Pulled Chest Muscle: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Chest pain could mean anything from a heart attack to a pulled chest muscle: learn the symptoms of muscle strain to better identify it, and discover the best ways to treat and prevent this injury in the future.

Straining a chest muscle can cause a sharp pain in your chest, a sensation that, if it’s anywhere near the heart, may well scare people into thinking they’re having cardiac issues. While a pulled chest muscle is not as serious as a heart attack, it is nevertheless painful and not as easy to pinpoint as, say, a pulled hamstring.

Your chest muscles are responsible for supporting your upper body and for helping you breathe properly, and can have a negative impact on the health of your back if they’re not in optimal working order. This article discusses the symptoms of a pulled chest muscle, common causes of the strain, and different treatments you can try to find the cure to what ails you.

The Muscles of the Chest

The major muscles of the chest are the appropriately named pectoralis majors, the fan-shaped muscles that go from your armpits to the center of your breast bone (sternum). These muscles help move your shoulders and keep your arms attached to your body.

The pectoralis minor muscles are smaller triangular muscles under each pectoralis major. They run along your upper ribs (just below your collarbone).

Then there are your intercostal muscles, which run between the ribs and help form the chest wall. They expand and contract your chest cavity to allow for the inflating and deflating of your lungs as you breathe. Straining muscles in this area may make breathing more laborious. As much as 49% of chest pain experienced by people comes from what is known as intercostal muscle strain.

Pulled chest muscle: signs, causes, and treatment.

Symptoms of a Pulled Chest Muscle

Muscle strains occur when any muscle is overly stretched or torn, and each one needs care and rest to repair itself. The symptoms of a pulled chest muscle may include:

  • Acute muscle pain (a sharp pull)
  • Chronic muscle pain (a dull ache)
  • Pain during breathing
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty moving the area

If this pain comes about suddenly due to strenuous activity or exercise, it’s recommended that you seek medical attention, as it may be more serious than just a strain.

Chest pain is an emergency if it is also accompanied by dizziness, fainting, sweating, a racing pulse, fever, sudden sleepiness, unexplained irritability, or difficulty breathing: these are signs of a heart attack and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Causes of a Pulled Chest Muscle

If your heart is not involved in the chest pain you’re experiencing, then you may well be looking at a strained or pulled chest muscle. This can come about from overuse, from heavy lifting, or from sports like tennis, rowing, golf, or gymnastics, which call for repetitive motions of the upper body. The other common causes of chest muscle strain include:

  • Lifting while twisting (like taking boxes on or off a shelf)
  • Reaching above your head for extended amounts of time
  • Repetitive sports motions
  • Skipping warm-ups before sporting activities
  • Contact injuries from sports, accidents, or falls
  • Muscle fatigue from overuse
  • Hard coughing or sneezing during illnesses

Keep in mind that certain people may be more at risk of straining their chest muscles. For example, older adults vulnerable to falling injuries have a corresponding higher risk of pulling a chest muscle. Athletes are at high risk due to the nature of competitive playing. Those involved in car accidents also have a higher rate of chest muscle injury, sometimes from the safety devices involved in a vehicle (like seatbelts and airbags in cars).

Children have the lowest risk of experiencing a pulled chest muscle because of their higher flexibility, which is why it’s always important for us non-children to stretch properly not just before sports, but before any strenuous activity. Basically, break out the yoga mat before you rearrange the living room furniture to repaint the walls: it might save you from being sore and achy the next day (or for the rest of the week).

Diagnosing Chest Pain

Since it’s easy to suspect pain in the chest area as a potentially life-threatening issue with your cardiovascular health, a visit to the doctor may be in order. Rest assured: it’s not a waste of anyone’s time, because depending on the severity of the injury, a pulled chest muscle could lead to chronic back pain and may need a physical therapist to fully remedy. A doctor may first rule out heart disease or other medical conditions (like broken bones, which may call for an X-ray) as the cause of your pain, and then conduct a physical exam to evaluate the severity of the sprain.

Other Possible Causes of Chest Pain

It’s important to seek medical advice when you’re experiencing chest pain, because other causes may include:

Pulled chest muscle: signs, causes, and treatment.

Acute vs. Chronic Muscle Strains

If your pain is indeed caused by a pulled muscle, the doctor will first evaluate whether your muscle strain is acute or chronic.

  • Acute: An acute muscle strain arises from direct injury or trauma due to an accident or fall.
  • Chronic: Chronic strains are those caused by repetitive motions, whether they’re movements from your job, from a sporting activity, or other tasks you perform regularly (like picking up your kids).

The doctor will then likely assign a grade to the strain according to the level of severity.

  • Grade 1: The first grade is the lowest one, affecting less than 5% of the muscle fibers.
  • Grade 2: This is a moderate-grade tear signifying partial muscle rupture or loss of strength.
  • Grade 3: A high-grade tear entails complete muscle rupture and may require surgery to properly repair.

How to Treat a Pulled Chest Muscle

The first and standard response to a muscle strain anywhere is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. How does that work for your chest?

  • Rest: Cease activity for at least 2 days after your injury, and if when you return to light activity you still feel pain, rest some more.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the strained area for 20 minutes, 3 times a day to reduce swelling, inflammation, pain, and soreness.
  • Compression: If it’s possible, wrap an Ace bandage to stabilize the area, but be sure to leave it loose enough to allow for circulation.
  • Elevation: As you move around throughout the day your chest is already elevated, but what about at night? Sleeping on an incline (a soft wedge or stacked pillows) or in a recliner can help.

If your doctor sends you home with general advice, you may choose to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to help alleviate the pain. This should be fine as long as you follow the instructions and don’t mix them with any other medications—ask your doctor directly if you have any hesitations or questions about taking painkillers. Ask also about dietary supplements that can help you rebuild and heal muscle faster, like amino acid supplementation.

For chronic strains, better treatment may involve wearing braces at work or while sporting, attending physical therapy, or changing your exercise routine to build strength in the surrounding areas.

For severe tears, if surgery is suggested, discuss your care and concerns directly with your medical team and surgeon. While light strains may be brushed up with a little rest and self-care, chest injuries that limit your breathing could put you at greater risk of a lung infection, so breathing exercises may be advised and are easy to perform at home.

Puff up Your Chest with Pride

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be able to return to physical activity quickly, right back to the bench press. However, if returning to normal activity continues to cause pain, you may need a longer recovery period for complete pain relief.

To prevent future muscle strains, be sure to warm up before exercise or strenuous activity, be careful when lifting heavy objects, climbing or descending stairs, or lifting weights, and above all listen to your body when it twinges or aches. No one knows your body and its limits like you do, and becoming aware of an injury before it becomes chronic can save you from a lifetime of pain and complications.

Liver Failure Death: Causes, Symptoms and Stages

What are the causes and symptoms of acute and chronic liver failure? How is liver damage diagnosed? Prevented? What are the stages that lead to liver failure death? Find out here.

The human liver is one of our most vital organs, responsible for filtering our blood and detoxifying our bodies. Without a functioning liver, we first become jaundiced, and after a certain point, we can no longer stay alive without liver transplantation. Any issue with liver function is a life-threatening healthcare emergency. So come with us as we explore the leading causes of liver damage and the progressive stages of liver failure death.

What Causes Liver Failure Death?

Cirrhosis is late-stage scarring of the liver (fibrosis). According to those who study hepatology, the most common causes of cirrhosis in the United States are due to hepatitis C infections and heavy alcohol consumption. These chronic liver diseases not only affect one’s quality of life, but can also lead to the end of life.

However, there are other causes of acute liver failure that have a much faster onset, such as drug or toxin overdoses. Genetics are also among the risk factors that can contribute to liver damage and disease, as are obesity, autoimmune disorders, and various forms of cancer.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Causes and Symptoms of Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapid decline of liver function caused by:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose
  • Viral hepatitis infections (hepatitis A, B, and E)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Adverse reactions to medications for epilepsy, antibiotics, or even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Adverse reactions to herbal supplements like kava (a nightshade plant) or ma huang (ephedra)
  • Wilson’s disease (a rare genetic disorder that causes copper buildup and poisoning)
  • Hepatic vein thrombosis (also known as Budd-Chiari syndrome)
  • Exposure to toxins like poisonous mushrooms or industrial chemicals

The symptoms of acute liver failure include:

  • General malaise or a feeling of unwellness
  • Persistent tiredness, drowsiness, or sleepiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin)

Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Liver Failure

Chronic liver failure is characterized by long-term progressive damage from the following causes:

The symptoms of chronic liver failure and breakdown could entail:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Jaundice of the eyes or skin
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Severely itchy skin
  • Darkening of the urine
  • Fluid buildup in the arms or legs (edema)
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)

The Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Cancer that develops in the liver (referred to as primary liver cancer) could also be the cause of liver failure. Those with cirrhosis (the third stage of liver failure) are more at risk of developing liver cancer, which could then shut down the organ or spread to the rest of the body. Liver cancer symptoms could include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

The Stages of Liver Failure

Liver failure and liver disease are two different things, but one of them can cause the other. Liver disease encompasses any ongoing condition that damages the liver, including inflammation and infection. Liver failure occurs when the liver loses a portion or the entirety of its functionality.

Damage to the liver can come in stages, creating a systematic shutdown of the body and requiring end of life care from health care professionals. What follows are the details of those various stages.

1. Inflammation of the Liver

Inflammation of the liver is often the beginning of the damage that can ultimately lead to a person’s death. Not everyone will notice or feel when their liver becomes inflamed or enlarged, and if the inflammation continues unabated, permanent injury or scarring could occur, leading to the next stage of liver failure.

2. Fibrosis of the Liver

Fibrosis is liver scarring. While the liver is one of the most unique organs thanks to its ability to heal itself (unlike the heart muscle), long-term damage from repeated intoxication or uncured or incurable infections can still build up. When scar tissue begins to take the place of healthy and functional liver tissue, it diminishes the liver’s ability to function. Again, this progressive damage is not always detectable, and the longer it persists, the more it affects the individual’s survival rate.

3. Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is characterized by severe scarring of the liver. When the damaged tissue accumulates enough to interrupt liver functioning, it puts your health in serious jeopardy. When scarring starts to outnumber and overwhelm healthy tissue, the liver begins to fail. Sometimes this stage is the first one that presents symptoms noticeable by the individual, including jaundice, dry mouth, muscle cramps, increased ease of bleeding, buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), peripheral edema, and reduced brain functioning (hepatic encephalopathy).

4. End-Stage Liver Disease

Those with end-stage or advanced liver disease require palliative care and may be placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant by their health care provider depending on their MELD score (model for end-stage liver disease). This score was established to evaluate the short-term (90-day) survival rate of people with advanced liver damage, and it is determined by a series of blood tests. The MELD score ranges from 6 to 40, with 6 being the best change of survival.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Diagnosis of Liver Failure

Doctors may use several tools and methods to diagnosis and evaluate the severity of acute liver failure, including the following.

  • Blood tests: These tests include liver blood tests for enzymes that indicate liver functionality, CBC tests (complete blood count), or other blood tests to look for issues like viral hepatitis infection or undiagnosed genetic conditions.
  • Imaging tests: An MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan may be used to visually inspect the liver.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample may be taken from the liver to investigate for scarring or other signs of disease and infection.

Liver Failure Treatment Options

First of all, in cases of acute liver failure, the patient will need to be hospitalized, and possibly in the intensive care unit to be given round-the-clock support as medical staff attempts to stabilize and treat their condition. Depending on the cause of the liver failure, a person may either recover or require a liver transplant.

For liver failure resulting from a chronic condition, often the first step is addressing the cause. If it’s drugs or alcohol, rehab needs to be part of the protocol. If it’s due to a viral hepatitis infection, then treatment will follow accordingly. For those with autoimmune conditions, certain therapies may be suggested by the medical team depending on the effects of the condition. If liver failure is a matter of lifestyle causes (poor diet or overuse of medications), then those behaviors would have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment.

The American Liver Foundation says that liver failure can actually be reversed if it’s caught at the second (fibrosis) stage. For the third or cirrhosis stage, while the damage may not be reversed, it can be slowed, stopped, or treated so that the person may continue to live healthily.

For those with end-stage liver failure, however, if a liver transplant cannot be performed, the only follow-up may be end-of-life care.

How to Prevent Liver Failure Death

Given how important liver health is to human survival, taking care of your liver and your overall health is the best way to prevent sometimes permanent and deadly liver damage. Some ways to protect your liver include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol or only drinking in moderation
  • Never mixing medications with other drugs or supplements without a doctor’s consent
  • Never mixing medications with alcohol
  • Taking over-the-counter medications only when needed
  • Taking prescribed medications only as directed and to completion
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Aiding liver detox with your dietary choices
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B

Liver Long and Prosper

If you suspect there is anything wrong with your liver, seek medical advice immediately. The sooner you intervene on behalf of your liver’s health, the better chance you have at being able to reverse the damage done and heal completely. In many cases liver failure death can be prevented, if it’s caught in time and if you follow your doctor’s advice. Eat well, detox regularly, and you may well live long and prosper.

What Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Find out when drinking becomes an addiction, learn the symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal, and discover how to detox safely at home if you can’t afford inpatient treatment. 

When it comes to cases of chronic alcoholism, detoxing isn’t just a matter of quitting cold turkey. Long-term drinking recovery, though it can be done at home, may be far safer with professional help. Substance abuse alters the body’s functions, and sudden changes can actually endanger the life of the loved one you’re trying to save. Review this information on the detoxification process and the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and then decide if maybe a treatment program might be better for all family members involved.

When Is Drinking Alcohol Considered Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is distinct, clinically speaking, from moderate or even regular drinking. Some of the earliest warning signs of alcohol dependency include having an emotional attachment to drinking and craving it even when there’s no outside prompt, such as a party, a celebratory event that calls for champagne, or a nice anniversary dinner where a bottle of wine is shared.

Emotional dependency to alcohol can lead to a physical dependency. Addiction occurs when the physical and behavioral signs of alcoholism arise (shaking hands or isolating from family and commitments) and when the person cannot independently control his or her drinking.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Let’s say you want to stop drinking after an alcohol-heavy season, such as spring break or the holidays. You might feel a mild version of the detox process. Side effects like mood swings, body aches, and even some slight tremors usually cause overwhelming worry—a non-addict might even decide to stop drinking for their New Year’s resolution, and be successful at it.

The same is not always true for alcohol addicts, or dipsomaniacs as they used to be called in the 1800s, the Greek dipso– for “thirst” and –mania for “madness,” referring to those with a “morbid craving for alcohol.” Now known as alcohol use disorder or AUD, the symptoms of alcohol detox are still the same, and severe withdrawal can be life-threatening. For those who are trying to dry out after years of heavy drinking, they are at risk of all of these symptoms, from mild to serious:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (also known as “the D.T.s”)

Keep in mind that the most severe symptoms involve recovery from damage done to the central nervous system, which is why in some cases a treatment center is the best option if it’s possible. Not only can inpatient treatment ensure there are medical professionals there to monitor high blood pressure and distribute appropriate amounts of withdrawal medications, but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is combined for a reason: there may be underlying mental health issues that alcohol abuse has either hidden from knowledge or been used to “treat” (conditions like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder). Other drugs and addictions may be at play as well.

Likewise underlying medical conditions can put people at greater risk too, like heart, lung, liver, or kidney conditions that may quickly worsen the impact of alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium tremens is the most severe form of withdrawal, and can encompass many of the above-listed symptoms and overwhelm the body to the point of cardiovascular collapse. It may not start the first day either: these symptoms could arise anywhere between 2 and 5 days after the addict’s last drink, as the body begins to process all the alcohol and then comes to find out there’s no more incoming.

Delirium tremens affects less than 5% of recovering alcoholics, so while it’s not an inevitable occurrence, it’s nevertheless still important to be aware of the risk in case your loved one is in that 5% and in need of professional substance abuse treatment to monitor their blood pressure and heart rate in a fully equipped treatment facility.

How to detox from alcohol.

How to Detox from Alcohol

Not everyone will have the resources for professional help when it comes to quitting alcohol, and while there are programs available to help, like the peer-counseling at Alcoholics Anonymous, keep in mind the AA’s Serenity Prayer, which asks for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” You or your loved one may be able to detox from alcohol at home, but if you can’t, it’s important to have the wisdom to know the difference.

That being said, here is how to detox from alcohol.

1. Taper Off

Quitting cold turkey means suddenly taking away a substance the body has learned to rely on, basically pulling the rug out from under oneself. A change like that means the body has to adapt all at once, and it may cause or exacerbate symptoms of withdrawal that needn’t have been felt with a careful tapering off of alcohol consumption.

While tapering can help slowly notch down physical alcohol dependence, an addict’s emotional attachment to alcohol and to drinking may get in the way. If you’re doing this on your own, you may backslide, and if you’re helping a family member, they may just be cheating and sneaking extra booze when you’re not looking. This is why a rehab center can be so valuable in cases of alcohol addiction, so that not only are the physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms met with medical supervision, but no interpersonal relationships are irreparably damaged in the process.

Long-term alcohol use means alcohol is the new normal for the addict’s body. Imagine how you feel when you try to quit sugar or caffeine, and know that it is much harder to quit drinking because alcohol is a much stronger drug.

2. Know Your Limits

To taper off, you must first start by being honest about how much alcohol you or your loved one drinks each day. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines 1 drink as either:

  • 1 bottle of beer: 12 ounces at 5% alcohol content
  • 1 glass of wine: 5 ounces at 12% alcohol content
  • 1 mixed drink: 1.5 ounces of liquor at 40% alcohol content

These numbers may not directly correlate with each brand of alcohol product, but they are a guideline to provide a rough estimation of just how many drinks are being consumed each day. Beer is most recommended for tapering off, as it tends to have a lower alcohol percent by volume than wine or spirits do.

3. Take Your Time

Tapering should involve:

  • Taking between 3 and 7 days to ween down, depending on how much the person is accustomed to drinking
  • Temporarily increasing alcohol consumption if withdrawal symptoms arise
  • Seeking professional addiction treatment by way of a detox program if you’re unable to stop drinking at home

At-Home Detox Tips

For the milder symptoms of alcohol detox, it is possible to treat them at home. Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Water: Alcohol is a diuretic, and long-term alcoholics have probably been in a case of mild dehydration for a very long time. Staying hydrated can help reduce mental confusion, irritability, and fatigue.
  • Electrolyte drinks: With dehydration comes a loss of certain minerals like electrolytes. Having some sports drinks with electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium will help the recoverer feel better faster.
  • Healthy diet: Alcohol is full of sugar, and many people in rehab discover that they have a maddening sugar craving when they quit drinking. However, trading booze for sugar won’t help anyone feel better at the end of the day, so try to concentrate on a diet that contains the proper amount of protein, carbs (also sugars), fats, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Hygiene: No, a hot shower won’t help you “sweat out” the alcohol dependency faster, and in fact, it could cause a dangerous change in your body temperature. However, a warm shower or bath can help relax your wrung-out muscles, distract you from the discomforts of withdrawal, and leave you feeling refreshed and more like yourself again.
  • Meditation and calming techniques: Controlled breathing techniques can help normalize your blood pressure and heart rate, while meditation can help clear and focus your mind. While you may not experience the severe symptom of hallucinations, many recovering addicts have overwhelmingly intense dreams as the higher parts of their brain come back online.

You Can Do This

Whether you’re attempting to detox with or without help, engage in as much self-care as possible: stock up on your favorite movies, cuddle up in blankets if you feel a chill, and slap on a cool, damp cloth if you feel too warm. Try to avoid taking medications as much as possible so you don’t overtax your detox organs (the liver and kidneys), and if you’re at all worried that withdrawal symptoms are getting too severe, seek help from a trusted medical professional. As bad as it feels, people have detoxed before and you can do it too, just do it safely, and be well.

End-Stage Alcoholism: The Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Learn about the progressing stages of alcoholism and what end-stage alcohol addiction looks like. Recognizing these symptoms in a family member or loved one could help save his or her life.

Alcohol is a powerful substance with a long and varied history. On one hand alcohol has been a substance of social lubrication and celebration for thousands of years, but on the other it is, in essence, a poison that can lead to addiction and have devastating personal consequences. Alcoholism is a disease that affects up to 1 out of every 8 Americans and contributes to around 88,000 deaths per year. If alcoholism progresses unchecked, it can culminate in end-stage alcoholism and even premature death. This article describes the signs of alcohol addiction and what happens when a loved one reaches the end stages of alcohol abuse.

The Early Signs of Alcoholism

Some people can drink alcohol regularly and never develop an alcohol addiction problem. Others go through periods of alcohol abuse or overuse, for example during college or in times of high stress. Alcohol use disorder can advance over many years, but it contains three distinct stages. We’ll begin with the overview of the initial stages before fully exploring the end-stage symptoms of alcoholism.

Stage One: Social Drinking, Binge Drinking, and Occasional Alcohol Abuse

This first stage of alcoholism is essentially an exploratory stage. When those who ultimately become addicted to alcohol first enter stage one, they often experiment with different kinds of alcohol and test their limits with binge drinking. This is common among young adults, particularly teens and college-aged individuals.

  • For men: Binge drinking is more than 5 alcoholic beverages in a 2-hour window.
  • For women: Consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages in 2 hours is considered binge drinking.

Playing games meant to accelerate drunkenness (like beer pong) often leads to consuming much more than the above-listed minimum for binge drinking. While chronic, long-term alcohol use is dangerous, so are these short bouts of binge drinking, as they can cause alcohol poisoning, coma, and sometimes death. It also begins an addiction pattern whereby people begin to develop a dependency on the feeling that alcohol provides.

Problematic Alcohol Abuse

Once the habit of drinking escalates past the early stage of social drinking, binge drinking, and excessive partying, the issue progresses to the second stage of alcoholism. This is marked by an emotional dependency on the drug of alcohol. It is less about feeling good at a special event and more about wanting to feel that way all the time. Drinking at this stage occurs to prevent the feelings of acute alcohol withdrawal.

Stage Two: Increased Dependency on Alcohol and Problem Drinking

In the second stage of alcoholism, alcohol consumption increases in frequency and is no longer tied to special events like partying. A person in stage two is likely to start drinking every weekend, and then may increase to drinking every day. The impulse for drinking is no longer to have fun at a party, but may arise from the following desires:

  • To relieve stress
  • As an excuse to bring together friends
  • To relieve boredom
  • To avoid feelings of loneliness or sadness

At this stage, emotions motivate drinking habits, which is what makes regular alcohol use different from otherwise moderate drinking: people become emotionally attached. Instead of the moderate drinker’s glass of wine with a meal, the regular drinker consumes alcohol to feel good, and the more they drink, the more physically and emotionally dependent they become, which can ultimately lead to the development of full-blown alcoholism.

This middle stage also brings about social changes related to the drinking problem: changes in friendships, strife with romantic attachments, erratic social behavior, and increasingly regular failures to uphold certain commitments (like getting to work on time, picking kids up from school, or abstaining from alcohol while pregnant).

The drinker will likely become aware that the effects of heavy drinking (irregular sleep patterns, depression, and anxiety) often make him or her feel sick, but they will still not curb, moderate, or quit the habit. They may begin to experience legal trouble resulting from incidents like public intoxication or drinking and driving.

At this stage, a drinking problem becomes obvious and family members will start to urge their loved one to stop drinking. If they can’t stop with or without intervention, the disease progresses to the next stage.

End-stage alcoholism: signs and symptoms.

End-Stage Alcoholism

The final stage of alcoholism occurs when drinking has consumed the life of the addicted person. They now must drink to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and they must schedule their life around this need. Without getting help with detox and rehab, the addict may drink themselves to death.

Stage Three: Addiction

Alcohol dependency is a habit that can be stopped, but alcohol addiction is characterized by an inability to curb the harmful use of alcohol. This starts to lead to other problems in life, including the following devastating physical health problems.

  • Racing heart palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Body tremors due to nervous system damage
  • Nausea unrelated to hangovers
  • Severe irritability
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage or alcoholic hepatitis

A late-stage or end-stage alcoholic has to drink more and more, not for the enjoyment of alcohol, but to meet a persistent psychological and physiological need. They may be inconsolable until they can resume drinking each day, and may have other drug addictions and compulsive behaviors and rituals surrounding their drinking. They will most likely ignore any and all social conventions, and drink in the daytime, in the morning, alone, at non-alcoholic gatherings, or at work.

Treatment options exist to help end-stage alcoholics with alcohol withdrawal symptoms and social coping mechanisms, and it’s important to seek such treatment to avoid cirrhosis of the liver, liver disease, and liver failure. In the case of liver failure, the person will not be able to survive without a liver transplant, and many hospitals won’t perform a transplant until the patient has been able to abstain from alcohol for at least 6 months. This is not possible for many addicts in the United States, even if they do receive adequate and professional addiction treatment.

The Final Stage

Late stage alcoholism is a scary processes to go through and heartbreaking to observe. When alcohol dependence leads to increased substance abuse and a barrage of detrimental health conditions from blackouts to alcoholic liver disease, many people feel that they are watching a slow-motion car crash they are unable to stop.

Occasionally the last stage of alcoholism comes as a surprise if the addict is what’s known as a high-functioning alcoholic, able to maintain social decorum and maintain employment until the problem has progressed to the final stages of addiction.

It’s important to remember that alcoholism develops over a long period of time, and that being able to recognize the stages of alcoholism in a family member or friend could help save their life by getting them the help of a medical professional before it’s too late. That being said, any stage of alcoholism is dangerous, from initial youthful binge drinking right up to the end stage when people start to experience liver, heart, and brain damage, not to mention malnutrition and mental health disorders (which could lead to suicide).

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, once wrote of alcoholism, “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” That is a very succinct summary of the three stages of alcoholism, including the final stage. Before the drink takes one of your loved ones away from you, know the warning signs of alcohol addiction, and do what you can to help them quit drinking while there’s still time to recover.

Tight Lower Back Discomfort: What Causes It, Plus 10 Stretches to Relieve Low Back Pain

If you have tightness and pain in your lower back, the first thing you want to do is identify the cause, and then you want to stretch out and strengthen the area. This article has information and advice on both topics.

Having a tight lower back isn’t just a matter of discomfort: if your muscles are tensed and kinked, it means they aren’t working properly to keep your bones and balance in line. Not only does alleviating lower back tension help increase your comfort, but it can also help prevent debilitating back injuries before they occur. Read on to find out what causes tightness in your lower back, plus 10 safe lower back stretches you can utilize to ease the tension and find pain relief.

Back to Basics: The Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body. Evolutionarily, while our brains are marvelously protected by the skull, and our most vital organs (the heart, lungs, and liver) are caged in by our ribs, our lower torso and lower back are practically wide open. This is a side effect of early man standing upright while our ape ancestors still move around on all fours. We gained the opposable thumb, but now all the weight of our brains and organs rests on one column of bone, nerves, and muscle tissue located in our lower back.

If we still walked on our knuckles, lower back pain and injury wouldn’t be one of the leading causes of workplace and household harm, but since science is all about moving forwards, not backwards, let’s talk about what might be holding us back.

1. Insufficient Lumbar Support

There are many places where you may be getting improper lower back support, including:

  • At your desk: Sitting for long periods of time is bad enough for your health and blood flow, but if you spend all day hunched over and typing, your muscles are constantly tensed up, trying to hold this unnatural posture. Experts recommend ergonomic desks and chairs, opting for a standing desk if possible, or taking regular, frequent breaks to stand and stretch.
  • As you walk: Your body is like a Möbius strip, it neither begins nor ends; it’s just one continuous loop. Tension in your neck, for example, can mess up your gait, just as uncomfortable or unsupportive shoes can cause back pain all the way to the neck. Making sure you have proper shoes for your feet (especially if they’re overpronated or your have foot tendonitis) can ease pain, prevent limping, and possibly help avoid back tension.
  • While you sleep: Sleeping on a mattress that’s too soft, or without proper hip support (which can be helped by sleeping with a pillow between your knees) can lead to a tight lower back and difficulty moving first thing every morning.

2. Exacerbating Exercise Techniques

There is a reason physical therapists and personal trainers cost a pretty penny: expert knowledge of anatomy helps them see from where your muscle pain is arising and how best to fix it. When most of us have lower back pain, we assume something is wrong with our lower back, but it could be a matter of having one leg shorter than the other, a tightness in our shoulders that’s causing a misalignment, or just bad movement habits we’ve picked up along the way.

Guided exercise can relieve tight lower back pain that already exists and help prevent muscle tension and sprains we don’t even know are on the inevitable horizon. Taking a fitness class or consulting a trainer could be all the diagnosis you need to fix chronic lower back pain if it’s caused by inexpert exercise practices. Just remember: there’s no shame in being wrong when you start out with fitness: every expert trainer was once a beginner too.

3. Strain and Improperly Healed Injury

Some people use their lower back far more than the rest of the populace. If you’re a mover or warehouse worker, you probably already know to wear a back brace and lift with your knees, but some injuries will surprise you regardless. If you’re a medic, rescue worker, or homecare nurse, you may be called on to lift another person out of a dangerous position (a patient in a car wreck for example, or someone who’s fallen in the enclosed space of a bathroom). And what about athletes who have to quickly contort their bodies in reaction to the games they engage in? Some careers and activities make your lower back more susceptible to injury than others.

One tweak or muscle strain can linger if you don’t have time to rest the injury properly, and reinjury on top of that becomes more and more likely with each day. While not everyone can take the recommended time off to heal and rest, proper stretching can help a sprain heal faster and loosen the area so that reinjury is less likely to occur.

Tight Lower Back Symptoms

You may recognize a tight lower back by these tell-tale symptoms.

  • Lower back pain
  • Back muscle cramping
  • Back spasms
  • A dull, constant backache
  • Stiffness, tension, or a contracted sensation in the back
  • A tightness in your hips, pelvis, or legs

Some soreness after working out or doing some heavy lifting is to be expected, but if the pain doesn’t subside after a few days, you may be looking at a more persistent injury that needs to be handled with care lest it gets worse.

Tight lower back pain: 10 helpful stretches.

10 Stretches to Help Alleviate a Tight Lower Back

Here are some simple exercises and stretches you can do to increase your back’s flexibility and loosen up lower back tension, from hips to hamstrings and more. It’s important to help straighten the hips and the spine, and strengthen the legs as well, so we’ve covered all the bases when it comes to tight lower back pain relief.

1. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)

Viparita Karani is a yoga pose also known as “legs up the wall” because, well, you rest your legs up against the wall. It engages your pelvic muscles, lower back, and the back of your neck, but primarily provides a deep stretch for your hamstrings and relaxes your lower back and pelvis.

  • Assume a seated position with your right side against the wall.
  • Place your left elbow on the floor and carefully swing your legs up so that the back of your legs are against the wall and you’re lying with your back flat on the ground. (Use a cushion to elevate your hips or back your hips away from the wall if this stretch is too deep for you at first.)
  • Allow your arms and back to relax.
  • Hold this position for at least 2 minutes as your tendons and muscles adjust.

2. Standing Hip Circles

This is a convenient exercise that can be done anytime and just about anywhere (before bed, upon waking, on the elevator, during a bathroom break, etc.), and targets the abdominal muscles, the erector spinae muscles (the ones that run the length of your spinal column), your pelvic muscles, and gluteal muscles. It helps to loosen your hip muscles and engage your core muscles for a nearly full-body stretch.

  • Strike a standing stance with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  • Place your hands on your hips and gently sway your hips from side-to-side.
  • Then rotate your hips in a clockwise direction, making 10 large circles.
  • Switch to counter-clockwise circles for another 10 revolutions.

3. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

The Balasana yoga pose is more commonly known as child’s pose. It stretches your hamstrings, your gluteus maximus, your spinal extensors, and your posterior muscles. By taking the pressure off your lower back, you can experience immediate relief and help stretch and lengthen.

  • Start from a kneeling position and sit back on your heels.
  • Bend forward as far as you can with your arms extended (use a cushion or pillow under your chest or forehead if the initial strain is too much).
  • Allow your bodyweight to settle down and your tension to ease for at least 1 full minute.

4. The Windshield Wiper Stretch

This great stretch needs a bit of floorspace to sprawl out on, but it can beneficially impact the sacral muscles (at the base of the spine), the pelvic muscles, the erector spinae muscles, and your obliques.

  • Lay on your back, splaying out your arms and bending your knees up.
  • Exhale as you slowly drop your knees to either the left or right side, while turning your head to look in the opposite direction.
  • Inhale as you return to the starting position.
  • Continue with the other side, and alternate back and forth for 1 minute.

5. Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Leg Stretch)

This yoga pose involves your lower back, hamstrings, erector spinae muscles, abdominal muscles, and gluteus maximus. It also helps align the spine.

  • Lay down on your back with your legs extended.
  • Lift up your right leg (at first) while leaving a slight bend in both the right and left knees.
  • Lace your fingers behind the right leg or hook a band or towel over the right foot.
  • Hold your right leg in an upright stretched position for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this stretch on the left side, alternating back and forth 3 times each.

6. Pelvic Tilts

This exercise focuses on your abdominal muscles and increases flexibility in your lower back region, as well as your hamstrings, sacral muscles, and gluteus maximus.

  • Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Engage your core muscles to press the lower curve of your spine flat to the floor.
  • Hold that position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat the tilt at least 3 times (increasing repetitions as you get stronger).

7. Bridge Stretch

Not unlike the pelvic tilt, the bridge stretch can build up strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus.

  • Start from the pelvic tilt’s beginning position (back and feet on the floor, knees bent and pointing upwards).
  • Lift your hips and buttocks off the ground towards the ceiling.
  • Lift your chest and back even further off the ground so your contact points with the floor are now your head, shoulders, arms, hands, and feet.
  • Hold for 1 minute, and repeat at least 3 times.

8. Knee-to-Chest Exercise

This stretch utilizes the quadriceps, pelvic muscles, spinal extensors, and gluteus maximus to help loosen up your lower back muscles.

  • Lay on your back with your legs extended.
  • Draw your right knee to your upper body with fingers laced over your shin.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Release the right leg and repeat with your left leg.
  • Then draw both knees to your chest for 30 seconds.

9. Chakravakasana (Cat-Cow Pose)

This is two yoga poses in one, combined to help stretch and flex the spine, hips, and abdomen. It engages your core muscles, specifically your abdominal muscles, erector spinae muscles, gluteus maximus, and triceps.

  • Start from a tabletop position (on all fours).
  • Inhale and look up as you allow your belly to drop towards the floor (this is the cow pose).
  • Arch your back upwards towards the ceiling as you exhale (cat pose).
  • Flex back and forth between these poses for 1 minute.

10. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Don’t let the name disturb you. This yoga pose is the end of the line for your stretching routine, not your life. It’s designed to let your body rest and relax after all this productive stretching, and gives you a moment to release any remaining tightness or tension throughout your body.

  • Lay on your back coffin-style with your arms beside your body, palms facing upwards.
  • Space your feet out as wide as your shoulders and let your feet splay to the sides.
  • Breath deeply with a clear mind as your body relaxes.
  • Stay in this position for 5-20 calming minutes. Your call!

Loosen Up

A tight lower back can be caused by anything from poor posture to tight hamstrings or weak core muscles. Regardless of where the tension originates, you can address it with the above-listed stretches.

If for any reason stretching leads to more pain and not less, consult a fitness or chiropractic professional to get specific advice on your technique, to receive physical therapy, or to seek medical advice for any underlying issues (like arthritis, sciatica, a slipped disk, osteoporosis, etc.) that are causing your back problems in the first place.

With the right exercise routine, many people can loosen up a tight lower back, and subsequently sleep better, work better, and play better every day of the week.

Trigger Point Injections: What They Are, When They’re Needed and How They’re Performed

Find out how trigger point injections work, what the procedure entails, and what the post-procedural care requires. This treatment option for myofascial pain syndrome could help restore your quality of life.

Trigger point injections are designed as pain management for myofascial pain syndrome.  We’re helping you decide if trigger point injections are right for you by providing an in-depth definition of the procedure, when it’s medically justified, how it’s done, and what the potential side effects may be.

What Is a Trigger Point Injection?

Trigger point injections are intended to provide pain relief by inactivating (basically stunning or inhibiting) certain trigger points involved in the symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome. To do this, a health care professional inserts a small needle containing a local anesthetic or saline, and possibly a corticosteroid, into the trigger point causing the muscle pain in order to subdue it.

What Is Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Myofascial pain syndrome is a muscle disorder that causes pain around what’s known as myofascial trigger points. It’s a distinct syndrome from fibromyalgia, which also causes tender points throughout the body, though both of these conditions could occur in the same patient at the same time, making each of them more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Myofascial trigger points are hyperirritable spots that create musculoskeletal pain. They may have palpable nodules that exist in taut bands of muscular fibers, and they are still not widely understood even in the medical community. Treatment of these trigger points can involve ultrasound therapy, manipulative therapy, spray and stretch therapy using a topical anesthetic, or trigger point injections.

Trigger point injections are not required for every case or even every trigger point, especially if noninvasive physical therapy is effective. However, if a trigger point experiences chronic pain in certain areas like the lower back, a small needle injection may be the most effective treatment. The injection may be a corticosteroid, an anesthetic like lidocaine or bupivacaine, or a mixture of both.

Indications for Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections are indicated for those patients who have health care findings consistent with active trigger points (distinct from latent trigger points that don’t need treatment as they are asymptomatic). Other widespread pain disorders such as endocrine disorder or fibromyalgia are not eligible for trigger point injections unless they have myofascial pain trigger points also.

Seek medical advice to decide if injecting these points of muscle spasm is the safest way to treat painful areas, including the trapezius muscle (upper back and neck pain), the erector spinae muscles (along the spinal cord), the iliocostalis muscle (low back pain), and other areas of muscle which, if afflicted, can cause referred pain (pain felt in other areas that are not the origin spot), tension headaches, and a decline in quality of life.

Your doctor will examine your skeletal muscles for a local twitch response (a contraction or dimpling of the skin as muscle fibers tense), take into account your pain level and “jump response” to the exam, and discuss your various treatment options.

Contraindications for Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections have contraindications for:

  • Those with bleeding disorders or those on anticoagulants
  • Pregnant patients
  • Patients who are ill or who have conflicting medical conditions
  • Those with a higher risk of infection (such as those with diabetes mellitus or who are debilitated)
  • Patients on steroids

While a steroid injection can act as a nerve block, there have nevertheless been studies that show dry needling (needling without injection, akin to acupuncture for musculoskeletal disorders) may provide some relief, though a scientific consensus has not yet been reached. Researchers also warn against “sham needling” practices that are not done by properly trained medical personnel.

Trigger Point Injection Procedures: What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect at a trigger point injection procedure.

  • The needles involved will be long enough to reach the deepest muscles requiring treatment.
  • The area will be sterilized before injection.
  • Your health care provider will prepare the injection with local anesthetics and/or steroids.
  • The doctor will position you for best access to the affected muscle groups, and may also use ultrasound guidance to precisely pinpoint the injection.
  • Your clinician will isolate the trigger point area by pinching the skin between their fingers to keep it in place during the injections (the needling and injecting will be repeatedly redirected without removing the needle from the subcutaneous level of the skin).
  • This treatment of trigger points will include post-procedural care on your part: resting for 1-2 days and avoiding strenuous activity and pain-provoking activities that could overstress the muscles.

Your doctor will make sure you’re aware of potential complications resulting from trigger point injections, which could include vasovagal syncope (sudden fainting), hematoma formation, skin infection, pneumothorax (a collapsed lung), or needle breakage.

Trigger point injections: how they work.

Post-procedural Care

To ensure the best success with trigger point injections, post-procedural care may include the following.

Proper Stretching

While it’s important not to overstress the muscle, it is still recommended that you use your muscles to their full range of motion to help relieve stiffness and reclaim normal muscle functioning. To help your muscles relax and optimize the effects of the injections, stretching after your trigger point injections is an integral post-procedure component.  Your doctor will most likely stretch you as soon as the procedure is complete, and then send you home with instructions to continue proper stretching on your own.

Active Exercise

The whole purpose of undergoing trigger point injections is to restore full use of your muscles, and active exercise will help determine whether or not the treatment was effective. These exercises will target muscle stretching, muscle strengthening, and muscle conditioning to help relieve myofascial pain. Staying active with exercise will also help reduce the chances of developing more trigger points in your muscle fibers as you increase your muscle endurance.

Once you’ve built up enough strength via training, conditioning exercises like jogging, jumping rope, tennis, swimming, and/or bicycling are encouraged at least twice a week going forward.

Don’t Be Triggered

Alleviating neck, back, and shoulder pain are major aspects of physical medicine, and getting expert help with treating myofascial pain syndrome can help improve your quality of life while living with this musculoskeletal disorder. Trigger point injections are the last hope for pain relief for many, and they may finally bring you the treatment you need.

Pain Behind Knee When Walking: Top 10 Possible Underlying Causes

Pain behind your knee could be due to an injury or to dangerous medical conditions that need immediate attention. Find out what the symptoms you’re experiencing could mean.

Pain is how your body communicates with you. A pain in your head might mean you’re dehydrated, pain when touching a hot stove lets you know that’s a bad idea, and pain in your joints could be an indication of injury or arthritis. But what does pain behind your knee when walking mean? This article details potential conditions that could be causing this leg pain so you can address the issue before it becomes chronic and debilitating.

Understanding the Knee

Severe pain behind your knee when walking is not uncommon. Known as posterior knee pain, aches around the knee are a common complaint fielded by doctors.

One of the biggest joints in your body, the knee joint is also one of the most complex and load-bearing joints, tasked with keeping the body upright as you stand and walk.

Your knee is vulnerable to many types of abuse, from arthritis to injury in any one of its many moving parts—the kneecap (patella), the thigh bone (femur), the shin bone (tibia), and the various muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments that come together at the knee joint. Damage anywhere could spread or worsen, which is why knee pain needs to be identified and addressed as soon as possible to avoid any interruption to your mobility.

Let’s first explore what the pain behind your knee could mean, and then figure out how to remedy it.

Pain behind the knee when walking: possible causes.

Top 10 Possible Causes of Pain Behind the Knee When Walking

Pain behind your knee could be accompanied by swelling, visible lumpiness, or a locking sensation. Any accompanying symptom could help you determine the cause of this pain, so investigate your knee thoroughly, or better yet seek an examination from a medical professional, because some of the issues that may be causing your knee pain are quite serious. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of posterior knee pain.

1. Leg Cramp

You may well know the pain caused by a charley horse in your calf, but your other leg muscles can also experience cramps, including those on the back of the thigh. Cramps occur when your muscles tighten independently of your control, and can be caused by nutrient deficiency, dehydration, nerve problems, toxicity, or liver disease. Many women experience leg cramps during pregnancy, and even more people cramp up during exercise.

Muscle spasms usually don’t last very long, but the pain they cause can linger for hours or sometimes days. If you suspect a cramp is behind your leg pain, warm or massage the area to help it heal, but be sure to monitor it: if the pain doesn’t lessen and ultimately subside soon, consult a trusted health care professional.

2. Baker’s Cyst

A baker’s cyst, otherwise known as a popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled pocket under the skin behind the knee. The fluid in this cyst is synovial fluid, which exists to help lubricate your joints and keep them working smoothly. However, too much synovial fluid in the area could build up into a cyst.

Symptoms of a baker’s cyst (along with pain) are palpable swelling, stiffness, or trouble flexing the joint. If the cyst bursts you’ll notice a very sharp pain in the area, which is why it’s recommended you seek professional assistance in identifying and draining the cyst before that occurs.

3. Jumper’s Knee

Jumper’s knee is the common name for patellar tendonitis, aka tendonitis of the knee. The tendon that connects your kneecap to your shin bone is susceptible to knee injuries from jumping, and is often treated in sports medicine, as it’s very likely to occur in those who play basketball, volleyball, and other sports that involve jumping.

Other symptoms of jumper’s knee besides pain below your kneecap could be stiffness, weakness in the joint, or difficulty straightening or bending the knee. Proper rest may be all that is required to heal this injury, but if it persists, you may want to consult a doctor to rule out other contributing factors.

4. Calf Strain

Calf strain, or gastrocnemius tendonitis, is tendonitis that affects the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle, which is, obviously, located at the back of the lower leg. Sports like squash or tennis that involve quickly switching from standing to running can cause calf strain, and the pain of this injury may be accompanied by visible calf bruising, swelling, or trouble standing up on your tiptoes depending on the severity. Use the RICE technique (rest, ice, compress, elevate) to help this injury heal as quickly as possible.

5. Arthritis

Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that involves a gradual wearing away of the cartilage that cushions the bones of your leg. Without cartilage, the bones start to grind against each other, causing long-lasting damage and pain. Cartilage cannot regenerate, so medical assistance is required to prevent a worsening of the condition.

Different types of arthritis that could afflict the knee joint include autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis (which also comes with scaly skin patches), and osteoarthritis. Treatment options include steroid injections, specific exercises, drugs targeting the immune system, or surgery. Seek medical advice to learn which is most appropriate for your circumstances.

6. Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee, also called chondromalacia, is another joint pain issue involving cartilage breakdown, and can come about as a result of injury, overuse, arthritis, or aging. Pain behind the knee when walking occurs when your leg bones rub together without the protective divide of cartilage between them. The pain may manifest as a dull ache, and it may also worsen when climbing stairs. You may notice a grinding sensation when you walk as well.

7. Meniscus Tear

A meniscus tear is an injury to one of the two menisci that each knee has. A meniscus tear can happen suddenly, or gradually develop as the meniscus starts to wear down. Athletes often injure their menisci, and you may notice a popping sound or sensation at the moment of injury, followed by pain, swelling, weakness, stiffness, or a giving or locking feeling in the joint.

8. Deep Vein Thrombosis 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the leg that causes pain, particularly when you stand up. DVT is incredibly dangerous, as a “thrown” clot that breaks off and travels through the body could result in a pulmonary embolism and possible death.

Other symptoms of a blood clot include leg swelling, a warming sensation in the area, and reddened skin. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you suspect deep vein thrombosis.

9. Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring tendonitis and hamstring sprain are two injuries that could affect one of the three hamstring muscles located at the back of your thigh (the biceps femoris muscle, semitendinosus muscle, and semimembranosus muscle). These muscles allow your knees to bend, and an injury there could manifest as pain at the back of the knee. It may also involve swelling, bruising, or noticeable weakness at the back of the leg. Hamstring injuries are common among athletes who compete in fast sports like track, tennis, basketball, and soccer.

10. Ligament Injury

The knee ligaments that attach your thigh bone to your shin bone include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). PCL injuries are most often caused by car accidents, and ACL injuries are the most common overall as it is the ligament that crosses diagonally through the knees and keeps your shin bones from sliding up in front of your thigh bones. A ligament tear could cause knee-area pain when walking and may require surgery to repair.

Knee Pain Diagnosis

It is important to seek medical attention for many of these conditions. A doctor may utilize X-rays or an MRI to assess whether your pain is due to bone or soft tissue injury, and may also recommend treatment options spanning from over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) to surgery and physical therapy. Take care of your joints with natural joint health supplements, and be sure to help them heal when they’re injured, because an untreated joint injury could permanently limit your range of motion and disrupt the enjoyment of your life.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Thumb knuckle pain: what does it mean when you have unexplained pain in your thumb pad, lower joint, or knuckle? Find out what could be the underlying cause and how to get relief. 

If you have persistent pain at the base of the thumb, right at the knuckle joint, or in your thumb pad, you might be worried about what it could mean. Did you sprain your thumb, somehow sleep on it wrong, or could it be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis? This article reviews a few thumb knuckle pain culprits, and what you can do to help treat the cause of this discomfort.

Joint Pain Overview

If you’re young and experiencing joint pain, you may not immediately jump to the conclusion that it could be arthritis or some other serious joint-affecting condition like degenerative joint disease or gout. However, data shows that these conditions, though statistically more likely to develop with age, can afflict people as young as 40 (arthritis) or 30 (gout). In all honesty, our bodies start declining in little ways after the age of 25, and after that it’s just the luck of the draw on the genetic lottery sometimes, especially with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re experiencing unexplained tenderness anywhere from the base of the thumb to thumb middle joint pain, discomfort so palpable that it’s interfering with your thumb’s range of motion, then it could be the sign of a serious condition, regardless of your age.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Our thumb joints are one of the evolutionary wonders that differentiate us from our ape ancestors, and thumb knuckle pain can throttle your fine motor skills.

If you can’t think of any reason why your thumb knuckle is in pain—something as innocent as maybe you spent some time cracking walnuts or you’ve gotten a new keyboard and it could be a mild case of wrist tendinitis—then you could be worrying about one of the following underlying conditions.

1. Basal Joint Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

Basal joint arthritis could be causing your joint pain. The basal joint lies at the base of your thumb, just above the wrist. A wearing away of the cartilage in this joint is commonly called “thumb arthritis,” and comes not only with pain but also the loss of thumb mobility and the possible loss of thumb grip strength.

Our joint cartilage provides a cushion at the spot where two bones would otherwise meet and grind together. Cartilage cannot heal on its own, because, unlike other forms of tissue in the body, it has no blood supply to provide a healing pathway. Becoming aware of cartilage damage as soon as possible is important so you can ask your doctor how to prevent further breakdown.

Cartilage breakdown in the joints is also known as osteoarthritis, and it’s the most common form of arthritis worldwide.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thumb arthritis could also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis in the thumb. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect many of your joints. Rheumatoid pain in your thumb joint might be experienced as a stabbing, burning, or milder creaking pain.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a pinched or compressed median nerve in the “tunnel” it travels through your wrist. This could cause tingling, burning, numbness, or weakness in your finger joints, thumb joints, or wrists. A common condition in the United States, carpal tunnel affects up to 6% of adults, though it’s more likely to occur in women rather than men.

Long-term repetitive movements of the hand are risk factors for developing carpal tunnel. Imagine the repetitive work of jobs like stenographer, cashier, assembly line worker, musician, or hair stylist.

4. Sprain, Injury, or Break

A sprained, jammed, or even broken thumb could cause pain in the area. Jammed thumbs are commonly referred to as “skier’s thumb.” If you suspect an injury as serious as a thumb break, you should seek medical advice immediately to have it evaluated and properly set for healing.

5. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis and Trigger Finger/Thumb

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a tendinitis condition that involves inflammation on the thumb side of your wrist. It’s often called “gamer’s thumb” in the modern world, as it can develop due to repetitive video game playing and the grip held on the controller.

Likewise trigger finger is the lay term for stenosing tenosynovitis, which is typified by a locking or catching sensation when you bend or straighten one of the digits on your hand. It most commonly affects the ring finger and the thumb, but it can impact any of the other fingers as well.

6. Gout

Though most people think of gout affecting the big toe joint, it can cause pain in any joint, including the knees, elbow, ankles, wrists, and fingers. Gout causes a buildup of uric acid crystals in these joints, which then leads to pain, swelling, and inflammation not unlike a feeling that the joint is on fire.

Thumb Knuckle Pain Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, treatment may involve little more than RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) if it’s due to an injury, or it may involve long-term care if it’s due to a chronic condition. A doctor may order X-rays or MRIs to assess the cause of this pain, and present you with treatment options, which may include:

  • Home remediesOver-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Tylenol or Advil, natural supplements and vitamins for joint pain, and devices like splints or ACE wrap bandages.
  • Medical treatments: Steroid injections, prescriptions for pain relief, physical therapy, or possible surgery may be appropriate for your situation. Your physician will review the pros and cons of each.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Knuckle Down

There are many different causes that may be behind your thumb knuckle pain, anything from arthritis of the thumb to an injury that just needs time to heal.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain in your thumb pad, thumb joint, or thumb knuckle, don’t simply rely on anti-inflammatory medications to wait it out—chronic pain means there’s an underlying cause, and getting professional medical treatment sooner rather than later could make a massive difference when it comes to treatment, thumb mobility, and getting back to your daily activities.

How to Speed up MCL Surgery Recovery: Top 5 Tips

Learn about what makes the medial collateral ligament in your knee vulnerable, and use these MCL surgery recovery tips to get back in the game as quickly as possible.

Your medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of four major ligaments that hold your knee joint together. An MCL tear can sometimes be so severe that it requires surgery to repair or replace. If you or a loved one has recently suffered an MCL injury, you’re probably looking for answers. This article reviews the probable causes of MCL tears, what happens during a repair procedure, and what you can do to help accelerate MCL surgery recovery.

What Is the MCL?

The medial collateral ligament is one of the four stabilizing ligaments in the knee. Ligaments connect bone to bone (whereas tendons connect bone to muscle), and an injury to any one of them can compromise your range of motion, not to mention your quality of life. The knee’s tendons include the following.

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): The ACL is the most commonly injured ligament. It crosses diagonally between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), providing stability during side-to-side knee rotations.
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): Your PCL also connects the shin to the thigh bone, but it is positioned at the back of the knee, allowing it more protection from injury.
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL): The LCL connects thigh to shin bone and is positioned on the outside of the knee joint.
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL): The MCL is the tissue band that runs on the inner side of the knee, connecting your shin and thigh bone.

These ligaments each help stabilize the complicated, weight-bearing joint that is the knee, and a tear to any one of them can cause pain and disability.

Common Causes of MCL Injury

MCL sprains and tears are ligament injuries that are often caused by direct blows to the knee. Because it’s located on the inner side of the knee and leg, the MCL is otherwise protected. (If you touch your knees together, your MCLs are side by side.) It’s a safer position than that of the LCL, which is on the outer side of the knee, but each of these ligaments are vulnerable during contact sports like football or hockey, where impact with another player can force the knee out of alignment, straining or tearing the ligaments that hold your leg bones together.

Types of MCL Tears

MCL injuries are graded based on their severity.

  • Grade I: This is the least severe injury, when the ligament is overly stretched but not torn.
  • Grade II: A partial tear of the MCL is a grade II injury, which may not need surgery, only proper care during the recovery period.
  • Grade III: The most severe MCL injury is a complete tear, which can cause great pain and joint instability. Surgery may be required to fix grade III injuries.

MCL Injury Symptoms and Non-Surgical Treatment Options

You may know an MCL injury by the following symptoms.

  • Tenderness or pain along your inner knee
  • A popping sound during the injury
  • Knee joint swelling
  • A giving or locking sensation in the knee

A doctor may perform a physical examination or order X-rays or MRI scans to confirm the injury, assess its severity, and rule out other causes of knee pain such as bone injury.

Treatment options for knee injuries are determined on a case-by-case basis and through consultation with your doctor, but common non-surgical treatments include:

  • Resting the knee to allow time for healing
  • Icing the injury to reduce inflammation
  • Compressing the knee in a bandage or knee brace
  • Elevating the joint higher than your heart to reduce swelling
  • Taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to ease swelling and pain
  • Utilizing crutches to aid mobility while your injured knee heals
  • Attending physical therapy rehab to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee

Surgery may be necessary in extreme cases.

Surgical Solutions to MCL Tears

Luckily MCL tears rarely require surgery, but sometimes the ligament is so thoroughly torn that it is not in a position to heal itself. If your doctor recommends surgery, the procedure will mostly likely be eligible for a minimally invasive arthroscopic repair (using a tiny camera inserted through a small incision), allowing for faster recovery times.

Refastening the MCL to the bone may involve stitches, bone staples, metal screws, or a suture anchor depending on the position of your tear and the health of the tissue at the time of surgery. A mid-ligament tear on the other hand may simply be stitched together by your surgeon.

How to speed up MCL surgery recovery.

MCL Surgery Recovery: The Top 5 Tips to Speed Healing

While ACL reconstruction is one of the most involved procedures in sports medicine, requiring the harvesting of tendons from other areas in the leg (like the hamstrings or quadriceps) and reattaching them inside of the knee, MCL procedures can heal in a matter of weeks or even days. Here are five basic tips to help accelerate MCL surgery recovery time.

1. Follow All Medical Advice

While it’s true that no one knows your body or your pain thresholds as well as you do, your doctor nevertheless has the wisdom collected from years of experience and can help you avoid complications like infection or poor healing. This tip includes obvious steps like attending all follow-up appointments (or rescheduling them if you can’t make it that day), and taking all medications—including pain meds—as directed and to completion.

This is because pain meds are another form of crutch prescribed to help you heal faster: the less pain you feel as you get active again or while you attend physical therapy rehab, the more likely you are to regain your full range of motion.

2. Use Heat and Ice Therapy

Don’t use an ice pack and a heating pad at the same time of course, but icing your knee after surgery can help reduce swelling and pain, while heat therapy can ease stiffness, relax muscles, and increase circulation to the area as you heal. You’ll know which therapy feels right when the time comes, but if you want specific medical advice for an optimal recovery, never hesitate to ask your doctor or another qualified health care professional.

3. Don’t Rush Recovery

Because injury to the inner part of the knee is commonly due to sporting, those recovering from MCL surgeries are often active people. It can drive you nuts to be house-bound after an MCL procedure, but in the long run it is so much better to keep off your knee as much as possible for as long as your doctor recommends.

Think about it: if you’re antsy to get back out there now, imagine how infuriating it would be to reinjure your knee due to prematurely returning to vigorous activity, and then to have to endure the recovery process again. Take up knitting if you have to, download some games onto your phone if you must, but be sure to rest as long as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.

4. Rest Well with Proper Sleep

If you’re not used to sitting around recovering all day, it might be tempting to nap your way through knee surgery recovery. While naps are not discouraged (and some attribute napping to the success of great thinkers like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill), getting proper sleep involves going to bed at the same time each night.

Tips for being able to fall asleep on time each night include having a regular pre-sleep routine, and going to bed in a cool, dark, and quiet room.

5. Feed Your Recovery

One of the best ways to speed up recovery is to make sure your body has everything it needs to rebuild, and that mean adequate protein input and, on the cellular level, sufficient amino acid supplies. Evidence has shown that supplementing with amino acids after just about any surgery can help speed recovery times because it gives your body the building blocks required to create new muscle tissue and replace weak or damaged cells with new and better ones. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends certain foods for a recovery diet, and be sure to stock up on a high-quality amino acid powder for extra MCL recovery support.

Getting Well with Your MCL

Medial collateral ligament injuries thankfully heal very well, and you can help that healing process along with these tips. With a speedy recovery, you’ll be back on your feet in no time!

ACL Surgery Recovery: Top 5 Tips to Accelerate Healing

Learn the basics of ACL placement, injury risk factors, replacement procedures, and the top five tips for how to accelerate your post-op healing after an ACL restoration surgery. 

Your ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of four major ligaments in your knee, and it’s also the one most frequently injured due to sports and accidents. If an ACL injury is too severe, ACL surgery will be performed to help restore strength and stability to the knee. Give your knees a rest and keep reading for the details of how the ACL works, what surgery may involve, and how to accelerate your recovery timeline once you’ve returned home and are ready to get back on your feet.

The ACL’s Position and Uses

Bones, cartilage, and ligaments, specifically your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), all meet at your knee joint. Ligaments are the structures that connect bones to other bones (unlike tendons, which connect bone to muscle). The four ligaments that hold this whole joint together are the:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): Your ACL runs diagonally between your femur and tibia, providing side-to-side rotation stability and keeping the shin bone from slipping in front of the thigh bone.
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL): The LCL runs from the thigh bone to the shin on the outside of the knee joint.
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL): Your MCL is a tissue band inside the knee which connects your thigh bone to your shin bone.
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): Our PCL connects thigh to shin bone and is positioned at the back of the knee. It is injured much less frequently than the ACL.

ACL surgery recovery tips to accelerate healing.

Common Causes of ACL Injuries

Sports medicine sees a lot of ACL tears, mostly because an ACL knee injury is commonly caused by high-impact sport activities like:

  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Skiing
  • Hockey

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that most of these injuries happen when players collide, and there are nearly 200,000 ACL tears and injuries diagnosed in the United States each year. About half of those patients will undergo ACL reconstructive surgery, which is somewhat invasive but recommended for athletes, young and active patients, people with chronic knee pain due to injury, or those who have limited or compromised range of motion without the procedure. Not everyone will choose ACL reconstruction, but for those who do, there is an extended recovery process, which often involves taking instruction from a physical therapist.

What Happens During ACL Reconstruction?

Speak with your doctor and your surgeon about the specifics of your unique case, but in general, a fully torn ACL needs to be replaced with a tendon from somewhere else. Common sources for these replacement tendons are:

  • Hamstrings: This tendon connects your knee to the muscles in the back of your leg.
  • Patellar tendonsThese tendons attach your kneecaps (patella) to your shin bones.
  • QuadricepsFrom the front of your thighs, this graft is usually a last resort if other tendons do not take.
  • Cadaver tissue: This is an allograft, a tendon taken from a dead body.

Your doctor will confer with you on which option is best, what is involved in receiving anesthesia, and the pre- and post-operative instructions issued for the sake of your health and in service of an ideal surgical outcome.

ACL Procedure and Risks

Let’s run through what a general ACL surgery entails, plus certain common risks your health care providers will review with you before operating.

The Procedure

Once you are placed on an IV and under sedation, the graft tissue is extracted first (if it is not coming from a cadaver), and then given “bone plugs” to anchor it to the bones in the knee.

Next, the ACL is removed and the area cleaned with the assistance of a thin camera (this is called arthroscopy). A drill is then used to create small holes that the bone plugs will be attached to using screws, posts, or staples.

Once the new ligament is in place, your surgeon will test that the range of motion is adequate and the ligament secure, then stitch and dress the wound before outfitting it with a stabilizing brace. Should you need extra steps during this procedure, such as a meniscus repair, the surgery may take longer, but you should be able to return home at the end of the day.

The Risks

Surgical procedures all involve a certain amount of risk:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Improper healing
  • Graft rejection
  • Disease transmission (from an infected cadaver)
  • Continued knee pain, stiffness, or weakening
  • Loss of range of motion

Evaluate your health and your risk factors with your surgeon before taking on ACL reconstruction surgery. The AAOS states that between 82% and 90% of these surgeries are successful, with patients regaining full range of motion and knee stability.

Tips for ACL Surgery Recovery

The recovery timeline for such a serious surgery can take months, an average of 8 months for about half of the athletes who undergo it. Post-op recovery time depends on your age, overall health, the success of your surgery, and your ability to get physical therapy. You may experience pain and several months of restricted activity with the aid of a knee brace, a crutch, or perhaps even a wheelchair. Here are some tips to help accelerate your healing and get you back on your feet faster.

1. Attend All Appointments and Physical Therapy Sessions

The best way to ensure your recovery is going well is to make sure the experts are looking it over regularly. That means attending every follow-up appointment even if you’re feeling fine and going to physical therapy for as long as possible. Your doctor may be able to spot issues in your recovery before they become infections or rejections, so if you have to miss an appointment, be sure to reschedule. Be sure also to tell your doctor if you experience any pain, fever, or discomfort that doesn’t seem right: it could be the first sign of a serious complication to your knee surgery.

Likewise your physical therapist will not only help you regain strength in your leg but will also give you advice on stretching, moving, and pivoting as you heal and return to your former activity level so you won’t experience a reinjury. Be sure to take advantage of all the physical therapy sessions your health insurance covers.

2. Take All Instructions Seriously (and Take Your Medicine!)

Much like the recommendations in the first tip, it’s important to listen to all the medical advice your doctor gives you, be it written or verbal, and to take all your medications as prescribed and to completion. The first 2 weeks post-surgery will probably feel pretty lousy, but after that you may be tempted to lapse on particulars like pain medication.

Pain meds are not issued lightly, and they are meant to do more than just dull the pain; they’re also meant to help you recover faster. Physical therapy is likely to be painful too, and every weight-bearing step may hurt for a while. Rather than let the pain discourage your movement, take your medications as prescribed and lean on them for the appropriate amount of time.

3. Eat Well and Sleep Well

Recovering from any surgery means rebuilding tissue, which means you’re going to need protein, and plenty of it. Ask your doctor if nutritional supplementation or vitamins are advised in this crucial window, as amino acid supplementation has been shown to lead to improved post-op recovery. You also need to get an adequate amount of dairy and vegetables too, for bone strength and digestive health as you rest.

Speaking of rest: sleep is one of the best medicines around. Go to bed at the same time each night in a cool, dark room, and follow the same pre-sleep routine (brushing your teeth, reading a book, etc.) to help you fall asleep and stay asleep regularly.

4. Reduce Swelling

In the first week after the orthopedic surgeon sends you home, your knee may be swollen and inflamed. Safely reducing that inflammation with cold therapy (an ice pack) and over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen) could not only help speed recovery but also help reduce your pain. Be sure to check with your doctor about safety precautions if you are prescribed other medication—you don’t want to mix medications.

5. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

While the goal of this surgery is to get your knee back its full extension and range of motion, trying to return to your old routine (and especially sports) right away could tear up this new lease on life before it’s fully healed. If you want to do any physical activity beyond basic daily movement, be sure to clear it with your doctor or physical therapist first so you hopefully don’t have to do this surgery twice.

Ace Your ACL Surgery Recovery

Your medical team will have the best advice for you, so while these general tips may hopefully serve you well, don’t hesitate to ask a professional more familiar with your unique circumstances—that’s ACL recovery advice you can bank on. Rest well, recover well, and know that we wish you the very best.