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.

Shoulder pain

The most common type of shoulder pain that we see in the clinic is a shoulder impingement. This is essentially a general medical term for “pinching” of some of the structures in the shoulder, which is a busy and complex place, as you can see in the image below (first picture = arm by side, second picture = arm lifted, arrows show the “pinch” point).

With a shoulder impingement, the movement of the arm when it is lifted causes the bones in the shoulder to move closer together, which can pinch some of these structures in the shoulder, causing pain.

A common cause of this is posture- people who have slouched shoulders are more at risk of this, as slouching the shoulder brings the bones closer together, making it easier to pinch things in the shoulder when the arm is lifted.
Another cause is weakness in the upper back, shoulder and shoulder blade- if these muscles don’t work well, too much pressure is put on the shoulder, particularly in physical tasks such as gardening, housework, lifting, and overhead sports such as tennis.

Shoulder impingement is very treatable, but like anything, much slower to get better if it has been there a long time, so the quicker you address it, the best chance you have at a quick recovery.

What is a Chartered Physiotherapist?

In Ireland the title “Physiotherapist” is not protected by law, and so is not evidence of formal qualification in Physiotherapy. This can be confusing to the general public.

However “Chartered Physiotherapist” is a protected title, and requires a university degree in physiotherapy, and membership of the professional regulating body the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP). The terms “physical therapist” and “physiotherapist” are interchangeable internationally, but The World Confederation for Physical Therapy recognises the ISCP as the sole authoritative body for physical therapy in Ireland.

To become a Chartered Physiotherapist we must have a university degree in physiotherapy.  We are medically trained, and are recognised by the Department of Health.  Chartered Physiotherapists are regulated by the ISCP. We are a science and evidence based profession. In order to maintain our chartered status, we are required to perform continuing post-graduate education to keep our practise up to date with the best current practise.

It is important to ensure that your physiotherapist is a member of the ISCP. Chartered Physiotherapists are recognised and covered by VHI, Quinn Healthcare, Vivas and other health insurance schemes.

 

Tips for preventing aches and pains from Christmas shopping

It’s all about planning ahead!

1. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

2. Don’t overload individual shopping bags – spread the load over a few bags and between both hands. If you can bring your bags back to the car and start afresh halfway through even better.

3. Don’t put shopping bags too far into the back of your boot (you’ll have to bend excessively to get them out).

4. Where possible use a trolley instead of a basket.

5. Ask about delivery services.

6. If possible shop at quieter times to avoid standing in a queue.

7. Factor in breaks, where you can sit down and rest!

8. Shopping online can save you alot of physical hardship – If you are shopping online, remember that you could be on your smartphone, tablet or computer for a long time – make sure to sit well, stand up and stretch tall every 20 mins, roll your shoulders, shake your hands out.

9. Try not to do it all in one day – you’ll have too much to carry! (not always possible, I know).

And lets not forget some of the many benefits of shopping  local – less time stuck in traffic and supporting local business.

The downside of wearing high heels….

The down side of wearing high heels – some points taken from the diagram below include:

-          Knee joint pressures increase by up to 26%, and forefoot pressures by up to 76%.

-          The calf and Achilles tendon can tighten up, which can lead to a variety of problems, including foot and leg pain.

-          Pressure from the shoes can cause bunions and painful bumps at the back of the heel.

-          Joint pain and deformities can develop over time due to tight fitting toes and              pressure from the heel.

The bottom line is, while you don’t have to throw out your beautiful shoes, but choose to limit your time spent standing or walking in them.

 

Gardening Tips to avoid injuries

Spring is well and truly upon us, and all those of us with gardens will spend time tidying, freshening, and managing our personal havens. Following the overenthusiastic tackling of the garden, it is not at all uncommon to see a significant number of people with back, neck or knee pain. The advice within this article is designed to help you plan your gardening, so that you can enjoy your garden, not suffer because of it.

Planning your tasks

Whilst gardening is not a sport it is a physical exercise. If you were to attempt a 5 mile run without training, there would be no surprise if you developed aches and pains because of it. Do not expect to be able to do a full day of gardening without building up to it, start slowly and gradually increase. Try to mix and match the activities in the garden to give you a whole body workout rather than becoming sidetracked into one task. Break your tasks into manageable chunks of weeding/pruning/digging, so that your body worksin many different postures and shares the load throughout the body. Be realistic – if you can see a task ahead involves difficult lifting or moving, ask for assistance, rather than being too impatient to finish.

Equipment

Choose garden tools for you!

Spades and Forks – are they long/short enough for you. Too long and you will lean back and be off balance, too short and you will lean forwards and flex your back, putting yourself at risk of damaging discs.

Clothing – Restrictive clothing may alter the way you move and put you in altered postures. Flowing clothing may catch and contribute to a fall or an accident.

Wheelbarrows – does the wheelbarrow move freely when empty? A sticky wheel will become more difficult to rotate when the barrow is full. Do not leave a barrow until it is full to overflowing before moving it. There is far less strain on the back and knees to do more journeys of lighter loads.

Secateurs – a common gardeners cause of “tennis elbow” is overenthusiastic pruning with Secateurs. Try to limit pruning to short bursts intermingled with other activities. Secateurs with a “cut and hold” action can help to reduce some of the symptoms.

Lawnmowers – The height of the handle should be so that the operator can stand fully upright whilst moving forwards. Never swing the mower from side to side, and choose the right mower for the size of garden.

Digging

Restrict digging to small short bursts, and then have a change of activity. Do not be tempted to use a spade too big for you to be able to lift safely when “fully loaded”.

Planting and Weeding

Plant from a kneeling position if your knees allow it. Squatting puts a large strain on the knees and also makes you less balanced. If possible use a weeding mat with or without handles. If you have to sit on a small stool, ensure it is as close to the task as possible and move it regularly to avoid over-reaching. However it is inevitable that in this position your back is at more risk than with kneeling. Think about your planting – ground cover plants help reduce the need for continual weeding. Might raised beds be better? The maximum depth should be no more than 4ft for ease of access and to avoid overreaching.

Watering

Place “thirsty” plants nearest your water source to reduce the distance for carrying water. It may be best to have two watering cans, and ½ fill each, spreading the load equally when you carry. If possible invest in a hose that has an automatic rewind system to avoid too much bending and turning when storing the hose.

Operation Transformation

Three basic tips for injury prevention:

1. Variety is the spice of life!

If possible different forms of exercise over the week rather than the same one everyday, this will give your muscles a chance to recover. Exercising the same muscles in the same way day in day out can lead to muscle breakdown and injury. Factor in a rest day, and if possible vary your exercise. For example, do swimming, cycling or an exercise class for one session instead of walking.

If you have done little or no exercise in the past few months, be careful to start your exercise routine this week gradually (try not to go from zero to hero!!).  Read Zero to Hero to find out how to ease into your new exercise.

Footwear

In the clinic we advise clients everyday on correct footwear.  It is so important to have good supportive footwear when you are exercising to avoid injury. Read our Footwear section to find out what would be suitable for your foot.

Recover well

For your body to get stronger and fitter, it needs a chance for recovery. Eating and sleeping well and staying well hydrated will help this.

To help your muscles to recover, doing a good cool-down is important – it is important to stretch after exercise to avoid soreness after exercise and to avoid injuries.  We have pictures of all the stretches you should be doing after your Operation Transformation exercise plan (pay particular attention to calf, hip flexor, quad, hamstring and glut stretches). These need to be held for at least 30 seconds to have an effect.

Foam rolling can be a good addition to your routine, to help you self-massage tight muscles. We stock these in the clinic.

Best of luck this week with your new programme!  If you have any injuries or problems with your Operation Transformation exercise plan call us on 0404 49781 or email info@eastcoastphysio.ie

Catherine, Avril, Redmond and Fiona.

 

 

 

Tension headaches

Headache?
Did you know:
- One of the most common type of headache is the tension headache.
- Pain can be at the back of the head, ear or even eye, and is often accompanied by neck tension or stiffness.
- This type of headache is often caused by abnormal posture and an increase in stress.
- Working habits in modern society aren’t the greatest for reducing your risk of headaches, with more and more jobs based around sitting at a computer, in a car, or operating machinery.

Adopting better working postures is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of developing tension headaches.

You can treat the symptoms effectively, in addition to figuring out why you get them, by seeing a Chartered Physio. Email info@eastcoastphysio.ie if you want to book an appointment.