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    What Is Good For Your Heart Can Be Murder On Your Elbow

    Last updated 9 months ago

    Preventing Tennis Elbow Injuries

    Dr. Robert Nirschl on televisions Good Morning America, with Charlie Gibson, discuss preventing tennis injuries. This interview was aired in 1996 but is still very relevant today. 

    Getting the most out of your orthopaedic doctors visit

    Last updated 10 months ago

    Robert P. Nirschl M.D., M.S.

    Your visit with your orthopaedic surgeon is an important meeting that can be most effective if you plan ahead. Research shows that understanding your diagnosis, and treatment plan, plays an important role in maximizing your results.

    Your orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor with extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment, both nonsurgical and surgical, of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. At our orthopaedic center you will always be seen by an orthopaedic surgeon for diagnosis and formulation of the treatment program

    Be prepared to listen, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your condition and treatment, whether basic or complex. It is important that you give your doctor all the information he or she needs and that you fully understand what your doctor is recommending.

    Be sure to tell your doctor everything about yourself including your diet, any current medication or herbal supplements you’re taking, any unusual habits, and any adverse reactions to medication you have experienced.

    The following checklist will help you and your doctor discuss the issues most important for getting the most out of the visit and ultimately to help establish a partnership between you and your doctor.

    1. Visit the physician’s web site and download the paperwork. Have it filled out and ready to go before you go in for your first visit.
    2. Bring all previous test reports, x-rays and MRI’s so they don’t have to be repeated or can be used as comparison to show how you are healing.
    3. Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask, starting with the most important issue to you.
    4. Bring a written list of all medications, herbs, vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medications you are taking.
    5. Bring a list of all medical problems, prior surgeries, and all current doctors and their locations and telephone numbers.

    Be honest and complete in talking with your doctor. Share your point of view and don’t hold back information about issues such as incontinence, memory loss, sex, or other issues that you might consider embarrassing. These can go far in helping the physician make an accurate diagnosis. Be sure to stick to the point to keep the visit on track.

    Take notes on what the doctor tells you, and ask questions if you don’t understand a medical term, the reason for the doctor’s recommendation, or the instructions for taking medication.

    Ask what to expect from your treatment, what effect it will have on your daily activities and what you can do to prevent further disability. If you feel the communication is not going well between you and your doctor, ask for a family member or friend to go with you to the next doctor visit. This person can help ask questions, and address concerns in areas you may have forgotten.

    Follow the doctor’s instructions. Take the full course of medication and make sure you follow the prescribed physical therapy or exercise routine. Remember, you have formed a partnership with your doctor. It is a team effort and requires understanding and support from both you and your doctor.

    If something is confusing or does not seem right, call the doctor’s office for advice. His/her staff often knows the answer or they will ask the doctor. If you are an active participant in your own care, things always go better. Ask questions, understand treatment, follow instructions, and you will be on the road to recovery. Remember it is a joint partnership, you and doctor working together, understanding your condition, treatment and each other.

    If you have an orthopaedic injury, contact the experts at Nirschl Orthopaedic Center in Arlington, Virginia. Schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon today by calling 703-525-2200 or visit our web site at We are located on the campus of the Virginia Hospital Center in the center of Arlington, Virginia.





    Got Foot Pain? Get Relief!

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Plantar Fasciitis (Fasciosis) / Heel Spur Syndrome

    Robert P. Nirschl M.D., M.S.

    Heel pain affects nearly 2 million Americans each year and up to 10% of the U.S. population over a lifetime. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain and the most common orthopaedic complaint relating to the foot that we see at Nirschl Orthopaedic Center. The plantar fascia is a large ligament/tendinous structure that runs along the bottom of the foot.  It attaches to the heel bone (calcaneus) and the base of the toes (ball of the foot).  The plantar fascia helps support the bottom and arch of the foot.

    Pain in the heel is due degeneration in the tendon and inflammation of surrounding tissue.  As you step down, the irritated tissue pulls on the bone causing pain. The condition called Plantar Fasciosis, can become chronic lasting months or years.

    The irritated plantar fascia tissue becomes degenerated and unhealthy if it is repeatedly overstretched. (If stress happens over a long period of time, the heel bone responds by laying down more bone where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel, thus creating a heel spur).  It is commonly believed that these spurs point downward because stepping on it feels like stepping on a tack.  The spur actually runs parallel along the bottom of the foot, pointing toward the toes. Typically, the heel spur itself does not cause pain, but reflects a long standing chronic bone reaction to the stretching tension of the plantar fascia on the bone.

    What causes undue stress on the plantar fascia?

    • Foot structure- an arch that is either too high or too low (e.g. flat feet)
    • Excessive pronation, the feet roll inward too much when you walk
    • Heavy use – either an occupation that requires long hours of standing and heavy lifting, or participation in sports that require a lot of leg and foot movement, or being overweight
    • Ill-fitting shoes with poor arch support
    • Tight calf and hamstrings muscles – causes a tug of war over the ankle and foot joints. Note – prolonged periods in high heels or using heel lifts in shoes can cause tight calf muscles.

    The heel pain is usually due to a combination of several causes listed above.  Therefore it takes a combination of exercises, control of overuse by bracing and other treatments to affect a solution.  An experienced doctor or physical therapist can evaluate you to determine what your problem areas are and what treatment is appropriate.

    Pain may develop slowly, over time, or suddenly after intense activity: It is usually worse:

    ·       In the morning when you take your first steps

    ·       After standing or sitting for a long time

    ·       When climbing stairs

    ·       After intense activity

    What can you do?

    • Give your feet a break. Cut back on activities that make your foot hurt
    • Apply ice to the painful area. Do this at least twice a day for 10 - 15 minutes, more often in the first couple of days. Keeping tennis balls or a water bottle in the freezer and using them to perform a foot massage by rubbing your foot over the ball or bottle is a convenient technique
    • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory  pain reliever such as Advil, Motrin, or Aleve
    • Do foot, heel, and calf stretching exercises several times a day.
    • Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole
    • Try heel cups shoe inserts. Use them in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts. *This is a short term fix as prolonged use of heel cups will make the calf muscles tighter*
    • Wear a night splint while sleeping to help stretch the foot/fascia
    • Try Physical Therapy
    • Count’R-Force arch brace is often helpful

    We have also found the use of the Count‘R-Force arch brace relieves stress on the plantar fascia by spreading the tension away from the plantar fascia attachment with resultant decrease in pain.

    Even with the correct exercises, some people have abnormal foot mechanics or abnormal structural alignment that continues to place too much stress on the tissues.  These problems can be present for several years before pain occurs, but will continue to cause discomfort if not corrected.  Prescription orthotics (custom molded inserts that fit into your shoes) may be required to correct these structural problems

    If you are dealing with plantar fasciitis or other orthopaedic injury, please give us a call to schedule an appointment. Nirschl Orthopaedic Center is a leader in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor today by calling our Arlington, VA location at 703-525-2200. For more information on rotator cuff injuries, tennis elbow and other orthopaedic conditions, visit our website



    Last updated 1 year ago

    Sports injuries are classified as either an overuse or an acute injury. Most sports injuries are a result of overuse and they occur when the body has been pushed too hard, too fast or too long. Pain and swelling are the first indications of overuse injury, and, as is the case for acute injury, “PRICEM” is the rule of thumb for general treatment.

    Protect the injury or it may easily become an acute injury.  Don’t play through the pain. Stop the activity causing discomfort and rest. Put ice on the injured area as soon as possible, but be cautious about direct application that might cause “ice burn”. Compression reduces the swelling. Use an elastic bandage around the injury. Spandex clothing, a neoprene sleeve, or an elastic stocking may serve the same purpose and might also offer some limited measure of support and protection. Elevate the injury above the level of your heart and continue to do so even during sleep.

    It is important to let an overuse injury completely heal before subjecting the injured area to additional stress or abuse. Playing hurt has the same effect as ripping a wound open repeatedly before it can heal. It not only won’t heal, but it may result in a very serious or even irreversible problem. It is also important to reduce the irritative chemical inflammation to aid in the healing process. Compression, ice and elevation are all associated with that component, but medication may be needed as well. Frequently, aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin, Aleve, Advil, etc.) in therapeutic dosages are effective, but cortisone or some other prescription drug may be necessary. Aspirin at that dosage may cause an upset stomach so buffered aspirin is recommended. Aspirin is not recommended for children because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. It can also retard blood clotting (helpful to prevent strokes and heart attacks) but should not be taken 10 days in advance of surgery.

    Ice is effective in reducing the pain and swelling in an injured area when inflammation is present. Subsequent treatment with heat will facilitate healing by increasing blood flow to the region for removal of excess liquid and toxins that are a by-product of the injury, as well as enhancing nutrition and oxygenation. It is even possible to create a pumping effect with alternate heat (30 minutes) and cold (5-10 minutes) applications. Massage can also be used to aid circulation to the injured area. But care should be taken not to irritate or abuse the injury, and extreme caution should be used with a mechanical massager.

    The best way to prevent sports injuries is to follow a good warm-up and conditioning program. A regular exercise program with weights and resistance equipment will help structural development that can better withstand the physical stress that will be encountered during sports.  Stretching before and after sports activity will better prepare those muscles and tendons for future use. Some of the more common soft tissue injuries that result from overuse are:

    Sprains: A sprain is an injury to a ligament, a firm band of tissue that supports the joints. Three types of sprains can occur: Grade 1- the ligament is stretched; Grade 2- some of the fibers are torn; Grade 3 – the ligament is totally torn. Sprains are usually the result of twisting trauma, and most commonly occur in the ankle and/or knee joint.

    Strains: A strain is an injury to a muscle-tendon unit. Like sprains, strains can be classified according to severity – stretched, a partial tear, or a complete tear. Strains may occur when muscles lack strength and flexibility. Deficient warm-up or exposure to extreme cold or unusually stressful activity are additional important factors. Strains in the hamstrings and groin adductors (rear and inner muscles of the upper leg) are common, but strains in muscles of the shoulder girdle are becoming recognized as an important contributing factor to shoulder tendinitis as well as primary injury. Strains are always accompanied by weakness.

    Tendinitis/Tendinosis: Tendinosis is a degeneration or injury of a tendon and is generally caused by repetitive trauma. Tendinosis is common in tennis and other sports and repetitive use occupations. Tendinosis, rather than tendinitis, is the correct term as we now know that inflammatory cells are not present in the injured tendons. The most commonly affected tendons are the Achilles tendon, tendons at the knee (runner’s knee), tendons of the posterior tibial muscles-tendon attachment (shin splints), and tendons of the elbow (tennis elbow) and shoulder (rotator cuff tendinosis). Treatment may include medication for pain control, physical therapy to heal, and control of overuse with counter-force bracing. As a last resort, surgery may be an option. Practicing proper sports techniques will also go a long way in preventing tendinosis.

    Bursitis: Bursitis is an overuse injury that results in the inflammation of bursa and is most common in areas near the elbow, shoulder, knee, heel and hip. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs found in regions where friction occurs. Their main function is to minimize friction between bones and tendons, tendons and ligaments or even bone and bone. The condition is frequently found in association with tendinosis. Players with injury to the knee bursa have excessive swelling due to accumulation of fluids in the bursa over and just below the knee cap. Other common bursitis areas include the shoulder, tip of the elbow, outer hip and under the Achilles tendon. The bursa sometimes must be drained or even removed before proper healing can take place. Cortisone is very effective in reducing the bursal inflammation, but other anti-inflammatory drugs maybe sufficient.

    Contusions: A contusion, or bruise, is an injury to soft tissue or bone in which the skin is not broken. A hard direct blow is the most common cause and a collection of blood (a hematoma) may form beneath the skin in the injured muscles, tendons or bone. Icing or some other form of cold application that will contract the blood capillaries will minimize the damage by preventing accumulation of blood and swelling.


    It takes a long time for most players to admit to themselves that they are not indestructible, and they usually learn the hard way. Loss of flexibility and dehydration of tendons and ligaments with age make aggressive senior players more subject to injury but even the young are vulnerable. Much of this can be avoided by maintaining good strength and flexibility programs, practicing good pre- and post- work out preparation, becoming well informed about injury potential, and by simply using good judgment and control of abuse by using functional counter-force bracing. Following those principles, young people and should be able to continue active sports through their senior years. The enjoyment of that endeavor should result in maintained good health and physical conditioning that will enhance and extend your quality of life.  

    If you are dealing with an orthopaedic injury, please give us a call to schedule an appointment. Nirschl Orthopaedic Center is a leader in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor today by calling our Arlington, VA location at (703) 525-2200. For more information on tennis injuries and other orthopaedic conditions, visit our website at

    Diagnosing and treating Shoulder Dislocations By Derek Ochiai, MD

    Last updated 1 year ago

    Shoulder dislocations are common injuries.  Several factors, including age, the side of the dislocation, and the preferred sports/activity level of the patient, help to determine optimal treatment.

    What is a shoulder dislocation?

    The shoulder has been described as a ball-and-socket joint, but it is really a “ball-and-saucer” joint.  Unlike the hip joint, where the hip socket bone securely encompasses the head of the hip, the shoulder socket is relatively flat.  The upside of this flatness is that the shoulder joint has much more flexibility than a hip joint (I demonstrate this by telling patients that it is much easier to put your arm over your head than your leg!).  However, this increased flexibility comes at the cost of decreased bony stability.  Therefore, the shoulder relies on the soft tissue constraints around the shoulder for stability.  With a trauma, these soft tissue constraints can tear when the shoulder dislocates, and lead to chronic shoulder instability.

    What tissue tears with a shoulder dislocation?

    When a shoulder sustains an anterior dislocation (the most common type), the humeral head (ball of the shoulder) rotates out of the glenoid (shoulder socket) in the front of the shoulder.  This most frequently tears the anterior labrum, this rims around the shoulder socket, “deepening the dish” of the socket.  Also, the anterior inferior glenohumeral ligament (AIGHL) attaches to the front of the labrum, and tears along with the labrum.  This spectrum of injury is called a Bankart tear.

    Figure 1.  Clear tear of the anterior inferior labrum (Bankart tear).

    How do I know I dislocated my shoulder?

    This is usually not a subtle injury.  A shoulder dislocation can occur because of a fall or a high energy trauma.  If a patient already has loose joints, a dislocation can occur with more lower energy forces.  With a dislocation, the patient usually has a lot of pain in the shoulder, and they can only move the shoulder with great difficulty.  Typically, once it is dislocated, a patient needs to seek emergent medical treatment to relocate the shoulder.  Sometimes, the shoulder partially “pops out of socket”, and then quickly goes back into place.  In this setting, the shoulder may be sore/painful, but the patient still has some limited motion of the shoulder.

    I’ve heard of athletes having “separated shoulders” and get back on the field quickly.  Is this the same thing?

    No, shoulder separations are completely unrelated to shoulder dislocations.  A shoulder separation occurs when the clavicle (collarbone) and scapula (wingbone) separate from a trauma.  This is OUTSIDE the shoulder joint.  Typically, shoulder separations can heal rather quickly, and the patient is fine afterwards.

    What should I do if I dislocate my shoulder?

    First of all, go to the Emergency Room or to an orthopaedic surgeon and get the shoulder back into place.  Sometimes, the doctor will need to give you some pain medication in order to relax the shoulder enough to move it back into the joint.  X-rays should be taken, to make sure that there is no broken bone.

    After that, typically a patient is put into a sling.  The patient should follow-up with an orthopaedic surgeon.  The surgeon may put the patient into physical therapy, or they may order an MRI, to look for a Bankart tear and other associated injuries.

    Does this injury require surgery?

    That depends.  There is good research that has been done, showing that, if a patient is under the age of 20 when they sustain a shoulder dislocation, there is a 90% chance of additional shoulder dislocations (  Therefore, in young athletes, surgery is definitely reasonable to consider.  If a patient is over the age of 40 with a first shoulder dislocation, the chances of a recurrent dislocation are much smaller, and in this case many times physical therapy is preferable.

    If surgery is needed, what is done?

    In most cases, the preferred surgery is a Bankart repair, where the labrum is fixed down to the bone.  This surgery can be performed arthroscopically, without the need for an open incision.  This re-tightens the AIGHL, restoring ligament stability to the shoulder.  After surgery, the patient is immobilized in a sling for a while (depends of the extent of the surgery how long the patient is in a brace), and then physical therapy starts.


    Figure 2.  Bankart repair, with multiple suture anchors fixing the labrum back down to the bone of the glenoid.

    If you are dealing with a shoulder or orthopaedic injury, please give us a call to schedule an appointment. Nirschl Orthopaedic Center is a leader in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Schedule an appointment with an orthopedic doctor today by calling our Arlington, VA location at (703) 525-2200. For more information on rotator cuff injuries and other orthopaedic conditions, visit our website at

    Derek Ochiai, MD, is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon, fellowship trained in Sports Medicine.

    Follow Dr. Ochiai on Twitter @DrDerekOchiai.

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