Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological condition that affects the brain and much more. It is a long-term condition which usually gets worse over time. People with Parkinson’s disease experience a loss of nerve cells in the part of their brains responsible for controlling voluntary movements.
This part of the brain produces a chemical called dopamine which helps the communication of messages from the brain to the rest of the body via the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). As these cells are lost, people with Parkinson’s disease experience a loss of dopamine and the messages controlling movement stop being transmitted efficiently.
Many people think that Parkinson’s is a condition that only affects othe elderly. Although, it is more common in the older population, it can affect anyone at any age and there are thousands of people who have been diagnosed under the age of 40. Parkinson’s Disease seems to affect men more than women.
It is a condition which is of great significance for me as my father suffered with it and I know of other members of the family and of friends’ families who have suffered from it.
This week is Parkinson’s Awareness Week and you can find out more about it by clicking here.
Image credit: BruceBlaus. Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436., CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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.
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).
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!
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:
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!
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.
Use long-handled tools: This should help minimise all the bending or stretching.
NEVER use bendy canes or sticks to support you when switching positions from kneeling to standing.
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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!
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…
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!)
Other signs are:
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
4. 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.
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!
Swimming 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.
You may have been interested recently in the exciting discovery of Richard III‘s remains in a Leicester car park. The excavation was initiated and financed by The Richard III Society, who believe that the last Plantagenet King was wrongly vilified as a murderous despot and was, in fact, a good and popular king.
One of the stereotypes attached to the king was that he was a deformed hunchback with a withered arm and hobbling gait. The recent discovery of his bones has at least settled that conundrum – he had no withered arm and he was not a hunchback in the common perception of the word, like Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, whose type of deformity is kyphosis (below right).
However, he did indeed have a spinal deformity, known as scoliosis (above left), an S-shaped sideways curvature of the spine. But what would that mean as regards his appearance and gait? A scoliosis is quite a common spinal deformity, although the severity varies considerably. In fact, I myself have a mild scoliosis, caused by the spine’s natural compensation for a leg length discrepancy. It is so mild that it is barely noticeable, even without clothes (unless you’re an osteopath!) Your spine compensates in order to ensure your eyes are as level as possible – so one hip might be higher, the opposite shoulder, but the head will then be level.
Scoliosis can also be present at birth (congenital). Many people who have this degree of scoliosis are probably oblivious to it and it wouldn’t affect their gait or appearance much at all.
However, some types of scoliosis can be much more severe, impinging on the symmetry of the ribcage and even interfering with breathing. This type occurs more commonly in females and often begins in puberty when the body is going through a rapid growth spurt, but the complete cause is unknown. Richard appears to have had this type of scoliosis.
What would he have looked like? Because the curve in the spine was quite severe, it is likely that Richard would have held one shoulder higher than the other and one shoulder blade would be more prominent. One hip may also have been slightly higher than the other. His ribcage would also have been more prominent on one side than the other, but when clothed this would not have been obvious. This would show more on forward bending, when the more prominent side would be exaggerated.
Do you have a scoliosis? If you suspect you might, pay a visit to your osteopath and they will be able to tell you and give you advice. If you already know you have a scoliosis you can get advice and support from The British Scoliosis Society
NB:Drawing of spine with scoliosis and kyphosis Image credit: hfsimaging / 123RF Stock Photo
Blog about Heathenism, Asatru, Norse-Paganism, Norse-Wicca, Forn Sed, Anglo-Saxon Paganism, Theodism, and Vanatru, and how to practice it in the modern world, as a spiritual path. Both rituals, and metaphysical musings about the Viking religion. You will find a good collection of Heathen seasonal rituals, all which are meaningful for the solitary.
My Blog Is About My Current Experience With The Medical Condition Scoliosis. Scoliosis Is The Abnormal Lateral Curviture Of The Spine. My Blog Could Be For Someone Who Is Experiencing Scoliosis, Believes They May Have The Condition Or Is Generally Intrigued By The Subject Of Scoliosis.