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!

 

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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

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 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!

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.

Silhouette of lake at sunset

The Benefits of Meditation

Many people think that meditation is difficult and takes years of practice.  Of course, there are certain types of meditation which ARE more difficult, but anyone can benefit from the simpler types, such as guided meditation.  This is when a leader “talks you into” a meditation, relaxing your body first and then taking you on a mental journey to…anywhere!  The sky is not even the limit!

Graphic of a tropical beach scene

Tropical beach scene

When your body is in this state of relaxation, which is similar to a hypnotic trance, your brain waves change to a different rhythm, allowing your body and mind to become more and more relaxed.  This helps to restore your inner well-being and relax your physical body, leaving you feeling refreshed and calm.  Most people recognise how important the mind is as an influence on the health of the body, so improving your mind’s restfulness can only help with your physical symptoms and problems.  In short, meditation:

  • Relaxes the body
  • Rests the mind
  • Increases well-being
  • Improves general health
  • Balances the emotions
  • Increased immunity
  • improves symptoms of IBS and joint pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Induces calmness
  • May even improve fertility!

For a more detailed analysis of the health benefits click here: 7 Health Benefits of Meditation.

If you want to experience its benefits, join our meditation group!  Find out more here:  Stress-busting Meditation Group