Trigger Points in Sports - a Causative Model

An interesting study by (Huang et al, 2013) has found that myofascial trigger points (MTrP) are significantly more likely to develop in muscle tissue subjected to repetitive eccentric loading and blunt trauma. The muscle tissue showed characteristic increases in myoelectrical potential activity as well as changes in the shape of the myofibrils which became large and round in cross section and enlarged tapering shapes in longitudinal section.

The study was performed on rats, however we can certainly hypothesise that a similar causative mechanism may apply in humans who play regular sports. In particular contact sports such as rugby, American football as well as other sports where acceleration results in high levels of eccentric muscle loading combined with direct blows by various parts of the opponents anatomy.

So what we have here is a working model which may be another way to explain the development of muscle pain in sports. The difference is the pain may be arising from trigger points and not necessarily torn or 'strained' muscle.

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Medical Acupuncture for Tendinopathy

As clinicians we all know how tricky tendon pathology can be to treat, especially the grumbly degenerative tendons which are prone to reactive flare ups from time to time (Cook, 2009). I am sure you are all familiar with the evidence for graded exercise in the management of tendinopathies, as well as soft tissue therapy and various offload techniques that can be applied.

There is also clinical evidence for triple therapy medication (ibuprofen, doxycycline and ECGC) to help settle the nasty reactive tendon. However despite best efforts, these tendons can prove stubborn and sometime resistant to conservative treatment.

We may get better results by incorporating acupuncture into the course of treatment? I would routinely needle any trigger points found in the calf muscles, but what about needling the tendon itself?

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Injections, Needling and Tennis Elbow - What Should We Do?

The results of a recent study (Coombes, 2013) are very interesting when it comes to clinical decision making in the treatment of lateral epicondylalgia (tennis elbow). This was a large RCT looking at those with clinical signs and symptoms of LE, without evidence of cervical/ neural involvement. The participants were randomised into four groups and received either cortisone injection only, cortisone with physiotherapy, placebo injection only, and placebo injection with physiotherapy. I have summarised the results as follows.

Those who had cortisone injections achieved some short term pain relief but at 12 months they are less likely to have recovered completely or be much improved, there is also a high recurrence rate at 24 month follow up. This did not change when physiotherapy was added.

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Relieve Knee Aches & Pain With Acupuncture

Otherwise known by the very medical term of ‘Hurty Knee’ (!) according to Paul Noonan, the lead singer of one of my favourite Irish bands - BellX1. Knee pain can be very debilitating as it can affect our mobility and independence not to mention being a darn nuisance possibly leading one to dread getting out of bed in the morning.

In Paul's case it was the standing drum kit - not an activity I have tried but no doubt tricky with a sore knee. Thankfully there is something that can be done. As mentioned in the referenced article, the evidence for acupuncture as an alternative to drug therapy and surgery is growing. According to White et al (2007) acupuncture is effective for improving function and decreasing pain and lasts longer than 6 months, it is more effective that so called ‘sham’ or ‘placebo’ acupuncture and should be considered as alternative to anti - inflammatories due to safety and not requiring a daily dose.

In combination with gentle manual therapy and specific exercises, the effects may be even greater as we have found in our clinic. A course of treatment usually involves 6-8 weekly sessions with occasional ‘top - ups’ needed afterwards. We have treated many clients with osteoarthritis of the knee for example, who have been able to avoid or significantly delay surgery as well as reduce the need for regular pain medication.

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