Healing from Back Pain - what's the best way?

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This is a question that I get asked quite often, it goes something along the lines of “I still have a bit of sciatica, it’s not massively painful but it wakes me at night sometimes and I don’t know what to do. What would you recommend?”

So I got asked this yesterday, and this is the answer I came up with…..

So pain tells you that something is wrong in your body. Something needs to change, because currently you’re getting messages from your body. The question is - do you need help or can you do it yourself?

What stops you from healing?

That’s what we all want to be able to do. We want a body that is resourceful enough that when we get injured, our body knows what to do and can heal from the injury.

Three questions:

  • Will this go away on it’s own?

  • If not - Can I do this on my own or do I need help?

  • And if I’m going to do it on my own, how do I increase my internal resources so that heal better?

There are three areas that I believe impact on our ability to heal. These are:

  • physical stresses/activities

  • nutritional status

  • mental status

1 Physical Stresses: include so many things. How much we sit, how much we move, any exercise program we do (or don’t do). The important thing to ask are:

  • Do my daily activities aggravate or support healing?

  • Do I need to do more exercise such as stretching, strength work, core work or cardio?

  • Do I need to do less?

If rest is the answer, most people will heal within a few weeks. If symptoms are still there, it’s probably not going to totally go away on it’s own

2 Chemical Stresses

Most people don’t know what I mean when I say this. What I’m talking about is a combination of the nutrition we take in or don’t take in (including foods and supplements) with respect to our bodies needs.

Many of us are deficient in nutrients, not because we eat a bad diet, but because so much of our food is nutrient deficient nowadays. To truly promote healing you need to put healthy fuel in your body. Whether you like it or not, “you are what you eat” rings true.

I find many people with chronic pain that is not healing need to up their anti-oxidants, increase fruit and veg, reduce/remove all processed foods from their diet (these are nearly always inflammatory in nature), reduce alcohol and/or caffeine and to drink more water. Some people improve hugely when they clean up their diet. It may be obvious to you what you are eating and it may be simple to change (though will power required).

3 Mental Status

Now I’m not talking psychiatric conditions here, if you think you have a mental illness you need to talk to a registered medical professional with expertise in this area. What I’m talking about it how you think, and how that impacts on your health.

Many people approach pain with the intention of getting rid of it, numbing it, ignoring it and often have a whole host of negative emotions around it. I believe that you need to listen to your pain, engage with it and work out what needs to change so that it can heal.

At a simple level the first thing that is important is to have goal that is bigger than your pain. For example most people want:

  • less pain

  • sleep without pain

  • sit without pain

  • to be able to do the things I was doing before the pain (yes they want to be exactly how they were just before the pain started)

If you set goals that make you grow and change, your body is usually far better at listening to you, for example:

  • I want to be able to run 3 miles

  • I want to increase my flexibility

  • I want to change my activity levels to support my health

  • I want to feel energized

Look at your internal dialogue. If all you’re saying is “please go away, I feel helpless, I don’t know what do it, why is it happening to me”, something needs to change.

Our SRI workshops can be an excellent starting point to connecting to your pain, finding internal healing resources you didn’t even know existed and reclaiming your personal power with respect to your healing.

And sometimes you can’t do this alone. You need the input from a good chiropractor or similar, who can work with you to get the results you want. If that’s you, give me a call or drop me an email. And if you already work with me, are you doing everything you can to support your body to heal?

How does having Back Pain affect your Intimate Relationships?

Three difference institutes have come to the same conclusion - hold hands or empathize with a loved one when are in pain and it will have a pain relieving effect.

The more your brains sync, the greater the effect.

22 couples (minimum 1 year together) were wired up to EEG (electro encephalography) to measure brain signals whilst sitting together but not touching, or whilst sitting in separate rooms. Even being together started the brains synching and hand holding increased it.

However if one partner was in pain and they didn’t touch, the brain synching reduced, as did heart synchronisation and breathing.

It appears pain interrupts interpersonal synchronisation between couples, and touch brings it back. Another thing that reduced pain was the degree of empathy felt by the pain free partner. More empathy equated to better pain relief.

Researchers admitted they didn’t understand why or whether similar results were achievable with people who were not a couple.

This research brings up all kinds of questions for those who have suffered with long term pain and how it may have affected their intimate relationships. If pain interrupts the connection between couples, that is going to impact on so many part of their lives. And touch appears to be the solution. So if your partner is in pain, touch them gently and empathize. You may be able to do so much more than you think.

Reference: ProcNatlAcadSciUSA, 2018; 115: 2528-2537

Does your Phone Run Your Life?

We live in an age where most of us check our phones pretty constantly. And it can feel like an obsession….

So what can you do to reduce the appeal of your phone and bring you more into the real world.

  1. Turn off the Vibration
    A new syndrome called “Phantom" Vibration Syndrome” has been coined, in fact a 2012 study showed that 89% of students had experienced this. It’s though that this contributes to distractability so turn it off, then it can’t happen.

  2. Have Phone Rules
    You probably wouldn’t dream of leaving your phone if you were at a funeral, but you’d be surprised when people think it’s ok to answer a phone. I’ve seen people answer their phone during their chiropractic session, during a theatre visit and people (though I have no experience of this) are known to check their phones during moments of intimacy.
    Simple rules might include: turn it off during meals, when out with friends, never use it in the bedroom, or turn it off at 9pm. The use of technology is linked to poor sleep after all.

  3. Turn it to GreyScale
    Apparently this works like computer games. If it’s grey it’s less appealing to use. Go online and find out how to turn your device grey.

And if you’re still hooked to your phone and are starting to develop “Text Neck” or “Computer Neck”, make sure you get your spine checked regularly so that you aren’t storing up spinal problems for the future.

Reference: Comput.Human Behav, 2012; 28:1490-96

Why does Back Pain "come from no where"?

I’ve had this conversation a thousand times….. it goes something like this…

“Well I’ve had the odd grumble in my back before, but all I did was bend over to pick up the paper and BOOM my back went…it just doesn’t make sense”

What they did varies but this happens over and over and over.

So was really going on, and can this be applied to most people?

What shows up first?

When you actually get down to it, most people with rapid onset low back pain had plenty of warning signals. They often have a history of low grade back pain. They just hoped it would go away (because normally it does), or they were too busy with life to stop and rest or change the activities that were aggravating. Or sometimes, life just simply doesn’t allow us to stop.

If you examine the spines of most people you will find tension and areas of the spine that are either very tight or don’t move properly. Most people actually have areas in their spine that aren’t working to full capacity. So actually, spinal dysfunction often shows up way before the painful injury. But most people are aware of it to some degree in that they may feel a reduction in flexibility or certain things become harder to do, or they feel “stiff and old”. It’s very individual.

And what we tend to do with low grade irritation is we ignore it or take painkillers. We rarely see it as something that should be sorted out before it becomes a problem.

So what triggers the injury? What is the tipping point?

Many people with an acute injury have just gone through or are in the midst of multiple stresses in their life. It may be emotional such as illness or loss of a loved one. It may be work stress, with pressure to perform or earn. Or postural stress with a body not coping with hours at the computer or driving for too many hours. A poor diet lacking in vitamins and minerals can also be a stressor, as can obesity. Lack of exercise, over excising or the wrong kinds of exercise can also put inappropriate stresses on the spine.

So over time tension and dysfunction builds up in the spine. But we are amazingly good at adapting and some people will go for years without experiencing symptoms, and then BOOM!

So what can you do?

  1. Stop. Pay Attention. Listen to your Body.

  2. Find a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor, who is an expert in the spine and can help you to heal from the injury, not simply mask the pain with drugs and hope it will go away. Because function is rarely restored without changing how your body works. And painkillers mask the problem, and may buy you time for the pain to reduce, but they rarely change the underlying pattern.
    Network Chiropractors not only help your body to release built up tension, but over time they can help you change how you respond and react to stresses so actually your capacity to handle stress can increase - something many of us need in the modern crazy world.

  3. Look at your lifestyle and ask - what can I do to promote healing in my body? You may need to look at diet and nutrition, exercise, stress triggers which may include things you can’t change.

So if you have the warning signals of spinal problems which include back pain, headaches, fatigue, stiffness and so much more, think about dealing with it before the crisis hits. And if the crisis has hit - call us now.

But we live in a culture where you look after your teeth, but only look after your spine when it screams loudly at you.

Modern Medicine has few answers to Low Back Pain – so what do you do?

It’s thought that almost every adult at some point in their life will suffer with low back pain, but our medical profession is limited to pain killing tablets or injections or surgery. And did you know that UK Doctors are not allowed to recommend alternative therapies, that may be more beneficial to their patien

ts. I’m guessing in part it’s because the medical degree rarely contains any education on the benefits of complimentary therapies, so doctors aren’t actually qualified to comment on them. They have to rely on personal experience. 

This concern was flagged up in a major study in the Lancet, one of the most prestigious journals out there.

The biggest problem with pain killers is they may reduce pain (and they don’t always) but they mask the symptoms rather than dealing with the cause of the problem, often prolonging the injury and in some cases causing more damage to the spine.

The Chiropractic degree in the UK is a 5 year program, where they study the spine in depth. And if you’re concerned that your chiropractor may miss medical conditions, they spend a significant amount of time studying pathology and general diagnosis, so that when your medical doctor is needed, they will refer you.

Ref: Lancet, 2018 Mar 20

The Important Side Effects of Pain Killers we didn’t know about….

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Having worked as a chiropractor for over 15 years, I’ve seen many people with pain complaints, be it low back pain, chronic neck pain, pain between the shoulder blades, headaches, the list goes on and on. And almost all of them at some point have taken pain killing medication for either a short or often a long time. Because that’s what we do. We injure ourselves and our culture tells us the first line of treatment is medication…. And most of us now know that we have to be careful with certain drugs because of side effects such as stomach bleeding, but we know the risk and we take it.

However, new research is coming out around the common painkillers including paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofren that I for one find quite disturbing. 

A study in Finland looked at people who had been convicted of homicide (that’s murder in English). They 959 convicts and compared them to 9000 individuals who had never been convicted and compared their medications. They were looking for a correlation between SSRIs (anti-depressants) or anti-psychotic mediations. Instead they found a much higher correlation between opioid painkillers such as codeine and non-opiod painkillers such as paracetamol and aspirin (WorldPsychiatry, 2015; 14:245-7)

In another study, people taking common painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol had their responses to painful experiences blunted (not just their physical responses), and became less empathetic to other peoples pain and suffering. It appears that they hinder an individuals ability to put themselves in someone elses shoes and feel that persons emotional and physical pain (PolicyInsights:BehavBrainSci, 2018; 5:82-9)

A further study on Paracetamol shows that is dulls our senses, not just our pain. It blocks both the emotional highs and lows (Psychological Science, 2015; doi: 10.1177/0956797615570366).

In the 15 years I’ve worked, I’ve seen a massive increase in the use of these drugs. More and more people seem to have them as a standard part of their lifestyle, popping them with little thought for the potential implications on their mental health. So next time you’re in pain, ask – do I really need to medicate this or is there another way?

Chiropractic is a drug free approach to health and well-being.

When is the pain in your foot something to do with your back?

So obviously the first thing to do when you are experiencing pain in your foot is to check your foot. It could be a problem with ill fitting shoes, corns, plantar fasciatis, etc. But have you thought of checking your back, specifically your lumbar spine?

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You might be surprised to find out that irritation of your sciatic nerve can cause intense foot pain.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and extends from your lumbar spine down to your foot. Pressure on the nerve in your lumbar spine can cause leg and/or foot pain. Most commonly there is both leg and foot pain, but in some cases foot pain is the only symptom.

The sciatic nerve is made up of two nerve roots – L5 and S1. When the primary nerve involved is S1 you are likely to experience pain on the sole of the foot. When the primary nerve root involved is L5 you may experience and heaviness or even a loss of function of the foot known as foot drop, where you struggle to lift the front part of your foot or it simply slaps the floor as you walk (some of you will remember hearing the noise when John Thaw walked as inspector Morse, he had a foot drop)

Sciatica is commonly caused by Lumbar Disc Herniation, Canal Stenosis, Spondlylolithesis, though there are other less common causes.

So what do you do about your pain? And how do you address the cause?

Most people will start off by getting over the counter pain relief and if that doesn’t work stronger medications from their Doctor.

To address the cause however, in many cases the function of the lumbar spine also needs to be addressed, and this one area a chiropractor can commonly help…

So if you’ve tried everything else and your foot pain is not going…. consider that is may come from your lumbar spine and get help.


How to Get Better Faster?

For most people, this is the most important thing about healing. They want to get better as fast as possible, so that they can get on with life. I get it, I’ve been there. Over the years I’ve had a variety of injuries and health challenges, and like almost every one I know, when something goes wrong I want to get better, and I want to get better yesterday.

How well you heal and how fast you heal depends in part on your focus, your intentions and your actions. Let me explain…

First of all, let me give you the example of someone who has low back pain, a common reason for consulting a chiropractor. If this persons main focus is on getting rid of pain, their internal dialogue may run along the lines of:

  • how can I stop this pain?

  • what shall I avoid doing today?

  • what’s wrong with me?

  • why me? It’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong?

  • are their any stronger pills I could take?

Let’s take the same person, but their goal is to run a 10k for charity to raise money for a local hospice, but their back is playing up. Their internal dialogue may be:

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  • what do I need to do to support my healing?

  • Could I run a bit, or maybe just walk? Would that help?

  • Is anything else triggering my back pain? What could I change?

  • How could I change my diet to reduce inflammation in my body to support healing?

  • what’s my body telling me? Why did this pain come on now?

Now your questions may be different again, you may be looking for a solution to a different problem. But look at the kind of questions you ask and ask yourself  the following:

“Does my internal dialogue support me healing or do it make me feel worse or less resourceful?”

The first list of questions in my opinion do nothing to increase resourcefulness. If I read them out loud I feel miserable and I don’t even have any pain currently. When I read the second list I feel uplifted. I feel that more is possible, that I can do things that will help me. It doesn’t mean that everything I do will help me, but anything that I do to get my body in a more resourceful state is going to help.

Are your Goals focused on Gaining something or Losing something? 

It’s much easier to create ease and resourcefulness than it is to get “rid of something” from our body. Because the painful part or negative dialogue exist within us. Our body is designed to heal. We all know that, even if we have lost a bit of hope.

So make your healing goals about what you will do when the symptom goes away or how you want to feel rather than how you don’t want to feel. So many goals are about getting rid of or feeling less. If someone wants less pain, I always ask – and what do you want to replace the pain with once it’s gone? How will your life be different? What will you do differently? How will you treat your friends and family differently? How will you be different at work?

So check-in and remind yourself – why do I want this? You may be surprised at the answers you get….

How do YOU mess your back up?

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I was browsing Facebook and I found this image….. and I thought… how many of my clients do something similar or have done in the past. I can’t quote the paper exactly but I have a memory of being told that back in the day when we always paid the taxi in cash, if the driver kept his wallet in his back pocket he was something like 50% more likely to suffer with back problems. It makes totally sense doesn’t it?

So my question for you is – what do you do that puts your spine out of balance?

When I asked a few friends and clients, here is some of what we came up with…

  • My computer is at an angle to my chair so I always have to look to the left

  • I spend way to much time on my smart phone

  • I always carry my 2 year old on my left hip

  • I do sit on my wallet – omg!

  • My sofa is super saggy and when I’m on it, I’m never comfortable

  • My bed is too hard, my shoulder just can’t relax when I lie on my side

  • I play hours of cricket 3x a week (this also can apply to golf)

So what do you do? I’d love to hear your answers……

4 Things You Should Know About Chronic Back Pain

Our spines are amazing. They hold us upright, the allow us to bend, flex, respond to whatever life throws at us. However, back or spinal pain is a common problem for many of us and can be a source of distress. Most back problems are usually resolved in weeks or months, but for some people back problems become a way of life and become described as “chronic”, meaning of more than 3 months duration. Here are some things that may help you to know about chronic pain, or to help you understand someone you love who is suffering.

Chronic Back Problems are Really Common

Chronic pain is estimated to affect 1 in 10 of the UK population at any one time and is a growing cause of disability.

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Chronic Back Pain can be distressing

People with chronic back pain can be affected at an emotional level because of how it interferes with daily tasks and also because of fears around longer term issues and disability.

Chronic Back Pain can affect your sleep

Chronic pain is commonly associated with poor sleep. And poor sleep in itself can exacerbate existing conditions and make them worse, or at least make it difficult to heal. A study showed sleep problems in 56% of people with chronic back pain, compared with 10% in the general population. Sleep loss and broken sleep is also associated with an increased inflammatory response which may make symptoms worse.

Chronic Back Pain can be helped

It’s easy to feel disempowered. Many people with pain have already been told there is nothing that can be done and to live with it…. However, there are many steps you can take and here are some of the best:

  • Keep active – yes it’s not the first thing you think of when you are in pain. But moving and gentle exercise have been shown over and over to help. The first step is often to walk more. As little as 30 minutes per day (can be in separate sessions) can make a difference.

  • Quit smoking – most people don’t know that smoking reduces flow of oxygen to the spine, which is needed to nourish the spine and associated parts. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of disc degeneration and is a risk factor for disc injury.

  • Include gentle stretching into your daily routine. It is associated with pain relief and increased mobility. Seek advice from your chiropractor or other qualified health professional to find the right stretches for you

  • Talk to your local chiropractor to find out how they may be able to help you with the symptoms of chronic back pain. You may be pleasantly surprised as to what is possible.

 

References

The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Published online March 24 2014, Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al.

Chronic low back pain and psychological comorbidity : A review. Bletzer J1, Gantz S2, Voigt T2, Neubauer E2, Schiltenwolf [Article in German]

Chronic low back pain and the risk of depression or anxiety symptoms: insights from a longitudinal twin study. The Spine Journal (2017), Fernandez, Matt et al: Web.

Do patients with chronic back pain sleep well?. The Spine Journal (2008), Purushothaman, Balaji et al: Web

3 Things You can do Today to Improve Chronic Back Pain

Chronic or long term back problems are one of the biggest cause of disability in the UK and is estimated to affect between one third and one half of the population. So what can you do to improve your spinal function and manage your pain?

  1. Get Active

There is a lot of fear around “doing more damage” in people who have chronic pain.

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Your spine is designed to move, we are designed to move! And our modern lifestyles are resulting in more and more of leading sedentary lives were the most movement we get is to walk from our front door to our car and from our car to the office and back.

People who exercise to help manage or heal from chronic back pain find it often helps to reduce the back pain intensity. A short study of 256 participants with chronic back pain who exercised for 6 weeks, saw a 31% decrease in back pain symptoms. Exercise included aerobic and flexibility exercises. Furthermore, it was found that exercise did not increase the risk of future pain or degeneration.

  1. Stretch

Make stretching a part of your daily routine. It can help to keep your spine flexible and mobile, aside from releasing tense, tired muscles. Prolonged sitting often causes stress to the spine. Stretching can help alleviate this.

Multiple studies have documented the efficacy of stretching for improving flexibility in patients with low back pain, with an average improvement of 10%. Stretches need to be performed within comfortable limits so as not to induce discomfort. Your chiropractor can advise you further on this.

  1. Improve your Body Awareness

Most people with pain are used to listening to the loud symptoms from their body ie pain. People who become more aware of the subtle signals from their body can learn to adjust their activities to listen to their body and minimize the aggravation to injured areas. Breath based exercises such as Somato-Respiratory Integration can help to improve body awareness and empower individuals to listen to their body and act on what works best for them.

Help is Available

Chiropractors are qualified to address your musculoskeletal disorders and can help to relieve the pain of chronic or acute back problems. Chiropractors can provide both treatment and advice on chronic pain and help individuals to live a more active, fulfilling life.

To make an appointment call 01625 402053 or email on info@naturallyempowered.co.uk

2 WAYS A CHIROPRACTOR CAN HELP WITH CHRONIC BACK PAIN

An estimated 1 in 10 people suffer from back pain, making it a major public health concern. Chronic back pain is a long-term, persistent condition and can cause physical and psychological distress. It is associated with more disability than any other condition.

In the run up to Spinal Awareness Week in May, we will be running a series of article on back pain. We encourage people to seek help for chronic back pain.

Taking the first steps to combat chronic back pain can be overwhelming. In the first instance, it can be helpful to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner who will provide both a treatment that works and help you with ongoing strategies that support a healthy spine in the longer term.

Chiropractors are trained “to diagnose, treat, co-manage, and manage the treatment of patients with low back pain disorders” and work with other healthcare professionals where needed to address chronic back pain. There are many ways chiropractors can help with chronic back pain.

Here are 2 ways a chiropractor can assist in managing symptoms of chronic back pain.

  1. Chiropractic Treatment

For chronic back problems, chiropractors use a variety of non-surgical treatments and non-medicine based approaches. As with any treatment approach, your chiropractor will evaluate you to see if their approach is appropriate and may be able to help with your chronic back pain symptoms.

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In a large study in the 1990s of nearly 3000 people, Network Chiropractic was shown to bring relief from physical symptoms in over 70% of those studied.

Both of our chiropractors are highly qualified healthcare professionals who have completed a 5 years full time degree in Chiropractic to Masters Level. Their education includes excellent medical diagnostic skills alongside chiropractic diagnosis and treatment skills to ensure that they either provide you with the best solution, or refer you to another health care provider if appropriate.

  1. Lifestyle Advice

It can be hard to identify the cause of chronic back pain, especially in the absence of an injury or medical condition, however, a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture are risk factors for this condition.

Staying active is important for spinal mobility and health. People with chronic back pain may find it hard to exercise, however, they should try to be as active as possible. Incorporating walking into your daily routine is a good way to start. One way to track progress might be to download the Map My Walk App or something similar.

Poor posture can also put strain on the spine. Slouching or hunching distorts the natural shape of the spine and places undue stress on it. Download the Straighten Up (Australia) or Straighten Up (Canada) app to receive posture reminders throughout the day and follow the Straighten Up exercise program to improve your spinal health and strengthen core muscles. Check out the videos on our website for more tips on exercises to support back and neck pain.

Chiropractors can advise on self-management of chronic back pain symptoms through exercise and lifestyle modification. Talk to your chiropractor for more information on how they can help with chronic back pain and other spinal health issues.

Could Stress be Causing your Back Pain?

So I have this conversation on a regular basis and it goes something like this….

Patient: I just don’t know why the pain suddenly started, I didn’t do anything

Upset Mid adult man in his thirties posing looking down

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Me: Well is anything else happening in your life currently that may be a challenge?
Patient: No, I’ve not changed my routine, I’m still running twice a week and doing yoga – nothing different
Me: What about work? Anything new happening there, any challenges with your boss?
Patient: well actually, I’m on a new project and it’s not going so well….

It could be something as simple as worrying about work, but there are countless emotional and mental triggers that can change your physiology and these can also be a trigger for back pain or other injuries and health challenges.

Let me explain:

Firstly I want you to focus on how you feel when you are worrying about something or you have something on your mind. Notice what happens to your breath. Does it slow down? Is it shallow? Do you feel constricted? Then notice how you hold your body when you focus on this stressor? Anything change? What happens to your energy? Do you feel energized or drained? What about your mood? Does focusing on this make you feel full of life or lacking get up and go?

What happens in your body when you are worrying or stressed about something is fairly predictable though we will all do it in our own unique way with a different emphasis depending on our life experience and conditioning.

A worry or a stress can trigger a fight/flight response in your body because that’s how we are wired. And fight-flight can look like this:

  • tense, tight muscles – ready to run or fight

  • negative thoughts – because you are in danger

  • raised blood pressure – so you can run

  • raised blood sugar – energy source

  • increased stress hormones

  • reduced gut function – because it is not important when you are threatened

  • reduced immune function – because this is about long term survival not short term threat

  • reduced sexual function – again not important if you are in short term danger

If we just explore the tight, tense muscles a bit further. If your tense and tight it will take far less for you to overextend a joint and cause a sprain to the local ligaments. If your spine is under tension because all the spinal muscles have contracted keeping you tense, the discs will be under tension and more vulnerable to injury. If your muscles are already tight and tense and contracted, they are more vulnerable to injury than when you have warmed them up and they are ready to go.

So many of the clients we work with have got injured or sick during periods of emotional or mental stress. Even with some of our existing clients, life can sometimes become overwhelming because they are not able to dissipate all of the tensions building up in their body in response to what is going on for them, so they may re-injure or get sick for a short period of time. The only major difference I see in clients who have worked with us for a while and those who are new, is that the existing ones bounce back so much faster. Both groups recover physically, it’s just healing times are different.

So how is stress affecting you? If you are familiar with Somato-Respiratory Integration you can use it to check in with your body and see how you are coping. If you’re not, I suggest just focusing on your breath for a few moments. What do you notice?

If you think that life stresses are affecting your physical health and want to find out more. Call now to find out how we can help, or book into one of our regular free Intro Talks (details in our Calendar) where we explain in more depth how you can go from stressed to thriving.

Neck Stretches for the Computer User

We get asked on a regular basis – what can I do to help myself?

In these days of modern technology one of the biggest challenges we face is that many jobs require us to spend extended periods of time behind a computer screen.

For many this results in neck pain, mid or upper back pain, headaches or problems with posture. It is also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries.

If you are one of the many you may already have neck problems or you may want to reduce your chances of developing them. Whatever your need, this short video gives you some stretches you can do at the desk that will help to relieve tension in your upper back and neck and support better posture.

As always, we recommend that if you have any concerns you consult your chiropractor or another suitably qualified healthcare professional. These stretches do not replace advice, they are an additional service.

So enjoy the video and tell us how they’ve helped you

Why chiropractic is about more than just back pain...

Demand for chiropractic has been increasing year on year. More and more people are looking outside of the NHS for solutions to their chronic back pain and sports injuries. Many people chose chiropractic to work with their back pain because it’s non-invasive and safe, and because they want to avoid medications. More and more people are looking to get to the cause of their pain, not just mask the symptoms with ibuprofen.

The Healing Benefits of Chiropractic

We put our bodies under more and more pressure daily. Sitting behind a computer, using a smart phone, limiting our exercise because of time constraints. These are all stresses to our musculoskeletal system and create micro-injuries that left untreated can turn into pain and suffering.

Chiropractic can not only help to alleviate the pain and suffering, but people regularly report overall improvements in wellbeing, improved mood and better flexibility and function in their body.

Chiropractic Research

We chose to use an approach called Network Chiropractic which is low force and unlike anything most people have experienced before.

There was a big study into this approach (nearly 3000 people were interview) and below is a summary of the findings.

Over 70% reported improvements in all of the following areas:

  • Physical symptoms

  • Emotional/mental state

  • Response to stress

  • Life enjoyment

  • Overall Quality of Life

Specific examples reported in the study included:

  • Improved flexibility

  • Higher energy levels

  • Decrease in pain levels

  • Less headaches

  • Greater capacity to deal with daily stresses

  • Enhancement of interest in life

  • Greater sense of ease

Your Choices

We all have choices when faced with pain and symptoms. And most of us will progress to some degree in this order:

  • Ignore the pain, rest or hope it will go away

  • Self-medicate with over the counter pain killers

  • Visit your GP for stronger pain killers

  • Therapies aimed at removing symptoms

  • Chiropractic – to get a diagnosis and find out why your body is not healing and a program to get you back in control of your health and functioning to the level of wellbeing you want

Join the growing number of people benefiting from Network Chiropractic and call now.

Low Back Pain – Prevention and Maintenance

Our clients regularly ask – what can I do to keep my back in good shape. My answer is usually along the same lines…..

How often do you brush your teeth? What happens if you constantly eat sugar and never pay any attention to oral hygiene? Or how about your car? Do you get the oil changed and the engine checked on a regular basis? If a warning light comes on do you get your car checked or do you remove the light bulb?

This brings up two answers:

  1. What do you need to do on a daily/regular basis to look after your spine?

  2. Who do you see to get your spine “tuned up” so that it works optimally?

Most people actually know the answer to question 1, they just prefer not to action it.

To look after your spine and back the most important aspects are:

  • Movement and exercise

  • Good nutrition

  • Avoid risk factors

Movement and Exercise

Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are creating a whole host of spinal problems from “Text neck” to chronic low back problems. It is important, if you have a sedentary job, to get up and move at least once every 45 minutes, if only to get a drink of water or walk to talk to a colleague rather than calling them internally. Our bodies need to move. It helps keep them healthy. I also found this simple video, from a colleague chiropractor, which shows simple mobilisation exercises(double check the link) you can do whilst sitting at your desk.

Regular stretching can also help your back. Working your core muscles has become fashionable in recent years. This is not a fad. It works. However you need to commit yourself to at least one class per week of either yoga or pilates (or something similar) and practice at home too to get the benefits.

Your lifestyle will have a big impact on your spine and back. Walk whenever you can, rather than taking the lift or driving. Movement is the most important way of keeping healthy and we are doing less and less.

Nutrition

I was chatting with a client last week and she said her doctor had told her that changing her childrens diet would make absolutely no difference to their symptoms (both her kids are on the autistic spectrum). She has already established that certain foods make her kids inattentive or hyperactive so she obviously disagrees with her doctor. But take a look at this. If you eat a healthy balanced diet, full of good vegetables and fruits with high quality proteins and grains you are going to have a very different body to the person who lives on junk food and cheap carbohydrate. It may be a cliché but you are what you eat.

I’m not about to tell you what diet you should follow because years of experience has shown me that we are all different and whilst one person does very well on a raw or vegan diet, another will do better on a more paleo type of diet. You need to find out what suits your body. But I will say limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol and excessive carbohydrate and you will feel the benefits.

Risk Factors

Did you know that one of the biggest risk factors for a herniated (slipped) disc is smoking?

The main risk factors are summarised below:

  • Age – most disc injuries occur between 30 and 50 years of age

  • Being Male – not much you can do about this

  • Smoking – disc pain is horrible. If you have it and you smoke this is a great reason to stop

  • Obesity – obvious really, if you lose weight you put less pressure on your body

  • Sedentary work or Physically demanding work – especially that which involves bending and twisting

  • Family History – if it’s in the family you are more likely to have a disc injury. The jury is out as to whether this is purely genetic or if families tend to have the same behaviours and hence the same injuries. If it’s in your family I’d have a serious look at your weight, your lifestyle and habits and see if you are all doing the same thing and it may be predisposing you to disc problems

Regular Spinal Checks

As someone who suffered from almost constant back ground back pain punctuated with episodes of severe pain, throughout her 20’s, regular chiropractic care changed my life. It changed it so much I went to chiropractic school, and whilst I’m not recommending that most people need to go to chiropractic school, I believe passionately that nothing beats a good chiropractic adjustment from an experienced chiropractor when it comes to looking after the spine. We have chosen to use Network Spinal Analysis as our main technique because it helped me so profoundly. You need to find the right chiropractor for you.

How often should I go?

Personally I get adjusted every week and that suits my lifestyle which is very active and I constantly challenge my body to do more and more. You may find that twice monthly works for you or even once a month. For me, less than that is more about crisis care than optimising your spinal function.

So it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to function at your best all of the time and optimize your spine and nervous system function I would get adjusted weekly or fortnightly. If your goals are to stay out of pain and less about function, then you may find less frequent works for you. It’s a choice and only you can decide. Talk to your chiropractor and see what he or she recommends to meet your goals.

Summary

So my recommendations to keep your spine healthy and happy are:

  • Keep moving. Find exercise that works for you and that you enjoy

  • Eat healthily – obvious really

  • Reduce your Risk Factors

  • Get your Spine Checked by a qualified Health Care Professional and get the care you need to support your lifestyle

Back Pain – A National Health Issue?

So how big is the problem of Back Pain in the UK? 

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  • It is estimated that in the UK approximately 2.6 million people seek advice from their GP each year on back pain

  • One year after the first episode of back pain it is estimated that 62% will still have pain

  • Most people symptoms improve in the first 3 months, but after this there is little improvement in symptoms

  • It is estimated that 84% of people will suffer from back pain at some point in their life

  • The most current data available came from 1998 and estimated that the cost to the NHS of treating all back pain was more than £1000 million per year, and for low back pain was in excess of £500 million per year. A further £623 million was related to services provided by the private sector

  • In 2013 it is estimated that 31 million working days were lost to back, neck and muscle problems costing the UK economy £14 billion per year.

 

So what is Chronic Back Pain?

Chronic back pain is defined as pain lasting for more than 6 weeks duration. It does not include back pain caused by ongoing malignancy or infection but is referring to musculoskeletal back pain.

Chronic back pain include pain that is described as a persistent ache anywhere in the spine. It is associated with stiffness, soreness and inflammation and may range from mild to severe or a dull ache to a sharp pain.

It is not always possible to identify the cause of back pain, though in some cases it can be attributed to a direct injury to a disc or an accident.

Lifestyle choices can have a big impact on chronic back pain.

Risk factors include the following:

  • Being overweight

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Smoking

  • Occupation (especially those that require lifting/twisting or excessive sitting)

What can You do about it?

In the UK we are experts at “making do” and “getting on with it”. Many of the people I work with have often suffered in silence for years even decades before seeking help or taking action.

I would always recommend seeking advice of a qualified health care practitioner who in an expert in the spine, as not only can they give you advice they can also rule out more sinister causes of back pain such as malignancy.

So the first obvious thing you can do is look at your risk factors and reduce them as much as you can. I find the two easiest ones you can start with are levels of activity and looking at your posture.

Stay Active / Get Active: This is one of the most important things to do, not only for your spinal health but for your overall health. If you don’t already walk on a regular basis it’s a great place to start. There are numerous apps available that allow you to monitor your activity and share it with friends (if that motivates you) such as MapMyWalk. A starting point can simply be taking the stairs not the lift at work. You know what your current levels are. How can you improve on that?

I personally think that yoga and/or pilates are also great ways of helping yourself to improve your spinal strength and flexibility. I have found that it is less about the technique and more about finding the right teacher for you. So I suggest you try several classes and even private sessions until you find someone that resonates with your needs.

Improve your Posture

Over time poor posture can distort the natural alignment of your spine. In our technology driven world, many of us are stooped over computers or smart phones for hours each day. I’ve yet to find a UK app that I rate, but the StraightenUpCanada app produced by the Canadian Chiropractic Association provides simple stretches that can help you to focus on your posture and relieve aches and pain.

Long Term Solutions

For some people resolving and managing back pain is not something they can do on their own. If pain relief is your only concern, medication is probably the answer. But if you want to get to the root of the problem and change, talk to your local chiropractor who will have spent a minimum of 4 years studying in depth how the spine works and what to do when it goes wrong.

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11709/

Arthritis Research Campaign. Arthritis the big picture. Arthritis Research Campaign. 2002

Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Manniche C. Low back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations. Eur Spine J. 2003;12(2):149–165

Pengel LH, Herbert RD, Maher CG, Refshauge KM. Acute low back pain: systematic review of its prognosis. BMJ. 2003;327(7410):323

http://www.nhsemployers.org/news/2015/04/bad-backs-cost-the-uk-31-million-days-of-work

How to Lift Heavy Christmas Presents Correctly….

No one is immune to having a back injury. Whether you have a strong back or have damaged your back in the past this is advice you probably need to hear:

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  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

  • Stop yourself before casually picking up a light or heavy load.

  • Plan in your mind for the best way to lift what’s in front of you. This could include enlisting help from one or more people.

  • Lift and move slowly and carefully.

The time you take to use the right lifting mechanics is far less than the days, weeks, or months it can take to heal from a back injury. So remember: STOP, PLAN, LIFT

How can I lift without hurting my back?

Follow these basic rules to protect your back while lifting :

  • Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other (karate stance).

  • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).

  • Maintain good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.

  • Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight, and don’t twist as you lift.

  • Don’t twist as you lift – so many of the injuries we see involve twisting. Discs are weaker when you put them under strain when twisting

  • Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.

  • Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps.

  • Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.

  • Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.

 

If you are unlucky enough to injure your back and you don’t recover rapidly, consult your chiropractor to establish the extent of injury and a program to get you back on your feet and fully recovered.