Arthritis Awareness Week – October 7th – 13th

If you are young, you probably don’t think about arthritis. It’s only oldies that get it, isn’t it? Well, although Osteoarthritis is associated with aging and wear and tear of the body, there are other types of arthritis which can affect people of any age.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect any age group, even children, although you are most at risk if you are a middle-aged woman with rheumatoid arthritis in the family and you smoke. It is an autoimmune disease so it doens’t just cause problems in the joints, despite its name. It is the most common inflammatory arthritis and those affected often describe the joint pains as ‘burning’ – the joints can actually feel hot because of the inflammation. It usually affects the peripheral joints first (hands, wrist, feet) and is commonly bilateral – it affects both feet, both hands, etc. The joints may be swollen, painful and red, There is usually severe stiffness in the mornings that lasts for longer then thirty minutes.

However it can also lead to inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs, heart and eyes. These days there are many different medications which can slow down its progression. Patients commonly have flare-ups which then subside.

Other types of arthritis are:

Psoriatic Arthritis, which is also imflammatory and is usually associated with psoriasis skin problems.

Gout, which is caused by the presence of uric acid crystals within the joints and is excruciatingly painful, but again can be treated with a range of medications. Certain foods, such as offal, seafood, beer and fruit sugars can lead to increased production of uric acid. The most coomonlyy-affected joint is the big toe, but it can affect other joints.

Photo of foot with gout
Right foot with gout – red, hot and swollen

Ankylosing Spondylosis, which tends to affect younger people, more men than women, and usually starts in the spine, leading to chronic stiffness which can become permanent fusion if allowed to take hold. The inflammation can also cause eye problems.

Juvenile Idopathic Arthritis, which affects children under 16. It used to be called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as the symptoms are similar. It can last a few months or many years.

Reactive arthritis, which follows infection. It usually targets your knees, ankles and feet. Inflammation also can affect your eyes, skin and urethra. It may come and go and disappears within a year.

Septic Arthritis, which can occur after a germ enters a joint, such as following a trauma (animal bite, pucture would) or surgery.

Thumb Arthritis, which affects the base of the thumb. It occurs most often with aging, more in females and other risk factors are jobs and activities which put more stress on this joint, previous injury, obsity, diseases which affect the cartilage of the joints and pre-existing conditions such as hypermobility.

Although osteopathy cannot cure arthritis, it can certainly help to alleviate some of the symptoms, especially for osteoarthritis. With the inflammatory ones, we can work on the unaffected joints surrounding the painful one(s) and ensure they are working as optimally as possible to take the pressure offf the affected one(s).

Find out more here: Arthritis Foundation

Image by cnick from Pixabay

Trampolining Safely

Child trampolining
What are the dangers you can see in this pic?

The sun is shining, the children are smeared with a mixture of sun-cream and ice lolly gloop, the smallest one is covered in grass cuttings from falling on the newly mown lawn.  And the new trampoline is waiting to keep A&E busy, and to provide me with an opportunity to use some terrible jokes.

Trampolines are excellent exercise and entertainment, but they must be used safely.  I won’t do health and safety paranoia, but for every person telling you that jumping on a trampoline is great fun, another will label it a death trap.  So, is your trampoline waiting to spring into action and cause you an injury?  Or can your afternoon be bouncy?

Here are four simple steps that you can take, to ensure that you won’t leap off the trampoline and land in the waiting room at A&E.

1.  Think carefully about letting more than one person bounce at a time.  Around 60% of trampoline accidents occur when more than one person is bouncing.  Collisions, becoming unbalanced, and even being catapulted off are all dangers.

2.  Make sure that young children aren’t on full-sized trampolines.  Children under 6 make up about 15% of all trampoline injuries.  Supervise them and keep them on age-appropriate trampolines to avoid accidents.

3.   Buy the extra safety stuff: a safety net is essential to keep anyone from falling off, and padding over the springs will prevent fingers from being trapped or anyone slipping through.

4.  Get some lessons if you can.  If the kids know how to move on the trampoline it will be safer.

Clearly, trampolines have their ups and downs. However, if you’re thoughtful you can bounce to your heart’s content.

Hazards in the picture:

No net around the trampoline

Boy has his tongue out – very easy to bite it and cause nasty injury

Leg position could be a problem

Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay

Do Your Own Thing

Carnivore? Omnivore? Vegan? Who Needs a Label?!

Have you despaired of the dreaded word ‘detox’? Are you trying to lose weight, eliminate toxins and deprive yourself of all the things you love to eat?

And have you laughed at the vegan/plant-based diet knowing you can’t manage without cheese?

Photo of a vegan meal
Vegan meal

A consultant gynaecologist was interviewed on Osteo-ChiroTV. This expert talked a lot about diet. She advocates eating a plant-based diet, but her approach is logical and practical, so don’t stop reading if you’re a serious carnivore.

She says that a plant-based diet will:

1. Make you feel more energetic

2. Help with many health problems

3. Help the environment.

But she said you don’t have to suddenly become “vegetarian” or “vegan”. You are allowed to choose what you cut out. And how often you cut it out.

That might sound stupidly logical, but it’s easy to get cross with a vegetarian for eating a fish, criticise a vegan for having a piece of cheese, or challenge a drinking buddy who is trying to cut down on the booze.

So, if you tried a January detox and gave up, or if you’re trying to lose weight this month, don’t be put off by people ridiculing the effort you’re making.

If you want eat nothing but green veg and porridge what does it matter?! If you’re doing something to help your body feel better it can only be good. You don’t have to give it a name. You have permission to just call it food.

And if you’re increasing the number of plant-based or vegan meals you eat to see if it works, good for you.

Image credit: Ula Zarosa, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dog Walking Injuries

Did you know that a lot of injuries are caused by walking dogs? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Walking the dog is a wonderful form of exercise: you get fresh air, increased heart rate, movement through the whole body and the company of a furry friend.

But what happens when your dog sees a cat? Or a half-eaten sandwich on the ground? Or another dog she wants to greet?

The tugging, pulling and straining on the lead can cause all sorts of problems. We often see repetitive strains to the muscles, tendons and ligaments of shoulders and a lot of these are brought on by dog walking. A sudden jerk on the lead from even a small dog can give you terrible elbow pain. A dog suddenly pulling in the opposite direction can put you in a weird twist that messes up your back.

Another risky, dog-related activity is throwing a ball with a slinger. My dog loves this but you should be aware that it can cause injuries to both of you! I have hurt my upper back from throwing too enthusiastically and my dog was injured when the ball landed behind him (he is fast!) and he twisted on muddy ground. I now make him come close to me before I throw, ensuring that the ball is always in front of him and I don’t go too mad myself.

And that’s without mentioning the knee injuries caused by dogs accidentally crashing into the back of your legs while racing around at playtime.

You see, dog walking is not as innocent as it looks!

So, what can you do to stop these injuries? Well, I’m not a dog psychologist, but I’d suggest that good, consistent training is an essential starting point. Dogs are bright animals and all of them are able to learn clever tricks.

So, if your dog is behaving in a way that causes you pain, get help – either get a professional dog trainer and fix the cause. Or let the dog continue to injure you and get one of us to fix the injuries!

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

In 2016 Public Health England put out new guidelines on vitamin D intake. We all heard about them. We all read about them, but do you know what they mean? Or did the news disappear amongst all the other health advice we are given that year?

While further evidence is needed to draw firm conclusions on the links between Vitamin D and non-musculoskeletal conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease, the government has issued guidance on how much Vitamin D we all need.

What you need to know:

• The new advice is that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter.

• People who have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency are being advised to take a supplement all year round.

• The at-risk groups include people whose skin has little or no exposure to the sun, like those in care homes, or people who cover their skin when they are outside. People with dark skin, from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer and should consider taking a supplement all year round as well.

Why Vitamin D?

• We need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

• A lack of vitamin D can cause bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities. In children a lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets. In adults, it can lead to osteomalacia, which causes bone pain and tenderness.

Sources of Vitamin D:

• Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we are outdoors. Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered. Be careful not to burn in the sun, so take care to cover up, or protect your skin with sunscreen, before your skin starts to turn red or burn.

• We also get some vitamin D from a small number of foods, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as red meat and eggs.

• Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements. Speak to your pharmacist, GP or health visitor if you are unsure whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement or don’t know what supplements to take.



Women and Heart Attacks

Photo of senior Asian woman clutching her chest in pain
Senior female Asian suffering from bad pain in his chest heart attack at home – senior heart disease

You’ve probably seen it on Facebook yourself – every so often it will raise its ugly little head again: Someone on Facebook will re-post an article claiming that women have different heart attack symptoms to men. NO, THEY DON’T! It’s possible that the prevalence of some symptoms may be higher or lower among women, but that doesn’t help at all. What are you going to do – ignore possible signs of a potentially fatal condition just because a woman is less likely to experience them? Duh! The most common symptom is chest pain – usually quite central, but it can radiate to the arms (yes, both of them in some cases) and to the jaw. It can also be in the lower back. But it won’t be a pinpoint pain – it will feel a bit like nasty indigestion, or could be crushing, squeezing sensation.

Someone having a heart attack might feel sick. They might be pale and clammy. They could be short of breath.

They’re very likely to be extremely anxious – the body generally realises when something really bad is happening, even if it doesn’t know what.

If you think someone is having a heart attack, sit them down on the floor against a wall or a heavy object, knees bent, feet resting on the floor. Ideally, use something to support the legs. This is the position which places least strain on the heart and lungs. What’s more, if they become unconscious, they don’t have far to fall.

  Call 999 straight away – this person needs advanced medical care! Don’t worry that you may have got it wrong – better that than a dead casualty. And here’s another important fact: many heart attacks are “silent”. That is, there are no obvious symptoms at all. So, if you’re at all unsure, call an ambulance. And don’t ignore a possible heart attack just because it’s a woman!

Reference:  Women and Heart Attacks

Heart photo created by jcomp –

Sugar – Sweet or Poison?

As it’s World Diabetes Day on 14th November, I thought I would do a blog about sugar, recommended intake, its bad effects on the body and tips to help cut down.

There is no UK government health guideline for total sugars, but the figure of 90g per day is used as a rule of thumb on labelling in Britain and across the EU.  That 90g equates to more than 22 small (4g) teaspoons of sugar.

Packaging previously showed guideline daily amounts (GDA) for men, women and children but this has been replaced by reference intakes (RI) – which, under European legislation, can only be shown for adults. Reference intakes are not the same as dietary reference values (DRVs), which are what health professionals use when calculating added sugars.

National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) produced by Public Health England, which includes figures collected from 2014 to 2016, cited that sugar makes up 13.5% of 4 to 10-year-olds’, and 14.1% of teenagers’ (11 to 18-year-olds) daily calorie intake respectively

That’s almost three times the recommended amount.

Sugary drinks are the main source of sugar.  Sweets, chocolate and jams made up close to a quarter of children’s sugar intake.  

For adults aged 19-64, the main sources are confectionery, soft drinks and cereals.  Alcohol is an additional source, of course!

A lot of people don’t know that there seems to be a strong link between sugar and dementia.  Obesity and diabetes are already proven to lead to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s (some studies even suggest that Alzheimer’s is late-stage diabetes).  But even before developing diabetes, a sugar-heavy diet is linked to a decline in cognitive function.

Tips to cut down sugar:

  • Cut down on food and drinks containing free sugar such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks.
  • Go for water, lower-fat milk, or sugar-free, diet or no-added-sugar drinks.
  • Even unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies are sugary, so limit the amount you have to no more than 150ml a day.
  • If you prefer fizzy drinks, try diluting drinks with sparkling water.
  • If you take sugar in hot drinks or add sugar to your breakfast cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.

We all know it’s not easy to cut down on sugar, but for the sake of your brain – try it!


Lighten Up!

We all know that exercise releases endorphins.  We all know that endorphins make us feel good.  And now the days are getting shorter, it’s dark for a lot of the time.  And the darker days can make us feel a bit gloomy.  So, how can we can get those endorphins going without leaving the cosiness of our homes?

The simplest thing to do is just get up out of your chair.  If you’re playing/working on a laptop or tablet, try putting the device onto the kitchen work top and standing up while you’re working.  You can even walk on the spot while you’re surfing the internet trying to work out which socks to buy someone for Christmas.

Or try the following:

  • Rolling your shoulders around – it’s easy, free and generally painless, so what’s stopping you from doing it?
  • High knee walking on the spot.  Or if walking is too easy and you’ve got no injuries try high knee running.  If you’re feeling really enthusiastic do 10 star jumps. 
  • Belly dancing wriggles.  Don’t laugh!  Belly dancing and hula hooping are great ways to get your body moving after you’ve been watching TV for an hour.
  • Dancing.  Any form of dancing is good movement.  Try the Charleston in your sitting room, or some disco in the kitchen.  Go on, get up out of your chair right now and have a little dance, I dare you!

All of these things are easy to do, and by releasing some exercise endorphins, who knows, you might just reduce the Winter gloominess that so many of us battle with at this time of year.

Is It Your Age?

Is It Your Age?

Have you ever had an ache and been told by friends and family “It’s your age, you’ve just got to put up with it”?

Or “There’s nothing we can do, it’s age-related”?

Just this week a patient told me he was just old, and asked what should he expect at his age. Well, there are some things that can’t be stopped or reversed, but some aches and pains are unnecessary. So how do you know the difference? Usually, arthritic pain starts gradually, it’s bothersome at the start, but not agony. It starts when some of the cartilage covering the ends of the bones roughens and becomes thin, then the bone thickens. So, the pain is not sudden.

As time goes on (we’re talking months and years here, not days) the bone at the edges of the joint thicken and form bumpy bits called spurs or osteophytes. That’s why arthritic joints look a bit fatter than normal. Of course, as all of this wear and tear happens it can cause pain, but it also causes a change in the way the joint works, which means the muscles can get tight, and the joints above and below have different strains put on them.

So, not only does the arthritic joint hurt, you’ve now also got pain from the changes in the muscles and other joints. And these can be helped with treatment. Muscle strains and joint pains can be treated with osteopathy, and we can give you easy things to do at home to help keep the area mobile.

You’d be amazed at how many patients think their pain is caused by arthritis when it’s only a muscle strain. So, don’t sit there and blame your age – get the right exercises and treatment.

You don’t have to put up with it!