Achilles tendinopathy is an irritation of the Achilles tendon, a thick band of tissue along the back of the lower leg that connects the calf muscles to the heel. The term tendinopathy refers to any problem with a tendon, either short or long term. The Achilles tendon helps to balance forces in the leg and assists with movement of the leg and the ankle joint. Achilles tendinopathy results when the demand placed on the Achilles tendon is greater than its ability to function. This can occur after 1 episode (acute injury) or after repetitive irritation or “microtrauma” (chronic injury).
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury is a term used to describe an injury to the top of the shoulder, where the front of the shoulder blade (acromion) attaches to the collarbone (clavicle). It can be caused by a traumatic event, such as a fall directly on the outside of the shoulder, or by repetitive overuse. AC joint injuries are most common in individuals younger than 35 years of age, with males sustaining 5 times more traumatic AC joint injuries than females. Because younger athletes are most likely to participate in high-risk and collision activities, such as football, biking, snow sports, hockey, and rugby traumatic AC joint injuries occur most often in this population. AC joint injuries can be identified and effectively treated by a physical therapist, often avoiding the need for surgery.
An ankle fracture occurs when a bone on 1 or both sides of the ankle is partially or completely broken. Most ankle fractures are caused by twisting injuries and falls, or injuries experienced during sports or play. Under the age of 50, most ankle fractures occur in men. Over the age of 50, women experience more ankle fractures. The type of fracture varies from simple to complex, and can involve 1 or all 3 bones that make up the ankle joint. It is important to seek treatment after an ankle injury to determine if you have a fracture. Physical therapy shares an important role in your treatment and recovery from an ankle fracture, for a return to normal activity.
On a given day, more than 25,000 people will sprain their ankle. It can happen when you land the wrong way while you’re playing sports or participating in other physical activities, or even when you step on an uneven surface while walking. It can happen to athletes, non-athletes, children, and adults.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that causes pain and stiffness in the spine, pelvis, and other joints, like the hips, knees, feet, and shoulders. AS is a chronic (lifelong) disease, and it is hereditary. Although a majority of people who have AS carry a gene called HLA-B27, about 80% of people who have inherited the gene from a parent with AS do not develop the disease. The onset of AS is usually diagnosed in individuals between 17 and 45 years of age. Males are diagnosed 2 to 3 times more often than females, and tend to have more severe disease symptoms than females. Physical therapists help people with AS maintain productive lives by working with them to increase their strength, muscle flexibility, and joint mobility, and to improve their posture.
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is an injury to the knee commonly affecting soccer players, basketball players, skiers, gymnasts, and other athletes. About 70% of ACL tears are the result of non-contact injuries; 30% are the result of direct contact (player-to-player, player-to-object). Women are 4-6 times more likely than men to experience an ACL tear.
Balance problems make it difficult for people to maintain stable and upright positions when standing, walking, and even sitting. Older people are at a higher risk of having balance problems; 75% of Americans older than 70 years are diagnosed as having “abnormal” balance. Older women are more likely than older men to develop balance problems, although the difference between the genders is small. Balance problems increase by almost 30% in people aged 80 years or more. Mexican-Americans have the highest rate of balance problems among all Americans. Physical therapists develop individualized physical activity plans to help improve the strength, stability, and mobility of people with balance problems.
Every year, millions of people in the United States develop vertigo, a spinning sensation in your head that can be very disturbing. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common types of vertigo. If you’ve been diagnosed with BPPV, you’re not alone, it’s estimated to affect at least 9 out of every 100 older adults. The good news is that BPPV is treatable. Your physical therapist will use special exercises and maneuvers to help.
Biceps tendinitis is a common cause of shoulder pain, often developing in people who perform repetitive, overhead movements. Biceps tendinitis develops over time, with pain located at the front of the shoulder, and usually worsens with continued activity. When treating biceps tendinitis, physical therapists work to determine the exact source of the pain by assessing the entire shoulder, and typically prescribe a program of activity modification, stretching, and strengthening to resolve pain and return individuals to their desired activities.
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a large bump on the side of the foot that develops at the base of the big toe. It is common for a bunion to become inflamed and swollen, causing foot pain. Although anyone can develop a bunion, the condition most often occurs in women and older adults. Over time, the joint may enlarge and become stiff and painful, causing problems with shoe fit, pain, and difficulty walking. Physical therapists help people with bunions improve the angle of the big toe, improve their muscle strength and walking ability, and reduce their pain.
A calf strain is an injury to the muscles in the calf area (the back of the lower leg below the knee). The calf muscle is actually composed of up to 9 separate muscles, any of which can be injured individually or together. Calf strains can occur during hi-speed motions like running and jumping, or from any type of forceful or uncoordinated movement. Calf strains are a well-known problem for runners, soccer and basketball players, gymnasts, and dancers. Although global statistics are sparse, one 8-year study of professional soccer players revealed a 13% calf-strain injury rate. Advancing age can increase the vulnerability of the calf to injury and strain with less forceful movements. Physical therapists treat individuals with calf strains by reducing pain, restoring muscle strength and flexibility, and increasing their recovery speed.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition of the wrist and hand that can affect the use of the whole arm. It is caused by pressure on the nerve at the base of the palm (median nerve). Because of the demands that people place on their hands and wrists, CTS is a common condition affecting 1 out of 20 Americans. Surgery for this condition is commonly performed on the wrist and hand. Fortunately for most people who develop CTS, physical therapy treatment can often relieve pain and numbness and restore normal use of the hand, wrist, and arm without the need for surgery.
Cervical radiculopathy is often referred to as a pinched nerve in the neck. It is characterized by radiating pain from the neck to the shoulder, shoulder blade, arm, or hand. Weakness and lack of coordination in the arm and hand can also occur. The condition affects an average of 85 out of 100,000 people most often individuals in their 50s. Athletes, heavy laborers, and workers who use vibrating machinery are commonly affected. People who sit for long periods of time, or individuals with arthritis in the cervical (neck) region can also be affected. Conservative care, including physical therapy, can help reduce symptoms. A physical therapist can help alleviate the acute neck and arm symptoms that result from the condition, as well as improve general strength and function. Most cases of cervical radiculopathy are resolved with physical therapy and do not require surgery.
Chronic pain is a condition that occurs when the brain concludes there is a threat to a person’s well-being based on the many signals it receives from the body. This condition can and often does occur independently of any actual body tissue damage (due to injury or illness), and beyond normal tissue healing time.
The clavicle, or collarbone, connects the arm to the body, helping to stabilize the shoulder and arm as they move. Clavicle fracture is a common shoulder injury, making up 4% of all fracture types and 35% of all shoulder injuries. The injury is most often caused by trauma, such as a direct blow to the shoulder or a fall, and is most often diagnosed in people under the age of 20. It is seen most often in young men, as a result of sports injuries. As people age, it is more likely to occur with a fall. It also becomes more common for women to fracture their collarbones with age, and less likely for men.
Compartment syndrome is a serious medical condition that occurs when there is increased pressure in the muscular compartment of the limbs. When this pressure builds, there is restricted blood flow to the involved area that can compromise the health of the muscles and nerves. Compartment syndrome is classified as either acute or chronic. Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency, usually due to a traumatic injury, and must be addressed immediately to avoid irreversible consequences, such as limb loss. Chronic compartment syndrome develops over time, usually due to excessive or inefficient exercise exertion. Physical therapy can be effective to help identify the factors that may influence the development of compartment syndrome.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) can be a painful and disabling condition. CRPS generally arises from a minor injury, such as a scrape, sprain, or strain and can result in the syndrome that is defined as being complex, regional (symptoms are generally in 1 region of the body), and painful. It is estimated that 80,000 people living in the United States are diagnosed with CRPS each year. A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment is currently recommended, consisting of care from physicians, psychologists, and physical therapists.
In the past few years, concussion has received a great deal of attention as people in the medical and sports worlds have begun to speak out about the long-term problems associated with this injury. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that in sports alone, more than 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Recent scientific evidence highlights the need for proper care to prevent complications from concussion.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is the second most common nerve compression occurring in the arm. (Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common.) It is a condition caused by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow. This pressure can result in considerable discomfort and may progress to loss of function of the hand. Cubital tunnel syndrome generally affects men more than women, especially those with jobs that require repetitive elbow movements and prolonged elbow flexion. Symptoms can occur in both the dominant and the non-dominant arm.