Ever get a nagging pain between the shoulder blades that just won’t go away? I think we have all experienced this at one time or another. It’s hard to avoid this type of pain in our modern life. We are chained to our desks hunched over our computers or if we are up and walking around we are hunched over our phones. This round shoulder posture overloads the rhomboid muscles resulting in the formation of trigger points or damage to the muscle where it attaches to the edge of the shoulder blade. There are two rhomboid muscles. The rhomboid minor is smaller and runs on an angle from the spine of the 7th cervical and 1st thoracic vertebrae to the upper edge of the scapula. The wider rhomboid major attaches below the rhomboid minor from the 2nd to 5th thoracic vertabrae to the lower portion of the scapula. When the rhomboids are involved it feels like you just want to keep rubbing that area between the shoulder blades to make it go away. The photo below shows the rhomboid muscles outlined in red. The black X’s show trigger points and likely areas of muscle strain.
I recently worked with a young cross fit athlete who had injured her rhomboid minor muscle in a competition while carrying a heavy barrel. She pushed through the pain and continued the competition but was in severe pain the next day. By the time she made her appointment with me several years had passed. She had tried chiropractic, physical therapy, massage and foam rolling with out success. She had difficulty lifting even 10 pounds and had severe debilitating pain by the end of the day. She was very tender to the touch right where the rhomboid minor attaches to the shoulder blade. After 3 treatments with precision placed needles she is now pain free.
Rowers, musicians, weight lifters, tennis players and even backpack carrying every day desk jockeys are susceptible to this type of injury. If you are experiencing this type of pain you don’t have to live with it. Several well placed needles may be all you need for it to go away.
Trigger point acupuncture also known as dry needling is a specific style of acupuncture that extinguishes trigger points. Trigger points are sensitive taut bands that can be felt in the muscle tissue. These areas are more than just tender spots. When pressed they often cause a predictable pain pattern in an area far away from the area being pressed. This is called the pain referral area. Pain caused by trigger points is often a generalized deep achy pain usually located on one side of the body. Trigger points also restrict movement too.
One example of a common referred pain pattern comes from the trapezius muscle. Trigger points in the upper trapezius muscle are a major cause of tension headaches especially around the temples. Trigger points in the middle and lower muscle fibers cause pain between the shoulder blades and soreness at the top of the shoulders.
Another common referred pain pattern occurs in the infraspinatus muscle of the shoulder. The infraspinatus is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. It covers the shoulder blade and attaches on the humerus. Trigger points in this muscle cause a deep achy pain in the front of the shoulder, between the shoulder blades and down the arm. They often prevent someone from reaching into a back pocket.
In addition to the above patterns, a third referral pattern that I see quite a bit in my clinic occurs in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. These are hip muscles located deep to the gluteus maximus. Trigger points in these muscles refer pain down the back of the thigh and down the side of the thigh and are often misdiagnosed as sciatica.
Trigger points can be caused by poor posture, trauma and repetitive stress. They can be eliminated by specific needling techniques that creates a twitch in the muscle. Applying static pressure to the trigger point for a period of 8-12 seconds several times will also alleviate trigger points.
Trigger points are often a hidden cause of pain and restricted movement. I have been working with trigger points since 1994 and actively look for trigger points when treating patients who have pain. If you are experiencing achy one sided pain that won’t go away trigger points may be the cause. We can help alleviate this type of pain.
Have you ever experienced that horrible sensation of sprinting all out towards first base only to suddenly stop short while holding the back of your thigh and hobbling to first? Or maybe you over stretched in yoga class and are now walking around stiff legged. Maybe you always feel a chronic tightness in your hamstrings. Or maybe you feel constant pain in your hamstring or you have a tingling sensation in the center of this muscle. Which of these situations is is a true hamstring issue? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
The hamstrings are actually a group of 3 muscles located at the back of the thigh. All three attach at the “sits” bone of the pelvis (ischial tuberosity). The semimembranosus and semitendinosus attach just below the inside of the knee, while the biceps femoris attaches just below the outside of the knee. Because of the attachments to both the pelvis and below the knee, the hamstring muscles act to both extend the hip and flex the knee (imagine winding up before kicking a soccer ball).
A true pulled hamstring is actually a tear in one or more of the muscles and can happen when sprinting, running uphill, playing soccer or basketball. Often, a tearing or popping sensation is felt along with pain, stiffness and muscle spasms. Bruising and swelling may also occur. Muscle strains are graded 1, 2, and 3. A grade 1 strain is mild with a few of the muscle fibers over stretched and less than 10% of the fibers torn. Grade 2 is considered a moderate strain with partial tearing of 10-50% of the muscle fibers. A depression may be felt in the area of the tear. Grade 3 is a severe strain involving more than 50% of the muscle fibers with a large depression in the muscle.
Grade 1 and moderate grade 2 strains respond very well to acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture alleviates spasm and tension in the muscle, reduces inflammation and pain and speeds healing. We also use manual therapy at the appropriate time to reduce adhesion formation.
Other conditions may mimic a hamstring issue. Strains of the adductor magnus or gluteus maximus muscles create pain near the upper attachment of the hamstrings on the pelvis. Issues with the sacro-illiac joint can cause chronic tightness of the hamstrings. Even an irritated nerve in the low back can cause hamstring pain. I once had a man come into my acupuncture clinic in Mesa, AZ for severe pain in the back of his thigh. He had been receiving deep tissue massage for weeks on his hamstring but he was still having pain. Careful evaluation showed his pain was related to an irritated nerve in his low back. I treated him for that and his hamstring pain resolved.
If hamstring issues are impeding your performance or preventing you from enjoying the activities you love call us and discover how acupuncture can help you.
In Motion Orthopedic and Sports Acupuncture
4435 E. Broadway Rd.
Mesa, AZ 85206
A man came to my acupuncture office in Mesa, AZ experiencing extreme neck pain. On a one to ten scale it was about one hundred out of ten. It began at the top of his shoulder and radiated up his neck and into his head. He would grimace and cry out in pain with the slightest movement of his neck. It was probably the worst case of neck pain I had ever treated in over 20 years of practice. So I took a deep breath, called upon my master teachers and the ancient physicians for additional wisdom and began the treatment. My experience told me that his neck and shoulders were too irritated and inflamed to needle directly so I began looking for points on his feet and ankles to alleviate his neck pain. Wait a minute. Points on the feet and ankles get rid of neck pain? Seriously? Yep. I started out by pressing on the points I knew to be effective for this particular type of neck pain. If simply pressing on the point lessened the severity of the pain then I needled the point. If the point did not change the pain then I moved on to another. I did this until…..until his pain went away. That’s right, it was gone. Even I was blown away. I gave a silent thank you to my teachers for their help and talked to my patient about a treatment plan and follow up care. A couple of days later he called to say that he would be undergoing a nerve ablation treatment that his doctor recommended. I was very disappointed with that news because I felt that by following the treatment plan he would have had a successful out come and avoided surgery.
A year later, much to my surprise, the same man called for an appointment. His neck pain had returned after the ablation with a vengeance and he remembered that I had helped him a year ago. I’m glad he called but I am more than a little concerned. It’s been a year later and he’s had surgery. Has his condition worsened since I last treated him? Will the acupuncture still be effective? Once again I call on my master teachers and the ancient physicians and with my patient together we are able to alleviate his neck pain with acupuncture. I am happy to say this time around he followed the treatment plan and has been pain free.
Neck pain can happen for many different reasons. In this patient’s case, he had a severe trigger point in his upper shoulder muscle that referred pain to his neck and head. A trigger point is a hypersensitive spot in the muscle tissue that refers pain to another area of the body. The acupuncture, over a series of treatments reduced inflammation, calmed the irritation, relaxed the muscle and extinguished the trigger point.
Other causes of neck pain are whiplash, falls or sports injuries. Sometimes people wake up with a stiff painful neck. In Chinese Medicine this is called “head fell off pillow”. Sleeping under an open window or sleeping or sitting for a long time under air conditioning vents activates trigger points and causes muscle spasms in the neck.
Chronic conditions like arthritis, degenerated or herniated discs can cause neck pain as well as tingling and numbness in the arms and hands. Inflammation, sprains, strains and wear and tear all contribute to neck pain as well.
Acupuncture reduces pain and inflammation, relaxes tight muscles and increases range of motion in the neck. If you are experiencing neck pain and stiffness you don’t have to suffer. Call for an appointment- you can be on your way to being pain free sooner than you think.
In Motion Orthopedic and Sports Acupuncture
4435 E. Broadway Rd. Suite 4
Mesa, AZ 85206
Photo: Creative Commons
Ha! Trick question. You can’t raise your hand because you have shoulder pain! And I’ll bet you can’t throw a ball, hit an overhand serve in tennis or even take a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator. Have you stopped doing the activities you enjoy or stopped playing the the sports you love? Or maybe you find that you need more help lifting even small things around the house? You don’t have to live with it. Here’s a story on just how fabulously effective acupuncture is at alleviating shoulder pain:
I belong to a great Wednesday morning networking group called SNRG, located in Gold Canyon, AZ. I had given a fun presentation on how Chinese Medicine looks at the aging process. After my talk each member shared a testimonial about another member’s good work and service. One member mentioned that he had come in to see me and could barely lift his arm to 90 degrees. After 3 treatments he regained full range of motion and has been pain free for 3 years. Another member chimed in that he had had the same problem and that he had come to see me for several treatments and he has been pain free for almost 2 years. Another member stood up raised his hand overhead and said “Well you guys aren’t the only ones who can do that. I’ve been in to see Denise too!” I was very touched.
Shoulder pain typically responds well to acupuncture and the results are generally long lasting.
Raise you hand, pick up the phone and give us a call if you would like your shoulder pain to go away. In Motion Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture located in Mesa, AZ. 480-832-0966
Photo by Keith Allison
Just about every one has experienced the misery of low back pain at some point in their life. In fact, low back pain is one of the top reasons people make an appointment with their doctor. If not addressed properly, low back pain can progress to a chronic and ongoing problem for years.
There are many causes of low back pain. Lifting heavy objects, sudden awkward movements or even simply bending over to tie shoes can strain muscles or sprain ligaments. Often the muscles around the small joints of the vertebrae (facet joints) can go into spasm causing the facet joints to lock causing pain and loss of mobility. Sitting for hours at a time, bending forward, bending and twisting places a great deal of pressure on the discs between the vertebrae. This excess pressure on the discs can cause the disc to bulge, herniate or even rupture, which presses on a nerve and causes pain. As we grow older the discs between the vertebrae shrink creating less space between the vertebrae which can also irritate a nerve and cause pain. Arthritis and bone spurs occur with aging or trauma and cause pain.
How Does Acupuncture Alleviate Low Back Pain?
Acupuncture not only alleviates pain, but also address the root cause of the pain so it is less likely to recur. Acupuncture alleviates muscle spasms so that the spine is able to move freely again. Acupuncture also decreases inflammation. Inflammation irritates nerves causing more pain. Acupuncture also signals the body to produce it’s own pain relieving substances (endorphins). Acupuncture also increases circulation and speeds the healing of injured muscles and ligaments. Trigger points are points in the muscles that when activated refer pain to other areas of the body. Acupuncture extinguishes trigger points and the pain they cause.
Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Pain medication masks the pain but does not treat the cause of low back pain. Acupuncture provides long term pain relief as well as improved quality of life.
Lately this has been my go to recipe when I am craving a creamy treat and still want to make a healthy choice. It is very easy to make and satisfies those chocolate cravings with out added sugar. Liquid stevia gives sweetness to the pudding. Chia seeds are an ancient power food originally from Mexico. They are high in fiber, protein, and anti-oxidants. Research has shown they help to regulate blood sugar levels. They are also high in omega 3 and other essential fatty acids, which make them an excellent anti- inflammatory food.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
1 can full fat coconut milk- must be full fat or pudding will not set.
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 heaping cup chia seeds
2 full dropper squirts liquid stevia
In a blender, blend coconut milk until smooth. Blend in almond milk then blend in cocoa until smooth. Blend in chia seeds until smooth. Mix in stevia. Pour into 2 quart mason jar. Allow pudding to set up in refrigerator overnight.
One of the things about Chinese Medicine that fascinates me is how the Medicine views aging. According to the principals of Chinese Medicine, women age in cycles of 7 years and men in cycles of 8 years. At age 21 for women and 24 for men development is complete. Our physical peak occurs at age 28 for women and 32 for men. This is when our muscles, tendons, and bones are at their strongest. This explains why endurance athletes peak later in life compared to other athletes. Then at the next cycle, age 35 for women and 40 for men subtle signs of aging begin. Fine lines begin to appear, hair loss becomes more prominent and dental issues occur. At age 42 for women and 48 for men signs of aging become more noticeable. The hair becomes gray, wrinkles deepen and and the face begins to sag. During the next cycle, age 49 for women and 56 for men signs of aging are seen and felt. Women may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and insomnia. Men may experience more hair loss and frequent night urination. Both men and women may notice more joint pain, tendon issues, loss of energy and decrease in hearing. The cycles continue on every 7 or 8 years. Major changes in health can be seen around these time periods.
In Chinese Medicine the Kidneys are the root of life and the foundation of good health. The strength of our Kidney energy determines our growth, development, maturation and how quickly we age. All of us are born with a limited amount of Kidney energy also known as Jing. We use a little Jing everyday and it cannot be replaced. But Jing can be supplemented by eating healthy foods, living in a clean environment and of course by receiving regular acupuncture. Premature aging is a sign of Jing depletion. A course of acupuncture followed by regular maintenance treatments preserves and restores vital kidney energy.
Image from www.queenofyourownlife.com
If you are interested in learning how acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can provide solutions to different types of health conditions then you have come to the right spot. Oriental Medicine is over 3,000 years old and the ancient physicians of the time had a complete understanding of how the human body functioned, the causes of illness and how to restore health. In this blog, I will discuss how Oriental medicine alleviates pain and treats specific orthopedic conditions and what you can do to continue to maintain your health. Often, acupuncture and Oriental medicine provide relief when other treatments have not been successful. I’ll also publish tasty and healthy recipes that aid the healing process. I look forward to sharing with you the fascinating world of Oriental Medicine.