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Your first step to recovery

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome refers to the dysfunction of the piriformis muscle which irritates the sciatic nerve. It is characterized by deep buttock region pain that radiates down leg and foot often accompanied by pins and needles and numbness traveling along the path of the sciatic nerve.

The simplistic reason for this widely distributed pain comes down to the piriformis muscle itself – Their close proximity means that direct trauma to the buttock region or the supporting structures can result in inflammation and muscle dysfunction which can compress and irritate the sciatic resulting in referred symptoms.

Piriformis syndrome symptoms may include:

  • Localised deep buttock region pain
  • Pain with continuous sitting or standing for 15 mins or over
  • Pins and needles along the leg down to the outer foot
  • Numbness in outer leg or foot (often resolves on movements)
  • Deep squatting or bending
  • Pain on direct palpation

Anatomy

 

The piriformis muscle originates from the outer surface of a large fused bone of our pelvis called the sacrum. It travels adjacently and inserts into the top of the hip joint. The piriformis muscle is a very active muscle involved in stabilizing the hip and pelvis during majority of our activities (walking, running, standing, sitting or standing, turning in bed). When the piriformis muscle contracts it helps the hip rotate outwards (external rotation) and lift thigh out and up (abduct).

The sciatic nerve originates from where the very base of the spine and the sacrum join known as the lumbosacral region (lower back and saddle region). In this region five separate branches of nerves travel outside of the bony openings of the spine called the nerve roots and connect into a single large nerve – the sciatic nerve. It then travels through the pelvis deep into the buttock region close proximity the piriformis and gluteal muscles. In some individuals the piriformis muscles can travel through the piriformis muscle subjecting them to piriformis syndrome.

Diagnosis

There are no specific tests to diagnose piriformis syndrome. Diagnosis of piriformis syndrome is made by the report of symptoms and by physical exam using a variety of movements to elicit pain to the piriformis muscle. In some cases, a contracted or tender piriformis muscle can be found on physical exam.

In cases where there is underlying pathology (such as disc injury, arthritis, sacroiliac dysfunction or hip injury) resulting in true sciatica – piriformis syndrome may develop to become an additional muscular dysfunction that is required to be addressed. Because symptoms can be similar in other conditions, radiologic tests such as MRIs may be required to rule out other causes of sciatic nerve compression, such as a herniated disc.

Consultation with a physiotherapist in this case is highly recommended as they will perform a comprehensive clinical examination to identify the root cause of your symptoms.

Exercises for piriformis syndrome

Corrective exercises with a combination of strength and flexibility regimen is an essential way to treat true piriformis syndrome (without involvement of other underlying pathologies).

The exercises outlined below follow a phase-by-phase progressive regimen to strength key muscles of the hip, buttock and legs.

As you work through these exercises expect to feel some pain during and after your exercise. Pain you may feel during the exercise is an expected sign of muscle activity. Pain you may feel after the exercises is an expected sign of muscle healing and recovery. However, if you are unable to participate in the exercises due to symptom deterioration – it is highly recommended you consult your physiotherapist to rule out other potential causes.

Otherwise, to help you gauge the correct amount of pain you should expect during exercise – use this scale. The ideal range should be 2 to 5. If your baseline pain is over 6 or 7 – it is recommended that you consult your doctor for pain relief appropriate to manage your pain, followed by a consult with a physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will be able to modify the following exercises or prescribe alternative exercises best suited based on your current level of function and symptoms.

Symptom noting – is a great way to keep track of your progress and symptom behaviour.

  • Take a diary
  • Note down pain before you begin the exercise.
  • Note down the pain rating after each exercise.
  • Note down pain at the end of the day
  • Repeat the pain recording process for the next 4-5 days
  • Examine the trend in your symptoms.

Interference with everyday tasks – Your participation or level of exertion with everyday activities may interfere with your symptoms impacting your exercise tolerance. It is therefore important to note any of these interferences’ contributory to your pain.

Phase 1 – is a beginner stage.

This phase is intended for gently priming muscle activation. It will demand your concentration on technique and compliance to change the possible compensation your body has been used to as a result of pain. This phase can last between 1-2 weeks.

Instructions:

3 sets of 10 repetitions. Hold each repetition for 8-10 seconds. Rest 10-15 seconds between sets, 30 seconds between exercises. Do this exercise 1-2 times per day.

Bridges

 

Lie on your back.
Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the bed.
Lift your buttocks from the bed.
Place your buttocks back on the bed.
Repeat this exercise and remember to continue to breathe properly.


Clam shells

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lie on your side with your feet, ankles and knees together.
Bend the legs a little and tighten your core stability muscles.
Keeping the feet together, lift the top knee up.
Make sure you don’t roll your body back with the movement.
Control the movement as you bring the knee back down to the starting position.


Phase 2 – intermediate stage

The intermediate phase is similar to the beginner stage with the difference of using changing elements of progression to challenge the muscles capacity further. In this stage you may choose to progress the exercises by choosing to change ONE factor:

  • Increase repetitions
  • Increase hold time
  • Increase sets
  • Add appropriate resistance

Instructions:

  • 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. Hold each repetition for 10-15 seconds.
  • Rest 10-15 seconds between sets, 30 seconds between exercises.
  • Do this exercise 1-2 times per day.

Bridges with resistance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tie a resistance band around both thighs, just above your knees.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and legs hips width apart.
There should be tension in the band.
Raise your hips up into a bridge, keeping the knees hips width apart.
Control the movement back down to the start position, maintaining constant tension on the band.


Clams with resistance

Lie on your side and place a band above your knees, approximately an inch or two above the knee joint.
Bend your legs a little, keeping the feet in line with your back.
Use your core stability muscles to keep the body stable.
Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up against the resistance of the band.
Ensure you stay on your side and do not roll your hips and your body back with the movement.
Lower the knee back down, controlling the resistance.


Phase 3 – advance stage

Body weight squats

Start position is standing straight with the arms out in front and bent at the elbows, the fists should be clenched and the palms facing inwards.
Move downwards into a squat position so that the knees are aligned over the toes and the heels are in contact with the floor, make sure the back is straight.
Keep the head and chest upright and the gaze horizontal.
Hold for 2 seconds and return to the start position.


Lunges

Stand straight with your arms to the side or on your hips.
Take a large step forwards on your affected leg, then drop your hips directly down between both feet, bending your hips and knees to a 90 degrees.
Push back up to the starting position, and repeat.
Make sure you take a large enough step that your front knee does not travel over your foot, and ensure your knee travels directly forwards.
Keep your body up straight throughout the movement.


Crab walks

Place a band around your ankles and gather some tension.
Side-step keeping constant tension on the band.
Make sure you do not bring your feet too close together and keep your toes and knees pointing forwards.


Phase 4 – return to activities

Planning on running a marathon? A sports dietitian on what to eat for  long-distance running


Stretching

Do you always need to stretch the muscle? The answer is NO. While stretching is an important tool to improve muscle elasticity. You may not always need to stretch a muscle if it is NOT tight. Thus, stretching is recommended to be limited to areas you feel are TIGHT when you perform a given movement. Check the affected side and unaffected side – don’t need to stretch a muscle that doesn’t need to be stretched.

Seated piriformis stretch 

Start in a seated position.
Cross the symptomatic leg your ankle is resting on, to the opposite knee.
Apply gentle pressure to the knee as you lean forward, increasing the depth of the stretch.
Hold this position, you should feel a comfortable tension with no pain.


Pigeon stretch

 

Start on your hands and knees.
Cross the symptomatic leg underneath you, then lower your hips down to the ground.
Rest your body forwards on your arms.
You should feel a stretch across the buttock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ankle injuries – Your first step to recovery

Common? Oh Yes!

The ankle is the most commonly injured joint in sport. This does not exclude other people such as active hikers, beach goers and even your average Sunday stroller. Good news though – your ankle injury is highly likely to be uncomplicated.

It is still vital that your ankle is examined, evaluated and treated early. This will ensure a swift return to activity and prevent further complications.

 

The road to recovery

Planning for Resiliency and the Road to Recovery

Your clinician will ask you some questions related to how you injured your ankle, pain, instability and any past episodes of injury. The earlier you get your ankle checked, the sooner your recovery will begin.

Keeping a mental note of things like initial pain, swelling, ability to walk and balance will go a long way in assisting your clinician to making an accurate diagnosis.

 

Investigations

Ankle x-rays

In most cases, initial X – rays are done to rule out broken bones.

Ultrasounds can be used to diagnose some ligament and tendon damage.

MRI is the best form of imaging but this does come at a higher cost and higher exposure to radiation. These are usually done after failed conservative treatment or in instances where pain remains high for longer periods.

A CT scan is helpful with complicated foot and ankle fractures. It will normally be ordered by a specialist surgeon who is planning for an operation.

 

What to look out for

Ankle sprains:

This is normally a twisting injury that causes a stretch or tear of ligaments surrounding the ankle. Your health care professional will provide you with all the information and tools you need for recovery.

These heal relatively quickly when the outside border of the foot is affected and a little slower when the inside border of the ankle is affected.

You will normally feel pain on certain ankle movements, stiffness in the ankle and experience some swelling and bruising.

Ankle - Wikipedia

 

Ankle Fractures:

These normally present with swelling, bruising and pain initially – although not always. In some cases, it is too painful to put weight on the ankle.

They are usually best confirmed with X – ray and specialist referral.

Management may be surgical or non-surgical depending on the severity and site of the fracture.

Fractures generally take longer to recover compared to sprains.

 

What treatment to expect

Foot and Ankle Doctor | EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region

Acute phase:

Your healthcare professional will normally initiate techniques to minimise your pain and swelling with rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Analgesia and anti – inflammatory medication may also be used.

Strapping may be used for stability at this stage and can be done by your physiotherapist.

You will also be encouraged to increase movement and begin strengthening.

 

Rehabilitation phase:

Balance and proprioceptive exercises will be given to you by your physiotherapist.

Strengthening will continue and running will start soon.

Once running in a linear motion pain free, you will progress to sport specific exercises.

Finally, you will return to sport or previous function such as trekking with a graded program.

Strapping may continue for up to 12 months after your injury in order to prevent re–injury.

 

What can you do on the day of the injury?

Rest by reducing time spent walking or standing. This will help the ankle to heal.

Ice the ankle for up to 20 minutes every couple of hours.

Compress the ankle with a firm bandage during the day and remove the bandage at night.

Elevate the leg.

Attempt circulatory exercises such as ankle circles and foot pumps (About 10 – 30 repetitions every couple of hours).

Contact your health professional or physiotherapist in order to make appointment for assessment.

If you are unable to stand on your leg or have excruciating pain in the ankle, head on to the local emergency department for immediate investigation.

 

Remember, your injury will heal and you will recover!

 

To find your nearest Physio Fusion clinic and book an appointment call 09 6266186 or visit our website https://physiofusion.co.nz

The myth about foot pronation (flat foot)

Myth: Foot pronation(flat foot) is the enemy.

Quest - Article - Surgery Sometimes, Bracing Often, Caution Always |  Muscular Dystrophy Association

In the foot, pronation should occur naturally when the foot comes into contact with the ground. Pronation will appear as the foot rolling inward and the arch flattening.

What are the benefits?

  • Dissipates the force that the foot receives from the ground

  • Allows the foot to become a stable and mobile adaptor to enhance movement opportunity

  • Loads the muscles of the extensor chain (calf, quads, glutes) to convert ground reaction forces into forward momentum so we can propel efficiently.

So why have I been told this is bad?

So as you are now aware, pronation is very normal and a critical movement to ensure we move and propel ourselves forward efficiently.

What you may have heard someone say to you is that you ‘overpronate’?

Firstly, overpronation is subjective and not as black and white as it is sometimes made out to be. Overpronation has be defined as: ‘a foot that rolls inward toward the arch excessively’.

Foot Pronation: Underpronation & overpronation explained- The Foot Clinic

What we must understand is that a pronation can only happen when the foot has a stable tripod on the ground. This means that the calcaneus (heel bone), 1st metatarsal (big toe knuckle), 5th metatarsal (little toe knuckle) must all remain in contact when the foot rolls inwards and the arch flattens.

The Foot Tripod - Fix Flat Feet

So, If you have been told you are ‘overpronated’ , it is most likely that your whole foot is ‘everting’ NOT ‘overpronating’.

What is Eversion?

Eversion can be defined as: ‘the process of turning inside-out’.

In pronation your heel must naturally ‘evert’ (sole of the heel will move away from the midline of the body) NOT your whole foot.

If your ‘whole foot’ everts (turns out) you will no longer have a stable foot tripod as the 5th metatarsal (little toe) will lose contact with the ground.

The key to ensuring this does not happen is to provide an environment for the bones of the midfoot (middle of the foot) and forefoot (toes) to experience the opposite motion to that of the heel. This will mean that the foot has an opportunity to truly pronate with a tripod on the ground.

 

 

So how can you help me do that?

  • At Physio fusion we can help you to bring your own body into alignment and create an environment in which the healing can begin

  • Foot strengthening exercises

  • Footwear advice

  • Referral to other healthcare specialists for further assistance (e.g. podiatrists)

To find your nearest Physio Fusion clinic and book an appointment call 09 6266186 or visit our website https://physiofusion.co.nz

Disorders of the Achilles Tendon

Basic Anatomy

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human-body. It is a band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone (calcaneus). This tendon primarily facilitates general mobility such as walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, and standing on your tip toes, by helping to raise the heel off the ground.

 

 

Common Achilles Pathology

Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis are two common disorders and are typically classified as overuse injuries.

Achilles tendonitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or disease, and often causes swelling, pain, or irritation. This inflammation is typically short-lived. Over time, if this is left resolved, the condition may progress to degeneration of the tendon- Achilles tendinosis, in which case, the tendon loses its organized structure and is likely to develop microscopic tears.

There are two types of Achilles tendonitis and it is based on which part of the tendon is inflamed:

  • Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower portion of your tendon where it attaches to your heel bone.
  • Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis involves fibres in the middle portion of the tendon and tends to affect younger people who are active.

In both non-insertional and insertional Achilles tendinitis, damaged tendon fibres may also calcify (harden) and often bone spurs (extra bone growth) develop with insertional Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendonitis may also increase your risk of sustaining an Achilles tendon rupture (tear).

Causes

Typically referred to as “overuse” conditions, Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis are often caused by the sudden increase in repetitive activity involving the Achilles tendon. This can put too much stress on the tendon too quickly, that can then lead to micro-injury of the tendon fibres. Because of this ongoing stress on the Achilles, the body is not able to repair the injured tissue. The structure of this tendon is then modified, resulting in continued pain and other symptoms. The Achilles tendon also has poor blood supply that makes it more susceptible to injury and may make recovery from injury slow.

Common factors that may lead to the development of disorders of the Achilles tendon include:

  • Weak and/or tight calf muscles
  • Rapidly increasing the amount or intensity of exercise within a short span of time
  • Hill climbing or stair climbing exercises
  • Presence of bony spurs in the back of your heel
  • Changes in footwear – especially changing from wearing high-heeled shoes to flat shoes
  • Wearing poor fitting, inappropriate, or worn out shoes during sporting activities
  • Exercising without adequate warm-ups and stretching
  • A sudden sharp movement which causes the calf muscles to contract and the stress on the Achilles tendon to be increased. This can cause the tendon fibres to tear.
  • Excessive mobility
  • Poor feet positioning and biomechanics (excessive pronation and flattening of the arches of the foot)

 

Symptoms

Achilles tendon pain: Causes. when to see a doctor, and treatment

 

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon especially first thing in the morning
  • Pain along the tendon or back of the heel that worsens with activity
  • Severe pain the day after exercising
  • Visible thickening of the tendon
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Bone spur
  • Swelling that is present all the time and gets worse throughout the day with activity

If you have experienced a sudden “pop” in the back of your calf or heel, you may have torn your Achilles tendon. Please seek urgent medical attention if you think you may have torn your tendon.

Diagnosis

If Achilles tendonitis or tendinosis is suspected, please deter from any activity or exercise which causes the pain. It is advisable to see your doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible so that an accurate diagnosis may be made and appropriate treatment recommended.

You will be asked about the nature and duration of your symptoms and the medical professional assessing you will have a look at your foot and ankle. Ultrasound scanning may be used to evaluate the damage to the tendon and/or surrounding structures.

An MRI may be recommended if symptoms persist. X-rays may also be taken to rule out other disorders which may cause symptoms like Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis.

Achilles Tendonitis - Ankle - Conditions - Musculoskeletal - What We Treat  - Physio.co.ukHow to Treat Achilles Tendinopathy with Physical Therapy -  prohealthcareproducts.com

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the nature, severity, and length of the injury. Generally speaking, the longer the symptoms are present before treatment commences, the longer the timeframe until full recovery is attained.  Full recovery may take between three and nine months.

Initial treatment options in the early stages may include:

  • Rest – to avoid further injury to the area
  • Ice – to reduce inflammation
  • Elevation – to reduce swelling
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation.

 How physiotherapy can help:

Physiotherapy typically focuses on two main areas: treatment and rehabilitation. Treatment may entail massage, shockwave therapy, acupuncture, gait re-education, and gentle stretching, whereas, rehabilitation predominantly entails strengthening of the Achilles and surrounding musculature.

Strengthening of the muscles surrounding the Achilles tendon facilitates healing in the tendon itself. Strengthening is attained through the utilization of specific exercises, that will be taught by your physiotherapist. It is common for the rehabilitation programme to take up to three months.

 

Exercises

 

 

SHIN SPLINTS NO MORE

Shin splints, medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a collective term used to describe multiple conditions that cause shin pain. Therefore, it is important to establish that there is not one singular cause.

Image result for shin splints

More specifically there are two distinct types of shin splint:

Type 1:

A stress reaction occurs on the inside border of the tibia bone. A stress reaction is the stage preceding a stress fracture.

Type 2:

The inner shin bones outer surface known as the periosteum becomes irritated at the attachment sites of the Tibialis Posterior and Soleus muscles.

Symptoms: 

Shin splints is characterized by pain in the lower leg, on the front, outside or most commonly on the inside of the leg.

Image result for shin splint

The cause of this injury is thought to be due to repetitive overuse, being more common in long distance runners, dancers, and gym goers.

Did you know? 

Shin splints account for an estimated 10.7 percent of injuries in male runners and 16.8 percent of injuries in female runners. Aerobic dancers are among the worst affected and have shin splint rates of up to 22 percent (medicalnewstoday,2021)

What other factors may predispose me to shin splints?

  • A sudden increase in running distance, intensity or frequency.
  • Running on uneven terrain such as hills, concrete or uneven road.
  • Poor foot mechanics (an inability to pronate and supinate).
  • Poor footwear.
  • Weak hip muscles.
  • Poor ankle strength.
  • Short muscle length in calf or hamstrings (or too long).

Image result for running on uneven terrain 

Diagnosis

Your Physiotherapist can usually diagnose you based on a full history of your present condition, current symptoms, athletic activity and a physical examination. In some instances, further investigation may be required in the form of an x-ray or ultrasound.

Image result for physio diagnosis

Early stage rehab

If you have been diagnosed with shin splints and it is stopping you from doing what you love there is good news! Shin splints can be cured IF managed well. In the acute stages, the PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method is a good place to start. From there, one of our trusted Physiotherapists can help you on your way to full recovery.

Image result for rice method for shin splints

What may Physiotherapy look like for me?

You can be sure that with us, you are in good hands. Here are some ways our physiotherapist may choose to help you get back on track.

  • Gait & run analysis: To examine your running technique to see if there are any biomechanical causes.
  • Addressing lower limb muscle imbalances with muscle strengthening, coordination, stretching and mobility exercises.
  • Soft tissue massage to reduce pain, tension and improve blood circulation.
  • Application of tape to improve muscle function, reduce pain, swelling and fatigue.
  • Provision of an appropriate return to run program with incremental increase in frequency, intensity, and time.
  • Activity modification: balance of maintaining cardiovascular fitness without aggravating the shins.
  • A referral to our acupuncturist for treatments such as Periosteal acupuncturepecking: Tapping on the surface of the shin bone with acupuncture to stimulate healing.
  • A referral out to an podiatrist if the condition is foot related.

Image result for rehab for shin splints

References:

  1. medicalnewstoday.(2021)allyouneedtoknowaboutshinsplints. Available: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/best-running-shoes#product-list. Last accessed 16/02/2021.