Movement Matters

Learn about some of the different types of problems that can be addressed by the physical therapy services offered at OPT.

The Head/Face

Injury: Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Cause: Headaches in the area of your temples can originate in your jaw, which is known as the tempromandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is kept aligned by the coordination of the muscles in the head, neck and jaw. Poor posture, clenching or grinding your teeth and leading a stress-filled lifestyle can alter the mechanics of the joint and cause inflammation.

Symptoms: Headaches, facial pain, neck stiffness, ringing in the ears, dizziness and laryngitis.

Treatment: Stress reduction, eating soft foods, soft tissue massage, improving joint mechanics and a possible consult with your dental professional.

The Neck

Injury: Whiplash

Cause: A whiplash injury occurs from the forceful acceleration and deceleration of the head during an automobile accident, resulting in damage to the tissues in the front and back of the neck.

Symptoms: Neck Pain, shoulder and neck muscle spasms, loss of neck motion

Treatment: Referral to physical therapy is common to help restore motion and function. Treatment may include the application of ice, moist heat, soft tissue massage, short-term use of a cervical collar and exercise to improve motion and strength.

The Arm

Injury: Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)

Cause: Tennis elbow may be caused by a poor grip on your tennis racket, hence the name. It can also be caused by repetitive use of your wrist such as using hand tools.

Symptoms: Pain at your elbow felt while moving your wrist, pain and inflammation felt where your wrist muscles attach at the outside of your elbow

Treatment: This condition can be slow to heal because the tendons have a poor blood supply. Simple measures you can try to relieve this type of pain include icing the outside of your elbow for ten minutes and/or holding your elbow straight while making a fist and bending your wrist with the palm down. Physical therapy may be necessary if the pain does not resolve.

The Leg

Injury: Hamstring Strain

Cause: The hamstring muscle is located in the back of your thigh and extends from your hip to just below the knee. This muscle helps you to bend your knee, climb stairs or get up from a chair. Hamstring strain can occur when you are tired, have a strength imbalance between quadriceps and hamstrings or lack hamstring flexibility. Performing activities which over stretch the muscle can cause it to tear or bleed.

Symptoms: Pain in the hamstring area

Treatment: The first action to take with this type of injury is to place ice over the injured muscle and wrap the thigh with an elastic bandage. This will decrease the bleeding in the area and control the inflammation. If the injury is severe, crutches may be ordered to further decrease stress on the area and allow healing to occur. This injury can be a chronic problem since many individuals try to return to activities too early or without regaining proper strength and flexibility. Proper rehabilitation can help prevent chronic problems.

The Hip

Injury: Total Hip Replacement

Cause: Deterioration in the hip to the point where pain is no longer tolerable and use of the hip is limited to the point where daily activities are no longer possible.

Symptoms: Severe pain in the hip or front of the thigh

Treatment: Increasing the range of motion in the hip is usually the first focus of physical therapy after a total hip replacement. You will need as much range of motion as possible in order to perform functional activities. Building strength in the involved muscles surrounding the joint is also extremely important. Pain from surgery should decrease with movement of the hip and weight-bearing activities. The goal of physical therapy is to get back to the point where you can perform normal, everyday activities without difficulty.

The Knee

Injury: Anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL)

Cause: Knee injuries are very common, particularly among athletes. The ACL is an important stabilizing ligament deep in the knee joint. An ACL strain or complete tear usually occurs as the result of a quick deceleration, hyperextension (the knee over straightens), or rotational injury. ACL injuries are more prevalent in women. Experts believe this may have to do with the size of the ligament and hormonal influences. Other causes include improper footwear, leg weakness, insufficient coordination and improper alignment where alignment refers to the relationship of the pelvis, hips and knees to the feet.

Symptoms: Severe pain in the knee and leg

Treatment: Addressing proper alignment. For example, if an athlete has weak abdominal muscles, this will allow her pelvis to tilt forward which will create an abnormal force at the knee, in turn stressing the ACL. If an athlete lands from a jump with this poor alignment, an ACL tear could result. Proper abdominal strength can actually prevent an ACL injury. Physical therapy can help provide strengthening exercises and education to help maintain proper alignment.

The Hand

Injury: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Cause: Carpal tunnel syndrome results from pressure on the median nerve as the nerve travels under a ligament at the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is frequently associated with work activities. Risk factors, which may cause compression of the median nerve, are repetitive and forceful gripping such as assembly line work and computer typing.

Symptoms: Pain, tingling, numbness, hand weakness, usually present over the middle finger area of the hand.

Treatment: Keeping your wrist straight while typing can help relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing a wrist brace may help. Physical therapy may be necessary if pain is severe.

The Foot

Injury: Bunions

Cause: Bunions result from a medical condition known as Hallux Valgus. This is a foot deformity where the big toe tilts at an angle towards your other toes. Improper footwear and flat feet place excessive stress on the big toe.

Symptoms: Redness, swelling and pain at the big toe, especially when wearing tight fitting shoes. Hallux Valgus occurs more frequently in women than men. This may be due to years of improper footwear, such as high-heeled pointed shoes. Hallux Valgus may also be hereditary and those with low arches or pronated feet are particularly susceptible.

Treatment: Wearing proper supportive footwear and adding orthotics or inserts for your shoes will give your foot greater support. Physical therapy may be needed to help control inflammation and to learn range of motion and strengthening exercises.

The Back

Injury: Spinal Stenosis

Cause: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the middle of the spinal canal where the nerves exit. Stenosis is usually caused by arthritis but can also be inherited from injuries or from infections.

Symptoms: Pain in your low back, buttocks and leg (usually above the knee). Pain typically worsens with walking and lessens when bending forward or sitting.

Treatment: Conservative treatment for spinal stenosis focuses on exercises that stretch the back muscles and strengthen the stomach muscles. Physical therapy can help train you in different types of exercises that offer relief of spinal stenosis symptoms.

The Shoulder

Injury: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Cause: The shoulder is a complex joint that when healthy allows your arm to move in several directions. With any loss of shoulder motion or strength, the use of your entire arm is limited. Impingement occurs when your rotator cuff muscles get caught under the tip of the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff muscles surround your shoulder joint and help you turn your arm. This is commonly caused by repeated overhead activity or with recreational activities such as throwing and swimming.

Symptoms: Pain in shoulder, loss of motion and strength leading to inflammation and additional pain.

Treatment: Ultrasound, heat application, cold application, stretching exercises, positioning and strengthening exercises can restore full pain-free use of your arm.