August 7, 2020

Common Overuse Injuries of the Elbow

Movements of the forearm and hand are controlled by muscle tendons that attach at the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) elbow. Degenerative changes within these strong bands of the tissue connecting muscle to bone can cause significant pain. Two common issues are lateral epicondylitis, or “tennis elbow,” and medial epicondylitis, or “golf elbow.”

These conditions do not happen overnight; instead, they occur over time and with repetitive use. This is why they are referred to as “overuse injuries.”

Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is much more common than golf elbow. It affects 1% to 3% of people and is most common in individuals aged 30 – 50. Pain is typically reproduced with extension of the wrist as if going to give a high five, and clockwise rotation of the forearm, similar to turning a key in the ignition. Common activities that aggravate the extensor muscle tendons include typing, handshaking, racquet sports, carrying groceries, painting, knitting, and raking. Chronic pain caused by degenerative changes of these tendons typically lasts 12-18 months before complete resolution.

Medial epicondylitis, or golf elbow, affects less than 1% of the population, usually in individuals aged 30 – 50. Pain is reproduced with flexion at the wrist, like when bouncing a basketball, and counterclockwise rotation of the forearm. Repetitive motions during golf, tennis, overhead throwing, and activities requiring forceful grip (e.g., machine working and automotive work) over time may lead to medial (inside) tendon wear at the elbow.

In most cases, diagnosing conditions of the elbow can be done with a simple exam in the office. Ultrasound and MRI are modalities used to identify tendinopathy or degenerative changes within tendons. X-rays also can be useful if joint pathology is suspected. The treatment goals are to treat pain and inflammation, return to normal function, and
prevent a recurrence. This is done by minimizing overuse of the tendons, using ice, bracing, and medication, as well as physical therapy. If conservative therapies are inadequate, local injection with steroid or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is then given. Surgery is required in very few cases.

The physicians and physician assistants at Spine West will use a combination of the above diagnostic tools and therapies to treat disorders of the elbow.

Written by Laura Boucher, PA-C

October 30, 2019

Pregnancy-Related Back Pain

Most pregnant women do well through the pregnancy with minor aches in pains as it relates to increased body weight and changes in the forces on the low back and pelvis. A woman with sudden onset of severe back pain needs to be evaluated by her Obstetrician to ensure the cause is not preterm labor, kidney stone, or other complications of the pregnancy. When those issues are ruled out, then we can address the common causes of low back pain in pregnancy.

Some pregnant women struggle with a generally achy low back pain with standing and position changes. Others may experience severe disabling back pain with sciatica type symptoms. We know that 80% of back pain in pregnancy is musculoskeletal and sacroiliac joint-related pain. A physical examination would include functional and musculoskeletal testing and neurologic examination to ensure that there is no neurologic deficit or worrisome findings.

The treatment for most pregnancy-related back pain involves conservative care, which often includes a focus of gentle manual therapy/physical therapy approaches along with mild core exercises to help stabilize the deep core and pelvic floor muscles. A sacroiliac joint belt can be useful for stability with increased standing and walking and pain in the sacroiliac joint.


Written by Sara Meadows, DO

Sara Meadows, DO

Dr. Sara Meadows is a Boulder native who now lives in Louisville and loves serving the Boulder County community as a physician. Her focus is to help people reach their goals with less pain through problem-solving with the patient and helping to identify muscle imbalances and habits that contribute to pain. She has a comprehensive, conservative approach with the goal of helping the body to heal itself. She enjoys watching her active children in all of their sports and activities. She enjoys being part of a broader community while participating in the Coal Creek Community Choir.

September 29, 2019

Laura Boucher, PA-C

Hip Bursitis

Hip pain is a common concern among patients and surprisingly is not always due to arthritis of the joint. In fact, pain on the edge, or lateral aspect of the hip is often entirely unrelated for the ball-in-socket hip joint itself. Instead, the surrounding muscles of the joint are often affected, namely the gluteal muscles that form the buttocks.

The strong tendons of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus muscles wrap around from the rear to the lateral hips and attach to a bony growth of the femur bone called the “greater trochanter.” Normally this attachment site on the hips is hard to feel, but it is easily localized by your fingertips if you suffer from “greater trochanteric pain syndrome,” or GTPS. A common complaint among people who have GTPS is the inability to sleep on the painful side due to the pressure placed on and around the greater trochanter.
GTPS can occur when there is a repetitive overload placed on the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. These muscles function to stabilize the pelvis when walking, climbing stairs, hiking, and running; they are the target muscles responsible for lifting the leg sideways and away from the body; and they engage when balancing on one leg. When these muscles are overworked and weak, the tendons can begin to fray or tear and become inflamed. This local “tendinopathy” is the source of greater trochanteric pain syndrome.

Factors that may contribute to the development of GTPS include female gender, age over 50, obesity, unequal leg length, scoliosis, low back pain, and pains such as arthritis of the knee, hip, and ankle that may cause limping and favoring of one side. Treatment for GTPS includes medication for pain and inflammation. The NSAID family is typically the first choice. Activity modification is a key component of treatment and includes reducing stair and hill-climbing, avoiding sitting with crossed legs, standing with equal weight bearing on both legs, and avoiding side-lying. A formal physical therapy program is the most essential treatment piece. A licensed physical therapist will focus on activating and strengthening the gluteus muscles to off-load the tendons and eventually improve symptoms. This may also include body alignment and posture training. If conservative treatment is not effective, injection with cortisone or biologic substances like platelet-rich plasma can provide relief. Finally, surgery is not typically needed for GTPS.


Written by Laura Boucher, PA-C

June 28, 2019

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which the most distal (peripheral nerves) are injured or damaged. This usually manifests in the feet first but can affect the hands if it progresses. Symptoms are often described as burning, stabbing, or tingling pain but also include numbness and weakness in a stocking and glove distribution. It can also affect sensory perception, including temperature, pain, and vibration. The onset of symptoms is typically gradual, often over months or years.

Many diseases or conditions can contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathy. The most common cause is diabetes, while other somewhat frequent contributors are vitamin B-12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, and alcohol use. There are several much less common causes, including autoimmune diseases, infections, inherited disorders, medications, chemotherapy, and heavy metal exposure. Age is also a contributing factor. About half of the cases in the United States are idiopathic (have no identifiable causative source).

There is recent research that about half of idiopathic cases may be due to a delayed return-to-normal fasting blood sugar after a meal even though such an individual may have normal fasting blood sugar and normal a hemoglobin A1C. The implication is that not only is having chronically high levels of blood sugar damaging to nerves but so can intermittently prolonged elevated blood sugars.

There is also new data showing there is a relationship with the fluoroquinolone family of antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquin, etc.) and the development of peripheral neuropathy. This has only been found with oral, IV, or injectable administration. It is not known if there is an association with eye or ear drops causing neuropathy. It is unknown if these side effects are permanent or temporary, but one British study found symptoms that developed after fluoroquinolone antibiotics lasted up to 180 days after exposure

If peripheral neuropathy is suspected by history or examination, it can sometimes be detected by nerve function tests (EMG). Other causes of nerve symptoms, such as being referred from the spine, need to be ruled out. Blood tests can be ordered to assess for identifiable causes such as hypothyroidism and Vitamin B12 deficiency. The primary treatment is focused on correcting any identifiable causative factors such as better management and control of hypothyroidism or diabetes. For patients where it is idiopathic, dietary changes could still help. Decreasing alcohol intake and low sugar diets could both prove to be beneficial. From a medication standpoint, anti-seizure medications such as gabapentin or Lyrica can be helpful. Some antidepressant-type drugs such as Cymbalta can also control the symptoms. Physical therapy can be helpful for the treatment of weakness and balance changes associated with neuropathy.

If you have additional questions or want to discuss the diagnosis or treatment options in further detail, please feel free to make an appointment with a provider at Spine West.


Written by Vaheed Sevvom, PA-C

Vaheed Sevvom, PA-C

Vaheed is a Colorado native that first became interested in medicine after tearing his ACL in High School. As lousy as undergoing surgery and rehab was at 16 years old, it was the inspiration for him to pursue a career in medicine. He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and completed his PA training at Pacific University of Oregon. He is an avid soccer fan, especially his beloved Manchester United. He spends his free time trying to keep up with his two young boys.