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

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

 

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.