Tennis Elbow

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.

Classification of Whiplash Injuries

Classification of Whiplash Injuries

Physiotherapy » Posts Tagged "injury" (Page 2)

Classification of Whiplash Injuries

Motor vehicle accidents (MVA) are sometimes an unfortunate consequence of modern reliance we have on automobile transportation. Previous to the invention of the car, there was “railroad neck”, and also a whiplash variation termed “roller-coaster neck”. Motor Vehicle accidents are sometimes termed “motor vehicle crashes” to suggest the preventable nature of some accidents. When a crash does occur, there is usually a chain of events including visits to the auto body shops, ongoing communication with insurance claims agents, and visits to many different health care professionals.

Despite advancement in sophisticated safety equipment for cars, bodily injury can sometimes result from accidents. Although the impact can occur in less than a second, the resulting injuries can persist for weeks or months. The neck (cervical spine) is the most common area of involvement, however, the mid back or low back can also sustain trauma. The shoulder or chest area can also be bruised by the restraint effect of the seat belt.

Injuries to the cervical spine are termed “whiplash-associated disorder’ or WAD for short. As with most conditions and injuries, there is a spectrum of severity. Following much consultation, the Quebec Task Force on Clinical Classification of WAD developed a five point scale of severity in 1995, which is well recognized within the health care and insurance fields. With Grade 0, or WAD 0, there are no physical signs, and the person does not complain of symptoms or usually seek help. At the other extreme end of the spectrum is the most severe WAD IV injury in which X-rays indicate a fracture or dislocation and require urgent medical attention. WAD classification is determined by a detailed and comprehensive clinical examination. Fortunately, most of the whiplash injuries sustained in a crash are classified as WAD II or III, and are commonly treated in physiotherapy practice. Clinical features include pain, and limited range of motion due to muscle spasm, sprained ligaments, and inflamed joints. Irritation of the neurological system can manifest as symptoms of numbness or tingling extending into the upper or lower extremities.

Physical therapists are very familiar with performing a detailed assessment and can help with determining the degree of injury that a person has sustained. A physiotherapy treatment plan is determined based on the degree of injury and time since the accident. Early in treatment when the condition is still very acute, it is common to suggest use of ice to decrease inflammation and pain relieving physical electrical modalities can also be used. As the person’s symptoms decrease, gentle mobilization, range of motion exercises, and progressive strengthening exercises are commonly introduced. Progress with treatment is individual and dependent on many factors. There are numerous practice guidelines, however, which suggest a return to normal daily activities as soon as possible, and treatment that promotes return of function is most helpful. A physical therapist is well trained to help assess your whiplash condition and provide an individualized treatment plan.


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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common wrist and hand injury.  It occurs when one of the major nerves called the median nerve is compressed within the carpal tunnel of the wrist.  This may occur for a number of reasons but some of the more common reasons include: pregnancy, gout, trauma (repetitive or direct trauma), or infection.  Carpal tunnel can happen at anytime, however it is more common between the ages of 40-60 and women tend to be affected more often then men.

This condition is characterized by burning wrist pain and numbness or tingling within the hand.  This often occurs at night and the patient usually wakes up due to the symptoms.   In some cases the pain can radiate to the forearm, elbow, and shoulder.

Some of the other symptoms reported by patients include poor sensation in the hand, weakness of the hand, cramping in the hand, reduced temperature in the hand, and sometimes shaking or flicking the hand relieves the symptoms.  There may also be muscle wasting around the thumb.  Movements of the hand are often pain free, however some resisted movements around the thumb can be painful.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome is often done based on the patient’s medical history.  Your physiotherapist or physician will take you through a series of tests and if carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected a nerve conduction test may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.  Diabetes should be excluded, as it can be a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Mild cases can be treated conservatively.  This may include splinting, activity modification, diuretics, and NSAID medications.  Techniques such as contrast baths, which are alternating baths of cold and warm water, may be used in some cases to control inflammation and swelling.  A physiotherapist may give you specific exercises that can be helpful with a patient’s recovery.  For more persistent or severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be required.

Wrist and hand injuries are often difficult to diagnose so if you are experiencing symptoms of this nature it is recommended that you see your health care professional to have it taken care of.

The Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that gets its name from the way it causes a gradual stiffening of the shoulder joint, ‘freezing it up’. The proper term for this condition is adhesive capsulitis – adhesive implying stuck and capsulitis meaning inflammation of the capsule.

Although a very common condition affecting approximately 2% of the population, the exact cause of frozen shoulder remains a mystery. In most cases there is a trigger such as straining the shoulder that then develops into a frozen shoulder, but in many cases it is idiopathic i.e. it just happens. When it is triggered, the capsule – that is the connective tissue sack – that surrounds the shoulder joint undergoes a change in elasticity from being somewhat loose and stretchy to being tight and without much stretch.

When it does happen, it follows a distinct pattern of which there are three stages.

The first stage is the freezing stage and is characterized by the onset of a quite intense pain in the shoulder and upper arm and a gradual seizing up of the shoulder. It becomes very difficult and painful to lift the arm up, rotate it outwards, or reach behind your back. This stage typically lasts about 3-6 months then frozen shoulder moves into stage two, the frozen stage, in which the pain starts to subside but the stiffness remains. The shoulder will begin to feel more comfortable in stage 2 but as it is still very stiff, its function remains limited. Again stage 2 can last anywhere between 3 and 6 months before progressing onto stage 3, the thawing stage, when the stiffness finally begins to resolve and the shoulder range of motion is restored.

Although every frozen shoulder will go through these 3 stages, the duration of each stage can vary in each case. Most of the time a full recovery will be made but occasionally full pain-free range of motion does not return. In order to optimize recovery, physiotherapy can help to restore range of motion with techniques such as mobilizations and muscle energy techniques. A prescribed home exercise program is also important so that you can work on stretching the shoulder every day at home. Along with this there are many treatments the physiotherapist is able to do to help control the pain particularly in the early stages of frozen shoulder. This will enable a much more effective stretching regime, which can ultimately lead to a quick and fuller recovery.


The winter Olympics in Sochi was filled with scary crashes in nearly every sport. Hearts sank when seeing chances at a medal slip, the pain on the athletes’ faces, and some of the injuries that resulted. We probably all know someone who has, or have ourselves, taken a big spill at the local hill.

But that’s not the only place where falls can occur, especially during this time of year with the fluctuating melt and freeze of roads and walkways. Slips and trips can happen in the community, even in our own homes, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we can walk away from them with little injury, other than to our pride, but unfortunately sometimes injuries occur.  In order to avoid beginning the spring season hurt, it’s good to know what the risk factors to falls are and to address any concerns that may exist.

Some readers may recall a previous article I wrote about vertigo– a condition that makes you feel like you or the world is spinning. This or other conditions of the vestibular system can contribute to feeling dizzy or losing your balance. The vestibular system is partially located in the inner ear, and gives our brain information about where our head is relative to gravity. When it is affected, a conflict of information between the vestibular system and other sensory systems happens. Some related conditions include: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (“BPPV”), labryinthitis or neuritis (types of infections), or Ménière’s disease. This in turn may cause vertigo, dizziness, or unsteadiness. Some of the causes of vertigo or dizziness can be treated to help you feel more stable on your feet.

Weaknesses in the legs or trunk, sensory conditions of the feet, or decreased ‘proprioception’ (the information about where a body part is relative to the rest of the body) are other risk factors for falling. Proprioception, balance, and strength can be trained through regular exercise. Tai Chi and Yoga are examples of programs that assist in reducing fall risk. However some people require exercises tailored to their individual abilities and needs. It is important to evaluate whether a particular exercise is safe and appropriate for you. Having an understanding of the exercise and of your own abilities is helpful, but when in doubt, it is helpful to consult a health care provider, or discuss with the instructor.

Risk factors for falling don’t only exist within our bodies, but also in our environment. It’s important to note that while the temperatures have been going above freezing, those cold nights and days can result in a layer of ice. Slowing your pace over these areas, wearing proper footwear, and always being aware of the conditions will help. Within your home, having adequate lighting, keeping the floors and hallways clear of obstacles, and keeping rugs or carpets secured down will also reduce your chances of tripping.

With the example of the Olympic sports of skiing, snowboarding and skating, big falls occur frequently. It’s not often a case of needing to address strength or balance, and rarely is the environment controllable. For these activities, it’s important to protect yourself as much as possible. Wrist guards are light, can fit under gloves, aimed at reducing the risk of a facture when impacting the ground. A common injury with falling is the FOOSH – a ‘Fall Onto an Outstretched Hand’. A brace will keep your wrist in an ideal position and can absorb some of the force to reduce, but not eliminate, the likelihood of a wrist fracture. If you ski, braces also exist to protect the thumb, which can be injured by the ski pole.

If you feel you are at risk of falls, or have an injury after taking one, it is important to see a health care professional to either assist in the prevention of, or in the rehabilitation after, a slip. Reducing the risk can be easy in some situations: adjusting your footwear, modifying your gait aid if you use one (for example, attaching an ice grip onto a cane), making changes to your home environment, or partaking in a strength and balance program designed for your needs. In some cases, dizziness or lightheadedness occurs as a side-effect from medication, so speaking to your doctor may help. From a physiotherapy context, your strength, balance, vestibular function, or any combination of those factors can be assessed and treated as is appropriate for you.