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!

Trampolinng

Trampolines have their ups and downs

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 opportunity to use some terrible jokes.

Trampolines are excellent exercise and entertainment, but they must be used safely. I refuse to 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 three and a half 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.

3.5. 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.

Upper Back Pain

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

People don’t talk about upper back pain very often. Yet it can be just as crippling as lower back pain. In most cases the underlying causes are not serious.

However, when it occurs, upper back pain can cause a level of discomfort that’s too misery-­‐making to ignore. Upper back pain is usually aggravated by moving the head or the arms, and can radiate out along the edge of the ribs. It can also cause headaches or aching pain in the neck and shoulders.

The causes of upper back pain can vary from poor posture or trauma, to improper lifting or carrying heavy objects.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

One of the most unexpected causes of upper back pain is sneezing! Yes, the common sneeze can cause excruciating pain in the upper back. It’s very easy to blame back pain on lifting heavy things like children, concrete, shopping or piles of washing, but sometimes our own bodily functions can be the cause of the problem.

Self-­‐help things you can do if your upper back is painful:

Rest: Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain for a day or two.

Sleep: Try to make sure you get some good sleep.

Watch your posture: When you’re sitting keep your head in a neutral position with your ears directly over your shoulders. This significantly reduces the amount of stress on your neck and back.

Be careful: Don’t try to stretch through serious pain – the chances are you will aggravate it!

As always the effect of any remedy will vary from person to person. Try to figure out what works best for you. And don’t do the things that make it worse!

Other causes of upper back pain may include osteoporosis (where the bones are weakened) and scoliosis (where the spine isn’t straight, but in an “S” or “C” curve when viewed from the back). So if the pain doesn’t subside, get your back checked – it’s not clever to ignore the pain.

Man swinging children by their arms

Lifting Kids

 

Are you guilty of lifting kids in a way that could hurt you?

Whether the kids are your own, your grandkids, or the ones you’re minding for someone else, children can be back-breaking work. I have no statistics for how many child-lifting injuries we see in this country, but I’d put money on it being a significant number.

Always bear in mind that you will be less useful to your children if you are injured. Back pain in particular can make caring for kids really difficult. So even when you’re tired try to think about your own posture and movement, not just what the small person needs.

Also, swinging children in this way can cause elbow dislocation in young children (under 5 or 6). Information can be found here https://www.webmd.com/children/nursemaid-elbow#1

Look out for some top tips on avoiding injury when lifting children later this week!

picture of spring flowers

Healthy Gardening

Spring is finally here! Hooray! So, are you getting prepared for gardening? Whether you see gardening as relaxation, or whether you think of it as a fitness workout, it’s a great pastime.

But spending hours bent over in the garden makes you that bit more vulnerable to injuries, and what we want to do is keep you out of pain.

Gardening injuries range from low back pain from leaning forward doing the weeding, to aching shoulders from pruning. Of course, there are always the more unusual injuries, like stepping onto the rake and smacking yourself on the forehead, but it’s pretty difficult for me to help you avoid standing on a rake!

So here are a few reminders to keep yourself out of A&E:

  1. Always begin with a warm up: Take a brisk walk around the garden first, or just wriggle around a bit before you start in the work. Get those joints moving a bit!
  2. Change activities every 10 minutes: Don’t get stuck on a single task for hours. Vary your activities from digging to planting; pruning to weeding; raking to hacking shrubs back. That way you engage different muscle groups.
  3. Use long-handled tools: This should help minimise all the bending or stretching.
  4. NEVER use bendy canes or sticks to support you when switching positions from kneeling to standing.
  5. Lift with your knees and a straight back: Don’t lift those huge soil-filled flower pots or sacks full of landscaping stones if they are too heavy. If you think you’ve picked up something that might hurt your back – drop it. There’s no need to be a hero in the garden!
  6. Take a break and listen to your body: As soon as you get that achey feeling that tells you you’ve done too much, just stop what you’re doing.
  7. Don’t stand on the rake!

Gardening is a fantastic thing to do, but it is worth taking precautions to keep you injury free!

Most of all enjoy the new leaves, buds and flowers as they start coming up – it’s just so nice to see them!

 

Gardening and Back Pain

Picture of watering can and lettucesNow the weather seems to have improved many of you will want to be out in the garden making it beautiful, and this can present a hazard for your back. Here are my tips:

Preparation – ensure you are fit enough to do what you want to do. Use gentle warm-up exercises before you start, especially if you have not been gardening for a long time.

Wear appropriate clothing and use supports where necessary.

Do not spend more that 30 minutes doing any one thing. Set a timer to make sure you do not exceed this.

Be aware of your own limitations. For example, consider the weight and size of things before lifting them.

Be prepared to change your habits and/or get some help where necessary.

Do not dig if the soil is too dry or too wet and find out whether your soil is better suited to a fork or spade. Try to alternate your “digging” foot if possible.

Kneel rather than bend and use a kneeling pad, or a small stool may also be useful.

Do not over-reach. Take care with strimmers and Flymos so you do not twist when using them.

Clear rubbish into small bags as you work, so you don’t have to lift a large weight at the end.

Use a stable wheelbarrow and don’t overfill.

Look out for suitable adapted tools to make your life easier.

Use a hose rather than a watering can, or only half fill the watering can and make more trips.

Plan your garden for the future, e.g. raised beds, low maintenance shrubs.

Remember pain or discomfort is a warning sign, so do not ignore it. See your osteopath if in doubt!

More tips to come in the future!

 

 

Image credit: Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of teenager texting

Text Neck – Have you got a boxer dog on your head?

Text Neck is exactly what it says it is!  Pain caused by texting.  It can also be caused by balancing a boxer dog on your head.  Allow me to explain.

Text Neck is an injury to the neck caused by hanging your head forward, looking down at your mobile devices too frequently for extended periods of time.

Statistics say that 37-million people in the UK spend a minimum of 4 hours a day on their mobile devices.  Four hours!  Yes, those quick checks of emails and Facebook, or that sneaky game in your coffee break, all add up.

And the weight the neck has to carry dramatically adds up when it is flexed forward. The more you crane your neck, the heavier load it carries.  Your body will then have to work harder to support this extra weight, which can lead to soreness in the neck, stiffness across the shoulders, headaches, and pain in the upper back.

You won’t believe the maths of text neck

Photo of teenager texting

The average adult head weighs about 10-12lbs (4-5kg). But when you tip your head forwards just 1 inch you add an extra 10lbs force through your neck vertebrae.  That’s 4kg for every 2.5cms.

So…

  • 15 degrees flexion puts the equivalent of 27 lbs weight through your neck.
  • At 30 degrees it’s about 40 lbs.
  • At 45 degrees you have about 49 lbs extra force on those poor vertebrae.
  • And at 60 degrees (the normal position for texting) it’s about 60 lbs.

A boxer dog!

60 lbs extra weight!  How heavy is that?  Here are some equivalents that you could balance on your head to get the same weight:

  • 6 fat cats
  • A boxer dog
  • 4 average bowling balls
  • 9 ½ bricks
  • 45 basket balls
  • 65 footballs
  • 100 hamsters

What really concerns me is that about 50% of the people adopting this forward bent posture are children and teenagers.

Can it be prevented?

The key is to significantly reduce the amount of time spent looking down.  Of course the ideal thing would be to take frequent breaks from your mobile phone and computer.  But life isn’t always ideal so even if you can’t take breaks from your phone try holding it slightly higher, at eye level, to relieve the stress on those poor muscles.

And don’t put a boxer dog or 100 hamsters on your head either!

 

 

 

Image credit: By DLSimaging (Tiffany, Texting Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of first aid kit

First Aid Kits Explained

Photo of first aid kit

 

If you search online for a first aid kit you’ll find many on offer, often claiming that they are compliant with  “British Standard BS8599-1…” or “HSE Statutory Requirements”.  Some even have “deluxe” cases!

So how do you know what’s appropriate for you, either at work, at home, or in the car?

To get the detailed answer to that you’d have to delve into the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974* and nobody would want to inflict that on you.

So here’s the simple answer:

  1. You only need a kit that meets British Standards (set by the British Standards Institute) if you want to achieve ISO 9000 certification.  You are really unlikely to need this unless you are a business tendering to an organisation which demands it.
  2. There is no “Statutory Requirement” in the UK for the contents of a first aid kit.  The HSE merely gives a list of suggested contents, but emphasises that what goes in the box should be based on your risk assessment.

Now, if you’re operating a small business, you probably can’t be bothered to carry out a first aid risk assessment, so you just buy an off-the-shelf kit from an online organisation.  That’s definitely the easiest way to comply with the law.

It is interesting, though, that an HSE-recognised first aid qualification (the contents of this ARE legally stipulated) insists that you learn mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (rescue breaths), how to deal with burns, and how to remove small splinters, but their list of first aid kit contents does NOT include face shields, burn dressings or tweezers!  They do include 6 safety pins, despite the fact that nobody can come up with a good reason.

My view is that you are very unlikely ever to need to use your first aid kit other than for sticking plasters.  But when you do need it, you want the right things in there.

If you have a kettle, then a burn dressing is a good idea (they cost about £2.00).  Tweezers cost a couple of quid.  Face shields cost only a few pence, and they’re small enough to fit in your purse, wallet or pocket (trust me – if you ever have to give rescue breaths, you’ll be very glad of one!).

So, by all means go for one of the off-the-shelf kits, but have a think about the other useful items you might add.  One day you might be glad you did!

Oh, and don’t bother with “deluxe cases” – just make sure your kit is clearly marked and everyone knows where it is.

* Yes, that really is what it’s called – even the “etcetera”!

 

Image credit: By UJALA PAL (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What I’ve Learned from Loving a Person with Scoliosis

For anyone who knows suomeone with scoliosis

The Curvy Spine

I asked my closest family and friends to share what they’ve learned from loving a person with scoliosis, and this is what they had to say:

I’ve learned a lot about resilience, and about individual strength to cope with and push through challenges. But I’ve also learned about helplessness, and understanding that as people we have an incredible capacity in some ways, but we are so restricted in others. — said my doting husband

I suffered a lot with everything you went through,and through your resilience and resignation, little by little, I learned to accept that in life we have to accept everything that is presented to us. I also learned that even through all the pain, you can move forward in life. You are a very strong person and I know that you provide an example to many people. — said my concerned mama

For me it was that…

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