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What is referred pain?

Referred pain: What is it and how can I manage it?

What is referred pain?

Referred pain occurs when pain presents in one area but the cause and origin are located elsewhere. This occurs due to sensory nerves being impacted with too high or low a signal being sent through the central nervous system.

The central nervous system sends messages to soft tissue, bones and organs throughout the body, potentially impacting these areas. Referred pain can be reported as; an ache, deep pain, pins and needles, numbness, or as pain in a specific area. Alternatively, you may get referred pain due to muscles or even your organs.

What are the common types of referred pain?

There are common types of complaints which include referred pain, such as; headaches, low back pain and knee arthritis.
Headaches can be referred pain from tight muscles or nerves at the base of the skull, around to the top of the head, temples and the jaw with the symptoms originating from the joints or muscles within the neck.

Experiencing pain in the back of the leg could be due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Alternatively, low back pain can refer into the hip, groin, leg(s) or further up your back.

Arthritic changes occur when cartilage within the joint wears away. For example; within the knee, pain can be referred around the knee or in other areas of the leg due to the exposure of nerves within these areas.

Muscles may refer pain. Typically from trigger points within the muscle belly due to overuse or underuse. This could be because of poor posture, lack of movement or abnormal movement patters. Trigger points have distinctive referral patterns throughout the body.

Organs within the body can also refer pain. This is often described as a deep ache. This pain often won’t have a set pattern and you can experience pain far away from the affected organ. For example; the heart causing pain in the neck and/ or arm.

To help find the cause or to manage your referred pain talk to your physiotherapist at Caboolture physical therapy centre who can help manage your symptoms and answer any questions that you may have.

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre – serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.
Workplace Ergonomics and your working posture

Workplace Ergonomics 101 – Your working posture

With an increasing number of jobs requiring you to sit in front of a computer for long periods of the day, it is important to address your working posture to protect your spinal health.

Here are a few simple adjustments that you can make to your workstation to help improve and protect your spinal health. Start with: 

  1. Adjusting your seat height so that your forearms can rest comfortably on the desk with your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Support your lower spine with the lumbar support of the chair sitting in the curve of your lower back.
  3. Have the screen/monitor sitting at a suitable height to prevent pushing your chin forward or having to look down to see the screen. (At a minimum, the bottom of the screen should be at eye level or slightly above).
  4. Where possible, try to have documents resting on an angled stand rather than sitting on the desk. This will prevent hunching over to read.
  5. Remember to take short breaks throughout the day. Stand up and stretch, this will assist in managing any lower back pain.

These are just a few strategies to prevent postural issues or spinal pain, our physiotherapists can offer further advice specific to each individual’s needs.

We also offer workplace ergonomic assessments, where our therapists will come to your work and assess your workstation. For more information, or to make a booking, phone one of our friendly staff on 5495 3255.

Below is an example of correct work posture:

Workplace Ergonomics 101

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre – serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.

Three stretches for the busy office worker

Sitting for long periods of time is often associated with a variety of chronic health conditions – which is bad news for us who work in an office. But there are ways to keep active and stay healthy, even when you’re sitting all day.

Move more often

Sitting itself and the posture you find yourself in isn’t as bad as simply being still for hours on end. An expression in physiotherapy is ‘the best posture is your next posture’. This means that, above all, movement is the best thing for your body and those in office jobs can find themselves becoming very still while focused on the next deadline.
Set a quiet alarm to remind you to move or change positions every 20 minutes. Getting up for phone calls and walking over to see colleagues when you have a question is a great way to break up your sitting time.

Reverse your posture

While not moving is definitely the worst aspect to prolonged sitting, the postures we often adopt while sitting can also be problematic. Sitting with a flattened lower back, hunched neck and slouched shoulders is the posture that requires the least energy to maintain and is often the one we sink into in a long day. A slouched posture can lead to shortened hamstring, hip flexor and pectoral muscles.

If you are spending large amounts of time sitting, it’s important to take time every day to adopt the opposite postures and keep your body flexible. 
This means moving into thoracic and lumbar extension, stretching your shoulders and extending your hips.

Here are a few stretches you can do every day while seated that will help to reverse your posture. Try to do these stretches every few hours during a working day.

1. Chest stretch

Sit forward, clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms towards the ceiling. You should feel a stretch at the front of your chest. Look up slightly to increase the stretch. You should not feel any pain or tingling in your arms. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.

2. Seated hamstring stretch

Perch on the edge of your seat and straighten one leg out in front of you. Lean forwards at your hips, keeping your back straight. You should feel a gentle stretch at the back of your thigh. If you feel the stretch behind your knee or into your calf, let your ankle relax, and let your foot drop towards the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 second then swap legs, repeat this stretch with each leg twice.

3. Chin Tuck

Sit up in your chair so your bottom is at the back of your seat and your lower back is supported. Relax your shoulders and gently tuck your chin in, imagine you are holding a soft ball under your chin and are slowly squashing it. You should feel a gentle stretch at the top of your neck. Hold for 20 seconds, release and repeat.

These stretches should not cause you pain. Speak to your physiotherapist for a customised stretching routine that you can implement into your day at the office or for more tips on how to perform these stretches to maximum effect. 

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre – serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.

Rotator Cuff Tears

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

A rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles that surround the shoulder joint. Their tendons attach to the humerus, close to the joint line and act as a cuff that provides support and control to the shoulder. They also play a primary role in creating rotational movements of the shoulder.

Rotator cuff tears are common injuries and can occur in any of the four muscles, usually at their weakest point, which is the junction between the muscle and tendinous tissue. These tears are common in racket and throwing sports and are one of the leading causes of shoulder pain. The prevalence of rotator cuff tears increases as we age due to age related degenerative changes in the tissues.

What are the symptoms?

Many people have rotator cuff tears with no symptoms at all, and are unaware of the injury. However, for others, these tears can be very painful and lead to difficulty moving the shoulder, particularly with overhead activities. They may find their range of movement is restricted and the arm feels weak. They often experience pain that radiates down to the arm and pain at night, which can cause sleep disturbances.

It is interesting to note that the size of a tear is not necessarily related to the amount of pain and dysfunction experienced, with small tears sometimes creating large problems and large tears going unnoticed.

What are the causes?

Movements that create a rapid twisting motion or over-stretching of the shoulder often cause rotator cuff tears. The most common mechanism of injury is a fall onto an outstretched hand. These tears can be acute or chronic, developing over a period of time or related to degenerative changes, where tendon tissue is damaged by everyday activities due to reduced strength and elasticity.

Other causes of rotator cuff tears include overuse, lifting or carrying heavy objects and repetitive overhead activities. Poor biomechanics can cause weakening of the shoulder’s tendons with insufficient blood supply to the rotator cuff over a long period of time. This can leave the tendon more susceptible to injury as is a significant contributing factor to the development of tears and the outcomes of recovery.

How can physiotherapy help?

The primary objectives of physiotherapy treatment are to reduce pain, increase the range of motion and strength and improve shoulder function. Your physiotherapist will work with you to help set goals assist to reach them with a targeted rehabilitation program, manual therapy and education on how to achieve the most from your recovery.

While severe tears are often repaired surgically, research is increasingly showing that even in severe tears, a comprehensive rehabilitation program under a physiotherapist leads to similar outcomes to surgery. For this reason, a conservative approach guided by a physiotherapist is often recommended to patients as the first option for treatment. The exact time frame of treatment and recovery will vary from person to person and is affected by a variety of factors including if surgical repair was chosen, the severity of the injury and function prior to injury.

This information is not a replacement for proper medical advice. Please get in touch with Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre for advice on your individual injury.

Caboolture Physical Therapy Centre – serving people in need from the following areas: Caboolture, Morayfield, Elimbah, Wamuran, Beerburrum, Beerwah, Glasshouse Mountains, Toorbul, Donnybrook, Ningi, Woodford, Kilcoy, Bribie Island, Goodwin Beach, Sandstone Point, Banksia Beach, Bongaree, Bellar, Woorim, Burpengary & Beachmere.