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6 Signs You Have Poor Posture

woman with back pain sitting at desk
As CBD physiotherapists, we see patient after patient come through our doors with poor posture, often as the result of long days spent chained to their computers. Not only do their postural problems look bad (think hunched back, rounded shoulders), they often result in tension and pain. So, because our aim at Collins Place Physio is to help you feel (and look) your best, our physios have put together this list of six of the most common signs of poor posture. Read on to discover how your posture stacks up, and to learn some tricks to help you sit, stand and walk a little taller.

1. Rounded shoulders (and tight pecs)

Occurring in tandem, high rounded shoulders and tight pectoral muscles are signs of poor posture common among office workers. Excessive time spent sitting at a computer can lead to a tightening and shortening of the muscles in the front of the shoulders (pectorals), and a lengthening and weakening of the back muscles.

Rounded shoulders can also result from muscular imbalances that occur when too much focus is placed on developing the chest muscles at the gym, while neglecting the upper/mid back. Doing so places increased strain on the shoulder joint and can cause rotator cuff tears and impingement.

The Fix

Rounded shoulders can be corrected by stretching the front of the chest and neck, while strengthening the back muscles.

2. Forward head carriage

A forward head carriage arises from poor postures that cause the neck to slant forwards, usually while at the computer, or when using mobile phones or tablets. Hence the coining of the term tech neck.

This forward slant of the neck places a lot more stress on the cervical spine and can create muscle imbalances as the body compensates to find efficient ways to hold the head upright. Over time, a forward head carriage can lead to degenerative changes in the neck, cause disc bulges and, potentially, nerve impingement.

The Fix

Stretching the neck muscles and restoring normal range of motion as well as strengthening the back and postural muscles will help reduce the symptoms of tech neck. With its focus on posture and movements that stretch, strengthen and stabilise, Pilates is perfect for long-term management. In the office, improving the ergonomics of your workstation, using a standing desk, and moving regularly will all help to correct a forward head carriage.

3. Hunched back (kyphosis)

A hunched back, aka thoracic kyphosis, is another result of poor posture, and is most common in adolescents and young adults. It also often occurs alongside a forward head carriage and rounded shoulders in office workers, in a condition known as Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Another cause of kyphosis is Scheuermann’s disease, which is characterised by abnormal growth of the thoracic spine. Here the thoracic spine starts to lose mobility and become rounded, giving a hunchback appearance.

The Fix

Postural kyphosis is corrected easily by standing up straight and maintaining an upright posture, alongside ergonomic improvements, while the treatment for Scheuermann’s disease involves physiotherapy and a stretching/mobility program. Bracing may also be needed if the person is still growing.

4. Recurring headaches

Recurring headaches are quite common among office workers with poor postural habits. A forward head carriage puts the joints and discs of the neck under a lot of strain as they struggle to support the weight of the head. The muscles of the neck are overworked in this position and it creates a lot of tension where they attach into the back of the skull. This in turn creates tension headaches. (However, they can also be triggered by stress and grinding teeth.)

The Fix

Physiotherapy assessment is needed to assess the neck’s mobility and strength. Massage, dry needling and joint mobilisation will help to relieve the symptoms. A stretching and strengthening program in conjunction with an ergonomic assessment will help prevent recurrent problems.

5. Tilted pelvis

Excessive sitting or a predominantly desk-bound job can cause tightness in the hip flexors, which run from the lower back into the front of the hip. Tight hip flexors result in the pelvis rotating forward. This can cause an increased curvature of the both the lower and upper back, which can result in pain.

The Fix

The pelvis should sit in a relatively neutral position and be able to tilt backwards and forwards without any limitation or pain. General hip strengthening, especially through the glutes, as well as core strengthening can help. It is also important to break up the length of time spent sitting.

6. Back/ neck pain

Poor posture leads to muscular imbalances and can result in pain, particularly throughout the upper body. For instance, a forward head carriage increases the workload through the neck and upper back muscles to hold the ‘increased’ weight of the head against gravity. Over time, this causes stiffness in joints and strain through the neck and upper back muscles, resulting in pain.

The Fix

Break up the length of time you spend sitting, do neck and upper back stretches throughout the day, and talk to your physiotherapist about strengthening exercises to help you maintain good posture. Try to be mindful of your posture and correct often, ensuring there is a gentle curve through your neck, upper back and lower back so that your head sits directly on top of your shoulders and trunk. (Head here for postural tips when sitting and standing.)

For improved posture and reduced pain, book a Postural Analysis at Collins Place Physio by calling 9650 2220 today.

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What is Biceps Tendonitis?

main with biceps tendonitis pain
A painful condition that affects shoulder and arm movement and often causes sleep disturbance, biceps tendonitis arises when there is inflammation to the long-head bicep tendon. Common in sports and professions that involve repetitive overhead activity, this overuse injury is rarely seen in isolation. In other words, it typically exists alongside other pathologies such as rotator cuff injuries, shoulder instability, labral (shoulder fibrocartilage) tears and arthritis. Read on to discover all you need to know about biceps tendonitis, its causes, and its treatment.

Understanding the biceps muscle

Situated in the front of the upper arm between the shoulder and elbow, the biceps muscle is made up of a short head and a long head. The short head attaches to the top anterior portion of the shoulder. The long head passes through a groove at the front of the shoulder, through the shoulder joint and attaches at the top of the shoulder, making it more susceptible to inflammation and injury.

Biceps tendonitis is often present in conjunction with injuries to the rotator cuff (muscles on the back and top of the shoulder that provide stability to the shoulder joint) and/or shoulder instability because the pain, weakness and poor biomechanics in the overall shoulder function places excessive load on the biceps.

What are the symptoms of biceps tendonitis?

Those with biceps tendonitis will experience pain in the front of the shoulder, especially when lifting or performing overhead movements such as pulling on a jumper or putting on a jacket. There will be pain and/or weakness with shoulder flexion, ie. when lifting the arm forward and above the head. Other symptoms may include pain radiating to the elbow, pain and/or weakness when bending the elbow, pain on reaching into the back seat of the car and a clicking noise accompanying shoulder movement in the affected arm. Patients with biceps tendonitis typically also complain of pain when sleeping on the affected shoulder.

Why does biceps tendonitis occur?

Biceps tendonitis is most often brought about by repetitive overhead actions. For instance, it is regularly seen in athletes involved in sports that require overhead activities, such as baseball (pitching), tennis (serving), and swimming. Those in jobs that require overhead activity and lifting (eg. painters, builders) are also at risk. In some instances, biceps tendonitis is brought about by trauma, while tendinosis – chronic, non-inflamed tendon discomfort due to degeneration – can be a problem for the older population.

How is it biceps tendonitis diagnosed, treated & prevented from recurring?

Your physio will first take a thorough history of your injury, assess the range, strength and function of the neck, shoulder and thoracic spine to rule out other potential pathologies. Further investigation may be required in the form of an ultrasound or MRI.

If there is inflammation to the tendon (tendonitis), the first stages of treatment will typically include anti-inflammatories, ice and rest. Patients with acute biceps tendonitis – as well as the chronic, non-inflamed condition, tendinosis – will need to embark on a strengthening program.

To rehabilitate the area and prevent biceps tendonitis from recurring, it is important to strengthen the shoulder muscles and scapula, and improve posture and neck and thoracic (upper back) flexibility. Your physiotherapist will provide you with suitable exercises, and educate you on how to improve your lifting/overhead technique.

If you feel like you may be suffering from biceps tendonitis, call Collins Place Physio today on 9650 2220 to get your rehabilitation under way.

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5 Ways to Reduce Neck Pain at Work

women doing neck stretch at desk
While neck pain might feel like an unavoidable part of desk-job life, it needn’t be. With a few small adjustments, a little more action, and a lot less sitting, your aches and pains will occur far less often, if at all. Read on for five easy ways to reduce neck pain at work and help put an end to those nasty, neck-related headaches.

1. Use a sit-stand desk

Sit-stand desks, or standing desks, allow you to quickly and easily change between seated and standing positions throughout the day. Extended time sitting at your desk is a common cause of back and neck pain at work, and a sit-stand desk can help reduce muscle tightness, tension and associated pain. Try to stand for one to two hours before sitting for 45 minutes, then returning to standing – aim to stand for more than half of the day.

With prolonged sedentary time proven to increase your risk of obesity, cardiovascular and other disease, a sit-stand desk is an investment in your wellbeing for today and into the future!

2. Adjust your monitor

Any HR department knows the importance of a good ergonomic set-up for a healthy and productive workforce. And, while there is no end to the ergonomic office equipment you can buy, a few simple and inexpensive adjustments can also improve your workstation set-up and reduce neck pain.

Start by looking at your computer – your eyes should be in line with the top half or third of the monitor when looking straight ahead. If not, adjust your screen (and/or seat) accordingly. If you’re using a laptop, consider using an external monitor or a laptop stand (plus external keyboard) to ensure the correct eye height. In a pinch, a stack of magazines or books can also do the trick.

Adjust your seat height so that your feet are flat on the ground, with a 90-degree angle at the hips. Knees can be slightly lower, but avoid a seated position where the knees are higher as this can put pressure on the hips.

Ensure your forearms are supported on your desk (at last half the forearm should be on the desk) and that your elbows are at desk height when they are bent at 90 degrees. This applies whether you are seated or standing. (If you are not sure where to start, ask a friendly team member about Collins Place Physio’s ergonomic assessments.)

3. Do some simple stretches

Try to do these three simple stretches in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the afternoon for reduced tension and pain in the upper back and neck.

Upper trapezius stretch – in a seated position hold onto your chair seat with your right hand. Take your left ear  down towards your left shoulder, then tilt the chin slightly to the right. With your left hand, gently push the side of the head downward to the left. You should feel a stretch in the right side of the neck and the top of the shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Repeat on the other side.

Levator scapulae stretch – hold your chair seat with your right hand. Take your chin towards your chest, turn your head gently to the left, then bend your head downwards taking your left ear towards your left hip pocket, using your left hand to apply downwards pressure to the back of your head until you feel a gentle stretch above your right shoulder blade. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Repeat on the other side.

Anterior cervicals – pull your collar bones down, then gently bend your neck backwards. Hold for 20 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times.

4. Have an eye check

If you find you regularly suffer from neck pain and headaches, it may pay to have an eye check. Straining towards your monitor with a forward head position is frequently a cause of neck pain and cervicogenic headaches. And constant squinting and eye strain certainly won’t help, either!

5. Move every half hour

If you don’t have the luxury of a sit-stand desk, make sure you still get on your feet every half hour. Not only will moving about help relieve neck and back pain and tension, it will boost your energy levels and give you a chance to connect with colleagues face-to-face. Sunny day? Instead of sitting in the conference room for that weekly WIP, suggest a walking meeting in the park.

If you are suffering from neck pain or headaches, give our friendly Collins Place Physio team a call today on 9650 2220.

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The Most Common Sports Injuries

soccer player with knee injury
As physios, we’re big believers that the more you move, the longer you live. Yet, while we’ll happily espouse the benefits of participating in sport and fitness activities for both the body and the mind, we’re also witness to A LOT of sports injuries. Because it’s our aim at Collins Place Physio to help you stay in the game, resident sports nut Conor has outlined four of the most common sports injuries, plus some useful tips for prevention. Play on!

ANKLE SPRAIN

Ankle sprains happen to people of all ages. They occur when you ‘roll your ankle’, which over-stretches the ligaments.

Symptoms

Symptoms of an ankle sprain include acute pain, swelling and bruising, as well as difficulty weight bearing/walking. The pain usually starts to subside after the first 3 to 4 days.

Causes

A sprain occurs when the ankle is suddenly twisted/rolled and forced beyond its normal range of motion, stretching or tearing the ligaments. This can occur when landing awkwardly, stepping on another player’s foot, or getting your foot caught in the ground when turning. Ankle sprains are common in all sports and activities that involve a lot of jumping, turning, and sudden changes of direction.

Prevention

In general, it is important to warm up properly and wear supportive footwear when exercising. Incorporating balance and plyometric exercises into your gym routine can also help.

Treatment

For the first 72 hours, follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol. In severe cases an x-ray or MRI may be recommended to rule out a fracture or serious injury to the surrounding ligaments and tendons and joint cartilage. Crutches may help for the first week, or a moon boot/brace/taping may be recommended to allow the ligaments to heal.

After the acute pain has eased, your physiotherapist will start you on a rehabilitation program to strengthen all the stabilising muscles and ligaments. The most important thing after an ankle sprain is to complete this rehabilitation to strengthen the surrounding musculature properly and return your proprioceptive or balance ability. Your physio will run you through sport specific exercises, i.e running, turning, jumping and landing exercises, to help prevent recurrent problems.

In the case of an ankle sprain, it can often take up to 6 weeks before a return to sport.

ROTATOR CUFF INJURY/ TEAR

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that arise from the shoulder blade and attach to the head of the humerus (upper arm), forming a cuff. The rotator cuff centres the humeral head in the shallow socket and provides strength and stability during motion of the shoulder joint. It also helps you to abduct (raise arm to the side), internally rotate and externally rotate the shoulder.

Symptoms

Rotator cuff injuries usually start with a nagging ache in the shoulder when lifting/reaching overhead, dressing, or lying on the shoulder at night. This develops into pain and weakness with repetitive use, or when lifting the arm overhead.

Causes

This common sports injury is mainly due to a trauma to the shoulder, or an overuse injury caused by repetitive overhead sports like tennis, volleyball, pitching etc.

Prevention

As the shoulder joint is so mobile, it depends on the strength of the rotator cuff muscles and tendons for stability. To prevent injuries to the shoulder it is important to strengthen the rotator cuff as well as the bigger muscles around the joint. Rotator cuff exercises should be incorporated into all gym programs that involve upper body strengthening. You also need to strengthen the muscles that stabilise the scapula as this provides the base for all shoulder movements. If one of these muscles is weak, it will place more stress on the rotator cuff tendons at the front of the shoulder.

Thoracic (upper back) mobility is also essential in preventing shoulder injuries. Poor mobility in the thoracic spine will cause a person to have reduced thoracic extension and rounded shoulders. This places a lot more load on the rotator cuff tendons and can increase the risk of injury.

Treatment

Rehabilitation involves strengthening the rotator cuff, the muscles that stabilise the scapula, and working on general mobility. Partial thickness tears will usually heal themselves with rest and the appropriate rotator cuff strengthening program. Full thickness tears may need to be surgically repaired if the person is returning to a high level of sport/activity. Older patients can return to normal function through conservative management by strengthening the remaining muscles of the rotator cuff.

woman with shoulder injury

RUNNER’S KNEE

Runners knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a term used to describe pain in the front of the kneecap. It is usually caused by poor tracking of the kneecap due to a muscle imbalance at the hip/knee/ankle and/or poor biomechanics of the lower limb.

Symptoms

The main symptom of runner’s knee is a dull ache behind the kneecap (patella). It is usually aggravated by running but also squatting, kneeling, and going up and down stairs. Other symptoms can include swelling and grinding in the front of the knee.

Causes

It is obviously very common in running, especially long-distance running. However, runner’s knee can occur in any sport that stresses the knee joints, such as football, netball or skiing.

Prevention

Stretching and a good warm-up/warm-down will help prevent stress to the knee joint when training or playing sport. Gradually increasing running is very important when you haven’t been active for a while and are training for a 10km run/marathon.

Strengthening your hip stabilisers also helps to ensure that the knee tracks well and doesn’t collapse inwards when training. This is done through single leg exercises like lunges, step ups, and single leg bridges.

Treatment

Initial treatment consists of RICE for the first 72 hours. Taping can be very useful to unload the kneecap and ease the acute pain to allow it to settle.

Your physio will need to assess you to determine the true cause of your knee pain and you may need some hands on treatment to get you moving properly. Your physiotherapist will then give you a series of activation and strengthening exercises to work on the tracking of the patella and strengthening the muscles of the hip and knee.

ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT (ACL) INJURY

The ACL is one of the main ligaments inside the knee that connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia).

Symptoms

Symptoms of ACL rupture include a loud popping sensation when it happens. There is severe pain and rapid swelling due to bleeding in the joint. You will also experience an inability to weight bear, and a feeling of instability on twisting movements as if your knee will ‘give way’.

Causes

ACL injuries are common in sports that require a lot of jumping, landing, and sudden changes in direction, such as soccer, netball, AFL, skiing, and basketball.

Prevention

Muscle strength and conditioning is very important in preventing ACL injury. Neuromuscular training focusing on balance, muscle firing patterns and landing technique can help to minimise the risk of injury.

Treatment

Initial treatment is RICE to help the acute symptoms settle, and an MRI to diagnose the severity of the tear. You may need a brace or crutches to stabilise your knee and allow the injury to settle.

If it is a partial thickness tear, your physiotherapist will start you on a rehabilitation program to strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the knee. The final stages of rehab will focus on sport-specific exercises like running, cutting, turning, landing etc.

If it is a large tear or complete rupture, the usual course of treatment is surgical repair. In the surgery the surgeon will remove the torn ACL and replace it with a tendon (usually hamstring). After the surgery, you are straight into a rehabilitation program with your physiotherapist to regain full range of motion, muscle strength and function.

It can take anywhere from 9 months up to 1 year to return to sport after an ACL reconstruction.

To improve your sporting performance and reduce your risk of injury, please call us on 9650 2220 to discuss our biomechanical assessment and screening services.

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All Your Dry Needling Questions, Answered

dry needling in back
A beneficial treatment for patients presenting with acute or chronic pain, impaired mobility, or muscular tightness, dry needling is often performed alongside remedial massage or physiotherapy. But is it painful, is it hygienic, and isn’t it just the same as acupuncture? (No, yes, no.) We discuss these dry needling questions – and all the others we’re frequently asked – below. Read on to discover the important role of dry needling in fast-tracking your recovery, and to understand exactly what it is you’re in for.

How does dry needling work?

In dry needling, a (fine, sanitary) needle is inserted into a myofascial trigger point to stimulate an involuntary local twitch response, which causes the muscle to release and relax. In some cases, mechanical stimulus of the needle may also be used. The successful therapeutic outcome of dry needling is to stimulate neurological sensors in the body to disrupt the contracted nature of the muscle. This can result in relief from tension, freer movement, and a reduction in pain. The technique can also cause positive local biomedical changes and result in the increase of blood flow, which in turn promotes faster recovery from your injury.

When is dry needling used?

Dry needling is performed in conjunction with remedial massage or physiotherapy, and is suitable for treating most musculoskeletal conditions. These include: sprained ankles, back or neck pain, tendonitis, headache, joint pain, jaw pain, shoulder/ rotator cuff pain and impingement, bursitis, sciatica, over-use injuries, RSI, shin splits, sports injuries, ITB, tennis elbow, knee injuries, pelvic pain, plantar fasciitis, and general muscle tightness and cramping.

How does dry needling complement massage/ physiotherapy?

Dry needling is a treatment that goes deeper than manual trigger point therapy. It can also be used as an alternative to massaging an area if it is too painful. Adding dry needling to your remedial massage or physiotherapy treatment can provide faster relief from pain and muscle tightness, increase your range of motion, and speed up your recovery.

Will it hurt?

Dry needling may be slightly uncomfortable at first, but it should not be painful. You may experience a slight prick/tap when the ultra-fine needle is inserted, often followed by a twitch response. This is caused by a contraction of the muscle when the needle stimulates the myofascial trigger point/ knot in the muscle. Most patients will also experience a dull ache sensation in the area when the needle meets the trigger point.

Is dry needling hygienic?

Yes. Dry needling is performed with sterile single-use fine filament hypodermic needles (acupuncture needles).

How long are needles left in?

The needles may be placed deeply or superficially, depending which area of the body is being treated. They may be left in between 5 to 7 minutes, or up to 15 minutes with the occasional manipulation or winding of the needle.

Who is dry needling not suitable for?

Dry needling may not be suitable for you. It is contraindicated for:

• Patients with Lymphodema
• Those with compromised immune systems (for example due to cancer, hepatitis, HIV)
• Those with vascular disease
• Diabetes
• Pregnancy
• Those with a metal allergy
• Patients on Anticoagulants (blood thinners)

How is dry needling different from acupuncture?

The main difference between dry needling and acupuncture is that acupuncture treats to alter the flow of Qi energy based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM follows the theory that Qi circulates along 12 major pathways along the body called meridians linked to a specific organ system. Dry needling, on the other hand, is based on Western anatomical and neurophysical principles relating to the trigger points – tight bands of muscle found within a muscle or muscle group.

Call us on 9650 2220 to discuss whether dry needling may be an appropriate addition to your remedial massage or physiotherapy appointment. 

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What is Bursitis?

shoulder bursitis rehabilitation
Experiencing sudden or ongoing pain, heat or stiffness in the shoulder or hip? Bursitis could be to blame. Typically occurring in (but not limited to) these areas, this uncomfortable condition refers to inflammation of any of the body’s many bursa – small, fluid-filled sacks that provide cushioning and lubrication between a bone and joint, tendon, muscle, ligament or skin to allow smooth, pain-free motion.

When one of these sacks is inflamed, it hinders, rather than helps, movement. A swollen bursa takes up more space, resulting in increased friction and pressure, and painful, restricted movement.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

If you are experiencing pain, swelling and/or heat in or around a joint, stiffness, reduced range of motion, sharp or shooting pain with movement, or pain at night that disrupts your sleep, you may have an inflamed bursa.

Why does bursitis arise?

A common overuse injury, bursitis is often seen in individuals whose job or exercise regime involves frequent, repetitive actions. For instance, shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis)
may be found in a house painter, and hip bursitis (trochanteric bursitis) in a dancer. Also at risk are those who attempt to achieve too much too soon at the gym or on the sports field, without possessing adequate strength, mobility and the correct technique, or allowing enough time off for recovery.

When not brought about by frequent repetitive actions, bursitis can instead result from direct trauma, such as a car accident or a jolting fall. It is also more prevalent in those with chronic health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.

Where does it occur?

The most common types of bursitis are subacromial – occurring between the rotator cuff tendon and acromion (bone on the tip of the shoulder), and trochanteric – occurring on the lateral surface/ outside of the hip. Inflammation to the knee, elbow and Achilles/heel bursae are also common. However, bursitis can strike anywhere a bursa is present – and there are over 100 throughout the body!

How is bursitis diagnosed & treated?

Your physiotherapist will determine your condition by assessing the joint/ muscle and surrounding areas, while taking in your medical history to rule out other potential contributing factors. Further investigations such as an ultrasound or MRI may be required.

The first steps of a bursitis treatment plan will typically include anti-inflammatories, soft tissue massage, and ice for relief. If the condition is chronic, a cortisone injection may be beneficial.

Your physiotherapist will also determine and address the causes of your bursitis for long-term and preventative management. This may involve creating a treatment plan to overcome biomechanical/muscle weakness issues with strengthening exercises and stretches, education to improve sporting technique, and lifestyle changes to reduce repetitiveness of tasks.

If you feel like you may be suffering from bursitis, call Collins Place Physio today on 9650 2220 to get your rehabilitation under way.

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Ice Vs Heat – Which is Best for Your Injury?

Ice cubes
You probably know by now how to treat an ankle sprain with the RICE method. But when else should you treat an injury with ice? And what about heat? Is it the right thing to apply for sharp lower back pain, and what about that niggling neck ache? To make sure you’re getting your temperature therapy right, read on. We’ll guide you through the ice versus heat decision, and help you recover sooner.

When to ice

Ice should be used for all acute injuries and when there is inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to a trauma or injury. By constricting the blood vessels, ice helps to reduce inflammation and tissue damage. It also acts as a local anaesthetic, numbing the soft tissues and slowing down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain.

When to use heat

On the other hand, heat can be beneficial for general muscle aches, joint stiffness, chronic pain, and stress. Heat increases blood flow which relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints. A heat pack or hot water bottle is also lovely and warming on a chilly morning!

What happens if you get it wrong?

Using heat in the acute stages of an injury will increase the pain and inflammation, which can delay healing. Ice should not be used on muscle cramps/spasm as it will only cause the muscle to contract further and cause more pain. If in doubt, speak to your physio.

Can you alternate ice and heat?

In some instances, yes. Alternating ice and heat has been shown to have some benefit in reducing exercise-induced muscle soreness. The ice works as an analgesic then the heat promotes blood flow to the affected area for faster recovery. Elite athletes will often use contrast water therapy (CWT), immersing themselves alternately in both cold and hot water.

How to use ice

The general rule for icing is ’20 minutes on and 20 minutes off’. Ice should be applied for the first 72 hours after an acute injury or trauma. It is important to make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a damp cloth (if it does not have a cover) to protect the skin from unpleasant ice burns.

How to use heat packs

Heat packs should be applied for 20 minutes up to 3-4 times per day. Single-use patches and wraps can be used continuously for up to 8 hours. If the heat pack is very warm, take care to avoid burning the skin by placing a towel between the pack and your skin.

When to avoid both ice and heat

Always avoid applying a hot or cold pack over an open would. And, if there is impaired sensation in the injured area, steer clear of both ice and heat and book an appointment with your physio.

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Why a sit-stand desk could be the best health investment you make this year

man using sit-stand desk
Standing desks, also known as sit-stand desks, have received a lot of attention in recent years. But are they worth the investment? In a word, yes! All the team at Collins Place Physio alternate between sitting and standing, and we recommend our office workers do too. Not convinced? Read on for the many benefits of sit-stand desks, and you’ll soon be adding one to your new year wish list!

You’ll burn more calories

Standing burns more calories than sitting, so switching things up and standing for periods throughout the day can help reduce your risk of weight gain. According to leading manufacturer of ergonomic solutions BakkerElkhuizen, the heart pumps around 10 times as much blood around your body if you alternate between sitting and standing, as opposed to sitting only. And you can burn approximately 145 calories in a few hours standing at your desk!

It’s not just about aesthetics either – maintaining a healthy weight plays a crucial role in avoiding the onset of type 2 diabetes and its associated complications.

You’ll reduce your risk of disease

Being sedentary – i.e. spending eight hours a day, five days a week sitting at your desk (!) – is akin to smoking when it comes to negative health impacts. Time and again, prolonged sedentary time has been linked to not only higher blood sugar, obesity and type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease and even some types of cancer.

According to Alpa Patel, PhD, strategic director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study 3: “Sitting time research is still in its infancy. We are trying to understand whether it’s the total amount that you sit or how frequently you break up those bouts of sitting that are most relevant to disease risk. While we continue to learn what is driving this relationship, it’s already clear that cutting down on the time you spend sitting has good consequences for your health.”

This reduction in sitting time at work can easily be achieved with the introduction of an adjustable sit-stand desk, as well as ensuring you take plenty of active breaks. Even if that’s just walking to a colleague’s desk rather than emailing.

Alternating between sitting and standing can reduce back pain

Sitting for extended periods can cause muscle tightness and increased tension in the lower back and even other parts of the body like the neck and upper back. For those with back pain that is aggravated by sitting, the ability to stand while at work gives significant pain relief.

Standing all day is not recommended either. As you fatigue from standing, you often start to adopt unfavourable postures, such as slouching to prop yourself up on the desk, or leaning towards one side/leg/elbow, which can lead to an increase in load and tension on that particular side.

Being able to be mobile and move from sitting to standing throughout the day helps with force/load distribution, and also helps maintain muscle length.

You’ll perform better at work

Proponents say the benefits of sit-stand desks extend beyond the health gains, citing higher energy levels, focus and productivity, as well as enhanced creativity. No surprise then that sit-stand desks are the go-to for tech giants Google, Apple and Facebook.

A sit-stand desk could even help you live longer!

Perhaps the most compelling potential benefit of a sit-stand desk relates to your life span. Published last year, one Deakin University study of 231 desk-based workers concluded that sit-stand desks could help save 7,492 ‘health-adjusted life years’ through prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Interested in purchasing a sit-stand desk or want to know more? Call our friendly team today on (03) 9650 2220.

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9 Signs You Need to See a Physio

woman with knee pain
Not sure if the pain or discomfort you’re experiencing is par for the course or something worth investigating? You’re not alone. To help, we’ve rounded up nine clear-cut signs you need to see a physio. And get your body back functioning at its full potential!

1. You have headaches

Headaches aren’t always a result of dehydration, eye strain, illness or stress – they are often caused by muscular tension in the neck or jaw, as well as poor posture. In many cases, your physiotherapist can assist with relieving your symptoms and assign exercises to prevent headaches from recurring. If your headaches are of a more severe nature, they will of course refer you to a medical professional.

2. You keep tripping over

If you’re struggling with your balance more than usual, it’s time to make an appointment with your friendly physio. There are a number of reasons your balance could be out of whack and your physiotherapist will be able to help by assessing the causes of your balance issues, then prescribing an exercise regime to restore your equilibrium.

3. You’re always tired

If you’re suffering from chronic back pain or a bung shoulder, it can be a struggle to manage the recommended eight hours of shut eye. Alleviating pain will help you to sleep better, and awaken bright and refreshed, rather than grumpy and achy. Your physio will also be able to advise on the right mattress/ pillow/ sleeping position to suit your individual needs.

4. You’ve rolled your ankle twice… this week

Recurring injury can be an indicator of inefficient movement patterns, restricted mobility, or underlying musculoskeletal issues. Your physiotherapist will be able to help correct any imbalances and provide strengthening and mobilising exercises. Ensuring those little accidents occur far less frequently!

5. Your ear aches

If you frequently experience ear ache, facial pain, a clicking noise when yawning or eating, headaches, tinnitus or neck pain, you could be suffering from TMJ or jaw dysfunction. A physiotherapist with experience in this area (such as CPP’s Pete Bond) will be able to assist you in managing pain and correcting dysfunction with techniques including muscle massage, mobilisation and dry needling.

6. You have shin splints

If shin splints are derailing your training plans, a trip to the physio can be very beneficial. Your physiotherapist will be able to run a full biomechanical screening, assess your technique and identify any muscle dysfunction, advise on shoe choice and orthotics, and tailor a program to improve lower limb strength, stability and mobility, and expediate your return to running.

7. You have a stabbing heel pain

Sharp pain in your heel, particularly during the morning, is a sign you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. Older people, overweight individuals, pregnant women, those with high arches or arthritis, and active folk with tight calf or lower leg muscles, are more susceptible to this condition. A physiotherapist can help alleviate your symptoms with soft tissue massage and taping, equip you with beneficial stretches, and address any biomechanical issues that may be at play.

8. You have restricted mobility

Being able to move freely is important for your sense of vitality, and mobility – like strength or fitness – is something that needs consistent work to maintain. Aside from helping you feel youthful and agile, maintaining a good range of motion will substantially reduce your risk of injury. Regardless of whether you’re loading your joints at the gym, or simply bending down to pick up a toddler.

A physiotherapist will address any issues hindering your movement and provide stretches and strategies for home, such as self-myofascial release using a foam roller or spiky ball.

9. You’re in pain

This one’s a no brainer! If you are experiencing acute or ongoing bodily pain that feels muscular or joint-related, an appointment with a physiotherapist should be your first port of call.

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How to Keep Your Health on Track these Christmas Holidays

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The Christmas holidays are a special time of year – a chance to kick up your heels, relax, and spend quality time with family and friends. The champagne/beer/wine’s flowing, the cricket’s on the TV, and the leftovers are seemingly endless. But for many, so too is the temptation to totally forget about good habits, and start the new year with an inevitable hangover, aches and pains, and a bit of extra padding…

While it’s fine to loosen your belt a little and relax the rules, don’t let this holiday be a complete blow out! Here’s how to easily incorporate some healthy habits into your break, and start 2019 off on the right foot.

Look after your feet

Speaking of feet, if you live in flip flops all summer long, you might be doing yours less of a favour than you think. Regular thongs offer very little in the way of arch support, encourage pronation (inwards rolling) and put foot ligaments and joints under stress as you claw your toes to keep your thongs, well, on your feet. Regular wear can result in foot, ankle and calf pain, and conditions such as Achilles tendinopathy.

Thankfully, there is a better alternative – Archies Arch Support Thongs. Equally stylish, these physio-designed thongs are the comfiest footwear you’ll ever wear. In fact, if you bump into any of the Collins Place Physio team this break, chances are we’ll be sporting our Archies!

Book a massage

It might seem indulgent, but a massage can go a long way towards easing accumulating tension during the (often fraught) festive season. Christmas parties, last-minute shopping, cooking and hosting the extended family can really take their toll, and a massage can help you soldier on by boosting your immune system and easing stress.

Keep moving

Instead of just watching sport from your armchair, how about gathering the troops for that great Aussie tradition – a game of beach cricket? Walk off your Christmas lunch, make tennis dates with your friends, hit the gym, go for a surf or head to yoga. Now that you actually have some free time, why not use it to stay active? You’ll feel so much better for moving your body, and won’t need to start from scratch in the new year.

Take a tech detox

Taking a break from your devices is good news for both the body and mind, and allows you to be fully present when spending time with your loved ones. You don’t need to do a total blackout, but try setting limits and work to break the constant scrolling cycle. Turning off your tech two hours before bed will also ensure you sleep more soundly over the break, meaning you’ll return to work refreshed and recharged.

Stick with the 80:20 rule

While we’re no grinches and think everyone should have a no-limits cheat day on December 25th, try not to let that become a cheat fortnight! Stick with the 80:20 rule (80% clean and 20% indulgent) as much as possible and you’ll start the new year feeling healthy and energised. Instead of bloated, sluggish and in dire need of a detox!

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Are You Suffering from Tech Neck?

woman using mobile phone
Tech neck, text neck, one thing’s for sure – device-related neck pain is a modern epidemic. From smart phones to tablets, eReaders and laptops, the technology designed to enhance our lives and give us increased mobility can, ironically, hinder it. Resulting in chronic pain, reduced movement, and – if left unchecked – costly rehabilitation bills.

Caused by an over reliance on mobile devices, tech neck is certainly an increasingly common complaint in our Melbourne CBD physiotherapy clinic. Thankfully, however, it can largely be prevented, without the need to go cold turkey.

What’s the problem with our devices?

They’re lighter and more portable than ever before, so how exactly are our smart phones and laptop computers doing us damage? The answer lies in the posture we assume when reading, typing or texting.

Prolonged flexion of the neck (looking down) encourages a forward shoulder posture which puts the neck further forward, out of the base of support. This means the neck and shoulder muscles need to work harder to hold your head up against gravity. Over time, this overuse can lead to fatigue and chronic neck pain.

The warning signs of tech neck

If you are experiencing the following, take notice:

  • Gradual onset of a dull ache and stiffness in the neck and shoulders when using handheld devices/laptops for extended periods
  • Nagging or sharp pain at the end of day after prolonged laptop/ tablet/ phone use etc
  • Intermittent headaches when using devices
  • In extreme cases, you may start to feel numbness/tingling or pain in the arms (If you experience any symptoms in your extremities, you should consult your physio asap.)

How to avoid device-related neck pain

Nobody says you have to turn into a luddite, but limiting your mindless scrolling has numerous benefits for your physical, not to mention mental, wellbeing. Try using an app to track your screen time, and set yourself strict daily limits for social media.

Instead of sending dozens of text messages to the same person, save your neck (and your thumb from RSI!) and consider engaging in the declining art of phone conversation. Popping your phone on speaker or pairing with Bluetooth headphones when out and about will help prevent any crick in the neck caused by lengthy chats.

In the office, instead of emailing that colleague three seats away, drop by their desk and discuss the project in person. And, if you work from home, try to avoid falling into bad habits, like working from your couch or kitchen table. A good ergonomic home office setup is vital for productivity as well as your wellbeing. (If you are unsure where to start, contact us for an at-home ergonomic assessment.)

Regularly read from a tablet or Kindle in bed, or on the bus/train/tram? This could be the underlying cause of your tech neck. To avoid this, sit with your back slightly reclined and prop up your eReader with pillows so that it sits at eye level. This helps to reduce the workload on your neck and shoulder muscles.

Treatment of tech neck

If you are experiencing signs of tech neck, your first course of action (after reducing your screen time) is to book a physiotherapy assessment. Treatment will typically include a combination of soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation and, in some cases, taping. Consider booking a professional ergonomic assessment of your workstation, and seek postural advice.

Your physiotherapist may also prescribe a strengthening program for your back and postural muscles, and the smaller muscles that help stabilise the neck. Working on your posture will be very beneficial and, in the longer term, Pilates may help to prevent recurrence.

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How to prevent and treat rotator cuff injuries

man with shoulder injury
Providing strength and stability to the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff is surprisingly susceptible to injury. In fact, rotator cuff injuries are common among both the young and active, and older, more sedentary patients we see at Collins Place Physio. So, what exactly is the rotator cuff, what does it do, and how can you keep yours happy and healthy?

The rotator cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that arise from the shoulder blade and attach to the head of the humerus (upper arm), forming a cuff. It centres the humeral head in the shallow socket, and provides strength and stability during motion of the shoulder joint. It helps you to abduct (raise your arm to the side), and internally and externally rotate the shoulder.

How rotator cuff injuries occur

Rotator cuff injuries are very common in people over the age of 40 due to normal age-related ‘wear and tear’ in the tendons. In younger patients, injuries are mainly due to a trauma to the shoulder, or overuse caused by repetitive overhead sports like tennis or volleyball. Rotator cuff injuries are also common in occupations that require working overhead or involve repetitive physical tasks, such as painting, carpentry etc.

Rotator cuff injuries usually start with a nagging ache in the shoulder when lifting/reaching overhead, dressing, or lying on the shoulder at night. This develops into pain and weakness with repetitive use, or when lifting the arm overhead.

Preventing Rotator cuff injuries

As the shoulder joint is so mobile, it depends on the strength of the rotator cuff muscles and tendons to stabilise the joint. To prevent injuries to the shoulder, it is important to strengthen the rotator cuff as well as the bigger muscles around the joint.

Rotator cuff exercises should therefore be incorporated into all gym programs that involve upper body strengthening. You also need to strengthen the muscles that stabilise the scapula, as this provides the base for all shoulder movements. If one of these muscles is weak, it places more stress on the rotator cuff tendons at the front of the shoulder.

Thoracic (upper back) mobility is also essential in preventing rotator cuff tears and shoulder injuries. Poor mobility in the thoracic spine will cause a person to have reduced thoracic extension and rounded shoulders. This places a lot more load on the rotator cuff tendons and can increase the risk of injury.

Treatment for rotator cuff tears

Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury, and the patient’s lifestyle. Partial thickness tears will usually heal themselves with rest and the appropriate rotator cuff strengthening program. Full thickness tears, however, may need to be surgically repaired if the person is returning to high level sport or activity.

Older individuals can typically return to normal function through conservative management that involves strengthening the remaining muscles of the rotator cuff. Rehabilitation involves strengthening the rotator cuff, the muscles that stabilise the scapula, and working on improving general mobility.

If you are experiencing any shoulder pain or weakness, please call Collins Place Physio on 9650 2220 to discuss an appropriate rehab or prevention program.

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5 Signs You Need to Strengthen Your Glutes

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While a taut, toned backside might be on your wish list, having strong gluteal muscles is important for functional as well as aesthetic reasons. Comprising of a group of muscles in the buttocks – gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus – the glutes control external and internal rotation of the hip joint, extension and abduction of the leg, and help maintain pelvic stability during activities.

Strong glutes can improve your posture, balance, and sporting prowess, while reducing your risk of injury and back pain. With such an important role, they shouldn’t be neglected. So, read on to discover five common signs your glutes could benefit from some strengthening!

1. Your glutes always feel tight

Unless you’re recovering from a squat-laden gym session, your glutes probably shouldn’t be feeling tight or sore. More often than not, chronic muscle tightness is a sign of weakness.

2. Poor posture

Posture isn’t only about a strong and stable core. Weak glutes can also cause an inability to maintain an upright posture through the trunk and pelvis.

3. Hip or knee pain

If you suffer from hip or knee pain, you might be searching in the wrong place for the cause, as it is often glute-related. Weak glutes can cause strain on the hip itself, as well as the lower down joints of the knees and even the ankles.

4. Lower back pain

If you’ve ever experienced lower back pain during bridging exercises at the gym or pilates, it’s highly likely you weren’t properly engaging your glute muscles. Weak glutes or glutes that aren’t ‘switched on’ can result in over-compensation from the lower back muscles. This can in turn cause pain and, potentially, injury.

5. Inability to maintain a level pelvis when standing on one leg

Part of the glute plays an important role in keeping a stable pelvis during single leg activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, hopping or running. Lack of pelvic stability can cause strain above or below in the kinematic chain, for instance in the lumbar spine, knee or lower leg.

If you are experiencing any of the above concerns, please call us on 9650 2220 to make an appointment to have your gluteal function assessed, and a strengthening program prescribed.

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The Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy

pregnant woman with back pain
Pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement, but it can also take its toll on a woman’s body. At the same time, anxiety levels are often elevated, making stress management important. Regular massage can be particularly useful to alleviate this stress, while also having a host of other benefits. Read on to discover the many and varied reasons to include massage in your pregnancy self-care plan.

It can ease lower back pain

Hormones produced during pregnancy cause the pelvic ligaments to loosen and joints to open, which in turn places stress on weight bearing joints and structures. As a result, lower back pain is a common complaint during pregnancy. By increasing blood flow to muscle groups and allowing them to work more efficiently, massage can help to alleviate pregnancy-related back pain.

And reduce fluid retention

You’ve no doubt had a pregnant friend complain about their swollen ankles, or experienced it yourself. This is due to the fact a woman’s blood volume can increase as much as 40-60% during pregnancy, placing an additional load on the lymphatic system and increasing fluid retention.

Stimulating the soft tissue during massage will help to reduce the collection of fluid and assist the lymphatic system to effectively remove fluid. Hence reducing any swelling.

Massage can relieve nerve pain & sciatica

As the baby grows, some women may experience sciatica – characterised by sharp pain from the lower back down the back of the thigh and lower limb to the foot. Releasing the surrounding muscles and massaging the glutes and lower limbs can alleviate the pressure caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve.

And alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome

Found on the palm-side of your wrist, the carpel tunnel houses several tendons and nerves that directly control your hands. Unfortunately, during pregnancy a large number of women will experience carpal tunnel syndrome due to excess fluid (oedema) in the wrists. As a result, they may experience pins and needles, numbness, and stiff, painful hands. Massage assists in moving the fluid and reducing muscular tenderness.

It can help with migraine & headache management

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to more frequent and intense migraines or headaches. By boosting circulation and reducing tension, massage can help relieve your pain.

It’s also very relaxing!

Not only is massage very relaxing, it is known to promote a good night’s sleep. Magic words for any mum-to-be!

 

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6 Reasons to Strengthen Your Core

women doing side planks

While washboard abs might be out of reach for many, core strength is something we can, and should, all strive for. And its importance goes far beyond vanity and a flat stomach! A corset-like group of muscles that includes your rectus and transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, and obliques, the core muscles provide support and stability to your spine, both when you are static and moving.

Your core helps support your posture, protect your organs and central nervous system, and help you to stand, bend, lift and twist without injury. And that’s just for starters! Read on to discover six major benefits of building a stronger core.

1. You’ll Experience Less Back Pain

Weak core muscles are a very common contributing factor to back pain. If you are not engaging your core, even while you are sitting at your desk all day, your lower back muscles will be recruited to keep your upright. The excess loading of these muscles will often lead to fatigue and unnecessary back pain.

2. You’ll Look & Feel More Confident

A strong core automatically improves your posture by allowing you to sit and stand more efficiently, creating a feeling of increased stability and power. Instead of slouching and shrinking, you’ll sit and stand taller, making you instantly appear – and feel – more confident.

3. And Look Slimmer

Good news for dieters – tightening this ‘corset’ of muscles and improving your posture will give you a slimmer silhouette and flatter stomach, regardless of the number on the scales.

4. You’re Less Likely to Injure Yourself

A strong, stable core provides a good foundation for all of your movements. When the core is weak, your body will move less efficiently. Other parts of your body will pick up the slack and experience overloading, which can result in pain and injury.

5. You’ll Improve Your Athletic Performance

With a stronger core, the body’s movement pattern is more controlled, requiring less energy to be spent compensating for poor movement patterns. A stronger core also allows your upper and lower limbs to work off a more solid base, allowing for increased force production. This enables the body to support/withstand greater loads in the gym, and produce more concise movement patterns on the sports field.

6. You’ll Have Better Bladder Control

If you are experiencing bladder leakage, speak to your physio. A program to strengthen the deep pelvic floor muscles, particularly after childbirth, may be required. Exercises that engage the pelvic floor, such as yoga and Pilates, may also be beneficial.

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6 Common Running Injuries & How to Prevent Them

man running
Running is one of the most popular ways to shape up and stay fit, and for obvious reasons. It’s free, no equipment (other than the right shoes!) is required, and you can do it virtually anywhere, any time. Even on holidays.

It is, however, a high impact activity, meaning runners run the risk (pardon the pun!) of injury due to putting excess stress on the joints. But that doesn’t mean you should quit before you begin!

To keep you in the running safety zone, we’ve rounded up six of the most common running injuries we see at Collins Place Physio, plus our top tips on how to prevent them.

Runners Knee (Patellofemoral pain syndrome)

The fittingly named runner’s knee is characterised by pain and tenderness/inflammation around and behind the kneecap (patella). It occurs due to poor tracking of the patella, and can flare up due to excessive hill running and poor running technique/weak glutes.

While taping the patella can help in the short term, to prevent runner’s knee from occurring or coming back, you’ll need to see your physiotherapist and work on your hip stability (gluteus medius) and patella alignment.

Achilles Tendinopathy

Another common running injury, achilles tendinopathy is characterised by pain, swelling and tenderness in the achilles where it attaches into the back of the heel. This can be caused by a rapid increase in training volume, poor footwear, instability or flat feet/poor biomechanics.

RICE will help in the short term, and you will need to decrease running. See your physiotherapist for a strengthening program – an isometric loading helps to promote tendon healing and repair.

Shin Splints

One of the most commonly cited running injuries, shin splints are characterised by sharp stabbing pain in the front of the legs where the muscles and tendons attach into the shinbone. They are caused by overuse, running sports, and excessive pounding beyond fitness levels – the muscles become inflamed at their attachment into the shin. Shin splints can also lead to stress fractures in the tibia (shin bone) and often seen in people with flat feet, where the muscles of the leg are overworking trying to stabilise the ankle/foot.

This running injury is best treated with rest, NSAIDS, low impact activities, and ankle stability exercises.

Hamstring strains/hamstring origin tendinopathy

Hamstring strains usually occur after explosive exercise, like sprints or hill sprints. Hamstring origin tendinopathy, on the other hand, is a gradual onset and is characterised by soreness in your sit bones at the end of a run or after exercise. Both are usually caused by a weakness/imbalance in the glutes where the upper hamstrings are overworked when extending the hip during the push off phase of running.

RICE, and rest from running is needed to settle the pain. See your physio for an assessment and rehabilitation program to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.

Plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thick strong band of tissue that runs from the base of the heel to each toe. It is very important as it helps to maintain the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this fascia is over stretched or overloaded due to repetitive high impact sports or running, jumping etc. It causes a deep ache / burning pain in the sole of your foot first thing in the morning, after prolonged sitting, or after exercise.

Plantar fasciitis is also common in people with flat feet or high arches, middle-aged/older people, or among those wearing unsupportive footwear.

It is best treated with RICE, NSAIDS, specific taping of the foot and rest from running/exercise. Your physiotherapist will give you a stretching and strengthening program, and you may also benefit from an orthotic that may provide you with adequate arch support to return to running.

IT band syndrome

The ITB is a thick fibrous band that runs from your pelvis to the outside of your knee. ITB Syndrome occurs when the fibrous band becomes inflamed at your knee or hip and causes stabbing pain that comes on with running, especially downhill.

This running injury is usually caused by excessive hill running, running on the same side of the road, weakness in the hips where the femur rotates inwards, or weakness at the ankle joint.

Treatment consists of RICE, NSAIDS, and rest from running, especially hills. Soft tissue release in the hip, quads and hamstrings with help to alleviate symptoms, and your physio with tailor a rehabilitation program for you to correct the underlying muscle weakness.

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Is Your Heel Pain Plantar Fasciitis?

Most of us will experience foot or heel pain from time to time, due to unforgiving footwear, manual, retail or hospitality jobs, or incorrect exercise techniques. If your pain persists, however, you may be suffering from a common complaint called plantar fasciitis. Read on to discover all the warning signs and causes, and determine if a trip to the physio is in order.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia – a band of connective tissue that spans the sole of your foot, from the ball to your heel. As opposed to generalised foot pain, plantar fasciitis pain is mainly felt under the heel and can be quite sharp. However, you may also feel an ache throughout the sole of your foot. The condition is often worse during the first few steps after waking up, or after prolonged periods of sitting or standing. It can improve during activity or exercise, only to flare up afterwards.

Who does it affect?

People who are quite active but have tight calves or lower leg muscles, or a stiff ankle from previous ankle sprains are more prone to plantar fasciitis. It is also more common in the elderly, those who are overweight, during pregnancy, or in those with arthritis or flat or high arches. People who spend a lot of time on their feet in inappropriate footwear may experience chronic heel pain. Poor biomechanics and sporting techniques can also exacerbate plantar fasciitis.

What are the treatments for plantar fasciitis?

Prevention is always better than a cure, and you can definitely take steps to prevent plantar fasciitis from keeping you off your feet. This starts with by identifying your risk factors, such as tight muscles, poor biomechanics, or poor footwear, and taking active measures to address these.

Once it occurs, plantar fasciitis can be relieved with ice, anti-inflammatories, taping, and sometimes cortisone injections. Your physio will be able to treat the condition with soft tissue massage, and educate you on beneficial stretches for any muscle tightness. He or she can provide you with tools to improve your biomechanics, and strengthen your foot, core and lower limb muscles. A physio or exercise physiologist can assist you to improve your sporting technique, as good form may reduce further flare ups.

For feet to function at their best, appropriate footwear is essential. And, if you require extra arch support or heel cushioning, you may need to see a physio or podiatrist to have orthotics made.

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6 Reasons You Need to Use a Foam Roller

man using foam roller
Not just the realm of professional athletes, foam rolling has hit the mainstream as an easy, affordable method of myofascial release. But do you really need ANOTHER piece of fitness equipment to potentially gather dust? When it comes to the foam roller, the answer is a resounding yes! Here are six reasons you should consider rolling it out after your next workout. Or even just a long day stuck at your computer.

1. Foam rolling relieves tension and tightness

While it would be nice to have a massage after every tough workout or deadline day, most of our budgets don’t allow such luxury. Thankfully, you can achieve many of the same benefits at home with your trusty foam roller. Using a foam roller and your bodyweight, you can break up knots, relax and release muscles, and boost circulation, blood and nutrient flow.

2. It helps you recover after a workout

There’s a reason athletes love to foam roll: it helps to speed up the recovery process. Rolling over the areas you have just used helps to relieve post-workout pains by increasing blood flow to the area, which improves circulation – pumping lactic acid out and getting fresh blood and oxygen into the area.

3. It helps improve your mobility

By reducing muscle tightness, you’ll enjoy greater flexibility and mobility. Not just for recovery, foam rolling as part of your warm up can improve your range of motion, allowing you to reap more benefits from your training session. So, give those glutes a good going over before your sumo squats.

4. You’ll reduce your risk of injury

Increase of temperature through the friction of foam rolling causes a ‘warming up’ effect on the muscles and gets blood flowing, loosening them up, increasing your range of motion and helping you move and perform better during exercise, thus reducing the chance of an injury.

5. It can help you become fitter and stronger

With faster recovery time, increased mobility and fewer injuries, you’ll be able to work out more often. Instead of wasting days sidelined due to unnecessary aches and pains.

6. It can give you a great stretch

Even if the most strenuous thing you did all day was send a firmly worded email, foam rolling is a great habit to embrace as you watch the evening news. Lying along the length of the roller, spread your arms out away from the body and let gravity do its work – lengthening and relaxing your tight, shortened pectoral muscles.

A word of caution…

Proper foam rolling technique is important, so ask your physio for directions before getting started. Don’t foam roll directly over an acute injury or where there is acute / intense pain. Avoid putting too much pressure over one particular area over a short period of time, which can result in acute pain. And, if ever unsure, ask your physio!

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Mobility Vs Flexibility: And Why They Matter

woman doing side bend
You’ve probably heard the words flexibility and mobility used interchangeably, but – while both are important to be limber and agile – they are actually quite different. Whether you want to touch your toes, do the splits, or leap out of bed without any aches and pains, here is everything you need to know about mobility versus flexibility. And how you can improve yours.

Mobility vs flexibility

While mobility refers to how a joint moves, flexibility is the ability of a muscle to lengthen through its full range of motion. Mobility is an umbrella term for the many elements that contribute to a joint’s movement with full range of motion, including restricted muscle tissue, joints, the joint capsules, motor control, AND your soft tissue. Therefore, flexibility is part of a joint’s mobility.

Why they matter

Flexibility will benefit your joints by helping you achieve good mobility. Keeping joints mobile helps to keep them healthy, decreases pain and reduces the risk of injury. Flexibility and mobility allow you to place your body in the safest, most advantageous position for utilising your strength. If you have strength but no mobility, you are working against the pull of your muscles and moving less efficiently through life.

Risks of poor mobility/ flexibility

If you have poor mobility, you are more susceptible to injury. Take a deadlift for example. If you struggle to comfortably reach down to the bar while maintaining good form, you will overload and injure your lower back when you are lifting through that range.

If you have poor flexibility, those muscles will fatigue faster and run the risk of tearing during sport or exercise.

Fitness benefits

Mobility plays a huge role in improving movement quality and strength. You will be stronger and safer lifting a weight through a range of motion if your body can comfortably achieve that position. You’ll enjoy better athletic performance as your body will be able to perform for longer periods as your muscles can function optimally and do not have to compensate for poor mechanics. Increased flexibility will also improve your sporting performance. You’ll experience increased joint movement, thus decreasing load and risk of injury. With your muscles functioning optimally, you’ll be less likely to fatigue.

How to build mobility & flexibility

Static stretching is good for flexibility as it isolates certain tight muscle groups. Yoga is great to work on general mobility as it will stretch, strengthen and mobilise your joints. Everyone should incorporate general mobility exercises into their warm up/down routine, eg through deep squats, hip hinging, thoracic extension and rotation.

Other easy ways to improve both include keeping active, foam rolling, massage etc. Foam rolling, spiky balls, and trigger pointing massage tools are all useful aides that will help with soft tissue tightness, but they need to be used in conjunction with general mobility exercises for easier, pain-free movement.

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12 Easy Ways to be Kind to Your Spine

woman doing bridge exercise
Do you regularly suffer from headaches, back or neck pain or injury? Sounds like it’s time you took better care of your spine! Made up of vertebra to provide structure to your body, spinal discs between the vertebrae for shock absorption, and ligaments and muscles connecting these vertebrae to form the spinal column (which houses the spinal cord), the spine helps keeps you upright, and moving, twisting and bending freely.

To keep you safe and pain-free, here are 12 ways to show your spine some TLC. Try them today.

1. Sit less

You’ve probably got the memo that sitting is akin to smoking when it comes to the negative impacts on your health. One of the many reasons a sedentary, desk-bound lifestyle is problematic is that sitting exerts far greater pressure on the spine than standing – 40% in fact! Over time, this can lead to back pain due to the increase in concentration of pressure through your intervertebral discs.

These discs are made out of an outer fibrous ring, surrounding a gel-like centre, the nucleus pulposus. The nucleus helps to distribute pressure evenly across the disc, preventing the concentration of stress onto one particular area. The discs are also meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to absorb blood and nutrients.

When you sit, the discs are compressed and can lose flexibility over time, which can also increase your risk of a disc herniation. Sitting for long periods also puts extra stress on muscles and ligaments, which can cause pain. Which leads into our next point…

2. Stretch more

Office worker, manual labourer, weight lifter… EVERYONE will benefit from a little more stretching in their day to day. Stretching increases flexibility of your muscles and improves the range of motion of your joints. This reduces the stress on your joints and enables your muscles to work most efficiently.

3. Strengthen your core

To support your spine, it’s very important to strengthen the core muscles of your abdomen and lower back. Yoga and pilates are two core-centric workouts that will do wonders for the stabilising muscles of your mid-section. They also promote better posture, which benefits the entire body.

4. Buy a decent mattress

To alleviate pressure from the spine as you sleep, you want a supportive and comfortable mattress that allows good spinal alignment. So, if your mattress is starting to sag, it might be time to cough up for a new one.

5. Drink more water

Without adequate hydration, the cushioning ability of the disks between your vertebrae is reduced. This can lead to back pain, reduced mobility and, in extreme case, spinal injury. So, drink up!

6. Ensure your workstation is ergonomically sound

Ideally, your workplace will have sit-stand desks, which support good spinal health. If not, a good ergonomic set up is important for all those hours spent sitting. For starters, ensure your feet are flat on the ground, at least half of your forearms are supported on the desk when your elbows are at 90 degrees, and you’re looking directly at the top half or third of your screen.

7. Lift weights in front of a mirror

It might seem vain, but positioning yourself near a mirror at the gym is an important safety measure. It will provide you a visual to ensure you have the correct, back-supporting form when lifting weights. And never sacrifice your form for the sake of more reps!

8. Try floating

If you suffer from chronic pain, want to speed up recovery after a training, or just want to deeply relax, free from the constraints of gravity, you need to try floating. Floatation therapy, bobbing around in an Epsom salt solution in a stimuli-free pod, has countless purported benefits. As well as relieving your back pain, you might enjoy better sleep or even ace that sodoku.

9. Limit high heel wear

We don’t like to be spoil sports, and we’ll never tell you to toss the heels. However, vertiginous footwear can overload the muscles of the lumbar spine, leading to muscle fatigue and back pain. So, try to limit your wear.

10. Lighten your load

If you lug your life around with you, consider a more minimalist approach. Swap that weighty tome for a kindle, empty all your coins into a jar, and consider a more spine-friendly back pack.

11. Stay active

As well as having countless benefits for your heart, waistline and mind, an active lifestyle is essential for a healthy, happy spine. For a balanced regime, combine cardio, stretching and resistance work.

12. Have a massage

Massage is not just an indulgence. It helps to improve circulation, reduce muscle tightness, relieve stress, speed up healing, and improve your range of motion. All of which is good news for your overworked spine!

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