Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Stability, Work

Avoiding a Pain in the Neck

The link between neck pain and technology use.

laptop-postureNeck pain is becoming more prevalent in recent times and much of it is linked to the poor postures we adopt when using technology.

On average, we spend 15 hours a week in front of a screen (almost 1 month of the year), and up to 50 hours a week if it is required for work. When using technology, our eyes need to be in an optimal position to focus on the screen. For most of us, it is easiest to poke our chin out to get closer to the screen.

For each inch that your head sits forward of its normal position, the head adds 4.5kg of force onto the small and fragile structures within your neck.  All of this added pressure can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and headaches from the muscles in your neck having to work harder and the added pressure placed on the discs, nerves and vertebrae.

ForwardHdEv

If you are someone who spends a lot of your hours in front of the screen, behind the wheel or on the couch, there are some strategies that you can adopt to ease the pressure on your poor neck!

Activation of your Deep Neck Flexors

Your deep neck flexors are muscles in front of the spine responsible for neck stability (similar to the role of the deep abdominals in your lumbar spine) and supporting the head directly over the spine.  When your neck is over your spine, the pressure on other parts of your neck and body will be reduced.

Activating them can be difficult if you are doing so for the first time, so follow these simple steps:

Step 1 – Lie down on your back with a pillow underneath your head and neck, legs bent up and muscles relaxed.

Feeling Neck FlexorsStep 2 – Tuck your chin in so it feels as though it is lightly blocking your windpipe and push the back of your skull into the pillow.  Do NOT activate the muscles at the front of your neck.  Place your fingers on these muscles if necessary to stop them from activating.

Step 3 – Hold this position for 5 seconds before relaxing.  Repeat 10 times before having a rest, then complete 1-4 more sets of 10 until fatigued.

Chin Retraction

Chin Retraction – make a double chin, hold for 5 secs, then relax

Constant awareness of your neck position

When in the car, use the head rest and tuck your chin in.  When at your desk or when using technology, make sure you are not protruding your chin to see the screen.  And, when you are sitting on the couch make sure your head is in a good position and is supported appropriately.

Set up your environment correctly

Move the items in your environment (screen, mouse, keyboard, chair) so that you can maintain a good posture and still work efficiently.   Laptops and tablets force poor posture as looking down at the screen and typing so close prevents good posture. Purchasing a wireless keyboard to use with your tablet to separate hands and screen, increase the font size on your smartphone, correct the angle of your screen on your laptop and position pillows properly when sitting on the couch to provide low back support..

Ergonomics1

Take regular breaks

Increasing the amount of time that the structures in your neck are under pressure will increase the likelihood of developing pain.  Scheduling regular breaks will allow your neck to have a rest and to relieve the strain.

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If you do suffer from neck pain due to poor posture, these strategies will help you.  Poor posture, however, is not the only cause of neck pain and if pain persists we do recommend consulting your physiotherapist for a full assessment.

Post by Mitchell Sandvoss (B. Physiotherapy)

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Balance, Daily Exercises, Lifestyle, Physiotherapy, Stability

Heart – the Most Important Muscle of All

People tend to think of physiotherapy as only being concerned with the obvious muscles like “glutes”, “pecs”, “biceps”, “quads” etc.  And although having strength and power in these muscles is important, there is one muscle that overrides all in it’s importance to maintaining good health.

SkippingI’m referring of course to the heart muscle! Without a healthy heart then all the good work done in keeping your other muscles strong is wasted!

Here at Northern Beaches Physiotherapy we are dedicated to helping our patients maintain good overall health. One major aspect of this is achieving good cardiac fitness and endurance!

There are myriad ways to exercise the heart but one of the easiest and most convenient (and therefore most likely to be done on a regular basis) is skipping.  The equipment costs are probably less than $5 and you need a space only as big as a small room or courtyard to do it in!

Skipping for five-ten minutes every day is about as good an exercise as you’ll get. Its not just aerobic – it will also keep many other muscles in tone, including your calves, thighs and buttocks.

Skipping also provides a challenge to the stabilising muscles of your ankles and core, as well as challenging the coordination of your shoulders, wrists and legs!

So go buy yourself a skipping rope and challenge yourself!! Skip for five-ten minutes everyday and in next to no time you will see the benefits to your overall fitness and health!

 

Post by Angus Tadman (B.App.Sc Phty Hons I)

Achilles, Daily Exercises, Feet, Injuries, Lifestyle, Physiotherapy, Sports, Stretching

The “Achilles Heel” of runners!! 5 tips to help remedy Achilles tendon pain.

Whether you are a professional marathon runner or simply enjoy a recreational jog it is likely that you have experienced pain in the Achilles tendon at some point. The pain will generally be most prominent during warm-up, settle down significantly as you run only to return with a vengeance after you have cooled down after running! If it continues to worsen, it can become very debilitating and prevent from running altogether!

This article will help to arm you with the anatomical information and practical knowledge necessary to help recognise Achilles tendon pain and how to manage it!

Firstly, it is important that you know the anatomy of your Achilles!

Achilles tendonThe Achilles tendon joins the calf muscle to the heel bone. Tendons are a soft tissue structure made up of the elastic material called collagen and always attach muscles to bone. The role of the Achilles tendon is to transfer the power produced by your calf muscles through to the heel bone to move the ankle joint and provide you with forwards thrust as you run.

Pain in this area can be as a result of tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) or tearing. It can sometimes start very suddenly after a big load through the tendon, such as falling into a pothole as you run. More commonly, pain in the Achilles develops a gradually over time as a result of overuse and worsens unless managed appropriately.

Things that can predispose you to Achilles tendon pain are:

  • Poor foot mechanics (corrective orthotics or well prescribed sports shoes can help enormously)
  • Stiffness of the ankle joints (this can occur after an acute ankle injury such as a rolled ankle)
  • A significant and sudden increase in training load (such as further distance, increased regularity, or extra hills etc.)
  • Weakness of the hip or core muscles

To remedy the situation there are 5 simple things that you can do:

  1. Stretching may aggravate the tendon! Avoid dropping your heel off a step or doing strong calf stretching as this is too aggressive for a sore or damaged tendongastrocnemius-stretch-stairs
  2. Mobilising the sciatic nerve system before rising from bed can help with morning stiffnessHamstringAnim2
  3. Avoid high impact exercises like jumping, skipping, running (especially soft sand running!)Skipping
  4. A small heel raise can help alleviate pain and overstretching in the short term (put one in both shoes!)heel lift illustrated  copy
  5. Get some professional advice from a physiotherapist. There are a number of important exercises that can be done to improve your tendon pain and get you back to running ASAP!!

 

Post by Angus Tadman (B.App.Sc Phty Hons I) and Catherine Stephens (B.App.Sc Phty)

abdominals, Balance, Core stability, Daily Exercises, Hips, Injuries, Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Skiing, Sports, Stability

Skiing injury prevention program!

If you are a budding skier then you have probably experienced the frustration of getting injured early in a skiing holiday and missing out on enjoying the rest of your time at the snow. After all that expense, the last thing you need is to be injured!!

The following series of informational videos provides a step by step exercise program designed to improve your skiing specific strength, power and stability. Most importantly, the following exercises will not only help to prevent injury, but will maximise your performance on skis!

Please enjoy the following exercises and always practice caution when learning something new! We’d love to hear how you managed with the program so please, comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

Post by Catherine Stephens (B.App.Sc – Physiotherapy)

Alarm Clock
Daily Exercises, Gluteal, Improving Movement, Injuries, Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy

Morning stretches!

Stretches in the morning:

Spinal stiffness and pain is a common complaint. This can be caused by inflammation, arthritis or muscular tightness as well as injuries such as bulging discs.

The impact of spinal symptoms can easily be reduced by doing a regular morning stretching session.

Generally, I advise my patients to wait 20-30 minutes after rising from bed before they commence spinal stretching. This is to allow the discs to compress slightly after they have been expanding during sleep. This reduces the risk of injury to the discs.

Following is a list of great exercises to do in the morning to get your spine moving!

Knees to chest rocking: bring the knees to the chest and tuck up in a gentle rocking motion 10 times.

CurlRock

Sciatic nerve stretches: using a long belt stretch the leg as shown by gently moving the ankle forward and back, keeping the leg straight.

HamstringAnim2

Piriformis and gluteal stretches: place the ankle of one leg on the knee of the other and lift both legs up toward you as shown, hold for 20-30 seconds as you pull the stretching leg toward the opposite shoulder and push into the ankle with the opposite knee.

GluteStretch

Open book stretch: lying on your side as shown, breathe in as you take your top arm across your body, allowing your head and shoulders to turn with it. Hold the stretch and breathe out. Repeat 10 times both sides.

Thoracic Open Book stretch

Feet, Lifestyle, Physiotherapy

High Heels – The Pain for the Gain

High-heeled modelLove them or loathe them high heels have a marked effect on how a woman stands and moves and most men will know that these effects can often be quite alluring.

High heels:-

  • Increase the curvature of the calf improving muscle definition and in doing so enhance the slimness of the ankle
  • By lifting the heel the buttock muscles have to work harder and in doing so appear more pert.
  • The shift in weight means the chest is pushed forwards thereby enhancing breast lines.
  • The general awkwardness of the revised gait means that swings, sways and jiggles are introduced that tend to attract extra attention.

Xray of High HeelsHOWEVER!!  . . .

as can be seen in the X-ray of a foot in high heels, there are other factors to consider that not only cause pain during and after wearing, but can also cause long term damage.

  • Metatarsel pressureThe pressure on the Metatarsals  (the long bones just behind the toes or balls of the feet) is increased enormously. This increased pressure increases the risk of the development of a ‘Morton’s Neuroma’, (nerve aggravation between the metatarsals) which develops into a nerve growth.
  • Toe Squash in high heelsIf you compare the ultimate healthy state of barefeet it is easy to see how the toes are  pushed together to fit into the ‘glamorous’ narrow shoe, increasing the likelihood of Bunion formation ( Hallus valgus) and an overall cramping and deformation of the foot results.
  • Achilles tendonThe Achilles Tendon is shortened and prolonged wearing will cause permanent change which in turn changes the foot ankle dynamics and increase risk of ankle sprain and tendon damage.
  • The increased arch often affects the lower spine, increasing joint pressure that can cause episodes of back pain and instability.

So…. a physio’s advice (who has been known to wear high heels herself from time to time)  is to keep the really high heels for very special occasions!   Choose lower heels when you can. Keep this in mind when shopping girls!!

After a night in heels spend a few days in flats – or even barefeet if you can.

If heels are part  of the work attire, wear flats to and from work and slip on the glam’ professional look only when necessary.

Girls… remember it was a man who designed high heels and back in the times when men did wear heels they were not 15cm high and definitely not stilettos but wedges which are a more stable option!!!

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.

Gardening, Lifestyle, Physiotherapy, Stretching

Keeping the ‘Ache’ out of Gardening

GardeningGardening can be the most restorative of activities – unless we overdo it, and most people will be guilty of that at some time or other.

The key is to not go at it like a bull at a gate, but to pace yourself (regardless of your age) and pause during repetitive tasks to let joints and muscles rest. Every fifteen minutes is a good target but don’t leave it more than half an hour before RESTING and performing the OPPOSITE movement for a short while.

Hands & Wrists:

Extended pruning with secateurs is a classic cause of RSI (repetitive strain injury).

Secateur-Hand-StretchJust pause now and then to stretch your fingers, hands and wrists in the opposite direction to the pruning action.  Joints will recover, muscles will shed their fatigue and you’ll be more efficient.

Shoulders:

While pruning or clipping overhead your shoulders will take most of the strain.  Just pause for a few moments and roll your shoulders down and back in a circular motion for one minute. Apart from providing rest for the muscles, you’ll also relieve those joints and tendons temporarily.  Remain standing tall during the exercise and keep your chin in.

Clipping-Shoulder-Roll

Back:

While digging, raking or bending to weed, stop and arch your spine and shoulders backwards with hands pushing your pelvis forwards.  It’s a classic for very good reason as it allows the gelatinous content of squashed discs to revert to balance again.

I see so many patients suffering from lower back pain from gardening, yet this small exercise can prevent so much discomfort.

Digging-Back-Arch

Knees:
Many gardening tasks involve kneeling and even if you’re wearing kneepads to protect the front of your knees, the knee joint and surrounding tendons needs rest and opposite action too.  So stand up and give them a rub and a wiggle (that’s a technical term for repetitive re-traction by the way).

Weeding-Knees-stretch

Painful Joints:

Many mature gardeners will suffer some occasional joint pain, whether it be arthritic or rheumatic and many will avoid outdoor activities at these times.  But all joints benefit from movement as it stimulates joint lubrication which in turn provides the nutrition for the joint linings and cuffs.

People who immobilise tetchy joints do themselves no favours as the joint will become stiff and produce even more pain. If you have painful joints and decide to do some gardening then warming up first is all the more important as this will minimise the initial discomfort.

But, as with all things to do with health, all movements should be performed in moderation. Stop if sharp pain persists and consult a doctor.

Post by Catherine Stephens B. App Sc (Physio) MAPA.  This article appeared originally on www.gardensonline.com.au