hip

An Exercise For Tight Hip Flexors That Works Better Than Stretching

It's 'Global Running Day'... One of my fav exercises for runners, especially those with issues with their hips.

This drill will build capacity in the hip flexors (TFL, rectus femoris and iliopsoas), an important group of muscles for running. 

Like the hamstrings, the hip flexors often end up in constant 'protective mode' due to weakness and lack of strength.  Sitting all day tends to make them tight as hell.

This exercise will help get to the root cause of your tight hip flexors and also help to switch on your glutes.

Stand with theraloop around the middle part of your feet.
Drive one knee up so your thigh is parallel to the ground while also activating your core.


Important ➡️The weight bearing leg drives down⬇️ to the ground, strongly activating the gluteals. ✅This will help improve your running efficiency and gluteal activation on push off.


Happy Running!


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Top 10 Muscles That Respond To Dry Needling

Top 10 Muscles That Respond To Dry Needling

One of the benefits of dry needling is it's a very precise way of releasing a muscle. 

Compared to massage, getting a twitch response out of a muscle gives a very predictable and effective release, deep from within the muscle belly.

In this post, I wanted to give you some insight into some of the best responding muscles that dry needling can help with.

If you want to learn more about exactly how dry needling works, please read more here.

Of course dry needling can be done to any muscle.   The following post is to give you some insight into some commonly treated muscles that give especially good 'bang for your buck'.

*Please also see some important notes at the end of the post.

1.  Deltoids

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In terms of shoulder pain, the deltoid is a very under-rated muscle.

The deltoids include three sections (anterior, middle and posterior) that sit superficially around the shoulder.  The deltoid is involved in almost all shoulder movement.

The way the it wraps around the shoulder makes it a very difficult muscle to stretch and it is prone to building up tension.

Trigger points and knots often develop in the deltoid that can give rise to shoulder pain (see pic above). 

This pain can be quite severe and unrelenting and stubborn to usual treatment.

A common history is over-doing some push-ups and waking up the next day with pain in the front of the shoulder. 

Or someone who has done a lot of heavy over-head weights (Cross fitters...!) over the years and doesn't do much stretching. 

Sometimes it's the last small movement and final straw the breaks the camels back so to speak.

Dry needling the deltoid often gets some powerful twitch responses. 

Expect soreness and a dead arm feeling for a few days before things settle down.

2. Latissimus Dorsi

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The latissimus dorsi is a fascinating muscle. 

It has attachments to the hip, shoulder, upper back, lower back and rib cage - and that makes it the largest muscle in the upper body.

Tightness in the latissimus dorsi has been shown to be an important cause of chronic shoulder pain and chronic back (especially upper back) pain.

Because of its extensive attachments, it can be another difficult muscle to stretch effectively. 

Dry needling gets in there and gets the job done.

If your lats are tight, you will need to add in some regular childs pose and over-head stretching, in addition to foam rolling your upper back.

3. TFL / ITB

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The fastest way to release your ITB

Release the under-rated small muscle that attaches to it, called the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL).

The TFL is a small but powerful hip flexor and usually tight from excessively sitting, walking, running and cycling.

When overly tight, can contribute to knee pain by causing mis-tracking of the kneecap. 

Combine dry needling with some specific gluteal activation and you will be well and truly on the way to saying goodbye to your ITB pain and tightness. 

If you look after your TFL well, there's a good chance that excruiating ITB foam rolling will not be required.  Happy days :-)

4. Glutes

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One of the cool things about dry needling is that we can access deep points in a muscle that you would otherwise be unable to access.  

The gluteus medius is an interesting muscle that can be dysfunctional in chronic lower back pain, hip pain and knee pain.  

Dry needling can immediately 're-set' the glutes and allow for a graduated re-loading program. 

Long-term, a well functioning gluteus medius will protect your hips, knees, ankles and lower back. 

5. Calf - Gastrocnemius & Soleus

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Calf muscle tension and limited flexibility is especially common in the modern age. 

When tight, the calf muscles are prone to cramping and eventually tearing.

Deep tissue massage can be effective, but can be very painful, bordering on intolerable.

Dry needling to the calf muscles, whilst intense, is quicker and more effective in its release. 

Expect some treatment soreness for 1-2 days post-needling.

And don't forget to re-build your calf capacity with an appropriate strengthening program.

6. Upper Trapezius

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Much like the calf above, the upper traps can be loaded with tightness. 

Causes can include poor posture, lack of physical activity and prolonged stress. 

Heavy handed massage can stir up more irritation in the muscle.

Dry needling is more like using a sniper approach - with a few direct releases, you can release the traps and get the blood flowing much more effectively and deeply. 

This study recommended dry needling for immediate pain reduction in upper body myofascial trigger point dysfunction.

Using heat on the traps via a wheat pack is really helpful, especially in the evening before bed.

Also make sure you are getting enough down time as chronic upper traps tension is a sign of sympathetic over-activity.

7. Infraspinatus

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The infraspinatus is a sneaky little muscle that sits behind your shoulder blade. 

It is often weak and gets overloaded when using your arm and shoulder.  

When the infraspinatus gets tight, you'll often feel pain in the front and deep part of your shoulder.

Dry needling de-activates the trigger points quickly, but be prepared for a dead arm for a few hours.

Don't forget to re-build with some simple strengthening exercises with a thera-band.

 

8. Wrist Extensors

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Tennis elbow is a very common condition that primarily affects the extensor tendons on the outside of the forearm. 

The pain often drags on for months and years due to a very poor blood supply in the elbow tendons.

The research shows that dry needling releases a very specific chemical, known as Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), that produces a strong increase in blood flow into the muscle.

In effect, blood is a healing agent, bringing oxygen and critical healing chemicals to the damaged cells.

No other technique that I know of is capable of doing this.

9. Biceps

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When was the last time you stretched your bicep muscle?  

Another muscle that gets used a lot, and builds up a great deal of tension. 

You'd be surprised how that niggling pain in the front of your shoulder improves after your biceps is released through dry needling.

10. Hamstrings

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Tight hamstrings are pretty common. 

Stretching them normally does more harm than good (see here).  

Dry needling produces a quick and effective release.

Specific strengthening exercises that lengthen the muscle gives the best long term solution. 

Conclusion

Dry needling certainly isn't for everyone, but it can be a very effective and powerful treatment in the right context. 

Two quick notes:

1.  There are different types of dry needling and this blog refers to the type that activates a local twitch response. 

This is very different to acupuncture and dry needling where the needles are inserted superficially and left in for 20 minutes as the practitioner leaves the room. 

2.  Dry needling is always used as part of comprehensive treatment approach

This includes assessing your thoughts and beliefs about your injury, movement patterning and general health considerations. 

Specific exercises targeted towards your individual needs will help give you the best long-term outcome.

If you have any questions about dry needling - please feel free to give us a call 1300 657 813.

If you'd like to schedule a dry needling session and start feeling better straight away, please book online below:

Gluteal Tendinopathy - How Physio Can Help

How do I know if I have gluteal tendinopathy?

The pain associated with gluteal tendinopathy is usually centred over the greater trochanter, the large bone that you can feel at the side of the hip, but may extend down the outer thigh towards the knee.

Pain may be felt when walking, particularly at speed, uphill or upstairs and when standing on one leg to dress.

It is common to experience pain and a feeling of stiffness when rising from a chair after prolonged sitting. Night time is often worse, particularly when lying on your side.

Your physiotherapist will take note of your history and symptoms and perform a number of physical tests in order to diagnose gluteal tendinopathy and rule out other potential sources of pain.

Radiological investigations such as an ultrasound scan or MRI may be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Many people without pain have tendon changes on scans, therefore clinical testing is required to determine whether scan findings are relevant to your current condition. It is not necessary to have scans before presenting to your physiotherapist for assistance. Most people can be diagnosed with clinical tests.

 

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What causes gluteal tendinopathy?

Researchers are still working on clearly determining the causes of tendinopathy.

It is currently thought that the pain of gluteal tendinopathy often appears when the tendons become overloaded. This may be due to rapid increases in training or exercise load, a large force associated with a slip or fall or an increase in bodyweight.

Sometimes there has been no particular incident but there may have been a gradual weakening of the tendons over time associated with lack of stimulus of the gluteals due to low activity levels, or certain postural and movement habits.

Those with gluteal tendinopathy have been shown to have weakness in the gluteal muscles that attach to the problem tendons. If the muscles and their tendons become weak enough, they will fail to cope with everyday loads and your nervous system may warn you about this in the form of pain.

How can physiotherapy help with gluteal tendinopathy?

Physiotherapy can help in multiple ways. Your physiotherapist can advise you about controlling aggravating tendon loads—everyday postures, movement habits and activities that might be provoking your pain. Your physiotherapist can help to address poor postural and movement habits, including gait retraining.

Research has found that exercise provides the best long-term outcomes for tendon pain.

A specific exercise program that aims to improve your movement patterns, gradually strengthen the muscles involved and improve the health of your hip tendons is essential. Massage, self trigger point releases, acupuncture, dry needling and heat may assist with short term symptomatic pain relief.

However, a specific exercise program and being taught how to control loads across your tendons are key strategies in managing this condition for the longer term.

Stretching of the gluteals or Iliotibial band (ITB), while a common strategy, will usually only aggravate the tendons. Corticosteroid injections have previously been recommended, but these have been found to have only short term benefits. Surgery is reserved for cases that have not responded to any conservative treatments.

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How effective is physiotherapy for gluteal tendinopathy?

There is currently a lack of evidence available from clinical trials for any interventions specifically designed for people with gluteal tendinopathy. Given this limited information, physiotherapists use information from other tendinopathy research, which shows that addressing the underlying causes of the tendinopathy and known strength deficits is the best way to manage tendinopathy.

What can I do at home?

Avoid stretching and rubbing firmly over the bone and avoid activities that worsen your pain. It is important to remember that complete rest does not heal tendon problems and the more inactive you become, the weaker you become.

Visiting your physiotherapist as soon as possible will help you to get on track with a tailored education and exercise program.

It’s best to avoid crossing your legs and when standing keep your weight over both legs evenly.  Hanging off one hip in standing tends to compress the gluteal tendons and make the pain worse.

How long until I feel better?

With specific advice and a tailored exercise program, most people will notice some reduction in pain within 2-4 weeks. However, it will usually take a commitment to an exercise program over a number of months to regain adequate improvements in strength and movement patterns to consistently control symptoms and regain normal activity levels.

The time frame can vary significantly depending on the severity of the tendon problem, duration of the problem, previous interventions, level of muscle weakness or physical conditioning, other coexisting health problems and adherence with advice and exercise prescription.

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