Tag Archive for: portsmouth PT

Why Your Nagging Shoulder Blade Pain isn’t Going Away

The prevalence of shoulder pain tends to increase and become more severe as we age – especially for folks in their 50’s and beyond.

When people complain of shoulder pain – it can manifest in a lot of different ways. Sometimes pain appears in the front, sometimes on the very top of your shoulder, sometimes deep inside your joint… But probably the most annoying and uncomfortable type of shoulder pain I hear about is the one that occurs deep inside your shoulder blade. 

It’s tough to get to, tough to pinpoint, and even harder to make go away.

It kind of feels like middle back pain – but also feels like shoulder pain – so which is it? And more importantly… Why isn’t it going away?

There are many reasons why we get shoulder pain and there’s a good explanation why it can move around and appear in so many places. It’s the most mobile joint in your body, which lends itself to lots of ways to get injured. And to add even more confusion – 47% of all shoulder pain originates from a source in your spine (neck) – even when you don’t have any neck pain.

Therefore, misdiagnosis of shoulder pain is very common and it’s probably the most common reason I see for that nagging shoulder blade pain not going away – no matter how many times you massage it, stretch it, or “theragun” it.

If you’ve had nagging shoulder blade pain for a while now and it’s not going away – there’s a really good chance it’s not actually a shoulder problem and you’ve been misdiagnosed. 

Let’s look at a few key signs and considerations to help you figure out if that nagging pain in the middle of your shoulder blade has been misdiagnosed:

1. Location of your pain?

When your pain is coming from a source within your shoulder, the pain will be localized to your shoulder joint. “True” shoulder pain is typically felt directly in front of your shoulder, on top of your shoulder, or in a more involved shoulder problem (like a rotator cuff injury) you might feel some achiness down the side of your arm. But the pain will never radiate below your elbow. If the nagging pain in your shoulder blade ever causes pain past your elbow and into your forearm or hand, or radiates above your shoulder into your neck (the upper trap area) – odds are pretty good that you’re dealing with a spine problem and not a shoulder problem. 

2. Do you experience numbness, tingling or burning?

If the nagging pain in your shoulder blade is ever associated with numbness, tingling, or burning – these are signs of nerve irritation, or perhaps nerve compression. If that’s happening – the problem is almost certainly coming from your neck. It’s very common for things like bulging discs to compress nerves, or limit movement, which can irritate nerves in your neck. The nerves in your neck will commonly refer symptoms into your upper shoulder/upper trap area, down your arm, and… you guessed it… right into the middle of your shoulder blade. And remember – you could be experiencing the referred symptoms without much (or any) pain in your neck. If you’ve got symptoms of numbness, burning, or tingling in your arm or shoulder along with nagging shoulder blade pain – and you haven’t yet gotten your neck examined by a mechanical pain specialist – there is a good chance you’ve been misdiagnosed. 

3. Does posture affect your pain?

Do you notice that your shoulder blade pain changes depending on your posture? This is another tell tale sign that your shoulder blade pain is likely coming from your neck. Our heads are inclined to remain upright on top of our shoulders to look ahead at what’s in front of us. So when you slouch your middle back – your neck will always compensate so your head can look forward. Ever hear of the term “forward head posture”? That’s what we call the compensation your neck makes for curved, slouchy posture in your middle back. And in forward head posture, you will stretch out and eventually irritate the nerves in your lower neck. The nerves in your lower neck – particularly the areas of your C6 and C7 vertebrae – refer right into the middle of your shoulder blade. So if you notice the pain easing when you sit upright or lie down, and increasing with long car rides or sitting at a computer (when your back tends to be slouched) – there’s a very good chance the pain in your shoulder blade is coming from your neck.

The good news is that even if you’ve been misdiagnosed for some time, nagging pain in your shoulder blade is typically a mechanical problem and can be fixed naturally with a corrective movement prescription, postural training and education, and strengthening the areas around your neck and middle back. You don’t need to resort to injections or pain killers. Do me a favor though – don’t try and fix this problem yourself or by looking up exercises on YouTube. We call it a movement prescription for a reason – and it should be prescribed to you by a physical therapy specialist who has a deep understanding of the intricacies of mechanical pain and how it all works. If you want help finding someone like this in your area – get in touch – I’m happy to help.

Vestibular Therapy: The Safer, More Cost-Effective Treatment for Vertigo Sufferers

If you’ve ever suffered from an episode of vertigo, then you know how debilitating and scary it can be: Room spinning, loss of balance, barely able to walk or move… The traditional route of treatment is to get yourself rushed to the emergency room (ER), undergo a myriad of diagnostic tests to rule out anything serious (like a stroke or heart attack), and then, if they can’t find a “cause”, you’re typically sent on your way with medication and a referral to a specialist. 

Medications typically don’t do anything to resolve your vertigo but they will mask your symptoms.

And it can often take months to get an appointment with either a neurologist or ears, nose, throat (ENT) doctor. If, after this whole ordeal, you’re still suffering from dizziness/vertigo – you’re not alone. ER’s are notoriously bad at diagnosing and managing dizziness. Not only that, but it’s expensive. According to Dr. Newman-Toker, researcher and professor of neurology at John Hopkins University, the cost of emergency room visits due to dizziness now exceeds $10 billion per year. And almost half (43%) of all dizziness-related ER diagnoses are wrong. They are corrected once you get to a specialist who knows how to properly diagnose you.

So… if going to the ER when you’re suffering from a debilitating episode of dizziness/vertigo is not the best or most cost-effective treatment option… then what should you do? Enter Vestibular Therapy. It’s safer, more cost-effective, and it leads to long-term solutions that help you resolve your dizziness without medications or procedures. It’s not something a lot of people know about or fully understand – so let’s go through it to see if this is a treatment option you need and/or what’s been missing for you.

First – what exactly is vertigo – and how do you know if it can be treated with vestibular therapy?

Vertigo is a collection of symptoms, and not its own diagnosis. The symptoms you experience (dizziness, room spinning, disorientation, loss of balance) are the result of disturbances within your vestibular system, which is responsible for helping you maintain balance and spatial orientation. There are two distinct categories of vertigo: peripheral and central. Peripheral vertigo occurs when the peripheral components (located in your inner ear) of your vestibular system are affected. It’s caused by conditions such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular neuritis, or Meniere’s disease – and can lead to sudden episodes of dizziness, nausea, and imbalance. Central vertigo, on the other hand, arises from problems within your central nervous system (aka brain). Causes of central vertigo include things like stroke, multiple sclerosis, or tumors – and it manifests as a more sustained form of dizziness, typically accompanied by neurological symptoms. You need the correct diagnosis of vertigo in order for treatment to work. But the good news is that 80% of all vertigo is peripheral – and can be treated naturally with vestibular therapy. Plus, when you’re first examined by a vestibular therapy specialist, they will rule in or out any vertigo that could have a central cause, and you’ll be referred to the correct medical specialist immediately.

So what is vestibular therapy and how does it work?

Vestibular therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy designed to address specific components of peripheral vertigo within your inner ear , as well as enhance the communication between your brain and vestibular system to improve your overall balance. Vestibular therapy starts with an examination (by a trained vestibular physical therapy specialist) that includes various maneuvers and specialized vision and balance tests to determine the exact type of peripheral vertigo you’re dealing with. From there, the correct treatment plan can be developed. For those that are vaguely familiar with vestibular therapy, it’s often associated with full body maneuvers such as the Epley, Semont, or Foster – which can be scary and ineffective if you haven’t been examined properly. It’s important to note there are many more components to vestibular therapy – so if you’ve tried and failed at one of these in the past – there is still hope. A good vestibular therapy specialist will incorporate interventions to work on all three of your balance systems, as well as give you additional strategies for home, lifestyle, and diet – all aimed at improving the areas of your balance and coordination system that might not be working as well as they could be. 

Vertigo is a common condition that many people are forced to face alone and without proper treatment, primarily because the education and awareness around vertigo is so limited. If you or someone you know wants to avoid medications and procedures (that typically don’t work), and treat vertigo naturally and in a more holistic way – then vestibular therapy might be exactly what you’re looking for. If you need help finding a qualified vestibular therapy specialist, don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you are local to Portsmouth, NH – click here to speak with a vestibular specialist.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Orthopedic dry needling

The Top Four Benefits of Orthopedic Dry Needling and Why You Should Consider it.

Orthopedic dry needling is a modern therapeutic treatment technique that has been adopted by physical therapists and medical professionals to alleviate pain and improve muscle function. But despite its escalating popularity, I’m still surprised at how many people are unaware it even exists.

What exactly is orthopedic dry needling?

Orthopedic dry needling involves the insertion of fine, sterile acupuncture needles into myofascial trigger points (“knots”), tendons, or muscles that are typically painful, stiff, or causing discomfort. Unlike acupuncture, which aims to balance and restore the flow of energy (“chi”) in your body, dry needling focuses on restoring your muscles and soft tissue back to their optimal state. During a dry needling treatment, a needle is inserted into specific areas to encourage blood flow and homeostasis, sometimes eliciting a ‘twitch’ response in the muscles. The needles may remain in place for a short duration, or may be removed quickly, depending on the condition being treated. Dry needling is backed by scientific research and has been shown to work effectively. It’s thought to turn off trigger points, ease muscle tension, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain – all to help improve how your muscles perform and work.

Here are the top 4 benefits of orthopedic dry needling and why you should consider this treatment technique if you haven’t already:

1. Pain Relief 

Dry needling can quickly alleviate pain, which means you can get back to your regular activities sooner. While the treatment itself can sometimes be painful, and lead to residual soreness 24-48 hours after your treatment, you’ll find that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Most of my clients find that a little bit of soreness right after the treatment is well worth the pain relief they experience afterwards. Dry needling works best for pain relief when it’s performed alongside functional and integrative therapies such as corrective movement strategies – which will result in long-lasting pain relief instead of more short-term.

2. Better Mobility

Dry needling does more than just relieve pain – it helps to enhance how you move. When muscles are tight, they can restrict movement and create a lot of discomfort. By releasing tension in tight muscles, increasing blood flow, and reducing inflammation – dry needling facilitates more comfortable and more extensive range motion in your joints. This allows you to move more freely and perform your favorite activities with less pain and restriction. In conjunction with corrective exercises and stretches, dry needling can be an extremely valuable tool for enhancing and maintaining good mobility.

3. Enhanced Muscle Function

Good mobility is just one aspect required for optimal muscle function. Your muscles also need to know how to activate properly and together. Sometimes – when you’ve been suffering from pain for a while – the muscles surrounding the problem area can “fall asleep at the wheel”. While you may be able to successfully get rid of your pain in a particular area, getting rid of and correcting the problem is a different story. I often say: “just because your pain is gone – does not mean your problem is gone”. If you don’t address underlying muscular compensations, your pain will eventually come back and sometimes it’s worse. The stimulation provided by orthopedic dry needling can help get your brain to pay more attention to the affected area, thus, helping “sleepy” muscles come back to the party and work like they’re supposed to.

4. Faster Recovery

When you’re injured, your body needs all the help it can get to heal. Dry needling not only enhances blood flow to the targeted area, but helps to create an environment for muscle regeneration as well – thus – helping to speed up the recovery process of injured or damaged soft tissue. Additionally, the improved blood flow aids in the removal of metabolic waste products and the delivery of nutrients to the tissues, fostering faster healing of the injured areas and less inflammation. This accelerated recovery is particularly valuable for athletes or weekend warriors aiming to return to their sport faster, as well as anyone looking to get back to their favorite activities as quickly as possible.

Should you consider orthopedic dry needling?

When I think of orthopedic dry needling, I think of it like a helping hand to feel better, move more freely, and enhance just about any other treatment you’re using alongside it. For example, a corrective exercise is only going to work if you can execute it properly. If you’ve got stiff, painful muscles that prevent you from performing your exercise or stretch that you know you need to do to help a particular problem – dry needling can be the magic in between.

It’s important to note that dry needling is not necessary or right for everyone.  So it’s important that you know what it is and when it can be used to improve your health. If after reading this article you think orthopedic dry needling could be something that you’re missing – talk to a qualified physical therapist or health care practitioner who practices dry needling – and ask if you’re a good fit for this treatment technique.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].