That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else. Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more. Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.
Stay independent longer by increasing your stair climbing capacity. Mike O’Hara shows you how in his article, “Keep Climbing”. Mike also discusses standing desks and the many benefits of standing while working. Jeff Tirrell explains the effect of exercise on appetite.
Our June issue brings information on preventing neck pain by strengthening your neck. Mike O’Hara describes and demonstrates in a video exercises that will help strengthen the muscles of your neck. In another article, Mike tells how grip strength can be a predictor of early death in some patients. Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on performance based training.
You Have A Social Media Disease
There Is No App for Thumb Pain
Your thumb is made up of an intricate system of tendons that enable very precise movement. The joints of a thumb are fairly small and yet we are able to produce an amazing amount of force with this single digit. In this age of all things digital, the modern American thumb has been subjected to greater workloads. Problems with thumb pain, numbness, and limited function are becoming more common complaints in physical therapy. I have some suggestions on how to manage pain and limit the damage and embarrassment of excessive social media thumb exposures.
Thumb Tendon Troubles
Dr. De Quervain was the first to clinically described thumb tendonopathy, and we call thumb tedonosis De Quervain Syndrome. The test for De Quervain Syndrome was created by a clinician with an equally odd name and it is called the Finkelstein test. Place your thumb in the palm of your hand. Make a fist with the finger around the thumb. Hold the wrist in neutral and then deviate the wrist toward the pinkie finger. If you feel pain it is a positive Finkelstein test.
Resolution of thumb tendonopathy pain happens quickly when you give in to the symptoms of pain and modify your activities. Rest the thumb tendons by using your fingers instead of your thumb on that smart phone. Avoid fitness activities that put stress on the thumb. Lifting in front of the body with the palms facing inward is often the lift that new mothers perform and develop painful thumb tendons. Early on in the pain onset, icing is often helpful. In physical therapy, we are successful with soft tissue mobilization, ultrasound, and manual therapy. A gauntlet type thumb splint you wear at night is an unattractive but provides aviable position of rest for severely aggravated thumb tendons.
The Numb Thumb
Irritation of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of the wrist will create thumb, second, and third finger numbness and pain. An injury of the recurrent median nerve in the front of the palm will produce numbness in the thumb and limited strength during thumb opposition–thumb to pinkie finger. Patients with neural irritation often develop numbness, weakness, and then pain. The pain often wakes them from sleep and disrupts hand function.
Once again, you will resolve a numb thumb with rest. Once neural irritation gets fired up, it takes longer to resolve than an aggravated tendon. Giving in to the numbness and resting the hands will produce better results if you start early. Two weeks of avoiding the aggravating hand activity produces good results. Night splints for the wrist and thumb are often helpful. A carpal tunnel release is a common surgical alternative that takes pressure off the median nerve.
Gumbie Thumb Beware
Every joint has a certain degree of stability and certain degree of mobility. Our spine, knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows must move enough to produce motion but not so much that they fall apart. The amount of movement in our joints is largely an inherited characteristic–you can blame Mom and Dad. The person at the extreme end of the scale (“double jointed”) needs to take certain precautions with their thumbs.
The Beighton Score is a popular screening technique for joint hypermobility. It has been around for thirty years and is used in research all around the world. The scoring is based on eight passive range of motion assessments and one active range of motion assessment. One point is assigned for each of the following.
A pinkie finger that can be passively bent backward more than 90 degrees.
A thumb that can be pulled down to the front of the forearm.
Elbows that passively hyperextend to 10 degrees.
Knees that passively hyperextend to 10 degrees.
The subject can place the palms on the floor during a straight leg, forward bend.
Researchers disagree on the score that should be a threshold for concern about systemic joint hypermobility. I have found that fitness clients and physical therapy patients that score a 5/9 or higher require modification of their training programs. It is not uncommon to encounter physical therapy patients that have a Beighton Score of 9/9. Hypermobile individuals need to take more precautions when they perform repetitive tasks such as texting on a smart phone.
Kimberly Salt wrote an excellent article on social media induced thumb pain in the May 19, 2018 issue of the New York Times. Take a minute and read, Me and My Numb Thumb: A Tale of Tech, Texts and Tendons.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
In our May issue, Mike O’Hara discusses the importance of walking. If you have pain or difficulty with walking, there are things that help. Mike demonstrates some exercises to get you ready. Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on squatting, and read about Afterburn–a new class at Fenton Fitness that uses heart rate monitors while training.
Find out if you scalenes are causing problems in Mike’s article, Scalene Salvation. Read the inspirational stories of some Fenton Fitness members who conquered osteoporosis.
Moving well is a combination of balance, coordination, strength, and power. During everyday tasks, you must be able to plant, pivot, and shift your bodyweight over one leg to change directions or decelerate an impact. Movement is a skill that we all take for granted until the day that it fails us. “I can’t believe I can’t do that,” is commonly heard from people in physical therapy. They are unaware of the level of motor control they have lost to age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that with some consistent training, most motor control skills can be restored. For gym members, an excellent method of enhancing movement skills is the agility ladder.
Agility ladders help you move better. How you move says more about your age than how you look. Responsive legs that can react to a disruption in balance keep you durable and injury free. Consistent agility ladder training develops the neural coordination that allows more graceful movement.
Rotation is the movement pattern that creates the distance in your golf drive, the pop in your punch, and the acceleration in your sprint. Rotation is the missing movement pattern in most training programs. Ladder drills improve cross body, shoulder, and hip rotation.
Ladders are the rehab bridge that allows the injured athlete to move from a controlled series of movement patterns to the chaos of competition. Ladders are one of the best power production and injury prevention activities older clients can perform.
As a conditioning method, I call ladder drills “three-dimensional jump rope”. Move through a few sixty second intervals of continuous ladder drills and your body heats up, respiration increases, and your metabolism is disrupted. Ramp that up to 90 seconds and check your heart rate. See video of agility ladder drills: https://youtu.be/CmLXGLeyGfE
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.
The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed. Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading. Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level. Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders. The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall. Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.
Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions. Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.
1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)
2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.
Very few things are more functional than a carry. You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week. While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise. Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless. Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability. Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness. Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA
Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:
1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)
2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)
3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)
4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Are You Ready?
Spring At The Physical Therapy Clinic
The weather is warming up and soon we will leave the heated, insulated, safety of our home gyms and fitness centers. The spring migration back to tennis, soccer, pickleball, golf, fitness running, ultimate Frisbee, and stadium steps will begin. My physical therapy question is– Are you ready for these new challenges? Has your fitness program prepared you to withstand the rigors of these spring endeavors? This checklist should help you answer the question.
Have you been performing most of your fitness activities in standing?
Nearly every sport and most household chores are performed in a standing position. During most of my visits to commercial gyms, the majority of the activity I witness is in the supine, seated, or heavily supported positions. If your goal is to move better and remain free of injury, then 90% of your exercise should be performed in standing.
Do you practice moving in all directions?
Nearly every sport involves moving side to side, forward-backward, and in a rotational pattern. Basketball, soccer, golf, and tennis all require you to accelerate and decelerate movement in all directions. Most gym activities are predominantly sagittal plane– forward and backward. You ride on the elliptical, spin the bike, and run on the treadmill for months, and your spring visit to the tennis court results in a twisted ankle because you are unfamiliar with side to side movement patterns.
Have you been working on better balance?
Balance is a skill that tends to deteriorate with age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle. Many commercial exercise machines take all balance demands away. The elliptical, spin bike, recumbent bike, rower… all are heavily supported. Proficiency with single leg stance balance prevents injuries and improves performance. The older and more deconditioned you have become, the more your fitness program should include single leg stance balance training.
Do you perform any explosive exercises?
We get slower before we get weaker, and life is an up-tempo game. We need to perform exercise that enhances quickness and improves control of deceleration forces. What you do in the gym is reflected in how well you can move during activities of daily living. If you continually exercise at slow tempos, you will get better at moving slowly. If you train explosively, you get better at moving at faster speeds. The capacity to decelerate a fall requires fast reactions. Gracefully traveling up the stairs and getting out of the car are only improved with exercise that enhances power production and speed of movement.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS