Tendinitis


Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon and of tendon-muscle attachments i.e. where the tendon attaches to the bone (insertional tendinitis).  It is an overuse phenomenon, can be excrutiatingly painful and functionally debilitating.  Treatment should focus on addressing the cause of the tendinitis, reducing the inflammation and the pain, and remodelling the tendon through a controlled exercise progression.

Most frequently seen diagnoses in our physical therapy clinic are rotator cuff tendinitis (supraspinatus tendinitis), posterior tibial and peroneal tendinitis (pain in the foot and ankle), tennis elbow (lateral epidondylitis), achilles tendinitis, patella tendinitis and iliotibial band syndrome. Interestingly, we have recently been seeing an increase in tendinitis of the guteus medius (hip abductor muscle).  We see golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) less frequently than tennis elbow.

Despite tendinitis occuring in tendons all over the body, the approach to treating the condition remains the same for each structure involved.  You treat the tendonitis by following a specific intervention progression.  The exercises are different for the different tendons but the principle remains the same:

 

Treat the cause of tendinitis.

It does not matter what tendon is involved, the cause is most frequently overuse.  Overuse means the stress the tendon has had to endure, as a result of the force it is being asked to apply (both intensity and frequency), results in microtrauma to the tendon structure and hence inflammation.  If the tendon is not given rest, it does not have the opportunity to recover.  Examples of activities which can result in tendinitis include typing, repeated gripping on a production line, fly fishing, overhead lifting or repeated jumping.  Ankle sprains may cause tendinitis in the posterior tibialis and peroneal tendons of the foot.

So, the first line of attack is to decipher what the causative activities are and modify them.  For most rapid resolution, these should be stopped completely to avoid the continuous trauma to the tendon.  Sometimes this is not possible and a program of relative rest must be designed by the physical therapist:patient team.

 

Treat the inflammation.

Part of controlling the inflammation is reducing the stress on the tendon.  The physical therapist will address this with you in detail.  As mentioned above, rest gives the tendon the opportunity to recover from the microtrauma (as noted above).  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or even streroids may be prescribed by your physician at the same time.  Physical therapy interventions to control inflammation include ice in the form of an ice pack or even ice massage and, iontophoresis – the administration of an anti-inflammatory, dexamethazone, to the tendon utilizing electrical currenct to faciltiate the passage of the medication through the skin (Yes!  No needles!).

 

Treat the pain.

By following the above suggestions, pain should subside over time as the inflammation is controlled.  If the pain is severe enough your physician may subscribe analgesics (pain killers).

 

Remodel the tendon.

Here is where the work is!  Your physical therapist will teach you how to stretch the involved tendon as well as progress you through a specific exercise regimen which involves both concentric and eccentric exercises which will stress the tendon.  A concentric exercise is one in which the muscle contracts and shortens at the same time e.g. the bicep contracts to bend the elbow bringing the coffee cup to your mouth.  An eccentric contraction is one in which the contracting muscle is lengthening while it contracts e.g. the bicep contracts and lengthens as it controls the extending elbow to put the coffee cup back down on the table.  An eccentric contraction places more tension on the tendon than a concentric contraction and can thus promote tendon remodelling.  Eccentric exercises are more aggressive than the concentric type.

The goal of the stretching and strengthening progression is to stimulate tendon remodelling.  This improves the flexibility and tensile strength of the tendon.  This, in turn, improves the tendons ability to tolerate the original activity which caused the tendinitis.

 

Soft tissue mobilization?  Deep transverse friction?

What about soft tissue mobilization and deep transverse friction?  Soft tissue mobilization of the involved muscle belly and, indeed, of the surrounding musculature can be helpful in alleviating discomfort.  It is less aggressive than deep transverse friction and is definitely more comfortable.

Deep transverse friction is used to stimulate blood flow in the involved tendon and break up any adhesions which may have developed as a consequence of the microtrauma of the tendinitis.  It is done by applying significant pressure (up to 7/10 pain) over the tendon with the thumb or index finger and rubbing in a direction transverse to the direction of the tendon fibers.  Sound like fun!?  It is done in conjunction with the tendon remodelling exercises detailed above.

 

YOU CALL TO ACTION:

  1. Make sure you visit us early on in the process because it is much easier to treat than if you have had tendinits for more than a few weeks.  EARLY INTERVENTION!
  2. Make sure you specifically ask to be sent to physical therapy the very first visit you have with your doctor so you can be shown the specific exercises and enjoy the hands-on treatment from the physical therapist.
  3. Pass this on to someone you know who has tendinitis.
  4. Call us with any questions you may have: 775-331-1199.

Pain? What is it really?


The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as follows:

“Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential damage, or described in terms of such damage.”

So what does that mean anyway?

  1. Pain doesn’t feel good.
  2. Pain is influenced by our emotional status.
  3. There may or may not be any trauma to the body.

Put differently, per Dr. Lorimer Moseley, Ph.D., a world-renowned pain researcher and clinician at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Sydney, Australia:

“Pain is the conscious correlate of the implicit perception of threat to body tissue.”

Huh?!

This suggests that pain does not originate in the tissue due to injury or a degenerative process.  Instead, it is a very complex interaction between the peripheral tissues (e.g. torn muscle, knee arthritis, lumbar disc herniation, whiplash injury, broken bone) and the brain. The brain processes information as follows:

  1. From your experiences in life – how did your family deal with pain when you were growing up?
  2. Cultural factors – Italian men have been shown to be stimulated by a blue placebo pill and sedated by a red one while men of other cultures in the study experienced the opposite.
  3. Social and work environments – if you enjoy your job and like your boss then less pain may be experienced than if you don’t.
  4. Your expectations as to what might happen as a consequence of the pain – if you do not have an adequate understanding of a particular injury you have sustained you might be concerned as to how you will return to work or your hobby/sport and thus experience more pain.

So pain is an output from the brain after the brain has processed all the above information as well as the nerve impulses coming from the injured area, called sensory input.  Once it has synthesized the need for an output you will then “be told by your brain” if something is painful or not. Think about the person I spoke to a few years ago who had a motor cycle accident and felt minimal pain when she stopped skidding along the highway and noticed her leg 20 feet away from her!  Why no pain then? The brain had compiled an appropriate response at that time that suggested she had more important survival needs and thus did not feel pain. When she was loaded into the ambulance and the emergency personnel took over (they were in charge of survival now) she began to feel pain.

So what kind of output from the brain results once it has decided there needs to be a response to the “painful situation?”

  1. Pain is produced which makes us do something to address the “dangerous”  position we are in.
  2. The sympathetic nervous system causes the fight or flight reflex.  Increases in heart rate occur.  Energy systems are stimulated.  We sweat. We are ready to take evasive action!
  3. Muscles are reactive and are set to fight or run away as well as protect the damaged area. If you have torn a hamstring muscle you know you cannot move due to spasms – a physiological brace per se!
  4. The endocrine system is mobilized and in so doing hormones circulate in the blood stream to help mobilize energy for use by the muscles and reduce other nonessential body functions such as intestinal motility.

The most recent research into pain has changed the viewpoint from one of a noxious stimulus causing pain (i.e. a peripheral origin of pain) to one of the brain being the decision maker as to what is painful and what is not (i.e. a central origin of pain). How complicated is that! It is not as simple as treating the injured tissue to relieve the pain. Pain needs to be treated from multiple angles with a multi-disciplinary approach.

YOU CALL TO ACTION!

  1. Check out Dr. Lorimer Moseley’s blog at : http://bodyinmind.org/resources/journal-articles/full-text-articles/reconceptualising-pain-according-to-modern-pain-science/
  2. What do you think of this new concept of how pain is generated? Post your ideas on this blog for others to read.
  3. Invite a friend who is struggling with pain to read this.
  4. Call us at any of our three clinics if you have any questions:

Sparks location: 775-331-1199

South Reno location: 775-853-9966

Northwest location: 775-746-9222

Swelling, Edema, Effusion, Echymosis, Bruising: What’s the difference?


If you sprain your ankle severely you may hear your doctor and physical therapist mention the words swelling, edema, effusion or bruising. If you have surgery on your knee for a meniscus tear or a ligament reconstruction you will hear similar terms (and see them too!). What is that bruising and swollen area in the muscles in front of your shin (tibia) when you ding your lower leg on the corner of a coffee table?

The Definitions (Dorland’s Medical Dictionary):

Swelling is defined as “a transient abnormal enlargement or increase in volume of a body part or area not caused by proliferation of cells.” The good thing is that it is transient so, as we have all experienced, swelling subsides over time (see below for hints on treatment).  It is due to some form of trauma to the body such as an ankle sprain (the ankle looks bigger) or a muscle tear (larger girth of your thigh with a hamstring tear) or a surgery (which is really a trauma to the tissue). Fluid accumulates – the enlargement is not a consequence of cell division (proliferation) such as may occur with an enlargement due to cancer in a tissue or the enlargement seen in a bone from a healed fracture.
Edema is “the presence of abnormally large amounts of fluid in the intercellular tissue spaces of the body.”  Here fluid accumulates between the cells (intercellular). This may be a consequence of tissue trauma, poor circulation resulting in lower leg edema, heart failure, blood clots, lymph node resection as happens with breast cancer, renal failure,  pregnancy and cirrhosis to mention a few causes.  In outpatient musculoskeletal physical therapy we mostly see patients who have edema due to surgeries (e.g. knee replacements) or an injury causing tissue trauma.  We may treat someone who has a comorbidity (co-existing condition) which has resulted in edema but if caused by a particular medical condition your doctor will be treating it, not us.
An effusion is “the escape of fluid into a part or tissue, as an exudation or a transudation.”  An exudation is “the escape of fluid, cells, or cellular debris, from the blood vessels and their deposition in or on the tissues, usually due to inflammation.”  Inflammation may occur due to trauma or surgery.  Blood vessel walls become more permeable or may be compromised. Fluid and cells can thus escape from the artery or vein into the surrounding area. Transudation refers to the passage of fluid across a membrane or tissue surface (e.g. the synovial lining of the knee joint), which may or may not be due to inflammation. In physical therapy, we commonly see a joint effusion where fluid has accumulated in the joint.  This may follow a knee or shoulder surgery or an ankle sprain, for example.
Ecchymosis refers to “a small hemorrhagic spot in skin or mucous membrane, forming a nonelevated, rounded or irregular, blue or purplish patch.” This is a medical term for  bruising which is defined as “a superficial injury produced by impact without laceration.” Both describe blood leaking into the surrounding tissue. You know this one!  Remember biting your cheek when you were chewing gum?  Your mucous membrane inside your mouth went blue.  Next time you do it tell who you are with that you have just created some ecchymosis in the mucous membrane of your cheek!

In summary, based on the above definitions, you can safely say that swelling refers to the enlargement of the body part involved and the swelling is due to fluid accumulation (edema, effusion) or blood accumulation (ecchymosis, bruising).

How do we treat swelling, edema, effusion, ecchymosis and/or bruising?

  1. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation:  “RICE” is what we know it as.  Rest refers to the need to limit activity so as not to create further trauma.  However, rest is relative.  That means you should move the affected area or tissue gently to keep it mobile and prevent stiffness during this phase but not so much that you increase the pain and swelling associated there with. There are times when movement is contraindicated … think broken bones! Ice for the first 48 to 72 hours after an injury with resultant swelling. The goal is to limit fluid accumulation in the injured area by reducing blood flow to the area. Cold temperatures result in blood vessel vasoconstriction reducing blood flow to the area which decreases the inflammatory exudate (see ‘exudation” described above) or bleeding into the involved tissue or joint. Remember this: ICE IS NICE! Compression refers to the use of an elastic wrap to compress the injured area and thereby limit swelling. The amount of compression should not be so much that blood supply is cut off or pain is increased. Elevation serves to decrease the hydrostatic pressure in the affected body part by raising it above heart level. The reduced pressure decreases the exudate and increases fluid removal from the area.  Add in gentle motion and you have a complete package.
  2. Heat: Use heat after 72 hours with the purpose of increasing blood flow to the injured area to flush out the accumulated fluid and inflammatory by-products. Heat also improves tissue flexibility thus making movement easier which is another method employed to reduce fluid accumulation in a joint or tissue.
  3. Movement? Yes, you should keep the injured area moving gently unless you have been told not to by your doctor or physical therapist. Movement of the injured joint (e.g. ankle sprain) or tissue (contracting the injured muscle) promotes pumping of the blood from the site as well as limits stiffness.  As mentioned above, movement may be contraindicated … think broken bones!
  4. Limit aggravating activities. After the initial shock of the injury due to pain, swelling and the limited function often associated with it, you may feel ready to increase your activity level. This is fine but must be closely monitored so as not to increase the already present fluid accumulation and pain. Limiting aggravating activities but still moving as normally as possible promotes healing of the injured tissue. For example, if you sprain your ankle and it is swollen and bruised but you can tolerate walking on it without limping for 10 minutes on level surfaces without increasing your pain and fluid accumulation then do so but stop before your symptoms are aggravated. Or, if you strain your hamstrings you may be able to walk with a normal gait pattern on level ground but not negotiate stairs without increasing the pain and worsening the gait pattern. Therefore, limit the use of stairs. Recall, we want normal movement early on following the injury to promote tissue healing.
  5. Lymphatic drainage. This is a manual technique used by physical therapists who have additional training specifically in lymphedema management. It involves very gentle massage techniques in specific areas of the body in a particular order to stimulate lymph drainage.  It is particularly effective for edema control. In addition to the massage techniques used, you are taught how to wrap the affected limb to promote drainage between massage sessions. You may also be taught how to massage yourself as a home program. If you need this type of treatment, make sure you ask the clinician you schedule with if they have specific training in this area. You can also look for a physical therapist who has this training via the National Lymphedema Network at http://lymphnet.org/.

In summary, swelling may encompass the terms of edema, effusion, ecchymosis and bruising as long as there is an increase in volume (size) of a body part or tissue due to fluid accumulation. RICE is the treatment of choice immediately after an injury/surgery but heat and controlled movement should not be avoided. If you have lymphedema you should consult with a physical therapist with specialty training in lymphedema management.

YOU CALL TO ACTION!

  1. What have you found most helpful in addressing the above symptoms?  Post your ideas on this blog for others to read.
  2. Invite a friend who has recently had an injury or surgery to read this and post their experiences.
  3. Call us at any of our three clinics if you have any questions regarding the specific application techniques to avoid ice or heat burns:

Sparks location: 775-331-1199

South Reno location: 775-853-9966

Northwest location: 775-746-9222

It is Your Right to Choose Your Physical Therapy Clinic.


At Custom Physical Therapy, we come across many people who are not aware that it is their right to choose where they do their physical therapy. We also see patients who do not know that they can (and should) request their doctor to refer them to physical therapy if they think they need it.

Most people are referred to us by their physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, case manager or chiropractor. These providers partner with us in your recovery. We work together, as your “recovery team”, to provide the needed interventions for your speedy recovery.
 What about you? How should you be involved in the decision-making process?

1. You must be an informed consumer of healthcare.

Thus this blog! We want you to use this blog as an information source, a place to discuss (POST) your questions with other members of the Custom Physical Therapy community and our clinicians. Learn! Learn! Learn! Being informed takes effort on your part. We are here to answer any questions either by phone, in person or after you post them on the blog. Your choice. Obviously, we cannot give you concrete medical advice through the blog but we can give you access to information that may be in our head! We can direct you to appropriate resources if need be. This is an invitation to you whether you are a patient of ours, a prior patient or someone who has not visited our three clinics at all.

2. Actively participate in your healthcare.

To do this you need to be informed sufficiently to ask questions. Yes, you need to ask questions. Lots of them! Ask questions until you understand what interventions are being proposed by your doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, case manager, physical therapist or chiropractor. This new understanding you have allows you to accept or reject what interventions we propose. You can also request other interventions – as long as you, the patient, are informed, i.e. you have done your homework! Educate yourself then actively participate in your care.

3. Make sure you know who you want to treat you.

Which clinic you attend and which provider (physical therapist) you want to be treated by is your choice. As long as they are on your insurance provider list (in-network) you will be covered by in-network benefits and typically pay less out-of-pocket than if you see someone who is out-of-network. You can, however, go out-of-network if your provider of choice hasn’t signed a contract with your health insurance company. You may then have a higher out-of-pocket expense.
At Custom Physical Therapy we try to match your out-of-network out-of-pocket cost to your in-network cost. So, never think you cannot see us if we are out-of-network. We will check your benefits and let you know what your out-of-pocket cost will be before you schedule your first appointment.

When should you request physical therapy if your doctor or other healthcare provider does not recommend it to you?

For any musculoskeletal issue there is a high likelihood physical therapy will benefit you.  Afterall, we specialize in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal problems.  These include, but are not limited to, low back pain, neck pain, headaches, shoulder problems (weakness, pain, stiffness), arm and leg problems, ankle sprains, and numerous other conditions.  If you are unsure, call us at one of our clinics and we will be honest with you and tell you if we are an appropriate route to get you back to full function.

Regarding low back pain, research has documented the longterm benefits of physical therapy when started within 2 weeks of the onset of low back pain. Treatment with medications only (anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and/or pain killers) and no physical therapy resulted in an 85% reoccurrence within 1 year of resolution of the episode of low back pain, which took 3 months on average to resolve. Medical management combined with physical therapy (specific exercises and manual therapy interventions) only had a 35% reoccurrence!  That’s a huge difference!  Worthwhile I would say! It is totally appropriate for you to request physical therapy at the initial visit to your doctor for your low back pain.

Another condition where you should specifically request physical therapy immediately is for an ankle sprain, even if it is a slight one. Chronic ankle sprains may occur if early rehabilitation is not pursued.  There is a greater likelihood of arthritis in the ankle joint each time you traumatize the joint by spraining it. Research on ankle sprains shows that one sprain leads to another and then another if the brain’s ability to control the ankle in unstable situations (known as proprioception) is not retrained.  This involves being instructed in specific exercises to enable the brain to “adjust” to the faulty information, due to the ankle sprain, arising from the muscles, ligaments and tendons which control the ankle joint.

IN SUMMARY:

  1. Be proactive with your healthcare and learn as much as you can.
  2. Ask questions to gain understanding.
  3. You choose who you see for physical therapy.
  4. You can and should request physical therapy when you think it is needed.

 YOUR CALL TO ACTION!

  1.  Post a question concerning your health on this blog. If we do not know the answer, we will find it for you from another expert in the field.
  2. Check out the videos on the blog and rate them. Why do you think they are good?
  3. What topics would you like to see covered in this blog?
  4. Ask a friend to do action 1 through 3 above.  This will get our information out to many others with your help.

See you for the next post!  Plan on once a week visits to this blog for new information!

Interesting video on back pain.


I thought these two videos from Europe are well done and provide a good description of back pain and how you can control it at a basic level.  Watch Part 1 then Part II. Anyone with back pain must make lifestyle changes to control the symptoms. This includes getting in better shape through correcting any imbalances there may be in flexibility, strength, proprioception, balance and core control. A physical therapist can start you in the right direction but then you have to run with it and stay on the program designed for you. What have you found most helpful in addressing your back pain? If you have had physical therapy for back pain and it was not as successful as you would have liked, what do you think was missing?

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