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There are certain aches and pains that arise over time due to repetitive movements that can occur on the job, at the gym, or even at home. And whether we realize it or not, these aches and pains can be the result of a multitude of micro-tears to muscle, fascia, or tendon. These soft tissue structures become comprised from over use and eventually lead to inflammation. Let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors involved in this syndrome.

A lot of overuse injuries occur on the job. They can affect just about anyone from a manual laborer to an office worker. Whenever we perform repetitive actions such as in typing at the keyboard, lifting heavy objects, standing or sitting for prolonged periods, we run risk of overtaxing the soft tissue structures involved in those actions. Carpal tunnel syndrome for example can be the result of faulty mechanics, such as in prolonged extension of the wrist and hands while at the keyboard. It can also occur from micro-trauma due to repetitive movements done over time, such as in those who use power tools, paint, play an instrument or racquet sports — the list can be extensive. The median nerve which passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist becomes compressed and inflamed, which can then lead to tingling, numbness, weakness and pain in the finger and wrists.

Another place where over use injuries can occur is at the gym or while playing sports. Athletes are notorious for developing tendonitis and stress fractures due to repetitive movements and over use. Runners for example are prone to developing conditions such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints, especially in those who are poorly conditioned. People who play racquet sports or golf are susceptible to developing shoulder tendonitis in any of the rotator cuff muscles, golfer’s elbow (which is tendonitis of the forearm flexors attaching on the inner part of the elbow), or tennis elbow (which is tendonitis of the forearm extensors attaching on the outer part of the elbow). People who play soccer, basketball, volleyball, or any sport that requires starting and stopping, cutting movements, sprinting, or jumping can see overuse injuries ranging from patellar tendonitis (i.e. jumper’s knee, runner’s knee), to ITB friction syndrome which is caused by a tight iliotibial band frictioning the outer part of the knee. Chondromalacia Patella or Patellofemoral Syndrome occurs when the patella does not track properly in the patellar groove when the knee is extended under load. Think of doing squats or climbing stairs. The articular cartilage eventually gets worn away, resulting in pain and inflammation along the inner part of the knee.

These types of repetitive use injuries are not limited to the job or the gym. Most of us have hobbies that involve repetitive movements. Playing an instrument is a good example. Think of the muscles involved in playing the piano or the violin. Hours and hours of practice can eventually lead to pain and inflammation of the fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders. How about gardening? Pulling up weeds or potting flowers can require us to maintain certain positions which can stress our knees, hips and low back. There’s even a condition known as blackberry thumb or gamer’s thumb. De Quervain’s syndrome, its clinical nomenclature, is a tenosynovitis (a tendon sheath inflammation) and repetitive use injury (RSI) of two key tendons attaching on the thumb. It usually results from an over use of the thumb and wrist while texting or playing video games.

Now that we’re familiar with some of the most common manifestations of repetitive use injuries, here are some of things we should consider as part of a preventative care plan:

  • Most over use injuries stem from muscle imbalances. Are we pushing ourselves too far, too fast in our training before we’re properly conditioned? Are we using good form when performing certain movements?
  • Certain jobs may require us to perform repetitive movements at work. If this is the case, are we taking periodic breaks? Can we switch sides so we’re not using the same hand, arm, or shoulder? Are we using faulty equipment to perform these tasks? Developing an awareness of these mitigating factors can go a long way in preventing an injury.
  • Warm ups and stretches. Whether we’re going out for a run or getting ready to play an instrument, a little warming up goes a long way. Gentle range of motion of the joints and targeted stretching of key muscles will help reduce the likelihood of a strain by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the area.

Signs and Symptoms:

If you think you may be dealing with a repetitive use injury, here are some common signs and symptoms:

Localized pain: Whether its Achilles pain, knee pain or shoulder pain, you’ll feel it acutely at the site of inflammation. The pain may be brought on from use of the inflamed muscle or tendon, as in an isometric contraction. It can result from stretching the inflamed tissue. And in advanced cases, the pain may be constant even while at rest.

Tenderness: Minimal pressure to the area can often induce pain. In cases of acute tendonitis, the whole muscle may feel sore to the touch.

Limited ROM: Your mobility of the affected area may be limited and painful. Lifting your arm above your head for example may be hard to do in certain cases of shoulder tendonitis.

Swelling: Inflammation can lead to swelling and heat in the affected area.

Crepitus: Clicking or creaking sounds may be heard during certain movements of the affected area.

Treating over use injuries can require several approaches, not least of which is time to heal.

Treatments:

R.I.C.E.: If you’re not familiar with this acronym, then it maybe one of the only things you should remember when dealing with acute injuries.

  • Rest: In some cases as much two weeks may be indicated. The body needs time to mend the damaged tissue.
  • Ice: applying ice is a great way to reduce inflammation.
  • Compression: wrapping the injured area with and ACE bandage or brace will provide added support and help keep you mobilized.
  • Elevation: In cases of acute trauma and inflammation, elevating the area will help to reduce the swelling.

Proximal massage: Massaging the area directly above the injured site, for example the calf muscles in cases of Achilles tendonitis, will help to increase circulation and drainage to the injured site.

Range of motion exercises: Moving the affect area in a pain free and gentle way after the acute phase has passed, will prevent muscles and tendons from tightening up from under use.

Ice massage/Contrast bathing: Depending on where you are in the healing process, ice massage to the affected area will help reduce pain by decreasing inflammation. Later on in the healing process, heat can be introduced in conjunction with cold applications to create a pumping affect. This is excellent for removing waste byproduct trapped in the affected area.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

In this article we’ll consider the various manifestations of hip pain and what could be at the root of some of these aches and pains. But first we’ll need an understanding of the anatomical structure of the hip itself.

Each hip bone is comprised of three smaller bones: the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis. At birth these three bones are joined together by cartilage. By the time we reach our mid-twenties, they fuse together through a process known as ossification. The two hip bones are joined together by the sacrum and coccyx to form the pelvis.

The sacrum is also formed by unfused bones, namely five vertebrae, which begin to ossify by our late teens. The tail end of the sacrum, or what’s known as the tailbone or coccyx, is formed by 3-5 boney segments. Together these two bones join the two hip bones into what’s known as the sacro-iliac joint (SI joint).

Hip

All the bones of the pelvic girdle are held together by strong fibrous ligaments. The weight of the upper body rests on top of the pelvis and is then transferred diagonally into the hip sockets and down the legs. Although the SI joints are limited in movement, the two hip bones are designed to rock forward and backward independently of one another as we walk. On occasion the SI joint can get locked in place, whether due to injury or constant tension in the hip muscles, and prevent the natural movement to transfer up the spine. Since each hip bone can move independently of one another, it’s also possible for them to get locked into an anterior or posterior tilt, creating a leg length discrepancy.

The hip is capable of six different movements: flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, medial and lateral rotation. The hip joint is considered a ball and socket joint, which affords it the unique ability to move on so many planes. As mentioned in a previous post, there is what’s considered a normal degree of movement or “range of motion” for each plane.

Flexion:           80-90 deg w/extended knee — 110-120 deg w/flexed knee

Extension:      10-15 deg

Abduction:      30-50 deg

Adduction:      30 deg

M. Rotation:   30-40 deg

L. Rotation:    40-60 deg

Each movement in turn is performed by a series of muscles. Some of these muscles are known as primary movers, while others are known as synergists – that is, they assist the primary movers in their function. Flexion is done with a total of 10 muscles, extension – 6 muscles, abduction – 5 muscles, adduction – 6 muscles, medial rotation – 6 muscles, and lateral rotation – 8 muscles. When the hip is functionally optimally, all these muscles and joints work free of pain and with a normal range of motion. But as we’ll see, age, injury, and normal wear and tear are just some of the factors which can contribute to hip pain.                                  

Hip Injuries and Conditions

Of the many muscles that cover the hip and allow it to function, there are a number of them that also cross over into the low back and down into the legs — any of which can become strained. There are also a number of ligaments and bursa (fluid fill sacs) in and around the hip which can become lax or inflamed due to overuse. The exact placement of the pain therefore becomes an important factor in determining what the source of the pain could be. Here are several of the most common forms of hip pain. (For nerve pain that affects the hip, see a previous post on sciatica).

Anterior/Medial (Front & Inside) Hip Pain:

Adductor Strain (aka: Groin or Rider’s Strain)

The adductors are a group of five individual muscles located on the inner part of the thigh that move the hip and leg towards the midline of the body. Pain associated with an adductor strain will present itself as a sharp, stabbing pain in the groin area. An injury to any of the muscles that originate on the pubis is the most common cause. Irritation of these muscles can also lead to inflammation. On occasion, bruising and swelling may occur several days after the injury. If not addressed properly, an injury to any of these muscles can lead to chronic pain. Abduction of the hip (swinging the leg away from the midline of the body), will stretch adductors and elicit the pain.

Quadricep Strain (aka: Rectus Femoris Strain)

The quadriceps muscles are found along the front, inner and outer parts of the upper leg. They are considered primary movers in knee extension. The quadriceps get their name from the fact that there are four individual heads. Only one of these heads however crosses both the knee joint and the hip joint – that muscle is called rectus femoris. It is the most central head of the quadriceps and by far the most commonly injured. This is due in part to the fact that it contracts both concentrically and eccentrically, and is the only head of the quadriceps which assists in hip flexion. As a result it can become easily fatigued and overused in sports involving kicking, cutting (side to side), and start & stop movements.

Pain is usually felt in the front and inner parts of the thigh where the muscle originates on the hip. With first degree or mild strains, your gait will not be affected – but it will be with more severe strains. Stretching the muscle by flexing the knee and extending the hip will elicit the pain, as will contraction of the muscle through hip flexion and knee extension.

Iliopsoas Strain

The iliopsoas is considered a strong hip flexor and primary mover in hip flexion. In reality, the iliopsoas muscle is actually two muscles — the psoas and the iliacus. The psoas originates along the lumbar spine and the iliacus along the front of the pelvic bone. They blend together to cross the hip joint and attach on the femur. Pain from an iliopsoas strain will be felt in the groin area – that is, the front and inner part of the thigh. In severe strains it may be difficult to stand up straight without causing pain. The iliopsoas is most commonly injured when the hip is forced into extension from a maximally flexed position.

Since the muscle attaches itself along the inner part of the femur, abducting the hip (swinging the leg out), extending the hip or internally rotating the leg will stretch the muscle and cause pain. Contracting the muscle through hip flexion will also be painful.

* Pain associated with any pathology of the hip joint itself is typically felt in the groin and antero-medial aspect of the thigh.

Posterior (Back) Hip Pain:

Hamstring Strain

The hamstrings consist of 4 individual heads located along the back of the thigh. Three of these heads cross both the hip and knee joints – two along the medial aspect of the thigh and one along the lateral aspect of the thigh. The 4th head is found along the lateral aspect of the thigh but does not cross the hip joint. The lateral head that does cross both joints is known as biceps femoris. It is this part of the hamstrings that’s most commonly injured.

Since three of the hamstrings including the biceps femoris originate on the ischial tuberocities (aka: your sitz bones), the pain associated with a hamstring strain is usually felt at this insertion point. The hamstrings can also be injured at their insertion points on the inner and outer aspects of the knee, but more often than not the pain will start at the sitz bones and radiate down the leg. If not treated properly, a hamstring injury can become a chronic problem.

The hamstrings are primarily involved in hip extension and knee flexion. They’re also involved in medial and lateral rotation of the leg. They’re most commonly injured in sports involving running, kicking, or any activity that suddenly over stretches them. The pain can be exacerbated by sitting, fast running or stretching.

Ischial Bursitis

Located between the sitz bone and the gluteus maximus is a small fluid filled sac known as a bursa. Bursa are found around the joints of the body. They provide cushioning and reduce the amount of friction muscles and tendons exert as they glide over the boney prominences of a joint. The ischio-gluteal bursa as it’s known can become irritated from prolonged bouts of sitting – although this is not usually the cause of inflammation. This inflammation can on occasion irritate the sciatic nerve and cause pain down the leg.

The pain resulting from ischial bursitis however is pin point and con-scribed to the area around the sitz bones. It can come on suddenly and make sitting or sleeping on the affected side rather painful. Coughing, sneezing or any bearing down can exert pressure on the bursa and cause pain. People with ischial bursitis will often shorten their stride as they walk or lean away from the affected side while sitting to help alleviate the pain.

Lateral (Side) Hip Pain:

Abductor Strain

The most commonly strained muscle in an abductor strain is the gluteus medius muscle. Located on the outside of the hip, the gluteus medius is partly buried beneath its bigger brother — gluteus maximus. The other half of the muscle is superficial and easily felt along the pelvic bone toward the lateral and anterior aspect of the hip. The gluteus medius does a little of everything. Its primary function is hip abduction (swinging the leg out), but segments of this muscle are also involved in  flexion, extension, and medial and lateral rotation.

One of the most important functions of this muscle is stabilization of the hip. As the weight of the body shifts onto each leg as we walk or run, the gluteus medius must contract and exert enough force equal to twice our body weight! If this key muscle becomes weakened or strained from overuse, it will loose its ability to stabilize the hip and allow it to buckle while weight bearing.

There are several factors which could strain this muscle. Being overweight can exert more pressure over this muscle than it can bear. A cross-over gait or running on banked surfaces can also overload this muscle. Over time the weakened side will force the opposite hip to drop and adaptively shorten, causing a functional shortened leg.

Pain from an abductor strain is felt along the lateral, outside aspect of the thigh. The pain can be particularly acute while running and often mimics the pain of trochanteric bursitis. Stretching the abductors by swinging the leg inward will cause pain, as will contraction of the abductors (swinging the leg out).

Trochanteric Bursitis

An inflammation of the three bursa found around the hip socket is known as trochanteric bursitis. The bursa can become inflamed due to arthritis, obesity, or a strain of any of the hip or lower back muscles. This in turn can lead to faulty postures and abnormal gaits. Shortening of these strained muscles can contribute to chronic tension along the hip socket and eventually irritate the bursa.

The pain from trochanteric bursitis can be a deep, dull pain or a sharp ache along the outside of the hip that extends down the lateral part of the leg. The pain is usually worse at night and can make it difficult to sleep on the affected side. A cross-over gait while running can lead to irritation of the bursa, as well as a leg length discrepancy or a pronated foot.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

Sciatica is commonly referred to as pain that affects the low back, hips, buttocks, and backs of the legs due to compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve. An injury or impingement of the sciatic nerve can lead to a neuritis (inflammation of the nerve), neuralgia (pain along the course of the nerve), or a radiculopathy (nerve root involvement). Although sciatica can sometimes be the result of a herniated disc, there are other causes and contributing factors that can cause or mimic symptoms of sciatica. Such factors may include postural deviations, piriformis entrapment, and trigger points in the gluteal muscles, all of which are fairly common causes of sciatic pain.

The sciatic nerve is considered the largest nerve in the human body. Segments of the nerve are formed between L4 & S3 in the sacral plexus. The nerve, which is actually comprised of two divisions — the peroneal and tibial, travels through the greater sciatic foramen of the pelvis, under the piriformis muscle, and down the back of the leg to the foot. The peroneal branch and the tibial branch travel down the back of the thigh together until they reach the back of the knee. At this point, the peroneal branch splits from the tibial branch and travels down the back of the lower leg, around the inner ankle to the bottom of the foot. The tibial branch, once at the back of the knee, will wrap around the fibula bone and bifurcate once again into two other branches – the deep peroneal nerve (DPN) and the superficial peroneal nerve (SPN). The DPN travels down the front of the lower leg between the shin muscles and the tibia to the top of the foot. The SPN will travel down the lateral or outside part of the lower leg.

Piriformis

With the exception of the front and inner parts of the thigh, the sciatic nerve innervates all the other muscles of the leg. This includes the hamstrings and all the lower leg and foot muscles. The femoral nerve operates the hip flexors, namely the quadriceps, and the obturator nerve controls the adductor muscles. Due to the sciatic nerve’s origin and wide distribution, it can cause pain and discomfort in the low back, sacro-iliac joint, buttock, hip, back of the leg, and foot.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Symptoms may be insidious or have a sudden onset
  • Unilateral in presentation
  • Radiating pain that can extend from the low back and buttock area, down the back of the leg, and into the foot
  • Paresthesias (i.e. burning, pins and needles, numbness), weakness, and muscle spasms anywhere along the course of the nerve
  • Pain can be a constant, dull ache or a shooting pain down the back of the leg
  • Pain may increase while sitting and diminish while standing or lying down
  • Coughing or laughing may exacerbate the pain
  • Standing in antalgic position: Depending on the site of the irritation, a person suffering from sciatic pain may hunch over and to the side to help alleviate pressure on the nerve

Causes:

  • A disk lesion, such as a protrusion or herniation at L4-L5 or L5-S1. The disk pushes into the nerve root and sacral plexus causing a radiculopathy
  • Stenosis: a narrowing of the vertebral canal in which the nerve passes through
  • Postural deviations: An anterior pelvic tilt, such as one that occurs during pregnancy, can decrease the space in the sciatic notch through which the nerve passes through. A posterior pelvic tilt can shorten the muscles the sciatic nerve must travel under
  • Piriformis syndrome: When this hip muscle shortens and begins to spasm, it can put direct pressure over the nerve
  • Sitting for extended periods of time with an object in your rear pocket, such as a wallet, can put direct pressure on the nerve. This is known as “back pocket sciatica”
  • Trigger points in one of the gluteal muscles can mimic sciatic pain
  • Joint dysfunction of the lumbo-sacral area
  • Inflammation of the nerve due to an infection or tumor

Another predisposing factor in the development of sciatica is the course the nerve takes once it exits out of the greater sciatic foramen in the pelvis. This congenital variance may explain why some people are more susceptible to developing sciatica than others.

In a majority of the population, the two branches of the sciatic nerve will exit out of the pelvis, through the greater sciatic foramen, and under the piriformis. This is true in about 85% of people. In approximately 10% of the population, one branch of the nerve passes through the piriformis, and the other underneath. In yet another small percentage, approximately 3%, one branch passes over the piriformis, and the other underneath. And finally, in less than 1% of people, both branches pass through the piriformis.

If the sciatica is a result of piriformis involvement or trigger points in the gluteal muscles, the pain may be more conscribed and only reach as far down as the knee. In a vertebral impingement the pain may be more widespread, radiating into the back and all the way down to the foot in severe cases.

Glute Medius TP

Diagnosis:

A history of unilateral low back pain that extends down the back of the leg is usually the defining symptom. A CT scan or MRI may show a disc herniation in the lumbar spine if one is present. The straight leg raise test, also known as Lasegue’s Sign, can be performed to determine the origin of the pain. On occasion, the pain may be due to a glute or hamstring strain. Other times, the pain may be due to some pathology of the lumbar spine or sacroiliac joint. While lying flat on your back, one leg is passively raised until the pain is elicited. Sciatic pain usually presents itself between 35 – 70 degrees of hip flexion.

Treatments:

If the sciatica is a result of a disk herniation, infection, or tumor, you should consult a doctor as to the appropriate form of treatment.

Mild cases of sciatica will often resolve themselves over time. Ice and heat applications are a great way of addressing the inflammation and muscle spasms associated with sciatica.

Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants may be prescribed by your doctor to help manage the pain. And if the pain is particularly acute, steroid injections may provide relief for a period of time.

Women who develop sciatica during pregnancy as a result of an excessive anterior pelvic tilt, will find that their symptoms abate once they deliver and the pelvis returns to normal.

Those suffering from sciatica resulting from obesity or faulty postures, will find that losing the extra weight and strengthening key muscle groups in the low back and abdominals will help correct pelvic imbalances.

Sciatica caused from prolonged periods of sitting and/or back pocket sciatica is easily addressed and typically of short duration.

Those with piriformis syndrome and/or trigger points in the glute muscles can greatly benefit from direct massage to the muscles of the low back and hips. Trigger points in the piriformis can shorten and irritate this key muscle. These changes can cause the piriformis to place direct pressure over the sciatica nerve, which runs underneath it. Trigger points found in other gluteal muscles can often mimic sciatic pain. And although these muscles may not be directly over the sciatic nerve, their pain pattern is very similar to that of an entrapment – such as the one created by the piriformis. Targeted stretches in combination with massage will help to restore extensibility and length to these muscles and help alleviate the pressure over the nerve.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

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