treatment doesn’t have to be. An assessment by your family doctor, dentist or physiotherapist with special interest in temporomandibular dysfunction will ensure you are referred to the correct health professional for managing your problem. If the problem relates to dysfunction of the jaw joint, the first step is to address any habits outside of normal jaw function, such as teeth grinding, pen chewing or jaw clenching. A restriction in joint mobility is common, affecting your mouths ability to fully open, in which case, the sleeve (capsule) of the joint is susceptible to strain and inflammation. Clicks and pops are very common but are rarely related to the cause of your pain.
Try this – gently place your finger tips about 3cm above your temples, then clench your teeth on and off. You will feel the temporalis muscle tightening under your fingers. Now gently place your fingers 5cm directly below your temples on the sides of your jaw and clench your teeth. You will feel the masseter muscles tightening. You have just located two of the most important muscles for eating. Both the temporalis and masseter muscles and their tendons are common contributors to jaw pain that respond well to hands-on soft tissue treatment techniques. In addition, many people can relate to how these muscles might be clenched a bit tighter in times of stress and anxiety, thereby contributing to the muscles overload.
The important message is that many structures, behaviours and feelings contribute to the experience of jaw pain and effective management is best achieved through identifying all factors involved.
Nick Black is a registered Physiotherapist with an interest in temporomandibular dysfunction at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield. He can be contacted at the new Winfield location by phone: 250-766-2544 or email:winfield@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

Swimmer’s Shoulder by Tess Mihell, Physiotherapist

With the May-long weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, and the weather quickly heating up, many people are hitting up the lake to take their swimming practices outdoors. Like any sport, aches and pains can occur in swimming, with shoulder pain being the most common complaint. The term swimmer’s shoulder is used to describe painful shoulder overuse conditions that occur in the sport.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket type of joint, which allows for a large amount of motion. This excessive mobility is balanced by surrounding tissues to make it more stable. Included in the structures that help stabilize the shoulder is a fibrous capsule that surrounds the head of the humerus (the arm bone), as well as the rotator cuff. Four muscles make up the rotator cuff, and serve to keep the humerus properly placed in the joint. The bony structure that you can feel on the top of your shoulder is called the acromion, where impingement can occur.
Many movements occur at the shoulder during swimming, a lot of which is overhead. Different swimming strokes involve different patterns of motion, but all have some combination of rotation, circumduction and scapular movements. These positions can put the swimmer at risk of impingement, especially if the biomechanics are off.
Injuries to the shoulder complex from swimming are typically microtrauma: small injuries over time from the repetitive activity rather than a macrotrauma from a one-time incident. There are many factors that can contribute to injury, typically described as intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic factors can include the positioning of the joint itself; if the capsule surrounding the joint is tight at the back, it pushes the humerus forward, increasing the likelihood of impingement of the tissues under the acromion, and placing more stress on the tendons of surrounding muscles. Opposite of that would be if the joint is lax, which creates more demand on the rotator cuff muscles to provide stability. Another intrinsic factor is posture, with rounded shoulders and an increased forward bend in the upper back being common amongst swimmers. This lengthens and weakens muscles that stabilize the scapulae, can contribute to a tight posterior capsule in the shoulder, and decreased mobility in the spine.
Extrinsic factors are related to the use of your shoulder: overuse (your training schedule), misuse (swimming form), abuse (too strong of demand placed on your shoulder), and disuse (time off from training).
To maximize your season, it is worthwhile to assess your shoulder mechanics, preferably before injury occurs to be preventative. Any impairments should be addressed, which can include mobilizing stiff or tight structures, strengthening the rotator cuff and other supporting musculature, and improving technique. Be cautious of overtraining – don’t increase your distance, intensity or frequency of training too quickly. Give yourself adequate time to make strength and endurance gains, as well as time to recover.
Consulting your physiotherapists to address shoulder and posture impairments, and a coach to look at your form, can help keep you swimming strong this summer.

Tess Mihell is a Registered Physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy in Winfield

Hip Strengthening by Graham Gillies, Physiotherapist

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.

Graham Gillies is a registered Physiotherapist and co-owner at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield. Graham is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapy and a certified Gunn IMS and Acupuncture practitioner. He can be contacted at the new Winfield location by phone: 250-766-2544 or email:ggillies@suncityphysiotherapy.com

Snowmobiling aches and pains by Tess Mihell, Physiotherapist

On February 2, the groundhog told us that spring will arrive soon. But don’t fear – the sledding days are not yet over. If you are looking to maximize your snowmobiling adventures or to try the activity for the first time before the snow disappears, then this is for you.

Like any other activity, it is important to understand the risks and how to prevent injury. In this case I’m not talking about injuries from accidents, although that is still very important to take precautions to avoid. My focus is instead on the aches and pains you may experience throughout your body.

Snowmobiles have come a long way from the original 20 ton machine that was first designed for log hauling, with most modern machines weighing over 500 lbs and able to reach speeds of 110 mph (Heisler 2010). With prolonged time on the machine you are exposed to awkward positions for your upper body, long periods of sitting with a forward bent posture, and vibration stresses. Not to mention the heavy lifting, pulling, and pushing when you need to get out of a jam. Common aches and pains from riding are the low back, neck, shoulder and the occurrence of white-finger syndrome (Heisler 2010).

I’m not suggesting you quit your sport! There are certain factors that can be modified to prevent you from injury, and to keep you more comfortable.

A factor to the aches and strains is the ergonomics of a snowmobile. One of the most important parts to adjust is the steering bar (Rehn et al. 2005). Ideally it should be close enough to your body and have the grips oriented in a way so that your wrists aren’t bent, your shoulders aren’t hiked up and you do not have to reach so far forward. This will put you in a more comfortable posture for your upper limbs and your lower back, as well as lowering the grip force you need to use. Specific positions are to have your wrists neutral, elbows bent 60-70 degrees and if you have a seat back, for it to be tilted back 45 degrees (Heisler 2010). Grips should ideally be about 1.5” in diameter to lessen the grip strength required to steer (Heisler 2010). When looking at buying a snowmobile, also consider its seat suspension. Whole-body vibration, which will occur even on groomed trails, puts the discs in your back at risk for injury (Bovenzi and Hulshof 1999).

There are other factors to consider beyond just the ergonomics of your sled. Here are things you can do to prevent injuries:
Avoid sitting too long in poor posture: When you sit, you lose the normal curve in your low back. This is made worse by bending forward. The posture in combination with the machine’s vibration puts the discs at risk of injury. When possible, alter how you sit so that you back isn’t arched so much.
Wear appropriately warm mitts: Vibration of the upper limb, along with cold exposure, can contribute to the occurrence of “white-finger syndrome” which increases the chances of frostbite. It will also affect your ability to grip properly (Heisler 2010). To minimize this risk, stay warm!
Keep strong: Think of sledding as you would another sport – one that requires strength and endurance. Keep your body fit, and flexible, during the week to prepare you for the weekend adventures.
Listen to your body: If you’re getting fatigued, it’s time for a break. That is when you have a greater chance of adopting poor postures, or hurting yourself with the sudden jolts and turns.

And of course, listen to your body if you’re experiencing pain. Delayed onset of muscle soreness, DOMS, has been reported to last about 1-3 days after snowmobiling (Heisler 2010), but if it extends beyond that, or if you’re finding you’re getting weak (a loss of grip strength is commonly reported) – seek out care from a health professional.

Enjoy the rest of the sledding season, have fun, and stay injury-free!

Vertigo & Dizziness by Robina Palmer, Physiotherapist

‘Vestibular Rehabilitation’ is an area of focus in my physiotherapy practise – I am often asked what exactly that means. The vestibular system (involving your inner ear) is responsible for sense of movement, body orientation and balance. The vestibular system (along with our eyes, muscles, and joints) send constant feedback to our brain about our body’s movement and orientation.

Dysfunctions, disorders, trauma or viruses that affect the inner ear can be a potential cause of vertigo, dizziness, decreased balance, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or a change in hearing. As a vestibular therapist I can assess the potential causes of the mentioned symptoms and provide treatment to help decrease dizziness, vertigo and improve balance.

Dizziness is the umbrella term that refers to a sensation of abnormal, unwanted, movement – a feeling of unsteadiness, lightheaded or feeling ‘off’. Vertigo is a more specific term and implies that there is a rotational component to your dizziness – either the room is spinning around you or you are spinning in the room. Both vertigo and dizziness are symptoms, not a diagnosis, so part of my job is to figure out the possible cause and provide treatment.

One of the most common conditions within the inner ear that I treat is a condition called BPPV – benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. BPPV is caused by a crystal that is free floating within the inner ear. The signs and symptoms are pretty easy to recognize (vertigo brought on when lying flat, rolling in bed, looking up to the ceiling or bending forward). Treatment for BPPV is also quite effective.

It is also important to recognize that not all causes of vertigo or dizziness are associated with problems in the inner ear. Cardiovascular (heart) disorders, thyroid conditions, anxiety, migraines, neck disorders/injuries and neurological conditions are all potential causes.

Robina Palmer is a registered physiotherapist and partner at Sun City Physiotherapy. She can be contacted at the downtown St. Paul Street location or email her at rpalmer@suncityphysiotherapy.com

BODY ROLLING: A NEW WAY TO ENHANCE FLEXIBILITY AND WELL BEING by Brenda Walsh, Physiotherapist

How often do you get a tight area in your back that you’d love to get rid of? Or a tense band in your buttock or hamstring that has plagued you for weeks?
Have you noticed that your shoulders round forward, and you’re tight across the back of your shoulders?
The nagging tight spots we feel can be the result of restricted mobility or adhesions in fascia, the elastic web of connective tissue that surrounds and connects muscles.

There is a technique to improve flexibility that is easy, inexpensive and works extremely well in conjunction with stretching to improve myofascial mobility. It’s called Body Rolling, and it’s a powerful self-treatment tool using a firm 5” diameter ball. It is similar to using foam rollers, which are popular in gyms. Because of its size and compressibility, it is useful in areas other tools can’t reach.

Body Rolling techniques combine the relaxing effects of massage with the toning effects of exercise. Working with your own body weight, the exercises ease movement by loosening the muscles and their surrounding fascia, with the benefits of a deep self-massage. It can take as little as 10 minutes to work a specific area, and you can do it at your convenience. Working an entire region or chain of muscles gives the best results, since fascia is connected in long tracts that can span more than one joint.

The techniques of Body Rolling can: free adhesions in the connective tissue sheath that wraps around muscles and lies between muscle fibres; help muscles lengthen; improve muscle flexibility and tone thereby improving range of motion and shock absorption in the joints; improve circulation; and assist in correction of faulty posture

People with an active lifestyle often come in to see a physiotherapist with unexplained pain in a muscle, tendon or joint. Physiotherapists look at posture, movement and perform selective tissue tension testing to determine the problem. As a physiotherapist, I use many tools, such as manual therapy, exercise and soft tissue releases to improve freedom of movement.

With exercise that is highly repetitive in nature such as running, cycling, rowing, racquet sports, fascia surrounding the working muscles tends to be loaded in one direction and can subsequently shorten. Movement patterns and normal posture can be altered, which can lead to injury and pain. Learning to use Body Rolling, and stretching along planes of movement, rather than spot-treating tight areas can free things up most effectively.

People working at a desk job every day tend to develop shortening in certain muscle groups– typically the pectoral muscles, the hip flexors, and the hamstring muscles. Over time, this can result in adaptive shortening. The price tag of a desk job can be poor posture, aches and pains at the end of the workday. Activity breaks and Body Rolling can help.

Brenda Walsh is a physiotherapist at Sun City Physiotherapy. She can be contacted at the Glenmore clinic or email glenmore@suncityphysiotherapy.com

Iliotibial Band Syndrome by Sun City Physiotherapy

Running is a popular activity that can help maintain or improve your cardiovascular fitness and in some cases help you lose weight. There are many different reasons to run but often there is a goal set that may include 5Km, 10Km, half marathon, or full marathon.
When training for longer runs including 10km, half and full marathons it is important to remember that the training schedule should take place over long periods of time to allow your muscles and joints to accommodate for the increased strain that will be placed on them during the long run. As a physiotherapist, I treat many runners with all sorts of injuries. Some of the most common injuries include plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, muscle strains, and Iliotibial band friction syndrome (IT band syndrome).
IT band syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that occurs when the iliotibial band glides over the lateral femoral condyle on the outside part of the knee. The iliotibial band is the thick band that runs from the outside of the hip down to the outside of the knee. It is a common injury for long distance runners (20-40 miles/week) but is not limited to only long distance runners. Running on various terrains can increase the risk of developing this condition. Up and down hills, graded slopes, and cambered roads have all been shown to increase the risk. This syndrome may also be found in other athletes or weekend warriors such as cyclists, weight lifters, and participants in jumping sports.
With IT band syndrome there is rarely a history of trauma. Patients will often complain of knee pain that may be difficult to localize and usually increases with repetitive motions like running. The symptoms usually get worse with changes in training surfaces, increasing mileage, or training on crowned roads.
Studies have found that long distance runners with IT band syndrome have weaker hip abductor and glut muscles on the involved leg compared to the uninvolved leg. The hip abductor muscles are located on the outside part of the hip and help prevent the leg from moving towards the centre of the body. It is also noted that fatigued runners are more prone to having their hip adduct (move towards the centre) and internally rotate (leg turns inwards) which causes more friction on the iliotibial band and therefore the symptoms get worse.
The management of IT band syndrome usually includes: 1) activity modification (usually decreasing mileage). 2) New running shoes. Shoes should be replaced about every 500km. 3) Heat or ice. 4) Stretching the IT band. 5) Strengthening the hip abductors and glut muscles.
If you are interested in pursuing long distance running you should: 1) follow a certified training schedule. 2) Make sure the shoes you are wearing are the right shoes for you. 3) Increase your mileage slowly to allow your body to accommodate for the increased strain. 4) Hit the gym – muscle weakness can cause problems down the road. 5) Go in for an assessment with a health care professional if you start to experience aches and pains that aren’t going away.

Tennis Elbow by Sun City Physiotherapy

Tennis Elbow – you don’t need to play tennis to get it!

Tennis elbow is so called as one of the reasons you can get it is from faulty technique in a tennis shot. This is only one of the ways that you can get tennis elbow though, it can come on from many other activities that involve a lot of wrist and forearm use.

The medical name for this condition, lateral epicondylitis, gives us more information about where the problem occurs. The lateral epicondyle is a small bony prominence on the outside of the elbow and is the point of attachment for the tendons of the wrist extensor muscles. These muscles run up the top of the forearm and play a role in movements such as bending the wrist back, making a fist, and twisting the forearm.

Lateral epicondylitis occurs if these muscles are used more than they are used to, resulting in pain and damage to the tendon where it attaches onto the bone at the lateral epicondyle. If you have tennis elbow, you will likely report an increase in pain when gripping tightly or shaking hands, using a screwdriver or twisting a jar, or any activity that requires wrist and hand use. The outside of the elbow can be very sensitive to touch, and you may find it will get very stiff, especially first thing in the morning.

In order to treat tennis elbow, it is important to identify the reason why it became injured in the first place and correct that. Apart from stopping the aggravating activity, there are often other contributing factors that need to be changed in each individual case. These can be related to our own anatomy in the elbow and arm, movement patterns which are overloading and therefore damaging the tendon, or factors relating to the equipment being used.

A physiotherapist can identify the changes that need to be made in each individual case and implement these. As well as this there is specific treatment that can be done to the tendon to ensure optimal healing such as friction massage and laser, and a stretching and strengthening program should be implemented too to ensure the muscles and tendons are in good shape to be able to cope comfortably with being used in the future.

So even if you don’t play tennis, you can still be affected by tennis elbow. Taking the right action will take your pain away.

Don’t take a holiday from good low back posture. By Tess Mihell, Physiotherapist

Trains, planes and car rides to visit friends and family; sitting down for a big turkey meal; sledding or hitting up the ski hill on snowy days; lounging around on Christmas morning admiring the tree and wrapped presents – this all sounds like a perfect holiday. While it is a wonderful combination for good times and many smiles, it unfortunately for some can also be a perfect recipe for a sore back. Something that all of those activities listed above have in common is a forward bent – or ‘flexed’ – position of the low back.

With normal standing posture, the low back has a slight curve, which is known as ‘lordosis’. When we bend forward or sit, we lose the lordosis and our lumbar spine – the low back – goes into flexion.  Spending too much time flexed, or performing heavy tasks in this position, can put a strain onto the lumbar discs. The ‘intervertebral disc’ is a structure that sits between adjacent vertebrae in the spine. It is composed of a tough, fibrous periphery with a gel-like nucleus in the centre. Repetitive or sustained flexion, as well as heavy lifts or bends, can injure the disc by causing tears in the fibrous rings. When this occurs, the gelatinous nucleus can bulge into the tear. In more severe cases, the gel can even push outside of the disc. It is most common for injury to occur in the back of the disc rather than the front.

To visualize what happens, imagine a jelly donut, where the dough is the fibrous outside of the disc, and the filling is the nucleus. Line up the hole that was used to fill the donut as being at the back/side of the imaginary spine. If you push on the front of the donut, the jelly will squeeze out toward the back, and can even push out of the donut (which would be the case in severe injury, or ‘prolapse’).  Forward bending is similar to this – there is an increased pressure on the front, and a suction force at the back, causing the gelatinous nucleus to move posteriorly if the fibrous rings are not holding it in place. Even with just an outward bulging of the disc (so, the jelly in the donut has moved but hasn’t escaped through the hole) can cause inflammation, and irritation of surrounding tissues, including nerves.

There are several strategies that can be used to help in the prevention of lumbar disc injuries. A few are:

  • Use a firmly rolled towel, or a ‘lumbar roll’, in the curve of your low back if sitting. It is helpful to keep one in your vehicle
  • Avoid the slumped position when sitting. A lumbar roll helps with this, as does your leg posture. Having your hips and knees in a deep bend, such as in a low chair, increases the forward bend in your back
  • Take standing and walking breaks when traveling, or during long meals
  • Stay flexible – tight hamstrings (backs of the thighs) in particular can have an effect on low back posture
  • Keep a strong core to help support your back during activities. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing crunches or sit-ups, but exercises that target the deep core muscles
  • During the post-holiday clean-up, avoid stooping to bend down to pick things up. Instead, bend your knees and hips to get into a good squat position. It’s a good way to exercise your legs, too!

Even with taking precautions, injuries can occur either with a single incident or over time. When this is the case and you notice you are having back pain, it is important to seek care from a health provider. Lumbar disc injuries, along with other causes of low back pain, can often be treated conservatively (meaning, non-operatively).  It is important to note that not all back pain is due to disc injury. A physiotherapist can help to determine what structure may be causing your pain, and give you appropriate exercises, stretches, hands-on treatment, and strategies for management, specific to your injury.