Get your move on

Get your move on

a great little video by the Australian Physiotherapy Association on the benefits of movements…..


Triathlon Plus article – low back pain in triathletes

TriPlus back pain article page1

TriPlus back pain article page 2

links to page 1 and 2 of a previously published article in Triathlon Plus magazine.

Musculoskeletal Screening

The runners we send to the Olympics are not necessarily our top runners, but they are very good runners who have avoided injury at critical times” (Daniels, J. 2005 ix)  This quote is equally applicable to all sports.

Studies have estimated that between 47% – 75% of triathletes sustain overuse injuries during each season (Burns et al 2005).  The risk factors that contribute to athletic injury are extrinsic (independent of the athlete) and intrinsic (inherent to the athlete) in nature.  Extrinsic factors are difficult to avoid, however, the intrinsic factors can be reduced to a minimum.

Physiotherapy musculoskeletal screening falls within the continuum of athlete testing procedures, with injury prevention at one extreme (where, arguably, the science of medical screening by a doctor and full scientific testing would come) and pure performance enhancement at the other (screening by a strength and conditioning specialist). In this continuum, musculoskeletal screening comes somewhere midway.  Given that there is a direct relationship between the ability to train and the competitive performance, and that failure to achieve optimal training loads is primarily due to injury, the screening process plays a secondary role in optimising competition performance by keeping the athlete injury free (McLean, B).  Therefore if you manage to prevent even one injury during the season by correcting a biomechanical problem highlighted during screening, that athlete will have performed better.

At a more technical level, musculoskeletal screening is invaluable for revealing deficits in muscle/ joint flexibility and in muscular stability/control, any biomechanical faults, or asymmetry between the left and right sides that might lead to overuse injuries.  Although these relationships between deficits and injuries are difficult to prove, the popularity of musculoskeletal screening among professionals over the last few decades lends a heavy weight of anecdotal and clinical evidence to support its efficacy.

A second core aim of screening is to record the details of significant past injuries, and to assess for any ongoing effects on the mechanics of the injured and non-injured parts of the body.  Recording of injury rates and areas of injury across the whole of a season, or several seasons, can enable us to identify and correct any patterns of injury which may arise from any number of external factors, such intensity of training or competition, etc.  Thus aiding the coaching staff in the delivery of the long term athlete development programme, and enhancing the athletes’ willingness to adhere to their training regimes.

Screening is best carried out during the out of competition phase, or off season.  This is a time when training loads are reduced and athletes are injury free, allowing them to focus on any specific injury preventative measures.

Once the findings have been collated into a report for the athlete and their coach, detailing strengths, weaknesses and recommendations, a follow up session is then required.  This allows the coach and athlete (and parent if dealing with young athletes) to fully understand what is the recommend action.  If any relevant factors are detected, the athlete will be prescribed an individualised training programme to rectify the fault and reduce the risk of future injury.  What I have found to be most beneficial is to identify 3 action points, and 3 monitor points.  The action points are the specific exercises or stretches to be done, and the monitor points are any potential issues which the coach should keep a close eye on.

Ideally, this screening would be done at the end of the competitive season prior to the winter training, and then 4-6 weeks before the competitive season a follow up to ensure there have been no new problems arising over the winter, and that the previously identified issues have been addressed by the athlete and their coach.

So in summary, the purpose and benefits of the screening are thus:

Highlight any predisposing factors that may lead to injury

Reveal risk factors to injury so that personalised interventions can be used to rectify any musculoskeletal problem areas and hence reduce the likelihood of future injury

Prescreen athletes before events to ensure they are fit and injury free for competion

Assess any current injuries

Assess any deficit resulting from previous injuries

Assess any musculoskeletal factors that may impact on performance

Provide individual injury prevention programmes based on results.

Tim Pigott

Sports Physiotherapist


Burns, J., Keenan, A-M., Redmond, A. (2005) Foot type and overuse injury in Triathletes.  Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 95:3  235-241

Daniels, J. (2005)  Daniels’ Running Formula 2nd Edition Human Kinetics p. ix

McLean, B.  Optimising Olympic Distance Triathlon Performance – A biomechanist’s Perspective.  Biomechanics Laboratory, Australian Institute of Sport

Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

The term greater trochanteric pain syndrome is now being commonly substituted for trochanteric bursitis; because the inflammatory etiology of the pain is being refuted by current research, using ultrasonographic, magnetic resonance imaging and histologic evidence.

Subjective Characteristics

  • Bursitis may develop gradually or traumatically.
  • Pain occurring over the side of the hip.
  • Referred pain that travels down the outside.thigh and may continue down to the knee.
  • Pain when sleeping on your side; especially the affected hip.
  • Pain upon getting up from a deep chair or after prolonged sitting (eg. in a car).
  • Pain when climbing stairs.
  • Increased pain when walking, cycling, or standing for long periods of time.

Contributing / Predisposing factors:

The trochanteric bursa may be inflamed by the glutes rubbing over the bursa and causing friction against the greater trochanter.

Can occur with running, walking, or cycling (especially when the saddle is too high).

It can also occur in some people who have a scoliosis, leg length discrepancy, weak hip muscles, osteoarthritis of the hips or lumbar spine, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Trochanteric bursitis can also occur following direct trauma to the side of the hip, such as in a fall.

Physical Examination

The most classic finding is point tenderness over the greater trochanter, which reproduces the presenting symptoms.  Palpation may also reproduce pain that radiates down the lateral thigh.  Swelling of the bursa may be present, but this will be difficult to identify in many patients due to the overlying tissue.  In obese patients it may be difficult to locate the greater trochanter dirrectly, therefore consider using the iliac crest as a landmark and assessing for the trochanter approximately 8 inches (20 cm) below the iliac crest.  Also consider palpating the region while passively circumducting the hip.  Overlying skin changes of ecchymosis with abrasions may occur with recent trauma.  Lateral hip pain can often be elicited by passive external rotation of the hip without provoking such symptoms by internal rotation.  Pain can also be reproduced with flexion of the hip followed by resisted hip abduction.  Groin pain or referred knee pain provoked by passive internal rotation of the hip may indicate hip joint pathology (such as osteoarthritis).  To assess for sciatica or lumbosacral radiculopathy, a detailed neurological examination of both lower limbs is required.


Rest/training adaptations, Anti-inflammatory medication(?), Ice, Injections, Stretching, massage / myofascial release, Muscle balance re-training, Core strength exercises, Correction of biomechanical abnormalities (eg. Orthotics), bike fit adjustment, ensuring appropriate footwear, Surgical treatment- rare (Bursectomy).

Compartment Syndrome

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) is defined as a condition in which exertion increases muscle compartment pressure, interfering with tissue circulation and causing ischemia, pain, and even temporary neurological deficits (Blackman 2000).  Terms such as shin splints, march synovitis, anterior tibial pain syndrome, and medial tibial syndrome, have all been used to describe the symptoms of CECS (Rorabeck 1983).

Acute compartment syndrome is “a condition in which increased pressure within a limited space compromises the circulation and function of the tissues within that space”.  Most commonly occurs in the lower leg, but can occur in the thigh, buttock, and foot.

Acute – occurs following trauma to the lower leg, commonly after intramedullary nailing of long bone fractures, after ischaemic re-perfusion injuries, burns or poor positioning during surgery.
Chronic – reversible, activity related increases in intracompartmental pressure.  Also referred to as exercise-induced compartment syndrome (EICS) or exertional compartment syndrome.

Defining the anatomical compartments is essential in understanding the symptoms and treatment of the various CECS in the lower leg.
The concept of four distinct compartments in the lower leg is well-recognised with anterior, lateral, superficial posterior, and deep posterior compartments (Melberg and Styf, 1989).  More recently, a fifth compartment has been described that is in essence a subdivision of the deep posterior compartment, and contains only tibialis posterior.

1.Anterior compartment:  Comprises the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, and peroneus tertius.  Neurovascular structures include the anterior tibial artery and vein with the deep branch of the common peroneal nerve running along the interosseous membrane deep to the extensor hallucis longus.
2.Lateral compartment: Contains the peroneus longus and brevis with the common peroneal nerve dividing into its superficial and deep branches, the latter continuing into the anterior compartment.
3.Superficial Posterior: The posterior compartments lie surrounded by the deep fascia of the leg with the deep transverse fascia separating the deep from the superficial compartments.  The superficial compartment contains gastrocnemius, plantaris, and soleus.
4.Deep posterior: Contains the flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus, tibialis posterior, and more proximally popliteus.  Neurovascular structures in the deep compartment include the posterior tibial artery and vein and tibial nerve, entering beneath the arch of soleus proximally then lying on the posterior surface of tibialis posterior and more distally on the posterior tibia.  The fifth compartment is created by a discrete fascial layer over the posterior surface of tibialis posterior, and it is therefore possible that elevation of pressures in the compartment alone may occur (Blackman, 2000).

Pathological Process
The generally accepted pathophysiology of this condition is that raised intracompartmental pressure causes relative ischemia of the involved muscles (Blackman, 2000).
Ateriovenous pressure gradient theory:
Ischaemia begins when local blood flow cannot meet the metabolic demands of the tissue.  As the intracompartmental pressure rises, the intraluminal venous pressures also increase leading to a reduction in the arteriovenous pressure gradient resulting n diminished or absent local perfusion.  This causes a further rise in intersititial tissue pressure with the formation of tissue oedema.  The lymphatic drainage is then increased to protect against the rising interstitial fluid pressure.  Once this has reached its maximum, further increases in the intracompartmental pressure cause deformation and collapse of the lymphatic vessels.  It is only at the late stages that the arterial flow into the compartment is seriously compromised and the continuing flow of blood into the compartment increases swelling and oedema.  Pain may not only occur due to the increases in pressure, but also due to sensory receptor stimulation in the fascia or periosteum, or due to biochemical factors released due to reduced blood flow.
Raised intracompartmental pressure model:

A number of authors use this theory as a basis for fasciotomy, subsequently demonstrating a reduction in intracompartmental pressures post surgery (Puranen and Alavaikko, 1981; Rorabeck et al, 1983).

Other proposed evidence for this concept includes the demonstration of elevated intracompartmental pressures during and after exercise (Puranen and Alavaikko, 1981).

Studies on normal muscle also corroborate this theory.  The findings of these studies include a 20% increase in muscle size due to an increase in blood volume with exercise, and that chronic exercise causes a lasting muscle volume increase due to hypertrophy (Amendola and Rorabeck, 1985).

Ischemia Model:
There is some debate as to whether these increases in pressure result in clinically significant ischemia, and therefore may not be the main pathological factors linked to pain in CECS (Amendola et al. 1990; Trease et al. 2001)

Evidence Supporting:
Those who support the ischemia hypothesis suggest there are three potential mechanisms to explain the development of tissue ischemia:
1.Increased pressure causes arterial spasm and therefore a decrease in arterial inflow (Matsen, 1975)
2.Increased pressure causes obstruction of the microcirculation (Rorabeck and Macnab, 1975)
3.Increased pressure causes arteriolar or venous collapse leading to ischemia (Matsen, 1975; Black et al, 1990; Hutchinson and Ireland, 1994)

Evidence negating:
In a study by Balduini et al.  (1993) on 26 patients with lower leg pain, 24 patients with positive pressure tests failed to demonstrate signs of ischemia.  The two exceptions (17% of patients with CECS) had evidence of ischemia with associated pressure measurements above 160 mm Hg.  They concluded that, below these very high compartment pressures, ischemia was not a significant factor in the development of CECS.
Amendola et al. (1990) also failed to find any evidence of ischemia in patients with compartment syndrome.  They used nuclear blood flow imaging in their study on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in CECS and found that none of the patients with positive pressure studies demonstrated “consistent ischemic changes”.
Alternative explanations for the pain associated with CECS may be:
1.Sensory receptor stimulation in the fascia or periosteum due to increased pressure (Balduini et al. 1993)
2.Biochemical factors released due to minimally reduced blood flow (Balduini et al. 1993; Amendola and Rorabeck, 1985)
3.The symptomatic relief after fasciotomy may be due to the mechanical release of tension or biochemical changes, rather than the reversal of ischemia.

Clinical Presentation

Several months to years history of pain induced by exercise and relieved by rest.
Cramping, burning, or aching pain and tightness in the lower leg with exercise (Black et al. 1990), with continual or progressively increasing pain as exercise continues or intensity is increased (Blackman, 2000).  Eventually causing the individual to stop exercising.
Pain should cease or dramatically reduce within minutes of stopping (Balduini, 1993); however, some authors state that it may continue overnight and into the next day, depending on duration and severity of the condition (Martens and Moeyersoons, 1990)
Maybe bilateral.
Neurological symptoms vary depending on which nerve is involved (Blackman, 2000)

Physical signs are absent at rest, and all patients should therefore be examined post exercise, using the aggravating activity wherever possible (Martens and Moeyersoons, 1990).
This usually reveals a tense, firm compartment that may be painful to deep palpation and passive stretch (Blackman, 2000).
There may be tenderness along the tibial border if it is associated with stress fracture of the tibia, or traction periostitis due to chronic tension of the compartment fascia at the attachment to the tibia (Blackman, 2000)
Neurological examination is essential.  This may reveal patterns suggestive of the specific nerve and, therefore, the compartment involved (Black et al. 1990).
Anterior. Weakness of dorsiflexion and paraesthesia in the first web space (deep peroneal nerve).
Lateral: Weakness of dorsiflexion (deep peroneal nerve) and/or eversion (superficial peroneal nerve), and paraesthesia over the anterolateral distal shin and dorsum of the foot (superficial peroneal nerve) and first web space (deep peroneal nerve).
Deep posterior: involves the tibial nerve and may produce dysaesthesias over the medial arch of the foot and/or cramping of the intrinsic foot muscles. (Blackman, 2000).
Muscle hernias over the anterolateral compartments have been reported, especially at the point where the superficial peroneal nerve pierces the deep fasica (Black et al, 1990).  These hernias are thought to be an indicator of elevated intracompartmental pressure (Beith et al. 1980).
Signs of arterial insufficiency such as distal pulse deficits and poor capillary return are rare and occur only with very high intracompartmental pressures (Balduini et al. 1993)

Diagnostic tests
The most useful test to confirm CECS is a compartment pressure study, using a transducer-tipped probe.  A positive diagnosis requires elevated pressures on exercise which must coincide with reproduction of the patients typical pain (Pedowitz et al. 1990).
Many different pressures have been recorded.  However, the most accepted and predictive values are pre- and post- exercise pressures (Pedowitz et al 1990).  Studies on patients without CECS demonstrate a return to within 1mmHg of resting pressure within 3.4-5 min post exercise (Nkele et al. 1988).  Therefore, a delay of between 6 and 30 min in the return of post-exercise pressure to resting pressure levels must occur to demonstrate a positive test (Rorabeck et al. 1988).
Pedowitz et al. (1990) defined the criteria for diagnosis of anterior CECS in the leg as requiring one or more of the following: pre-exercise >15 mm Hg.  1-min post exercise >30 mm Hg, and 5 min post-exercise >20 mm Hg.  These were based upon a comparison with 210 normal muscle compartments tested using the same protocol.
Other investigations may be indicated in order to make any differential diagnosis, eg. X-ray, MRI, bone scintigraphy, and CT.

Differential diagnosis
Differential diagnosis must include periostitis and stress fracture of the tibia or fibula (Hannaford et al, 1988).  Less common possibilities include: tenosynovitis, vascular and neurological entrapment syndromes, ventral nervous system disorders, primary muscular disorders, infection, and tumours (Styf, 1989).

Often occurs bilaterally (Blackman, 2000)
Equal incidence in male and females (Hutchinson and Ireland, 1994; Wiley et al, 1987; Veith et al. 1980)
Anterior CECS tends to be more common than posterior CECS (Veith et al 1980; Amendola and Rorabeck 1985).
Patients are often described as young and physically active, often runners, reporting recurrent exertion-related pain in the affected muscle compartment (Avramovitz and Schepsis 1994).
However, in a study by Edmundsson et al (2007) most cases had a sedentary lifestyle with leg pain even during walking.
Few predisposing factors for CECS have been reported, although a history of trauma has been mentioned (Tubb and Vermillion 2001).


Early diagnosis is essential, if ischemia has occurred due to trauma, then open and extensive fasciotomies with decompression of all the affected compartments is the treatment of choice.
Many statements discussing conservative methods appear to be based on anecdotal information alone; and more scientific data is required to draw any firm conclusions (Blackman, 2000)
In a retrospective analysis (Blackman et al. 1994), rest from exercise, even for a lengthy period, was not found to be associated with any improvement in pain on resumption of activity.
Modification of intrinsic and extrinsic contributing factors is required; which may include modification of footwear, adjusting training programs, massage, orthotics, strengthening and stretching exercises.
Surgical management for CECS is based on the premise that there is a need to decrease intracompartmental pressure (Blackman, 2000).
This is done by releaseing the fascial barrier of the involved compartment, either through fasciotomy or fasiectomy (Black et al. 1990; Rorabeck et al. 1983; Schepsis et al. 1993; Wiley et al, 1987).
Results for CECS surgery are generally good, with reports demonstrating good functional improvement or symptomatic cure in a high proportion of cases (Puranen and Alavaikko, 1981; Rorabeck et al, 1983; Schepsis et al, 1993; Wiley et al, 1987).
Most reports found a better long-term outcome for anterolateral compared with posterior decompression (Puranen and Alavaikko, 1981; Rorabeck et al, 1983; Schepsis et al, 1993; Wiley et al, 1987).
Postoperatively, anterior compartment releases tend to recover faster, in contrast to deep posterior decompressions (Schepsis et al, 1993; Hutchinson and Ireland, 1994).
Crutches are used until weight bearing is comfortable (usually 3-5 days), although some authors prefer to allow the patient to walk immediately postoperatively (Wallensten, 1983)
Early mobilisation of the affected limb as soon as possible is recognised by many authors as important (Black et al, 1990; Rorabeck et al, 1983; Hutchinson and Ireland, 1994) to prevent excessive scarring and adhesions.  Active range of movement exercises at the knee and ankle are recommended and immediately postoperatively by Hutchinson and Ireland (1994).
Transitional activities such as cycling and swimming (after wound healing) are introduced over the following weeks, and running is commenced between 3 and 6 weeks postoperatively. (Blackman 2000)
Return to full activity usually occurs between 6 and 12 weeks (Black et al, 1990; Rorabeck et al, 1983; Schepsis et al 1993)

The end result of an unidentified acute compartment syndrome can be catastrophic and include nerological deficit, muscle necrosis, ischaemic contracture, severe infection, delayed healing of a fracture, loss of the limb, or even death!  Acute compartment syndrome can lead to the ‘crush syndrome’, marked by acute renal failure as a result of the precipitation of myoglobin released from the damaged muscle in the distal convoluted tubules in the kidney.  Acidic hyperkalaemic blood is also released from the damaged muscle, resulting in cardiac arrythmias and further precipitation of myoglobin in the kidneys.  Extensive muscle damage can result in the need to amputate the limb.
The incidences of complications is strongly related to the timing of fasciotomies, and therefore early diagnosis is essential to prevent irreversible damage occurring.  In acute cases fasciotomy performed within 24hrs gives ‘acceptable’ results as long as the compartment pressure does not exceed 40 mmHg.
Chronic vases may return to running at 6 weeks and competitive sport at 3 months following fasciotomy.  Commonly patients will be pain free following surgery but may continue to experience up to a 20% decrease in strength of the affected compartment.  Studies have shown that men have more successful outcomes than women.


Allen, M.J., Barns, M.R. (1986) Exercise pain in the lower leg. The journal of bone and joint surgery 68B, 5. 818-823

Blackman, P.G. (2000) A review of chronic exertional compartment syndrome in the lower leg. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 32: 2 S4-S10

Edmundsson, D., Toolanen, G., Sojka, P. (2007) Chronic compartment syndrome also affects non-athletic subjects: a prospective study of 63 cases with exercise-induced lower leg pain. Acta Orthopaedica 78(1) 136-142

Edwards, P.H., Wright, M.L., Hartman, J.F. (2003) A practical approach for the differential diagnosis of chronic leg pain in the athlete. American journal of sports medicine. 33, 1241

Elliott, K.G.B., Johnstone, A.J. (2003) Diagnosing acute compartment syndrome. The journal of Bone and Joint surgery 85B, 5, 625-630

Hislop, M., Tierney, P., Murray, P., O’Brien, M., Mahony, N. (2003) Chronic exertional compartment syndrome: The controversial “fifth” compartment of the leg. American journal of sports medicine. 31: 770-776

Klenerman, L (2007) The evolution of the compartment syndrome since 1948 as recorded in the JBJS (B) The journal of bone and joint surgery. 89B, 10, 1280-1282

McQueen, M.M., Gaston, P., Court-Brown, C.M. (2000). Acute compartment syndrome. Who is at risk? The journal of bone and joint surgery. 82B, 200-203

Micheli, L.J., Solomon, R., Dolomon, J., Plasschaert, F.P., Mitchell, R. (1999) Surgical treatment for chronic lower leg compartment syndrome in young female athletes. American journal of sports medicine. 27: 197

Pearse, M.F., Harry, L., Nanchahal, J. (2002) Acute compartment syndrome of the leg. BMJ 325, 557-558

Rorabeck, C.H. (1984) The treatment of compartment syndromes of the leg. The journal of bone and joint surgery. 66B, 1, 93-97

Styf, J., Korner, L., Suurkula, M. (1987) Intramuscular pressure and muscle blood flow during exercise in chronic compartment syndrome. The journal of bone and joint surgery 69B, 2, 301-305

Coming back from injury

Questions are regularly posted on (and other forums) about returning from injury, or dealing with injuries. So these are a few generic tips to help you come back to full training and racing as quickly as possible.

1) Can you still train, but in an altered format? cross-trainer/eliptical training, Aqua-jogging if it’s a running related injury. Can you make some adjustments to your bike set up, such as changing the saddle hight? Swimming- focus on specific drills, eg. balance and kick. Don’t simply stop altogether if you can avoid it.

2) Seek advice EARLY. See you GP or physio as soon as possible. The longer you put it off, the longer the rehab is likely to be, as more and more compensatory issues will develop as your body tries to deal with the injury.

3) Accept and understand the grieving process if it means missing races, or even a whole season. Some good advice on the psychological element of injury rehab on this site

4) Use the time to progress your skills in other areas. Eg. Learn bike maintenance. Do an evening course in sports massage. Get your coaching qualifications and help out at your club.

5) Set goals. Speak with your physio and coach, set out short, medium and long term goals so that you all know where you are at, and where the rehab is going, and how it all fits into the larger picture of returning to racing.

6) If you haven’t got a coach, get one! The majority of injuries in triathlon are caused by training mistakes. Having a coach to bounce idea’s off or guide you more formally will prevent you from overcooking the training and breaking down in the first place. They can also help you gradually re-build your fitness after your lay-off from injury, in a controlled manner.

7) Learn from your mistakes, and ensure you include pre-habilitation exercises in your weekly program to reduce the risk of being out with injuries in the future.