Exercise away those winter blues!

December is busy! It’s cold! We over indulge in food and drink and exercising goes out the window. We plan to start afresh in January!

The World health Organisation recommends adults partake in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, 5 times a week.

Why don’t you make an early New Year’s resolution to stay active now? It will make it so much easier to stay on track come January. You will feel better, have more energy, and you are sure to fit into that party dress or suit!! What you need is some motivation, and here’s how you  find it:

1. Set a goal

It doesn’t matter how big or how small, set yourself a goal for the new year and work towards it. It can help to pick an organised event, like a charity walk or run.  Pick a date. Write it in your diary and on your calendar.  Pay the entry fee. Tell people about it. Get others on board. Now you are committed!

Break down your main goal into smaller goals that are achievable. Tick them off as you achieve them.

2. Exercise in the morning 

It is often easier than trying to drag yourself off the couch after a long day’s work. It also has the added benefit of energising you for the day. You will be more productive and in better form from the off!

3. Preparation is key!

Have a tracksuit and runners in work or in the car if you plan to exercise after work. Have your clothes ready beside your bed if you are exercising first thing in the morning. No excuses to skip your session!

4. Make it social!

Make exercising fun! Catch up over a 30 minutes walk rather than over a coffee! The time will fly by. Arrange a time. Now you have to show up!

5. Keep a record 

There are some great apps that will track your distance and time, and even post them on Facebook or e-mail them to you. Or, if you prefer the more traditional approach, use your calender or diary.

6. EXERCISE INDOORS!

Too cold or wet to go out? Do 10 minutes of stretching. March on the spot. Use a skipping rope. Step up and down onto the first step of your stairs. It all counts!

Are You Sitting Correctly?

Much of the neck and back pain we see at East Coast Physio is due to the way people sit at work. The way we sit can also lead to repetitive strain injuries of the elbow, wrist and hand. We can get away with repetitive movements and poor postures for a while, but after a prolonged period of time these habits can begin to take their toll.

 

Here are our top 10 tips for sitting correctly at work:

  1. Sit up tall, with your back firmly against the back of your chair. If your back is not well supported, try adjusting your chair, or placing a cushion behind your lower back.
  2. You should be sitting firmly on your seat bones. To check if you are sitting correctly, sit on your hands and feel for the two bony bits. Move around and feel these bony bits moving under your hands. You are sitting correctly when all your weight is on these bones.
  3. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and should be fully supported by the chair.
  4. The computer monitor should be at eye level.  It should be about an arm’s length away from your body. Try not to allow your chin to poke forwards.
  5. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
  6. Your elbows should rest by your sides. They should be at a 90 degree angle, either resting on the arm rests, or on the desk.
  7. Your wrists should be straight.
  8. Your mouse should be as close to you as possible. A mouse mat with a wrist support may help to keep your wrist straight and avoid awkward bending.
  9. Make objects accessible. Position frequently used objects such as the telephone within easy reach.
  10. Avoid holding the phone between your ear and your shoulder. Use headphones if you spend long periods of time on the phone.

Hamstring Strains

Hamstring strains are one of the most common sports injuries.

The hamstring muscles are found at the back of your thigh. The hamstrings are composed of three main muscles; the biceps femoris muscle, the semimembranosus muscle and the semitendinosus muscle. The biceps femoris muscle is the most commonly injured. Hamstring strains occur when excessive or sudden tension is put through the hamstring muscle fibers.  Hamstring strains vary from simple strains to complete tears.

The hamstrings are responsible for bending the knee and they help to extend the hip. The hamstrings are extremely important in deceleration of your leg as you run. They are most prone to injury just before your foot hits the ground, as this is when they exert their maximum force. Hamstring muscle strains are extremely common in sports involving sudden acceleration and deceleration, such as hurling and camogie or sports that involve kicking. They are very common in sports like hockey that require a low body position.

Hamstring injuries have the highest recurrence rate of all injuries with a recurrence rate of 34% in Australian football and 12% in soccer.  This is often due to hamstrings not being fully rehabilitated and the risk factors (see below) not being addressed.

Risk factors for hamstring strains:

  • Previous injury
  • Poor hamstring flexibility
  • Poor hamstring strength, especially when the hamstring is in a lengthened position
  • Tightness of your sciatic nerve
  • Poor muscular control of your pelvis
  • Lower back issues, including lower back stiffness and weakness
  • Poor running biomechanics;  over-striding and poor hip strength can put your hamstrings in a vulnerable position
  • Increasing age
  • Poor warm up; we would recommend an active and dynamic warm up.
  • Fatigue; tired muscles are able to absorb less energy. It is important to schedule recovery between sessions.  Speed work should be done early in the workout, to avoid hamstring fatigue
  • Slippery playing surfaces

How to treat hamstring injuries:

Initially you will be advised to follow the RICE protocol  (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). The extent of the tear needs to be diagnosed. This will determine how quickly you can progress through the stages of rehabilitation. Gentle pain-free stretching can be useful, but stretching should be avoided if it increases your pain. The hamstrings will need to be strengthened, and strengthening exercises will progress from gentle to more intensive as the hamstring heals. Any lower back, pelvic or hip weakness or lack of flexibility, and any faults in your training program also need to be addressed.  Your rehab should be focused on you as an individual, with a gradual return to your previous sport/activity.

It is important to remember that there are multiple causes of thigh pain. It is advisable to seek professional assessment, diagnosis and guidance for all injuries.

References: Brukner and Khan, Clinical Sports Medicine

Tips for the Marathon!

October 31st is fast approaching. Here are some tips for the final week and for the big day:

1. Don’t panic- as I say time and again, your training is essentially done, so it’s a bad idea to try to make-up lost mileage- you need a fresh body at that start line, that is the reason for the taper.

2. Don’t make any unplanned changes to your training/clothing/footwear/diet etc.- with extra time on your hands and extra time to think, people can end up doing daft things before a marathon- my advice is not to try anything new, or make any changes to your training plan- the plan is designed for your body to peak for race day, and messing around with this is risky.

3. Having a rub-down in the week prior to the marathon (but not within 3 days) can help to keep the muscles feeling loose and fresh.

4. Keep well hydrated.

5. Distract yourself with other activities if you feel the panic setting in!

6. Use balm/Vaseline on areas that are prone to chafing

And after the race (which most people haven’t thought about!):

1. Have something warm to wear.

2. Eat something salty (eg crackers) within 15 mins of finishing, and…

3. Stretch well afterwards- this will help your recovery no end.

4. Recovery bath- some people swear by the ice bath (science is undecided), or a lukewarm bath with epsom salts may be more pleasant. Avoid a hot bath.

5. Take adequate recovery time- I often see injuries months after a marathon, as people didn’t take a break. The jury is out on how long is needed, and of course it varies per person, but guidelines would state not to return to intense training until 26-40 days after the race.

6. Cross-training is a great way of assisting your recovery- a gently cycle/swim/walk in the days after the race can get the blood flowing and ease the leg stiffness.

7. Avoid alcohol after the race! This is obviously going to affect your recovery. If you do decide to go for that pint of Guinness, just make sure its acccompanied by some water.

8. Having a rub-down in the week after the race can help to alleviate muscle soreness.

Best of Luck and Enjoy!

Hip Pain – Gluteal Tendinopathy

Gluteal Tendinopathy

The gluteal muscles are your buttock muscles. Often hip pain can be caused by inflammation of these muscles, where they attach with their tendon onto the outside of the hip bone. The gluteus medius muscle is the most commonly affected muscle.

The gluteus medius muscle is one of our most important hip stabilisers. It has multiple functions. It contracts to move the leg outwards or to turn the hip outwards. When we are standing on one leg, it contracts to hold the pelvis stable. It can also prevent the leg from turning inwards. It is constantly working while we are active.

What does gluteal tendinopathy feel like?

An aching pain on the outside of your hip, which can radiate down the outside of your thigh to your knee. Pain can be worst at night or first thing in the morning. The area can be tender to touch, and it can be painful to lie on that side or to sit for long periods. Pain is usually aggravated by activity, such as running, climbing stairs or walking.

Causes: 

Gluteal tendinopathy often occurs when we have poor hip control and weakness of the buttock muscles. This can lead to over-stressing of the gluteal muscles and tendons. In addition, tightness of surrounding structures such as the iliotibibal band can lead to compression of the gluteal tendons.

An increase in activity, e.g increasing speed/distance, adding hills or changes in terrain, can trigger gluteal tendinopathy. Inappropriate footwear or poor foot biomechanics can also have an influence.

Treatment:

Your physiotherapist will take a detailed history of your condition and carefully examine your symptoms to determine what structures and activities are causing your pain, what muscles are tight and what muscles are weak. Treatment may involve using rest/ice to reduce your symptoms, stretching and massaging tight muscles and strengthening weak muscles. Progressive gluteal, pelvis and core strengthening is essential, with a gradual return to activity.

 

Foot pain

The warm weather has brought with it a seasonal spike in the amount of foot pain we are seeing in the clinic. We are featuring two of the more common types that we have seen this summer.

Tendonitis

“Itis” just means inflammation, so tendonitis is essentially an inflammation of the tendon. Tendons are essentially like elastic bands, and joint our muscles to the bone. We have lots of these in the foot and ankle, as there isn’t much room in the area for big muscles, and any of these tendons can get inflamed and painful. This type of pain is very bad first thing in the morning and often starts out just with this symptom, but as it gets worse it can become painful when you are on your feet, and throb when you are resting.

The important thing about managing tendonitis is that you catch it early and nip it in the bud. This is so important, as after about 2 weeks of tendonitis, the tendon starts to wear down, and more permanent changes happen to the structure of the tendon. This can leave you with a chronic problem, which, while treatable, requires a bit more expertise, time and effort to address.

Heel pain

The most common area for heel pain is shown in the picture above. This type of pain in the heel can often be caused by heel spurs, or a bruised heel. This sort of pain usually comes on gradually and for no obvious reason, and is typically worse in the morning, improves with exercise (only in the early stages), and is aggravated by standing and eventually walking.

Sometimes this can be caused by tightness in the plantar fascia, which is a soft tissue structure on the sole of our foot. This can get tight from exercising either excessively or with poor support for the foot, and this tightness can then pull on the heel and cause pain. It can also be caused by walking on shoes with too hard a heel, which can essentially bruise the bone.

Again, the important thing when treating heel pain is to settle it down quickly. We usually do this in the clinic by providing some form of small insert to take the pressure off the painful part of the heel. Taping the foot can often help it to feel better more quickly, as can ice massage of the area and loosening out any tightness that may have caused it.

So it is very important to catch it early and fix the problem. There are very often obvious explanations for why you got the pain, if this is the case it is important to eliminate the cause so that you don’t keep encouraging the tendon or heel to be inflamed.

Examples of causes of foot pain in summer-time are:

1. Walking or running on the beach -  this is great for working the leg and foot muscles, however if it is something that you are not used too, and you suddenly started doing alot of it, it can just prove to be a bit much for your feet.

2. Walking or being on your feet for long periods barefoot or in bad flip-flops – if you have flat feet, or feet that are used to cushioning and support, and then you suddenly throw away all of that support and spend long periods in poor or no support (either standing, just being active, or exercising), this again can overwork parts of the foot that are not used to it, and eventually cause those structures to start complaining. Likewise if you have a high arch and suddenly start going barefoot this can irritate the foot.

3. Getting out more! Nice weather encourages us to get outdoors, which is just fantastic. But again, if we go too hard too soon, and push our body beyond its limit and keep pushing it, the structures don’t get enough time to recover by the next exercise session, and they get overworked and damaged. So if you are taking up or resuming an activity, make sure you factor in recovery days, and try to build up gradually. Stretching tight muscles will help to keep things moving more smoothly. See examples of leg stretches here:

http://eastcoastphysio.ie/blog/stretches/

4. Weight gain over being overweight or obese puts more pressure on our feet.

How do I treat foot pain if I get it?

Catching and managing it early is key. If the pain is less than 2 weeks old:

1. Rest from whatever activity you think may have caused the problem.

2. Ice the area regularly (10 mins on, 10 mins off and repeat regularly).

3. Taking anti-inflammatory medication or gel can be beneficial (once there is no medical reason why you shouldn’t be taking it).

4. Stretch out tight muscles in the area.

5. Think about your footwear- generally trying to wear something with some arch support, good cushioning and a slight lift at the back of the shoe.

If all of the above doesn’t clear the pain within a week, you have the pain longer than that or it is severe, it is wisest to get it seen to, before longer term issues develop in the foot. We can assess the problem and advise a treatment plan to sort it out. The earlier it is managed correctly the quicker and more complete your recovery, so don’t take any chances. Also bear in mind that these are just 2 examples of foot pain, there are many other causes, so it is important to get assessed to ensure things are dealt with correctly.

 

 

 

 

10 Rules for minimising walking or running injury!

1. Get into the right shoe:

Poor biomechanics are the root of alot of running injuries. Chartered Physiotherapists can perform a detailed assessment to identify any such problems that can lead to injury, such as fallen or high foot arches. You will be advised of the best running shoe for your foot type – specialist sports shoe shops can also be of help. Make sure you are wearing a proper running or walking shoe.

2. Follow the 10% rule: never increase your mileage by more than 10% per week, and never increase both your speed and distance in the same week.

3. Warm-up: make sure to warm-up adequately before exercising. This prepares the body for training by increasing your heart rate, flexibility, and body temperature. A dynamic warm-up for running should include gentle jogging, stride outs and drills, and for walking, just build up the pace over the first 5-10 mins.

4. Cool- down: cool down properly after your run or after a long or fast walk. This should include some static stretching and foam rolling if possible. Stretches should be held for at least 20 seconds.

See stretches here: http://eastcoastphysio.ie/blog/stretches/

5. R&R: rest and recovery. Allow at least 1 rest day per week, if you don’t you risk overtraining syndrome. Difficulty sleeping, a higher resting heart rate, and darker urine are all signs of being burnt-out.

6. Listen to your body: don’t let niggles develop – anything not sorted out with a couple of days rest should be assessed.

7. Variation: vary running direction and running surface. Smooth, soft surfaces such as grass and trails are kinder than running on concrete. Running on the same side of the road can lead to strain if there is a camber in the road.

8. Get the foundation right: runners need a solid foundation, or good “core stability” to minimise strain on their back and legs. Pilates and strength training are good forms of this.

9. Roll it out: foam rolling is a good way of helping your muscles to recover. See our video on foam rolling here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hW9kAZu2HU

10. Be patient! Set realistic goals and work towards them gradually (see rule 2!).

 

Golf Stretches

Golf flexibility is important to avoid injury and to improve your performance.  Throughout the game of golf you use a variety of muscles and ensuring they are all flexible will enable the best swing.  Areas to highlight for flexibility in the majority of golfers are the shoulders, lower back and hamstrings. Flexibility exercises should be performed a few times weekly for the most benefit

#1: Side Stretch

Stand with your feet slightly apart, keeping your hips facing forward. Lift your left hand overhead and stretch it to the side over your head. Use your club to improved the stretch.  Hold the position for 10 seconds, release and repeat with your right arm.

#2: Rotation Lunge

Put your hands on golf club positioned at your side.  Take a big step forward with one foot into the lunge position. Extend your back knee. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat other side

 #3: Hamstring Stretch

Lie flat on your back. Lift one leg into the air and hold the back of your thigh with your hands. Pull your leg towards you. The other leg should be flat on the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat, alternating legs.

#4: Cats up and down

Get onto your hands and knees. Keep your arms in line with your shoulders and your legs in line with your hips. Hollow and arch your back. Repeat 10-20 times.

#5: Back Flexion Stretch

On your hands and knees, push your bottom down to your ankles. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat.

 

Any exercise holds an element of risk if undertaken without supervision. These exercises are recommendations only and are performed at your own risk. If you feel any discomfort or pain during exercise, stop immediately

 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

It is compression of a nerve at your wrist, which can cause numbness, tingling and pain in your palm, thumb, and most of your fingertips (depicted in blue in the picture).


Causes include:
- poor wrist/arm positioning at a computer
- repetitive hand and wrist work (eg cooks, musicians, painters), especially in cold temperatures
- physical work involving vibration (such as driving motorbike, operating a drill)
- pregnancy, diabetes and being overweight are all linked to carpal tunnel syndrome, as are our genetics.
- women are at higher risk than men.
Symptoms generally start as mild, some can get better on their own, but others can get worse over time.

Prevention:

Anyone who does repetitive tasks should begin with a short warm-up period, take regular breaks, and avoid overexertion of the hand and finger muscles whenever possible.

1. Take multiple breaks:

  • Shake or stretch the limbs
  • Lean back in the chair
  • Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • Stand up and walk around.

2. Good Posture, especially for typists and computer users.

  • sit back into the chair with the shoulders relaxed.
  • elbows should rest along the sides of the body, with wrists straight.
  • feet should be firmly on the floor or on a footrest.
  • typing materials and computer screen should be at eye level so that the neck does not bend over the work.

3. Good desk and chair.

Chairs should be adjustable for height, with a supportive backrest. Sit well into your chair to get the support out of it, and keep your chair close to the desk.

4. Keyboard and Mouse Tips.

  • Keep the hands and wrists in a relaxed position to avoid excessive force on the keyboard.
  • Use wrist rests, which fit under most keyboards, to help keep the wrists and fingers in a comfortable position.
  • Keep the computer mouse close to the keyboard and the user’s body, to reduce excessive strain.
  • Hold the mouse lightly, with the wrist and forearm relaxed. New mouse supports are also available that relieve stress on the hand and support the wrist.
If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome and it doesn’t go away with the above advice, best to get it assessed. Give us a call on 0404-49781 or email info@eastcoastphysio.ie.

Sitting, the “creep”

Have you ever stood up and found it takes a minute or two before you can fully straighten?

This could be because of a phenomenon called “creep”. This is when our soft tissues, if not regularly moved, start to assume the shape that we are in.  It only takes 20 mins of being still in one position before this happens!

Unfortunately, modern life has us sitting a lot more than we should be. This has adverse effects on many aspects of our health, including our spinal health.

Creep is reversible with movement, but the longer it continues, the less reversible the changes in the soft tissues and joints become, and the harder it becomes to correct.

How you can help yourself:

- move regularly- whether this means standing up and moving around, simple shoulder movement, or sitting up good and straight and turning your head and your body from side to side. Do so every 20 minutes (it only takes a few seconds).

- try to reduce your sitting time in general- our spines need regular movement for good health.

- sit well – the more your slouch, the more your soft tissues and joints are put under strain.

- if you sit for most of the day, choose an exercise that straightens you out! Walking, swimming, running all involve upright postures and get the blood circulating around your body, including into your spine, which we need for our spinal health.

If your stiffness doesn’t clear up with the above advice, best to get yourself assessed so that we can give you advice best suited to your particular situation and body.