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

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 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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!

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

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