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

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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

13 Things No One Told Me About Having Scoliosis Surgery

One young lady’s experience of scoliosis surgery

The Curvy Spine

Seventeen years ago, I found myself dealing with idiopathic scoliosis and two major spinal curves: one was 74 degrees and the other was 55 degrees. It was the severity of my condition, and the fact that I really had no other option, that pushed me to undergo surgery. For so many reasons, having surgery was the best thing I could have done, but even still, there are a few things no one told me.

Here’s my list:

1. When the morphine began to fade, I freaked out.
By the time I had surgery, I had dealt with spinal pain for a good three years; I was convinced I could handle any pain. I thought I could deal with anything. Boy, was I wrong. It hurts. It hurts like a sonofabitch. The level of pain is astronomical. As soon as my magical morphine button was taken away from me the devil…

View original post 1,052 more words

Picture of hypermobile thumb

The Problem with Dancers

So what is the problem with dancers? First of all, I have nothing against dancers at all.Have a look at this: Sergei Polunin dancing to Hosier’s Take Me To Church – who could object to this! 😉

But as an osteopath, I do find that as far as their musculoskeletal system goes, they can be a problem. This is because many of them are hypermobile.

So what is ‘hypermobility’?’ It is defined as the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement. (Some people know it as being ‘double-jointed’). But that is good, isn’t it? I hear you say. Well, it can be good for a dancer, of course, but it can be a double edged sword. Here’s why:

If you are hypermobile (and many children are, but some don’t grow out of it) it can lead to all sorts of problems in later life, as I know to my cost. Because, although I am definitely not a dancer, I was hypermobile when I was younger.You may even have Joint Hypermobilty Syndrome.

So how do you know if you are hypermobile? There are various signs that could indicate that you are hypermobile. Firstly children, hypermobile people are usually either very flexible and can impress their friends with their contortions, gymnastics or ‘double-jointedness’ or they are very clumsy (I was the latter!) The clumsiness is because their joint position sense is often slightly ‘off’ (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

Picture of hypermobile thumb

Other signs are:

Recurrent dislocations

Prolapses common because of weak pelvic and/or abdominal muscles (e.g. hiatus hernia)

Overreaction to exercise (you feel VERY achey – I used to think I’d simply done a good workout)

Stretch marks common at a young age

Easily bruised

The skin often feels soft and velvety;

Unexplained chest pains  (may have been told they have a heart murmur)

Low blood pressure or fast heart rate, which may lead to blackouts or near blackouts and often triggered by change in posture from lying/sitting to standing, or after standing in one position for even just a few minutes;

Symptoms like Irritable Bowel Syndrome with bloating, constipation, and cramp-like abdominal pain

Shortness of breath similar to asthma, but doesn’t respond to inhalers

Local anaesthetics, used for example in dentistry, seem to be not very effective or much more is required than normal

Severe fatigue

Anxiety and phobias

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. Here is a link to some information from the Hypermobility Syndromes Association

 

 

Image credit: By Magnolia Dysnomia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Picture of the 7 chakras

New Meditation CD

Picture of a Blue Morpho butterfly on a shining orange flowerWant to try Meditation, but can’t make it to a class or group? This is the answer – buy one of my new CDs and you can meditate whenever is convenient for you! Only 5 minutes to spare? No problem! There are 6 short Guided Meditations ranging from about 3 to 12 minutes. Only £12. Email me on jrlarner@aol.com to order stating “Meditation CD” in subject line.

 

CD cover shown

Picture of the 7 chakras

Colour and Chakras Meditation

The next meditation evening is Wednesday 2nd July and the theme is Colour and the Chakras. The 7 Chakras are the main energy centres in our body and correspond to the seven colours of the spectrum.  Meditation is known to help with many physical health problems, such as arthritis and high blood pressure, as well as promoting relaxation and aiding restful sleep.  See my previous blogpost: The Benefits of Meditation

Balanced chakras mean a balanced person and enhance your well-being.

To find out more about the Chakras, click here: Chakras for Beginners.

The locations for our meditation is 4 Seasons Complementary Health Practice.

Time: 7.30pm – 9.00pm £10 per person
Places limited so call or text Jo now on: 07956 524679 !

Picture of sunset

Looking After Your Back on Holiday

As an osteopath, I get many clients seeking help after having gone away on holiday!

Why is that? Well, when you think about it there are many hazards involved in taking a holiday (or a business trip) which can damage your spine, sometimes seriously. Here are my top holiday tips to keep your back healthy!

 

1. Carrying or pulling along heavy luggage

man carrying too much luggage

Don’t carry too much luggage at once!!!!

The answer to this is try to carry loads equally rather than one heavy case in one hand – for example a rucksack is better as your load is distributed squarely in the centre of your back rather than on one side.

Pulling is easier on your back than carrying, so use a trolley or pull-along case if you can, but take care not to swing it about too much as this can twist your back. Leave plenty of time so you can stand on the moving pavement at the airport rather than having to rush. If you have trouble with your back, think whether it would be worth hiring a porter to save you possible pain.

picture of plane in flight

 

2. Long flights, drives or other journeys

If you are on a long haul flight, ensure you get up at least every hour to stretch your legs and keep your spine mobile. This also helps prevent a Deep Vein Thrombosis. Take an inflatable neck pillow to prevent your neck getting strained if you sleep on the plane.

 

car on winding road

 

If you are driving, factor in comfort stops at least every hour for the same reason – immobility causes your spine to stiffen up and be more vulnerable. At the least stop and have a walk around. Share the driving if possible so you can have a break.

 

 

3. Sleeping in a strange bedpicture of hotel bed

I don’t mean anything saucy, but on holiday it is unlikely you will find a bed as comfortable as your own. This is difficult to address, but you could take your own pillow to help with your neck position – on your side, it should be neutral, neither flopping towards the bed nor being pushed upwards. The pillow should just fill the space between your shoulder and head. If you sleep on your back, have a lower pillow to avoid pushing your neck forwards.

 

If you have a spare pillow you could put it under your knees if lying on your back or between them if on your side. And DON’T lie on your front – the worst position for your spine.picture of lady sleeping

 

 

picture of man water skiing4. Taking part in unusual sports/activities

Many people want to try out new things on holiday, such as water skiing, windsurfing, scuba diving, etc and even more will want to swim. All I can say is remember that your muscles and joints will not be used to new activities so it is even more important to warm up before you do any and stretch afterwards.

picture of couple walking

 

Walking is good for your back, but don’t overdo it – work up to longer walks gradually if you are not accustomed to long distances. Take and use Nordic walking poles – they are fantastic!

 

 

picture of lady swimmingSwimming can also be good for your back as it is non weight bearing, but you should vary your strokes, especially if you tend to do predominantly breast stroke, as this can strain your sacro-iliac joints (the ones between your hips and your spine). If you do use breast stroke wear goggles and try to duck your head under rather than extending your neck back.

A FINAL WORD OF WARNING – NEVER DIVE INTO A POOL THAT IS SIX FEET OR LESS IN DEPTH – THERE ARE MANY CASES OF LIFE-THREATENING SPINAL INJURIES CAUSED BY THIS, NOT TO MENTION POSSIBLE PARALYSIS.

 

Have a great, safe holiday!