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 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: