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Recurrent “Stiff Shoulders/Neck”; the same old Trap

Shoulder and neck pain is one of the most common complaints I come across in clinic. Often, there is no acute “injury”, as such, rather it is reported as a long, gradual onset to the point where people will feel as though their shoulders are creeping further and further upwards, towards their ears, often at times of stress or tiredness. I often hear them explaining how they can feel or see – or that they have been told previously – that these muscles are knotted or tight, and they will explain how it needs to be released, loosened or stretched.

But the structures test very differently to these descriptions. Most painful upper traps/shoulders I see are weak and long, not tight and short. The sensation of tightness or stiffness felt is because they are constantly being overloaded in a position of stress, and the muscles simply do not have the capability to endure. As we looked at in my blog about posture, muscles are designed to move, and being placed in this position of length for prolonged periods of time can, and often will, lead to a level of discomfort. How long do you sit at a desk, arms in front of you, lengthening these structures? How long do you sit in a car in the same position? And this is where I see a lot of treatment falling down, focussing too much on lengthening a muscle that is already long.

Anatomically, the Trapezius muscle is a large diamond-shaped muscle, described as lower-, mid-, and upper- portions, that is found down the side of your neck and top of your shoulders. Its the most superficial muscle of the upper back and runs from the base of your skull, along to the tips of your shoulders, and down to the middle of your back, as seen in the image below. So far so good.

The complication comes from the commonly held belief of the actions of the 3 parts of the trapezius muscles. It was commonly though that the lower-, mid- and upper-traps all had isolated functions, but we now know that to not be the case. For example, we know that the actions of the trapezius muscle is insufficient to rotate or elevate the Scapula (shoulder blade) alone, instead it is its combined action with the Serratus Anterior that does this job. The action of the Serratus Anterior pulling the shoulder blade outward around the back, at about 30° of arm elevation, is ultimately when the upper trapezius muscle assist in its upward rotation and elevation.

So what does this mean? First and foremost it means that anyone in the gym doing “shrugs”, are not really hitting the upper traps, if you are not incorporating that 30° of arm elevation. There is a muscle underneath the upper-traps called the Levator Scapula, which – brilliantly – does exactly what is says on the tin; elevates the scapula (shoulder blade) – the shrug movement. So what are we strengthening exactly?

The majority of the Upper Trapezius muscle fibres attach to the end of the collarbone; when they contract they rotate the collarbone inward. This causes compression of the sternoclavicular  (collarbone-sternum) joint, and allows forces and loads from the arm and shoulder to be transferred away from the neck – a pretty amazing system to protect the neck, and a system we would like to be strong and robust.

As mentioned, most painful upper traps/shoulders I see are weak and long, not tight and short. Soft tissue therapy, massage, joint mobilisation, and taping can be a hugely effective, if somewhat transient, component of treatment for your recurring shoulder issues – hence the monthly visit to your massage therapist. But the key word in all of this is “recurrent”. Why is it coming back? Why isn’t it being “fixed”? What can you do??

There is a way to build a sustainable treatment plan, achieving long term benefit, whilst empowering you to self manage. To find out how, contact

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldnt be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.




GUEST BLOG; What Sport did for my Child, by Debbie Gunning

Really pleased to have GB Runner Debbie Gunning’s great blog about what sport has done for her and her children – it’s a great read!

When I became a Mother, I wanted my Children to reach their potential, aim high and learn to be proud of their achievements whether in academic studies or on the Sporting field.

As a former International Athlete I wanted to get the balance right – my pet hate was and still is pushy parents, so I let my two boys go in the direction they were passionate about. Eldest Son breezed through School, although always worked hard, Sport – he chose Swimming, not the best in his Club but his work ethic soon paid off getting to a District Standard before opting to try his hand at Track and Field, gaining County Standard in his 1st year and hoping for more improvements now settled at Uni and increasing his training.

Then along came my youngest Jack, 6 and half years after my 1st born. Life was a bit tough from the moment he tried to take his 1st breath. He struggled with basic things, like trying to pedal a bike, walking up and down the stairs, catching a ball, As a parent you know they develop differently so there was no concern, his older brother was and and still is his Idol, so he tried swimming, coordination was a problem, football he had some success, making best improver for 2 years.

Then the bullying started, last year at Primary School, was a tough year, didn’t fit in struggled in every aspect. Left Primary School as a outsider with few friends. My little boy’s smile which would light up any room was rapidly disappearing. I was concerned as he entered Secondary School.

Then he was asked to have a go at running around Lawn woods with Swindon Harriers, he loved it, he came back said he wanted to do a bit more. Bryan his Coach, put him with a Group of slightly older Girls and a friendship developed that will never be broken. The Group was renamed ‘Spice Girls plus one,’ Jack was named Spice Boy. Each week he improved, getting fitter and getting more confident, joining in more sessions , he was included and accepted. I saw a trust in Bryan, that he never had with an adult outside the Family.

Running was becoming his saviour. Track Season soon came and he smashed through the targets both his Coach and myself had set him, and when he won a league Match, an 800m race, all his Club Mates cheered him on down the home straight. The smile that day shone through on a Cold Grey And Wet Day in Newport. On a Friday afternoon in October I received a call from him , he had won his Cross Country Race at School – no big deal , loads of Kids do that, but this was a Child who had been bullied, had no self esteem, and has also been diagnosed with Dyspraxia just 12 months earlier. Going on to make it through the Swindon Schools, to run in his County Schools, reserve for his County Team for South West and English Schools , but wherever running takes him his life has turned around. He is dreaming big, believing in himself, confident and happy teenager.

So when other Parents ask me why I drive around him to training or spend all Sunday at a race, stand waiting for him to finish his sessions in the freezing cold:-

It’s not about where he finishes, or how fast he has run

Sports gives him confidence.

Sports gives him the inclusion he lacks at School.

Sport gives him the interaction with Adults and Other Children.

It teaches him to follow his dreams.

It teaches is ok to fail – just get back up and try again.

It lets him be himself.

It teaches him self discipline

It teaches the importance of a Healthy Life,

It teaches him to be the best HE can be.

And the Smile… That is absolutely priceless.

About Debbie: I didn’t start running until I was 20, joined a gym, ran a half marathon, I realised I wasn’t too bad. Joined Swindon Athletic Club, trained hard, gave up a full time job and worked part-time to achieve my ambition of earning a GB vest…managed 12 – including European Championships in 1996. Very much a rollercoaster ride, lots of failing and picking myself back up again. Became a mum and within 6 months was back running well – but didn’t make it to Commonwealth Games, went onto the roads and won the Bath And Fleet Half Marathon. Trained as a PT, had another child, started working as a full time PT in DW Sports, training everyday people to reach their goals, whether it be weight loss, sub 30min 5k, but hopefully inspire people no matter what life throws at you – be the best you can be, and just be you…

Also fitted in 5 marathons – London 2017 looks to be on the cards!

On Being Injured

“Its not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change” Charles Darwin

Here’s a little secret; everyone gets injured. Everyone. That person on the start line every weekend? They get injuries. Your gym instructor that is 11 out of 10 on the energy dial all the time? They get injured. Your sports therapist/physiotherapist? They suffer the same as you. With the best will and practices in the world, injuries, aches and pains are one of life’s inevitabilities, alongside death and taxes.

How we deal with injuries, however, is in many ways unique to the individual, with their own aims, goals and commitment levels. Sure, initially it can be frustrating, particularly if you have an event, or a holiday on the near horizon but the key is to take an interest in your rehabilitation. Pain & rehabilitation are not your enemy; this is not wasted time. Pain is our friend – it’s our body trying to protect us; our first line defence system without which we would not survive. Congenital analgesia is a condition where sufferers can not feel pain, and which often leads to a reduced life expectancy. So – whilst it is all relative – knee pain isn’t actually that bad.

When injured, the sensitivity level of this defence system is turned right up. Your rehabilitation is designed to start turning this dial down, by graded exposure to what your nervous system has deemed as perceived (but not always actual) threat. See, those exercises and movements prescribed aren’t always just about stretching, or strengthening.

It can feel lonely, as your friends and colleagues continue with their gym routine, classes, or training, and in some cases there can be cases of comorbidities setting in, such as depression or anxiety, even at a low level. In A Leg To Stand On, Dr Oliver Sacks describes his injury as a “fearful sense of … aloneness”; that he “could not hurry — could only hope”. In his autobiography, Back From The Brink, ex-professional footballer Paul McGrath says of being injured that “the first thing you lose is the capacity to be hopeful”, and that you “crave the open spaces of training…the aggression, even..”.

But getting back training after injury can be hard physically, and also mentally. We should never underestimate the power of apprehension. Avoidance can be damaging in the long term, as we psychologically build what was once a daily occurrence into a terrifying prospect. Gardening changes from a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, to something which could lead to your back “going” again. Your regular running route seems full of threat. Those weights look far more menacing than they did pre-injury.

Your hardest opponent is your own mind; research shows that a happy you will be able to recover from injury far quicker than a stressed you – and a positive attitude goes a long way, as seen in this paper, The Relationship Between Expectations and Outcomes in Surgery for Sciatica, which found that “More patients with favorable expectations….. had good outcomes than patients with unfavorable expectations” (Ref 1). So smile as you go ( 🙂 ); trust in the process; commit to the process; reap the rewards.

Rehabilitation is a road that is rarely linear; we start with what you can do today – post injury – and we end with what you could do before your injury. It can be slow, it can be arduous, and there will almost definitely be setbacks. This is completely normal.

In ‘Legacy’, by James Kerr, the author discusses 4 stages of change, which ties in nicely with rehabilitation;

A Case for Change This is often a need for change; something is causing your discomfort, or pain. If we want this pain to go, we need to change, or address, ‘something’.

A Compelling Picture of the Future To do what we love without the repercussions of pain. People will often say they are prepared to “do anything” to get back training, or be pain free. To paraphrase Nietzsche, “He who has a why, can bear almost any how”.

A Sustained Capability to Change This is where we create an environment that is empowering, engaging and fun. When Rehabs fun, Rehab gets done.

A Credible Plan to Execute Alongside your rehabilitation therapist, this is the development and deployment of a self-reflective, self-adjusting plan that is safe, and graded, taking you from injured, to where you were pre-injury.

So, yes, the secrets out; we ALL get injured.

And here’s another secret; it’s ok. We are robust and adaptable creatures. To go back to Oliver Sacks, “We would have no idea of the resources which exist in potentia, if we did not see them called forth as needed.”

For more information contact




For decades it has been known that if injured, you follow the R.I.C.E (R) protocol! But times change, evidence moves on, and good therapists admit that patient information needs to change with it!

So what has changed?

R.I.C.E.(R) is;


P.O.L.I.C.E is;

P for PROTECT. Protection involves may include use of crutches, casts, braces, taping etc. to help protect the injured area as it heals. This part is designed to prevent excessive loading in the early stages, and so replaces out and out “rest”, which is completely subjective –  we have to be realistic with this and accept that most of us aren’t full time athletes, and so “rest” unfortunately will be relative to your job/daily activities etc. If you are struggling to weight bear you need to make sure you’ve had your injury checked out. Rest should be of limited time, ideally restricted to immediately after trauma. Undue long rest can have negative effects, producing “adverse changes to tissue biomechanics and morphology” (Ref 1).

OL for OPTIMAL LOADING. Research shows that “Progressive mechanical loading is more likely to restore the strength and morphological characteristics of collagenous tissue. Indeed, early mobilisation with accelerated rehabilitation is effective after acute ankle strain. Functional rehabilitation of ankle sprain, which involves early weight-bearing usually with an external support, is superior to cast immobilisation for most types of sprain severity” (Ref 1). What this means is that by optimally loading injured tissue, we can stimulate the healing process as bone, tendon, ligament and muscle all require some loading to start the healing process. Anyone that has been in my clinic will know this fits my biases quite nicely! But what is “optimal”? Of course – as is life – its about finding a balance –“Optimal loading means replacing rest with a balanced and incremental rehabilitation programme where early activity encourages early recovery. Injuries vary so there is no single one size fits all strategy or dosage. A loading strategy should reflect the unique mechanical stresses placed upon the injured tissue during functional activities, which varies across tissue type and anatomical region” (Ref 1).

Do we want to load a broken bone on day one? Maybe not. If in doubt, seek professional medical help to form a structured loading plan.

I for ICE. People are always surprised to hear that the research behind the use of ice is far, far from conclusive – see my blog here. There is certainly a lack of quality research and very little guidance in terms of how ice can be best utilised but as seen in the aforementioned blog, there is evidence for its use. Most of us have a personal experience of using ice, and it can be highly effective for reduction of pain post injury. A bag of frozen peas is my weapon of choice (a tin doesn’t work anywhere near as well….).

C for COMPRESSION. Again, very limited quality evidence to fully support compression, but putting pressure on the injured area can help in reducing swelling. This can be quite a fine line; the more pressure applied, the lower the amount of blood that can pass to the injured limb. However, cutting off the blood supply to the extremity of a limb completely can have negative effects. If the limb goes numb at all, the bandaging should be released. A tubi-grip is your safest bet.

E for ELEVATION. Place the injury so that it is higher than the heart, where possible. Can be combined with non weight bearing movements.

So as you can see, the last 3 have changed very little, other than to admit we know less than we thought we knew. As for pain management, and anti-inflammatories, certainly for the initial acute period (48-72 hours) I do not recommend the need for NSAIDS. If pain relief is needed, then paracetamol and ice should suffice. Impress your mates by telling them you are carrying out Cryotherapy!

If you are suffering from an acute or chronic injury, please contact


Ref 1

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldnt be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.





In the Story Of Being Injured, there are many villains that we blame; core stability, over-training, not stretching enough, the wrong shoes(!!), as a few examples. One of the most commonly blamed of these bad guys, is Posture, and there are infinite posture correction therapies and courses out there. So how fair is it to blame our posture? What does the evidence say about the link between “bad” posture, and pain? What exactly is bad posture?

Firstly, it is very tough to blame any issue in the body as being the cause of anything else, usually pain, without a good base of evidence. However, evidence based practice is a game of probabilities and the probabilities are – unfortunately – well stacked against posture being a cause of many musculoskeletal problems. The key reason behind this is that there is simply no gold standard for what is good and bad posture. So what we are basing our “correction” on can actually be a rather arbitrary measure, as we can see here, for Lower Back Pain, and here, for Shoulder Pain, where no link between posture and pain can be found.

Your body’s soft tissues are amazing at adapting to load. When we go to the gym this is precisely what we are asking our tissues to do; adapt to an increased load. These weights/loads will be much greater – and in more extreme joint ranges – than the loads placed upon your soft tissue under the traditional model of “bad” posture. We have an amazing ability to adapt and self-repair. Ergo, surely over time a muscle would adapt, like with the gym work, to the level of endurance required to meet the demands of the task?

So do I think posture is important at all? Yes I do. The key point of our posture, is our time in that posture. For example, the office worker who drives for 2 hours, to sit in an office for 8-10 hours, to drive 2 hours home, and then sit on the sofa for a couple of hours. You may think this is an extreme example, but try keeping a Sitting Down Diary –  it can be pretty terrifying! In the above situation, the long hours in a flexed hip position could easily cause issues somewhere along the line. But this is actually a problem with lack of movement, as much as the posture the body is under.

The saying goes your best posture is your next posture, i.e. keep moving. Research supports this, as seen in this paper, where it is seen that in actual fact, rehab programs designed to change posture can help people out of pain without changing their posture. Again, its the movement that is the “magic”. So don’t sit still for 16 hours straight. If you work at a computer, and bench press in your spare time, try getting those shoulders back for a change. We have almost infinite postures – certainly more than in the graphic at the start of this blog.

As King Julien Says;

For more information, please contact

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work







Do you Ice right?

People love a fancy name for something, and injury treatment is not different. Why have knee pain if you can have Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome? Why have a modest bruise if you can have a hematoma? And so I often – facetiously – tell people that if they want to jazz up their bag of frozen peas, why not tell your friends that you are partaking in a touch of cryotherapy?

Ice (I mean cryotherapy 😉 ) has always been seen as the go to treatment for decreasing tissue damage, inflammation/swelling and pain after injury. But what does current research say about the efficacy of this?

The application of ice does reduce tissue temperature, which decreases cell metabolism in the area surrounding the injury, and decreases the amount of secondary damage in the tissue surrounding the injury. However there is evidence that ice DOES NOT reduce swelling. The main effect of ice is actually to decrease nerve conduction speed (Ref 1), meaning a reduction in pain from soft tissues. A by product of this analgesic, pain relieving response, is that it allows you – the patient – to perform exercise/movement – and so muscle contraction – which in turn reduces swelling.

For this decrease in nerve conduction speed to take place, the tissue temperature needs to reach 10 degrees (Ref 1). Taking this in to account it seems that the best protocol for application of ice is directly on the skin, completely against the traditional method of wrapping the bag of crushed Ice, or bag of frozen peas in a towel. It goes without saying, that this is only applicable to those who have ruled out any contraindications such as open wounds, circulation issues, DVT etc. (contact me for more information on this; details below). And so because of this lack of insulation, our skin temperature can be reduced to our goal temperature within 5 minutes. There are many variables to this however, for example the depth of the target soft tissue and the build of the patient. There will be injuries at such a depth that no amount of ice will penetrate deep enough. As a rule of thumb, 10 minutes should suit for most.

Interestingly, this paper, Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury (Ref 2) says that “RCTs have shown that heat-wrap therapy provides short-term reductions in pain and disability in patients with acute low back pain and provides significantly greater pain relief of DOMS than does cold therapy”.

So heat or cold? Both have positive effect, it seems. Maybe it depends on what season you get injured – Heat in the Winter, Ice in the Summer? It seems you cant really go wrong…

…as long as you keep moving.


  1. The effect of cryotherapy on nerve conduction velocity, pain threshold and pain tolerance.

For more information, please contact

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work


Stretching: A form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s elasticity. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramping.


Stretching: the most divisive, emotive and inconclusive part of the Exercise Universe.

Because of the second definition, by yours truly, I have put off writing a blog on stretching for as long as I have been writing a blog. But here goes;

In 2015, a paper in Research in Sports Medicine called “Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners” came to the conclusion that;

“….the literature suggests that stretching poses no significant advantage to endurance runners. Acute stretching can reduce running economy and performance for up to an hour by diminishing the musculotendinous stiffness and elastic energy potential. Chronic stretching additionally appears to have no advantageous effects. In regards to DOMS, it has been reported consistently in the literature that stretching cannot reduce its longevity or intensity. In relation to injury risk, stretching shows little significance for endurance runners to chronic injury. Endurance athletes are at high risk of overuse injuries such as illiotibial band syndrome, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis,and the literature suggests that stretching cannot reduce the prevalence of these injuries. It appears stretching may hold significance for certain exercise disciplines;
however, it can be concluded that it holds no advantage for endurance runners and is not the solution to improving performance or reducing injury prevalence”

Of course this very much focusses on Running, but is pretty damning stuff. It found no benefit to stretching, and actually some negative effects of stretching. Everyone stop stretching!

But wait….

A study in 2016 called “Acute bouts of upper and lower body static and dynamic stretching increase non-local joint range of motion” found – unsurprisingly if you read the title in full – that stretching had a positive effect, and not just locally. It concluded that lower body stretching increased flexibility in the upper body at the same time – and vice-versa. Praise the lord!



I’m always asked about stretching, and people will always ‘confess’ to “not stretching enough”. On my Strength and Conditioning For Runners Workshops, we focus almost entirely on Dynamic Stretching, as running is a dynamic activity. This does NOT mean I am anti-static stretching, at all, far from it. Stretching has its place in physical therapy – of course it does.

We can see from the evidence, that science can’t agree completely on its validity as a treatment. However, for some of the people, some of the time, it is essential. But of course, much the same as everything in the fitness and health world, it is not a panacea.

My advice is always to critically appraise your routine; What are you stretching? Why are you stretching it? Is it relevant to your daily activities, or sport? Is the muscle “tight” because it is short, or tight because it is already too long…? If you stretch something, and stretch it, and stretch it, and the symptoms remain, did it need stretching?

For more information, please contact

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work



Joint hypermobility – or to be ‘double-jointed’ – is a condition where joints are more flexible than they need to be, meaning they can extend past their required range of movement. There are 360 joints in the body and it can affect any of them, but more often than not, just a few.

It is surprisingly common across the board (it is estimated that 20-30% of the population are hypermobile to some degree, in some joints), however, it is most common in childhood and teenage years, and more common in females than males. It does, of course, tend to lessen with age – we’ve all felt the stiffening of the years! In many people joint hypermobility goes unnoticed as it is of no medically significant consequence and there are no symptoms to speak of. Hypermobility can even be seen as an advantage, to some, for example athletes, gymnasts, and dancers (you know your Yoga Teacher who does “those” positions….?). Even musicians might specifically be selected because of their extra range of movement.


However, for a small percentage of the population, far from being advantageous, hypermobility is associated with joint and ligament injuries, pain, fatigue and other symptoms. Joint Hypermobility syndrome is thought by many experts to be part of the same spectrum as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a more severe type of Hypermobility and effects around 1 in 5000 people. Despites its prevalence and symptoms, though, the International Paralympic Committee do not consider it a disability.

What causes Hypermobility?

Where your bones meet at a joint, the ends of them are surrounded by a capsule filled with fluid and held together by strong ligaments, which stop the joint from moving further than it should, and so dislocating. The muscles surrounding the joint are attached to your bones with tendons, allowing you to bend, twist and run. In those affected by hypermobility, the collagen fibres which make up any of these soft tissues is of lower quality and strength, meaning they move beyond their normal range.

How is it diagnosed?

Clinically we use The Beighton Score, which consists of a series of five tests, the results of which can add up to a total of nine points.

  • 1 point if you can place your palms on the ground while standing with your legs straight
  • 1 point for each elbow that bends backwards
  • 1 point for each knee that bends backwards
  • 1 point for each thumb that touches the forearm when bent backwards
  • 1 point for each little finger that bends backwards beyond 90 degrees

If your Beighton score is 4 or more, it is likely that you have joint hypermobility. However, this cannot be used to confirm a diagnosis, because it is important to look at all the joints. Blood tests and scans are sometimes recommended to rule out other conditions.

1 point!

For more information, please visit

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

If you are suffering with aches and pains, please contact

Should Sports Massage Hurt?

…it’s all relative. Thanks for reading!

Sports Massage is a popular and much used therapy, recommended by N.I.C.E as a treatment for Low Back Pain. “Sports” Massage is a little misleading, and as a treatment it is fast becoming known as “Remedial” Massage, or Soft Tissue Therapy. Often thought of as being not for the light-hearted, “No pain, no gain” and “If it doesn’t hurt, its not helping!”  are both commonly heard in clinics all over the country.

But how much pain is acceptable? How deep, is deep enough??

Not everything that helps is painful, and not everything that is helpful is painless. But ultimately, Sports Massage does not have to hurt to be effective. Whilst working on a problematic area may certainly cause some discomfort, it shouldn’t leave bruising or cause you to leap off the table! (and anyway – very generally speaking -where the pain is, the problem isn’t…) If you do find yourself consistently bruised after Sports Massage sessions, your therapist may be going too hard and you have every right to ask them to ease off.

Often, people will talk about the “good” pain whilst having a Sports Massage, that sweet point between pain and relief. Is there a skill, as a therapist, to this? I think there is, but I don’t think its so much the skill of the chosen technique, but the skill of communication. I have heard of someone having a sports massage, and when answering “no” to the question Does this Hurt?, the therapist went harder, and deeper. “No pain, no gain”, right? Crazy.

And of course, there is also the “bad pain”, where the person on the couch will involuntarily tense up, or try to move away from their pain. Bad pain is pain beyond a persons individual pain threshold, and is NEVER acceptable as it offers no therapeutic benefit. As mentioned, the person is inclined to involuntarily tense up – the polar opposite, generally speaking, of the appointment. Some people will say they feel better when it has stopped, but that will be….because it has stopped.

Different parts of the body also react differently to sports massage, and pain threshold can change depending on where the therapist is working. Again, communication is the key tool of the therapist. There are certainly some parts of the body that simply should not be worked on.



“Does it hurt?”

Massage is a therapy as old as time, and an inbuilt reflex to pain – what’s the first thing you do after banging your knee (ok, second, after swearing)? You rub it better. And often, it feels better straight away, without beating it half to death.

So as I say, “No pain, no gain”, and “If it doesn’t hurt, its not helping!” may both be commonly heard in clinics all over the country, just not from me.

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

Injuries are a pain in the bum! PART 2 – Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy

Part 2 of the “injuries are a pain the bum” saga!

Following on from the previous instalment, the other common complaint we see in clinic is Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy (PHT). Similar to groin pain, this is one of those injuries that people are almost apologetic in their embarrassment; some people going as far as mouthing the description to avoid saying it out loud. The most common symptom is pain at the hamstring attachment to its origin, the ischium – as seen in the image (the white tendon at the top of the hamstring muscles).


Have you got PHT? People often refer to the pain as in the “sit bones”, or similar, and PHT is mostly characterised by buttock pain in the area just under the glute muscle – as the leg turns into the bum! Area of pain is often consistent with the size of the tendon – generally 2 fingers width. Generally, sufferers have pain upon waking in the morning, with the pain decreasing as they start to move throughout the day. However, it can be aggravated by the simplest of things due to its location; sitting – in a flexed hip position – for prolonged periods compresses the tendon (see; desk workers, driving, cycling [highlighting the importance of a Bike Fit]), as do deep lunges and squats, running fast or uphill, and lastly…..stretching! Yes, you read that correct; hamstring stretching will not help PHT. So if your PT or injury therapist is getting you in the below position, please ask them to stop 🙂


This will not help.

What we can do? As we’ve seen, PHT is aggravated by tension and compressive loads. To reduce pain, we need to decrease these loads to a level that is manageable. This means reducing compression from sitting and activities involving hip or trunk flexion; avoiding stretching the hamstring and reducing running or lifting to a relatively pain free level (I aim for below 3/10 on your pain scale). Tendon research has shown changes in muscle function when pain is present; isometric hamstring exercises, such as the Hamstring Bridge – as seen in the below video – can help reduce pain and maintain muscle strength (Ref 1)

Like the achilles and patella tendons, the tendon at the origin of the hamstrings is thick, fibrous, and has a poor blood supply, which can make healing difficult, and slow. Similar to these two more common tendon injuries, tendinopathy of the high hamstrings appears to be a degenerative process, not an inflammatory one, meaning that the fibers of the tendon are becoming damaged, or are ‘spiltting’. In a 2005 paper, Fredericson et al argue that the key to successful rehablititaion of PHT is eccentric strengthening of the hamstring muscle group, improving the ability of the muscle and tendon to manage the load required. This should be graded, and ideally, in a limited position of hip/trunk flexion.


Ref 1 A meta-analytic review of the hypoalgesic effects of exercise

Ref 2 Fredericson, M.; Moore, W.; Guillet, M.; Beaulieu, C., High hamstring tendinopathy in runners: Meeting the challenges of diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Physician and SportsMedicine, 2005,

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

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