WHY IS MY SHOULDER PAIN WORSE AT NIGHT?

Most people are able to engage in various positions while sleeping without much thought. However, sometimes people experience shoulder pain at night that for the most part, disappears during the day. This may be an indication they are beginning to experience some type of issue within the shoulder region. Anyone experiencing persistent shoulder pain while sleeping should seek medical attention in order to determine the exact cause of their pain.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, where the rounded edge of the humerus (upper arm bone) fits within a shallow depression (glenoid fossa) located on the scapula, otherwise known as the shoulder blade.  The rotator cuff is a series of muscles and tendons that surround and support this area, as well as allowing movement of the arm and shoulder. The tendons of the rotator cuff are surrounded by a series of small sacs called bursa. These fluid-filled sacs provide protection and cushioning around the shoulder tendons. Sometimes these sacs or the rotator cuff tendons become inflamed and painful. In some cases, a tear occurs in a muscle or tendon that is part of the rotator cuff, and this is known as a rotator cuff tear.

Shoulder Injuries and Sleeping

People with underlying shoulder issues such as tendonitis, bursitis, or a rotator cuff tear will likely find it much more challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position, especially if they prefer to sleep on their affected shoulder.  Sleeping for hours on an injured shoulder compresses inflamed tissues, causing pain from the undue pressure. Depending upon the nature and severity of the issue, individuals may experience stiffness upon waking in the morning, a dull achy pain, numbness and/or tingling throughout the shoulder and arm area, or perhaps sharp pains radiating from the shoulder. In the initial stages of the injury, an individual may experience only pain at night which disappears during the day, leading them to believe their pain is caused by a poor-fitting pillow or mattress.  As the injury advances, some patients will start to feel shoulder pain even though they stopped sleeping on the affected shoulder.

A Diagnosis

The first step to resolve persistent shoulder pain at night is to obtain a proper diagnosis. In most cases, a physician will not suggest surgery. Instead, they will likely prescribe physical therapy as part of their first line of treatment. Depending upon the nature of the injury, a physical therapist will likely begin with pain-reducing measures such as ultrasound and gentle stretching exercises, along with suggestions on which movements and positions to avoid, both during the day and while sleeping in order to reduce pain.

Initially, many patients will find simply sleeping on their opposite side or on their back during the recovery period will completely eliminate or reduce their pain during sleep. Depending upon the injury and the level of severity, a physical therapist may suggest the patient place a towel or a thin to medium-sized pillow underneath their affected arm and shoulder arm in order to provide cushioning and support. During the day, a patient may wear a lightweight sling over each shoulder to help promote proper posture while walking and moving about, as practicing good posture helps relieve pressure on tissues so they can heal faster.

As a patient’s injury improves, a physical therapist will introduce exercises designed to restore full range of motion, followed by strengthening exercises to improve muscle strength so the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues can once again perform their tasks of motion and support. Once the patient heals and their shoulder strength returns, they will likely find their ability to sleep on their side fully restored.

Summary

If you have persistent shoulder pain while sleeping, it could be an indication of an underlying health issue. For more information, contact Hess Physical Therapy at any of our 3 locations.

Our locations:
Kennedy: (412)-771-1055
Crafton: (412)-458-3445
Allison Park: (412)-487-2787

IS YOUR ELBOW PAIN CAUSED BY GOLFER’S ELBOW?

If you are experiencing pain where the tendons of your forearm attach to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow, you may have a condition known as golfer’s elbow. Even if you don’t play golf, this injury happens to many people over time.

What is golfer’s elbow?

Let’s start by understanding the anatomy of the elbow. The elbow is a joint. It contains three arm bones, the humerus, ulna, and radius. The ends of these bones are covered with cartilage, which allows the joints to absorb shock. The bones are held together by ligaments which form the joint capsule. The joint capsule surrounds and lubricates the joint. There is a ligament on the inside of the elbow and another on the outside of the elbow. These, together with a third ligament holding the radial head against the ulna, keep the elbow stable. The nerves in your arms pass across the elbow. They transmit sensations and tell your muscles to work.

Golfer’s elbow is usually experienced as pain in the medial, or inside, of your elbow. The pain may spread into your forearm and wrist. Your pain may grow worse during forceful arm motions, gripping and lifting.

Why does golfer’s elbow occur?

The method of injury, (MOI)  is usually chronic overuse, such as repeatedly twisting the forearm when making throwing or swinging motions. These motions may apply too much force to the area. Sometimes improper technique or equipment used in a sport can contribute to the condition.

How is golfer’s elbow diagnosed?

Diagnosis usually begins with a medical history and physical examination. A doctor may order an X-ray to rule out other possible causes of elbow pain.

Your medical professional may perform a medial epicondylitis test. During this procedure, your doctor or therapist supports the elbow with one hand, extends the elbow, wrist, and fingers and palpates the affected region. If this produces pain or discomfort, the test is considered positive. The doctor may also perform various strength, range of motion and functional mobility tests on your elbow, forearm, and wrist.

What if you are not a golfer?

In addition to golf, many activities can lead to golfer’s elbow. Sports such as racket sports, throwing sports, and weight training can all cause golfer’s elbow.  Repetitive tasks like gardening, shoveling, throwing a ball, painting and similar activities all put you at risk for golfer’s elbow. Occupations that require forceful, repetitive movements, such as construction, plumbing, and carpentry, can lead to golfer’s elbow. Other risk factors include smoking and obesity.

Physical therapy

Assessments performed by your physical therapist may be used for differential diagnosis, which helps identify other possible conditions or diseases that could be causing your symptoms. Once your physical therapist has evaluated your condition, he or she will work with you to develop a plan of care. This may include various treatments, such as:

  • Ice
  • Heat
  • Kinesiology taping for your elbow
  • Elbow bracing or support sleeves
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation

Your physical therapist may prescribe some exercises designed to restore strength to your elbow and wrist, and increase your range of motion. These exercises may include:

  • Exercises to increase your elbow joint mobilization
  • Exercises to improve the strength and stability of your shoulder area
  • Wrist flexor and extensor stretches
  • Exercises to strengthen your wrist and elbow

Physical therapy may include Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), which may help loosen tight muscles and increase your range of motion. Also, you can learn how to modify your activities to prevent future problems.

What is the difference between golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow?

Both golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow are forms of elbow tendinitis. The difference is simply that golfer’s elbow is caused by damage to tendons on the inside of the elbow, while tennis elbow is a function of tendons on the outside of the elbow.

If you have questions or concerns about possible golfer’s elbow, call Hess Physical Therapy or visit our website for further contact information.

Our locations:
Kennedy: (412)-771-1055
Crafton: (412)-458-3445
Allison Park: (412)-487-2787

THE BEST HOME EXERCISES FOR A STIFF OR FROZEN SHOULDER

Do you wake up almost every morning with shoulder pain and stiffness? You may be suffering from a frozen shoulder. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder can restrict movements or even prevent you from using your shoulder. One of the most effective treatments for frozen shoulder is physical therapy. Here are three of the best home exercises for a stiff or frozen shoulder, along with the benefits of physical therapy. 

Anatomy of the Shoulder Ligaments and Shoulder Joint Capsule 

Your shoulder joint is one of your body’s most complex and largest joints. While playing sports, often people injure their shoulder joint capsule, which typically results in shoulder sprains and dislocations. Your shoulder ligaments help in holding the humerus (upper arm bone) in the socket, giving the shoulder joint stability.

The humerus is the long bone in your arm, extending from your shoulder down to your elbow. The band of connective tissue, known as the shoulder joint capsule, houses the head of your humerus.

Common Causes 

Frozen shoulder frequently begins as a result of a minor injury, such as falling on an outstretched arm or jarring a shoulder by tripping. Besides trauma to the arm and shoulder, there are several other causes, which include:

  • Diabetes—While frozen shoulder affects only about two percent of the overall population, it’s found in 10 to 29 percent of diabetics.
  • Another cause is a decrease in mobility as a result of health problems, including stroke, fracture, rotator cuff tear, and surgery.
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Inflammatory issues
  • Autoimmune disorders and thyroid problems

Best Home Exercises For a Stiff or Frozen Shoulder

  1. Wall Washing/Finger Walk Up Wall
    Wall-washing is one of the top home exercises for frozen shoulder or shoulder arthritis. This is an active movement in which you do the work while your shoulder joint moves. To do the exercise:
    • Find a clear wall, standing from it at arms-length.
    • Then, facing the wall, straighten out the right arm so that it’s lined up with your shoulder.
    • After putting your fingers on the wall, move your fingers up the wall, pretending they’re spider legs. Use only one to two fingers at a time.
    • Reaching as high as you comfortably can, hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
    • Finally, gradually walk down your fingers, repeating the process two more times.
    • Repeat the exercise, using your other arm.
  2. Pendulums Exercise
    The pendulum exercise is done for maintaining shoulder mobility.
    • Bend at your waist with one arm hanging down. For support, hold on to a chair or table.
    • Gently rock your body back and forth, using circular motions for moving your arm in a circular direction.
    • Next, reverse the movement so that your arm goes in the opposite direction.
    • Repeat this exercise five times. 
  3. The Towel Rotation Stretch
    This is another great stretching exercise for treating shoulder joint pain and frozen shoulder.
    • Holding the end of a long towel, belt or strap in one hand, have the towel draped over your shoulder, letting it hang down your back.
    • Use your other hand to grip the towel that’s behind your back.
    • Then, gently pull up the towel, letting your hand that’s behind your back to gradually travel up and across your back. This should result in feeling a gentle stretch on the side or the front of your shoulder.
    • After you’ve felt the stretch, keep the position, holding it for two to three seconds.
    • Then, release the stretch slowly, repeating these steps 10 times.
    • With each stretch, try to pull your arm up your back a little further. Don’t use any jerking or sudden motions, making sure you move slowly.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Frozen shoulder mostly affects middle-aged females from 40 to 60 years of age.
  • You can also do wall-washing exercises in water. In fact, pool water gives you somewhat more resistance since water is considerably denser than air.
  • Consult a medical professional for a diagnosis and then see a highly trained and experienced physical therapist.
  • Warm-up before doing the exercises.

Don’t continue to suffer from shoulder stiffness, frozen shoulder or shoulder arthritis. For more information on how physical therapy can help you, call Hess Physical Therapy or visit our website for further information.

Our locations:
Kennedy: (412)-771-1055
Crafton: (412)-458-3445
Allison Park: (412)-487-2787

THE PAINFUL EFFECTS OF SHOULDER BURSITIS

Shoulders. They’re what you use to “shrug”, to throw, to reach, and sometimes even to “carry the weight of the world”! So when something goes wrong with your shoulder joint, you definitely notice a difference in your ability to perform all sorts of everyday movements that you usually don’t even think about.

Understanding Your Shoulder Joint

Your shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint that’s capable of flexion (bending), extension, rotation, and more. The fact is, your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body! It’s surrounded by muscles, tendons, ligaments, bands of tissue like the rotator cuff and the labrum, plus some cushion-like tissue known as the subacromial bursa. A bursa is a thin, lubricated “cushion” that lies between a bone and an opposing surface such as a ligament, muscle or tendon. Its purpose is to reduce friction in a joint — in this case, your shoulder joint.

So What is Bursitis?

In the simplest of terms, bursitis refers to a painful condition that occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed. Since your shoulder’s bursa is the largest bursa in the body, and it is “packed” closely together with the other components that make up your shoulder, it is extremely susceptible to becoming inflamed. (By the way, simply because every part of your shoulder anatomy is so densely packed together, it’s not unusual for bursitis to be mistaken for something else like a rotator cuff tear, a labral tear, or even tendonitis!)

The subacromial bursa provides a cushion and reduces friction between the shoulder’s muscles and tendons and the acromion — the topmost part of your shoulder blade. But even though it’s the largest bursa providing cushioning in your shoulder joint, it’s not the only one. There are several others, including the subdeltoid bursa, the subscapular bursa, the subcoracoid bursa, the coracoclavicular bursa and the supra-acromial bursa. If anyone of these becomes irritated and inflamed, you’ve got shoulder bursitis!

Okay, But What’s Irritating My Shoulder Bursae?

Your shoulders’ bursae can be irritated and become inflamed by a number of different things, including:

  • friction caused by repetitive overhead motions that occur when you’re painting the bathroom ceiling, for example, or maybe you’re a swimmer who’s specialty is the Australian Crawl, a swimming style that involves overhead reaching motions
  • a sudden injury — particularly one where you fall onto an outstretched hand, or just bang your shoulder hard against something
  • an underlying condition such as arthritis or gout
  • being crowded by other parts of your shoulder perhaps due to bone spurs from arthritis, or just because you injured another part of your shoulder and it’s become inflamed or swollen, leaving less space for your bursae

Oh — The Pain! (Symptoms of Shoulder Bursitis)

Pain from shoulder bursitis doesn’t usually come on all at once. Rather, it comes on gradually, as the bursae become more and more irritated and/or inflamed.  The problem with this is that you tend to start “babying” your shoulder to avoid feeling pain, and this can affect the muscles and tendons surrounding the bursae, making them tight, limiting motion, and eventually, causing even more pain. (You know, the old “vicious cycle” syndrome!)

Other symptoms of shoulder bursitis include stiffness and weakness. Warning: If you develop a fever or feel sick, check with your doctor right away because there is a thing known as “Septic Bursitis” which is caused by an infection, and if that’s the case, it needs to be treated right away with antibiotics!

Making a Determination

Diagnosing shoulder bursitis is not all that complicated, and a physical exam combined with questions can often lead your doctor to believe that bursitis is what’s causing your pain and stiffness. However, she can easily confirm that initial diagnosis with an ultrasound or an MRI as well.

Treating Your Shoulder Bursitis

As with most musculoskeletal maladies, treatment for shoulder bursitis typically starts with

  • rest
  • anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS)
  • ice therapy

Your doctor may even think it’s a good idea to drain the bursae if they’re really swollen she’s worried about the possibility of infection. And after all of these options have been put into place, the next step is almost always a program of physical therapy.

This is actually a crucial step for both your successful recovery and to prevent a future recurrence of the condition. Your physical therapist (PT) will develop a program that combines manipulation, postural correction, and specific exercises to address problems such as weakness, stiffness, lack of mobility and tightness, and will have you feeling better way sooner than you would if you skipped this step.

If you’re suffering from shoulder bursitis Hess Physical Therapy or shoot us an email at cawleyptfrank@gmail.com. We can not only treat your shoulder bursitis, we can also make sure that it’s not the only thing that’s causing your shoulder pain!

Our locations:
Kennedy: (412)-771-1055
Crafton: (412)-458-3445
Allison Park: (412)-487-2787

THE TOP 10 THERABAND EXERCISES FOR ROTATOR CUFF/SHOULDER INJURIES

Many people assume if they incur a shoulder/rotator cuff injury that it automatically means their injury will require surgery, but that is not necessarily the case.  In many cases, other non-surgical treatments like physical therapy can help patients avoid surgery by using specific stretching and strengthening exercises.  When administered by a physical therapist, these exercises can stretch tight muscles, help promote the proper range of motion in the arm and shoulder area, along with gradually strengthening muscles surrounding the shoulder area so that all of the shoulder components maintain their health and ability to perform certain tasks.

Rotator Cuff Definition and Injuries

Surrounding the shoulder joint is a group of tendons and muscles.  This group is called the rotator cuff and they provide the support necessary to keep the top of the arm bone firmly in the socket area of each shoulder.

There are several reasons why the rotator cuff area may become injured.  Beyond traumatic injuries such as vehicle accidents and sports injuries, the most common causes of rotator cuff injuries stems from individuals who routinely perform physical tasks that require them to keep their arm(s) lifted.  Painters, carpenters, and others in the construction industry often end up with rotator cuff injuries due to the nature of the work.  Age is another factor that plays into developing rotator cuff injuries, most likely due to a sedentary lifestyle that weakens muscles over time.

Sometimes simple inflammation will occur in the shoulder, but in other cases, an actual tear occurs in a muscle.  Whether or not surgery is required, depends upon the severity of the tear.  Anyone with a rotator cuff injury should receive an accurate diagnosis from their physician.  In many cases, the doctor will prescribe a series of physical therapy treatments, which will allow the individual can regain the full use of their shoulder.

 

10 Theraband Exercises for the Rotator Cuff

  1. External rotation @ 0 degrees of abduction – This exercise requires the patient to hold the Theraband at waist height with the hand of their injured arm, forearm across their waist.  The next step is to rotate the forearm 90 degrees so the hand is pointing outward, then return the forearm back to its neutral position.  This strengthens the muscles attached to the shoulder blade including the infraspinatus, teres minor, and the supraspinatus.
  2. Internal Rotation @ 0 degrees of abduction – Once again the patient will hold the band at waist level, only this time the starting position is with the hand in front at a 90-degree angle to the body.  Rotate the arm inward until the forearm is resting at the waist, then slowly return the forearm to 90 degrees.  This strengthens the internal rotator cuff muscles including the iliac crest and the latissimus dorsi.
  3. External rotation @ 90 degrees abduction – To start, lift the affected arm to the side until the elbow reaches shoulder height.  Extend the hand forward to grasp the band placed at about shoulder height and lift it up until the hand is pointing to the ceiling.  Then come slowly come back to starting position.  Do not rotate the hand at all throughout the motion.  This is another exercise to strengthen the infraspinatus and teres minor.
  4. Internal rotation @ 90 deg abduction – In this exercise, the patient will actually stand with the band behind them.  Place the resistance band handle in the hand, with the hand pointed to the ceiling.  The elbow should be at shoulder height.  Move the hand forward until it is facing forward, then slowly lift it back up until it is facing the ceiling again.  This will strengthen the pectoralis major, the deltoid in the arm and the rotator cuff.
  5. PNF D2 Flexion Pattern –  In this exercise, the band is positioned at hip height on the opposite side of the affected arm.  Cross the affected arm over the body and grasp the resistance band.  Slowly bring it across the body and lift the arm up in the air at a diagonal.  This exercise strengthens the posterior (back) of the shoulder and the deltoid in the arm.
  6. PNF D2 Extension Pattern –  Similar to the D2 flexion pattern, this exercise begins with the Theraband positioned high enough so the patient can grasp the band handle while their affected arm is fully extended upward.  The next step is to slowly bring the handle down and across the body, then return to starting position.  This exercise focuses on the muscles on the posterior side of the shoulder.
  7. Rows with elbows flexed to 90 degrees – With the Theraband positioned at waist height, stand far enough back from the band to start with the arms fully extended.  Grasp the handles and pull until the elbow are just slightly behind the waist, then return slowly to starting position.  The muscles strengthened in this exercise are the rhomboids and middle trapezius.
  8. Shoulder extension with elbows @ 0 degrees – Face the band positioned at a height where the arm can be fully extended.  Without bending the elbow, slowly pull down the arm until the hand is resting comfortably by the side of the body, then return the arm to the starting position.  The deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and middle trapezius are the muscles strengthened in this exercise.
  9. Punch out exercise for serratus anterior strengthening – Place the resistance band around the mid-back area and grasp the band on each side.  In a slow punching motion, bring the band forward as far as one can reach, then slowly come back to starting position.  This exercise helps to stabilize the scapula area by strengthening the serratus anterior muscle.
  10. Shoulder scaption –  Stand on the resistance band on the affected side.  Grasp the band and pull it up and slightly forward, then slowly return to starting position.  This exercise strengthens the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles, along with the rotator cuff area.
  11.  

Want to know more about physical therapy for rotator cuff and other shoulder injuries or need a piece of Theraband?  Stop at Hess Physical Therapy and schedule an evaluation with one of our doctors today!

Our locations:
Kennedy: (412)-771-1055
Crafton: (412)-458-3445
Allison Park: (412)-487-2787

5 tips to simplify your life with knee pain

In our last newsletter, we showed you why regular movement is key to overcoming knee pain and presented some of the best knee-strengthening exercises that will help you work towards this goal. These types of exercises can be extremely effective for anyone dealing with knee pain, but in some cases, additional strategies are needed just to help individuals stay mobile and navigate their surroundings.

Patients with severe knee pain and those who are recovering from surgeries like ACL reconstruction or knee joint replacement may be impaired to a point where basic activities become extremely difficult. These tasks can be even more challenging for older adults with balance issues who have to contend with several limitations to their mobility. Assistive devices like canes, crutches, and walkers may therefore be recommended in these situations to compensate for any limitations these patients may be dealing with.

There are right and wrong ways to use assistive devices, and using them correctly will result in less pain and a reduced risk for future injury. With this in mind, we offer these tips to help you better handle your knee pain:

5 pieces of advice for knee pain

  1. Up with the good…
    • It’s important to walk up and down stairs in a particular way if you have severe knee pain
    • When going up stairs, step with the good (non-injured) leg first while holding onto the railing
    • Once that foot is on the stair, step up with the bad (injured) leg
    • This allows the non-injured leg to do most of the work to push the body up the stair while leaving minimal work for the injured leg
  2. …down with the bad
    • When coming down stairs, step with the bad leg first while holding onto the railing
    • Once that foot is on the stair, step down with the good leg
    • This is done because the back (good) leg is the one doing most of the work when walking down stairs
  3. Make sure your chair is at the right height
    • Sitting in a chair that is too high or too low can put your legs in a compromised position and make your knee pain worse
    • In a sitting position, your feet should be flat on the floor or a footrest and your knees should be at or slightly below the level of your hips
    • Your knees should be bent at an angle of 90-130 degrees
    • If your chair height does not allow you to sit in this position, switch to a chair that does or adjust the height of your chair if possible
  4. Use the correct hand to hold your cane
    • Many patients do not hold their cane in the correct hand, which can lead to unnecessary strain on their injured knee
    • The cane should always be held in the hand opposite of the painful side
      • This means if you had surgery on your left knee, hold your cane in the right hand and advance it forward when the left leg steps forward
    • This also applies to stairs, as you should walk up with the cane and the good leg, and down with the cane and the bad leg
  5. Properly align your body with your walker
    • If you are using a front wheel walker, be sure to keep the front of your body in line with the back two posts of the walker
    • Advance the walker a few inches in front of you first, and make sure all tips and wheels are touching the ground before taking a step
    • Step forward with your bad leg first, then step forward with your good leg, placing it in front of your lead foot

It’s imperative that these tasks are performed correctly to help you avoid further knee pain or injury, and a physical therapist can provide the additional guidance needed to give you confidence that you’re doing them the right way. Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.

Disclaimer - This article and associated images is for educational purposes only. They are not meant to be a substitute for physical therapy or medical care. Please consult with your physical therapist and/or doctor before you start this or any other exercise program.

The 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Sciatica

Have you ever experienced aching pain in the back / buttock area that radiates down your leg? You may have sciatica. Sciatica is a common condition that affects up to 1 out of 10 people, typically between ages 25-45.

Symptoms

Sciatica is typically felt as a dull aching pain to the low back / buttock area, that can at times be sharp, depending upon movement. It is generally on one side, but at times can be on both sides. Other symptoms can include numbness and / or tingling, radiating down to certain areas of the leg.

Causes

Sciatica is an entrapment and irritation to the sciatica nerve, which passes from the lower spine, down through the buttock and supplies the back of the leg down to the foot. Typically, sciatica is caused by poor mechanical movement of the hips, pelvis or lower back. This causes abnormal strain and stress to the gluteus and hip rotator muscles. Certain people are more predisposed to sciatica, because their sciatica nerve pierces through the piriformis muscle in the buttock, which makes it more susceptible to irritation.

Pain Relief

The good news is that over 90% of those suffering with sciatica will get better with conservative treatment, especially physical therapy. Physical therapy focuses on improving the mechanical movement of the hip joints, pelvis and spinal joints to relieve pressure on the sciatica nerve. Furthermore, since many muscles are impacted and often weakened, physical therapy helps to restore normal muscle function. This balances the spinal, gluteal and leg muscles.

Try these 5 natural ways to relieve your sciatica:

  • Improve your posture – One of the long-term causes of sciatica is poor posture. Make sure that you have a lumbar support in your work chair and in your car that you can take with you to different places. Look at the way your computer and desk area is setup. Avoid soft couches and recliners. Physical therapists are experts in ergonomics and can teach you the proper posture setup for workstations and home activities.
  • Change your position frequently – Sitting puts direct pressure on the sciatic nerve. Therefore, it is important to change positions frequently. Consider getting an adjustable standing desk if you have to spend most of your day sitting at a computer. If you are suffering from sciatica, try lying down for 10 minutes, standing for 10 minutes and sitting for 10 minutes. Rotate this throughout the day as much as you can.
  • Try magnesium – magnesium is thought to sooth irritated nerves and many of us have magnesium deficiencies. Try a good magnesium and calcium supplement to soothe pain. However, if you are on medications, consult your physician first.
  • Improve your hip strength and flexibility – The gluteal muscles support the normal walking motions we perform everyday. They become weak and tight with prolonged sitting, especially at a desk job. This causes severe strain on the smaller hip muscles around the sciatic nerve, when walking or standing.
  • Get your body mechanics checked – Most of us do not realize that we have made an adaptation in our normal movements, because of limited joint motion or muscle weakness. Our body is amazing at adapting to problems, however, it can only do this for so long, until abnormal strain and stress occurs. Having a thorough biomechanical movement analysis by one of our trained physical therapists, will pinpoint the exact problem that is causing your sciatica. This allows us to formulate a treatment plan that will help you naturally restore your movement, function and quickly relieve your pain.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Start Stretching

If there’s one thing that you can count on an HESS PT physical therapist introducing into every session, it’s stretching. Yes, building strength and endurance is important. But whether you’re an athlete, or someone coping with the aches and pains of aging, increasing your flexibility through stretching is crucial. Read on to learn more about some of the top benefits of stretching.

Range of Motion Improvement

How far your joints can move in all directions influences virtually every moment of the day. Arthritis or injury can hamper how far, and where, you can flex and extend your limbs and torso. From twisting your neck to see behind you when driving, to being able to move your knee freely, range of motion is crucial for both daily life and for fitness pursuits. Even if you’re fairly stiff now, doing more stretches each day will gradually reduce stiffness and increase flexibility.

Relief in Unexpected Places

When your calves start feeling a bit tight after a run, it’s obvious that more stretching is needed. But we sometimes forget the sheer interconnectedness of our bodies. If you’re experiencing lower back pain, for example, stretching your legs during physical therapy can be as important as stretching your back. In fact, your hips, upper thighs and your hamstrings can all play a big part in creating lower back pain relief. Likewise, improving your posture through stretching your torso can provide the kind of support you need to keep your spine from compressing, which helps you avoid shoulder and neck pain.

Enhanced Performance

If you’re an athlete, you know that the more conditioning your joints, ligaments and muscles get, the greater your advantage in your sport. Bodybuilders can recover from their reps more quickly by stretching tightened muscles as a cool-down. Golfers can get a longer reach by increasing range of motion through the hips and shoulders. Swimmers can keep their strokes even by perfecting their balance through physical therapy stretching moves. In fact, there are few competitive sports for which stretching doesn’t offer an advantage.

Injury Prevention

There’s a certain amount of debate in the sports world about the degree to which pre- or post-workout stretching protects you from injury. But few people deny those stretches can contribute to injury prevention. A tense, shortened muscle is often an injury waiting to happen because it doesn’t work at peak performance. When you stretch, you’re also increasing your range of motion, while improving your balance. All of these factors can prevent you from making the types of moves that lead to injury, whether it’s coming down too hard on one foot, or twisting your back further than you should to compensate for lack of shoulder range.
Improved Circulation
Stretching can reduce stress, but that isn’t the only reason it’s good for your heart and your musculoskeletal system. Tight muscles constrict available oxygen supply, essentially robbing themselves of the nutrients they need. Stretches help reverse the process. You’ll also get the benefit of increased blood flow to your joints and throughout the body. Your physical therapist knows that good circulation is key to every aspect of health, from sharp thinking to clear skin.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways that stretching can improve your life. Many people enter a Zen-like state as they stretch. Others get a sense of pride from being more limber. When you’re ready to add stretches to your daily routine, consider getting started through physical therapy. Our team can walk you through the best ways to tackle your situation. Static or dynamic stretching? Pre- or post-activity stretching? A physical therapist can help you learn the basics.
Contact Hess Physical Therapy in McKees Rocks, Crafton, or Allison Park, to learn more.

Tips to Treat Your Arthritis Pain

If you are like the one in four American adults who suffer from arthritis symptoms, you are looking for options for managing the day to day aches and pains and often debilitating loss of mobility. Fortunately, there are many things you can do that, when combined with physical therapy, can improve your strength, increase your flexibility and help you manage your arthritis symptoms. While these tips are helpful, they work best when paired with professional treatment, call Hess Physical Therapy today to learn how we can help you live pain-free!

Weight Loss

Since many arthritis symptoms are exacerbated by obesity, weight loss is one of the most effective ways to manage those symptoms without medication. Fortunately, physical therapists are adept at creating weight loss or weight maintenance programs that take pressure off of your joints and increase blood flow for nutrient delivery throughout your entire body.

Time for New Shoes

Many people overlook the effects of footwear on arthritis of the knee. Whether it is special purchasing special footwear or adding insoles or orthotics into your existing shoes, this simple fix can help immediately relieve the pressure on the weight-bearing joints of your lower body. As an added bonus, the correct footwear makes it easier to walk or exercise without pain.

Hot & Cold, Hot & Cold

When it comes to arthritis, temperature matters. Many people discover that a warm bath or heat pack helps ease arthritis aches and pains. Others find that cold packs applied on a regular basis reduce swelling in the joints and relieve discomfort. Alternating between the two has been shown to provide the soothing comfort of heat with the anti-inflammatory properties of cold. However, it is important to consult with a medical professional about the proper procedures for applying both heat and cold in order to avoid skin irritation.
Exercise
As tempting as it is to “rest” when you are uncomfortable, there is nothing better for managing arthritis than exercising on a regular basis. However, many people are reluctant to begin an exercise program with arthritis for fear of injuring themselves. Physical therapy can not only help you discover the exercise program that is right for your condition, it can provide you with a long-term solution to your arthritis symptoms. Your physical therapist will show you proper technique, a variety of exercises and how to wear appropriate accessories like braces or wraps if necessary.
Arthritis should not stop you from living the life you deserve. The combination of physical therapy, a weight loss program, heat and cold, and footwear can help you manage your day-to-day discomfort for the rest of your life. Contact Hess Physical Therapy today to get started on your personalized physical therapy program and start enjoying a symptom-free life!

Top 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain

Do you find your knees or hips hurting after sitting for too long? Has bending or squatting become difficult or even painful? This is a common complaint of people with knee or hip osteoarthritis. Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that 1 out of every 2 people will have symptoms of knee osteoarthritis sometime before age 85?

The incidence of osteoarthritis generally starts to increase after age 35 and decreases one’s ability to perform walking, bending and everyday tasks. Osteoarthritis can occur for a variety of reasons:

  • Normal or abnormal wear and tear on joint cartilage
  • Injuries that damage cartilage and joints
  • Diseases that damage cartilage
  • Lack of joint support from poor muscle strength and tissue flexibility

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis describes the condition of abnormal wear and tear of cartilage from a joint surface causing bone on bone rubbing. This can be quite painful and occurs more in the knees, hips and ankles. This is due to the fact that these joints bear the weight of your body and have to endure an average of 3,000-6,000 steps a day. That is over one million steps / bending and movements a year!

Knee osteoarthritis pain is generally felt under the kneecap, but can travel up the thigh or down your lower leg. The pads below your knee generally become thicker and more swollen. At times, your knee may even become slightly swollen or even slightly red. Hip osteoarthritis pain is generally felt in the groin on one side or deep in the buttock. Pain may actually feel better with walking, but become worse after sitting for a few minutes, then trying to move again.

What can be done?

Most pain is caused by poor joint movement and strength of the muscles around the joint. This causes instability to the joint and greater pressure on the cartilage causing more inflammation and pain. Physical therapy is the preferred method of treatment, because it discovers the abnormal movement in the joint and naturally corrects it. With hands-on therapy, special strengthening and balance exercises, knee or hip pain can typically be completely relieved. For more information on natural ways to relieve arthritis pain, call us today!

5 Ways to Naturally Relieve Arthritis Pain

  1. Exercise – This is essential for people suffering from arthritis. It is vital to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve blood flow. Cartilage actually receives its nutrition from joint fluid, so the more you can exercise the better. It is also important to mix between weight bearing and non-weight bearing exercises, such as aquatic exercises or bicycling. A balance between aerobic and strengthening exercises is highly recommended. It is also highly recommended that you see a physical therapist first before starting an arthritis exercise regime. Our physical therapists are medical specialists in prescribing the right exercises for individuals with arthritis and can teach you how to protect your joints.
  2. Vitamins – According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are a mix of studies showing some benefits to using glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is naturally made in the body and helps support the cartilage by retaining water and preventing wear. Additional supplements may help. Some studies show that glucosamine may slow down joint damage.
  3. Avoid inflammatory foods – There are foods that increase the body’s natural inflammation response. Arthritis is a condition of joints that become inflamed. Therefore, by avoiding foods with high fat, fried foods, sodas, high sugar content and processed foods, you help to naturally relieve the inflammation in your body. This helps a number of other systems in your body too.
  4. Calcium and Magnesium – Many people are deficient in calcium and magnesium. These are vital minerals needed for hundreds of processes in your body. Having enough calcium and magnesium, builds strong bones and reduces irritated nerve endings, decreasing pain. If possible, find supplements that are in powder form that can be easily digested and help your body’s intake of these essential minerals.
  5. Sleep – Sleep is a time for our body and brain to repair itself. It is important to make sure you are getting enough sleep, 7-8 hours at least, to allow your body to repair and decrease pain. When you are tired, your body does not function as well, increasing the inflammatory response and reducing your pain threshold.
  6. Physical therapy is one of the best ways to improve your arthritis pain. We help your joints reduce pain and inflammation, and then increase your strength and flexibility so your joints are healthier. Contact Hess Physical Therapy today for more information on our Arthritis Program and discover how you can live life pain free!