Is my Shoulder Pain a SITS Tear?

neck pain 1

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is a rotator cuff (RC) tear. To determine just how common this is, one study looked at a population of 683 people regardless of whether or not they had shoulder complaints. There were 229 males and 454 females for a total of 1,366 shoulders. (The participants’ average age was 58 years, ranging from 22 to 87 years old.)

The research team found 20.7% had full thickness rotator cuff tears. Of those with shoulder pain, only 36% had tears found on ultrasound. Of those without shoulder pain, 17% also had tears! Risk factors for an increased for tearing of the rotator cuff include a history of trauma, the dominant arm (ie your right arm if you’re right handed), and increasing age.

In a review of radiologic studies of 2,553 shoulders, researchers found full-thickness rotator cuff tears in 11.75% and partial thickness tears in 18.49% of the subjects for a total of 30.24% having some degree of tearing. In this group, about 40% of tears were found in pain-free shoulders. The researchers concluded that rotator cuff tears are common and frequently asymptomatic.

Both of these studies support the necessity to FIRST consider the patient’s clinical presentation and then correlate that with the imaging results. In other words, the presence of a RC tear on an image (usually MRI or ultrasound) does NOT necessarily mean there is pain (and vise versa)!

So what other things could be causing the shoulder pain? There are many: impingement, tendonitis, bursitis, muscle strain, capsular (and other ligament) sprain, frozen shoulder, and osteoarthritis (the “wearing out” type). Also, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica and other autoimmune types of “arthropathies,” fibromyalgia, a herniated cervical disk, shoulder dislocations, whiplash injuries, and more!

Most importantly, we must NOT forget to include referred pain to the shoulder from an impaired heart (such as coronary heart disease or heart attack), lung, liver, or gall bladder as these problems commonly refer pain to the shoulder and may represent a MEDICAL EMERGENCY!

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What to expect from a trigger point massage

ession Description

 

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

 

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

 

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

 

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

 

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

 

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

 

Trigger points in the trapezius muscle.

The trapezius muscle is a large diamond shaped muscle that travels from the neck to the mid back. It originates on the nuchal ligament, and the spinous processes of C6-T12. It has its insertion on the scapular spine, acromion process, and distal clavicle. The upper fibres of this muscle work to elevate the shoulder, and rotate the glenoid fossa upwards. The lower fibres assist this motion, and the middle fibres are strong adductors of the scapula. This is the number one muscle in the body tp get trigger points. Trigger points in the lateral upper edge refer pain in the lateral neck and temples, a common cause of headaches. Points in the middle and lower fibres refer pain into the posterior neck and shoulder.

A treatment with Bryan Cobb RMT.

Session Description

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

 

What the Heck Is a Trigger Point?

By Bryan Cobb, Advanced Remedial Massage Therapist

What is a Trigger Point?

Trigger Points (TP’s) are defined as a “hyper-irritable spot within a taut band of skeletal muscle. The spot is painful on compression and can evoke characteristic referred pain and autonomic phenomena.”1

Put into plain language, a TP is a painful knot in muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas of the body. You have probably felt the characteristic achy pain and stiffness that TP’s produce, at some time in your life.

TP’s were first brought to the attention of the medical world by Dr. Janet G. Travell. Dr. Travell, physician to President John F. Kennedy, is the acknowledged Mother of Myofascial Trigger Points.  In fact, “Trigger Point massage, the most effective modality used by massage therapists for the relief of pain, is based almost entirely on Dr. Travell’s insights.”2  Dr. Travell’s partner in her research was Dr. David G. Simons, a research scientist and aerospace physician.

Trigger Points are very common. In fact, Travell and Simons state that TP’s are responsible for, or associated with, 75% of pain complaints or conditions.1 With this kind of prevalence, it’s no wonder that TP’s are often referred to as the “scourge of mankind”.

Trigger Points can produce a wide variety of pain complaints. Some of the most common are migraine headaches, back pain, and pain and tingling into the extremities. They are usually responsible for most cases of achy deep pain that is hard to localize.

A TP will refer pain in a predictable pattern, based on its location in a given muscle. Also, since these spots are bundles of contracted muscle fibres, they can cause stiffness and a decreased range of motion.  Chronic conditions with many TP’s can also cause general fatigue and malaise, as well as muscle weakness.

Trigger Points are remarkably easy to get, but the most common causes are

TP’s (black dots) can refer pain to other areas (red)

Sudden overload of a muscle

• Poor posture

• Chronic frozen posture (e.g., from a desk job),  and

• Repetitive strain

Once in place, a TP can remain there for the remainder of your life unless an intervention takes place.

Trigger Points Not Well Known

With thousands of people dealing with chronic pain, and with TP’s being responsible for — or associated with — a high percentage of chronic pain, it is very disappointing to find that a large portion of doctors and other health care practitioners don’t know about TP’s and their symptoms.

Scientific research on TP’s dates back to the 1700’s.  There are numerous medical texts and papers written on the subject.

But, it still has been largely overlooked by the health care field.  This has led to needless frustration and suffering, as well as thousands of lost work hours and a poorer quality of life.

How Are Trigger Points Treated?

As nasty and troublesome as TP’s are, the treatment for them is surely straight-forward.  A skilled practitioner will assess the individual’s pain complaint to determine the most likely location of the TP’s and then apply one of several therapeutic modalities, the most effective of which is a massage technique called “ischemic compression”.

Basically, the therapist will apply a firm, steady pressure to the TP, strong enough to reproduce the symptoms.  The pressure will remain until the tissue softens and then the pressure will increase appropriately until the next barrier is felt.  This pressure is continued until the referral pain has subsided and the TP is released. (Note:  a full release of TP’s could take several sessions.) 

Other effective modalities include dry needling (needle placed into the belly of the TP) or wet needling (injection into the TP).  The use of moist heat and stretching prove effective, as well. The best practitioners for TP release are Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists, and Athletic Therapists.  An educated individual can also apply ischemic compression to themselves, but should start out seeing one of the above therapists to become familiar with

the modality and how to apply pressure safely.

1 Simons, D.G., Travell, D.G., & Simons, L.S. Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual.

Vol. 1.  2nd ed. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 1999.

2http://www.muscletherapyworks.com/MTW%20Biography%20T%20&%20S%2001.htm 

Lumbar Radiculopathy? That sounds ridiculous!

Your nervous system is basically a big electrical circuit. Your spinal cord transmits all of the electrical nerve impulses between your brain and lower back. From there, individual nerves emerge from your spine then travel to supply sensation and movement to a specific area of your buttock, legs and/or feet. This allows you to move and feel sensations like touch, heat, cold and pain. Anything that

interferes with this transmission can cause problems.

You have been diagnosed with a “Lumbar Radiculopathy”. This means that one or more of the nerves emerging from your lower back has become irritated or possibly pinched. This often results in pain, numbness or tingling in the specific area of your leg that is supplied by the irritated nerve. The term “Sciatica” is often used to describe this condition, because most (but not all) “lumbar radiculopathies” involve the sciatic nerve which supplies the back & outside of your thigh and calf. Symptoms of a lumbar radiculopathy may vary from a dull ache to a constant severe sharp shooting pain. Your symptoms are likely aggravated by certain positions or movements.

To solve this problem, we will treat the source of your nerve irritation. It is important for you to follow your treatment plan closely and be sure to tell us immediately if you experience any progression of your leg pain, numbness or weakness.

Lumbar Spondylolisthesis

Your spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae all stacked on top of each other. The lowest five vertebrae are referred to as your lumbar spine. Each vertebra has two basic components: the “body” and the “arch.” You can envision this as a coffee mug lying on its side. The cup would represent the vertebral body, and the handle would represent the arch. The spinal cord travels through each of

the vertebral arches on its way from your brain to your tailbone. The term “lumbar isthmic spondylolisthesis” describes a condition where your arch has broken free from its anchor on the vertebral body, allowing the vertebral body to slide forward. Lumbar spondylolisthesis typically affects the lowest lumbar vertebra, L5, or occasionally the second lowest, L4.

The condition is sometimes caused by trauma, but more often follows a “stress fracture” involving the arch of the vertebra. This break and slippage is thought to result from repetitive movements, especially hyperextension (arching back) and rotation. The break usually happens during childhood but does not always cause symptoms when it occurs. Many times, the condition will lie dormant until later in life. Lumbar spondylolisthesis is present in six to seven percent of the population and affects males twice as often as females. The problem is more common in those who participate in sports. Some sports predispose children to this “break and slip”. Athletes who participate in gymnastics, rowing, diving, football, wrestling, weight lifting, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and track & field throwing sports (i.e. discus, shot put, etc) are at greatest risk.

The pain usually starts in your back but may radiate into your buttock or thigh. Your pain usually intensifies with standing upright for prolonged periods of time or leaning backwards, especially during heavy activity. Some women report increased symptoms during the later stages of pregnancy. Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice pain, numbness or tingling in your groin, a loss of bowel or bladder function, fever, night sweats, pain extending beyond your knee, or weakness in your legs.

Your doctor will “grade” your spondylolisthesis based on the percent of the vertebral body that has slipped forward. Your doctor will try to determine if your spondylolisthesis is “active”, meaning a recent break or “inactive”, referring to a long-standing problem. If your doctor has determined that your spondylolisthesis is new and has a chance of worsening, you may need to stop certain activities or sports for a period of time until your fracture heals. Sometimes a lumbar brace is used to help you recover more quickly. Patients with a long-standing “inactive” spondylolisthesis may benefit from a combination of treatments including stretching and strengthening. You should limit leaning backwards or sleeping on your stomach. Females should avoid wearing high heels.

Lumbar Spondylo-what?

Your spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae, all stacked on top of each other. The lowest five vertebrae are referred to as your lumbar spine. Each vertebra has two basic components- the “body” and the “arch.” You can envision this as a coffee mug lying on its side. The cup would represent the vertebral body, and the handle would represent the arch. The spinal cord travels through each of the vertebral arches on its way from your brain to your tailbone.

The term lumbar spondylysis describes a condition where a part of the arch breaks free from its anchor site on the vertebral body. This condition most commonly occurs during adolescence while bones are hardening. When we are young our bones have taken shape but they have not yet become hardened. Think of this as a clay coffee mug that has not yet been fired in the kiln. During adolescence, our bones transform from this softer clay to a more brittle bone.

The condition is sometimes caused by trauma but more often is a “stress fracture” to the arch of the vertebra. This defect is thought to result from repetitive movements, especially hyperextension and rotation. The condition is more common in people who were born with a small or weak arch- think of a coffee mug handle with a very thin brittle attachment.

Lumbar spondylolysis usually affects the lowest lumbar vertebra- L5, or occasionally L4. Most patients are 10-15 years of age when they are diagnosed with the condition, although sometimes symptoms do not present until adulthood. It is more common in those who participate in sports. Some sports predispose children to this problem. Athletes who participate in diving, wrestling, weight lifting, track, football and gymnastics have the highest incidence of spondylolysis.

The pain usually starts in your back but may radiate into your buttock or thigh. Your pain usually intensifies with standing upright for prolonged periods of time or leaning backwards. You should limit movements that involve hyperextension, like leaning backwards. Females should avoid wearing high heels.

Your doctor likely performed x-rays or an MRI to make the diagnosis of spondylolysis. If your doctor has determined that your spondylolysis is new and has a chance of worsening, you may need to stop certain activities or sports for a period of time until your fracture heals. Sometimes a lumbar brace is used to help you recover more quickly.