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 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

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!

Portrait of Richard III

Richard III’s Back! What Is Scoliosis?

Portrait of Richard III

Portrait of Richard III

Richard III’s Back! – What is Scoliosis?

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).

Diagram showing kyphosis and scoliosis, two types of spinal curvature

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

Photo of a man with back pain

Does Osteopathy Work?

One of the questions many people wonder about is whether osteopathy works.
There is now clinical evidence published which shows that osteopathy and other similar manual therapies are effective and NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) now recommends manual therapy, including osteopathy, for non-specific low back pain lasting between 6 weeks and 12 months.
 
What about other conditions?
Get Well UK has conducted a number of studies involving patients’ responses to osteopathy and other manual therapies.
Patients were referred by their GPs to various alternative/complementary therapies of which osteopathy comprised 38% of the treatments.
 
The main complaints were back/neck/shoulder pain and joint pain. A subsequent audit of 58 patients who had received at least 12 treatments found that they reported a highly significant reduction in the severity of their symptoms, increased well-being and activity and 75% said they felt less worried about their condition after treatment.
GPs found this corresponded to an improved perceived quality of life, symptoms and general health.
Here is a link to their website with more information:

Get Well UK

There have also been other studies which support the efficacy of osteopathy, which can be viewed on the National Council for Osteopathic Research (NCOR) website:

Do you have ‘Computer Hump’?

Do you find you sit at your computer for hours at a time?
Does your job involve lots of data entry, typing or other computer activities?
Do you play games on your PC/laptop?
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING ACHING BACK AND SHOULDERS?!
If you answered “Yes” to any of these question, you could have “computer hump”!
What is “computer hump”? (No, not THAT kind of hump!)
 
Computer hump is a painful condition that develops when someone has been sitting for long periods of time in front of the computer and is caused by the joints and muscles stiffening up through being in one position for too long.
This is especially the case if you sit incorrectly, slumped or with your head and neck bent forwards.  You can develop a small “hump” at the top of your back, below your neck, also known as a Dowager’s hump.

What can you do about it?
 
Well, first of all – stop spending so long on the computer. Set a timer for half an hour so you remember to stop, get up and have a stretch after this amount of time. 
 
If at work, at least get up and stretch, visit the loo, have a tea break, etc.
Do shoulder shrugs rotating backward and forward to help loosen up the joints.
 
Make sure you have a support for your lumbar spine (low back).  This will encourage you to have better posture.
If you have any aching or pains, go and see your osteopath who will treat the problem and give you exercises or advice to help prevent it recurring.
 

Remember, the sooner you seek advice about a problem the quicker it will resolve.