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 can I help myself heal?

This is a question that comes up on a regular basis in the office, so here are my thoughts.

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There are the things I think of as obvious, which you may or may not have thought of. I’m going to cover 4 areas, so scroll down to whatever interests you most.

  1. What you eat

  2. Exercise

  3. What you think

  4. How you relate to your body - exercises to increase awareness and connection

What you Eat

This is probably not the first place you might go, but it’s important. Depending on what needs to heal in your body, this will vary a bit, but the essence of this is that if you eat good, healthy, nutritional food, your body is better set up for healing.

By that I mean lots of vegetables and fruit, high quality protein and good quality fats (the research is starting to show that saturated fat is not as bad as we thought, the real culprit are trans-fats - which are not real food - such as margarine).

If you are in a lot of pain, you may want to reduce inflammatory foods and drinks from your diet. These include (not exclusive) red meats, wheat/gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar and processed foods, and caffeine. If you feel you need support on this, find a good nutritional therapist, naturopath or other health professional well trained in nutrition to guide you.

Exercise

Now pain levels can really get in the way of this, but let’s assume your pain is manageable or going. It’s really important to move, because as humans we are designed to move, and most of us don’t move enough.

Find things that you enjoy and also challenge you, but not too much. People often ask me if I prefer yoga or pilates? I actually find it’s a personal choice and very much related to the teacher. So try several classes and find someone you like doing something you enjoy. Because if you don’t enjoy it, it will never become part of your routine unless you have an iron will.

What you Think

How can this help you may be asking. I find people who are totally focused on pain, tend to take longer to heal than people who are focused on what they want to do once they have healed. If all your focus is on what’s wrong with you, you have a different experience of your body than those who focus on what they can do and what they can do next.

Try this. Stand up and observe your body. If you have a sense of energy focus on it. Or observe your posture, how you stand, how you feel. Then say out loud “What’s wrong with me?” and observe your body response. Then say out loud “what’s right with me?”. Observe your body.

Most people notice that the energy goes down on the first question and the posture collapses a bit. On the second question, energy goes up and there is a straightening or expansion of the posture.

There are obviously many more questions you can ask, such as “what would help me most in this moment to heal?”, “what will I do differently as I heal?”. Find your own questions. But be very aware, if your internal dialogue is along the lines of “what’s wrong with me, I’m broken, this is never going to end, I’m doomed, I’ll never heal” - you are not working with your body but against it.

Somato-Respiratory Integration (SRI)

SRI is a body approach that enables you to get more internally resourceful. It is based on the 12 Stages of Healing written by Donny Epstein, which discusses 12 states of human consciousness. Each state has it’s own posture, behaviours and perception or experience of the body.

Many people run their body’s from the first two stages.

Stage 1: Disconnection, helplessness and suffering - we don’t believe we have any control over how our body is, everything happens to us and we feel broken. By using the Stage 1 exercise however, we start to discover internal resources we didn’t know we had. We stop being a victim to whatever happened and find new resources and start to heal. We then move into Stage 2.

Stage 2: Polarity - When we get to this stage we have more energy, enough energy in fact to look for help or to look for someone or something to blame. We often find the “magic healer or chiropractor” in this stage and put all the responsibility on her to fix us. We are still not taking responsibility for our own body, but at least we are doing something about it. We often have a story about why this has happened and are blaming someone or something for our pain and suffering.

Stage 3: Stuckness or Frustration - this is where we get to as we heal a bit more and realise that we are stuck in a pattern. We’ve still been blaming others or circumstance and deep down we know that we have to change inside, because we have something to do with our suffering. Many people at this point fall back into Stage 1 and feel disconnected and suffer, or go big time into blame and get angry and put it all on the therapist, the person who hurt them, or just anyone they can throw their anger at. Because as long as they stay angry and in blame mode, they don’t have to take responsibiltiy for what is happening in their body.

In stage 3 we connect to the patterns within us that have held us in this loop. We engage with our body in a different way. Because we have had enough, and as the energy builds we start to move into Stage 4. Stage 4 is where we start to fully engage and take responsibility for our healing. We know that we have to change, which may mean our diet, our exercise patterns, our outlook on life. We just know that it is time and we are going to do it.

To read more on the 12 Stages click here.

If you want to learn the first three stages (or the higher stages), check the Events page to find out when the next workshop is and book in.

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

Could Vitamin D help prevent Colds and Flu?

A recent research study has shown that daily or weekly dosage of Vitamin D can help protect again colds and flu. The study, published in the BMJ, was a participant data meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials including over 11,000 participants.

We associate Vitamin D with bone health, but low vitamin D levels are also associated with increased susceptibility to acute respiratory infections, or put more simply – colds and flu.

The study found that people with the lowest levels of Vitamin D in their blood got the most benefits, cutting their risk by almost half, but that all participants received some benefit from Vitamin D supplementation. Administration of periodic high dosage Vitamin D appeared to have no benefits.

Colds and flu are a big drain on the NHS in winter. If you think you are at risk, you may want to consider adding vitamin D to your daily or weekly routine.

References
Adrian R Martineau, David A Jolliffe, Richard L Hooper, Lauren Greenberg, John F Aloia, Peter Bergman, Gal Dubnov-Raz, Susanna Esposito, Davaasambuu Ganmaa, Adit A Ginde, Emma C Goodall, Cameron C Grant, Christopher J Griffiths, Wim Janssens, Ilkka Laaksi, Semira Manaseki-Holland, David Mauger, David R Murdoch, Rachel Neale, Judy R Rees, Steve Simpson, Iwona Stelmach, Geeta Trilok Kumar, Mitsuyoshi Urashima, Carlos A Camargo. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant dataBMJ, 2017; i6583 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.i6583

Where does your brain end and start?

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I challenge you to look at this picture of a human brain. This has been floating around facebook for the last few weeks and it got me thinking. As a chiropractor I know that the brain is contiguous with the spinal cord… that is you can’t really separate them. It’s not like the brain stops and spinal cord begins. In fact our spinal cord is an extension or a part of our brain.

Where do we put things that we can’t deal with or don’t have time to deal with? 

You put them “at the back of your mind”…… or is that your spinal column or your back.

So why is this so important? Because we all know that our brain is like the super computer, the harddrive for so much information in our body. Medicine is constantly talking about how drugs can be used to target the brain and we all know what happens if someone has a brain injury – part of their body often stops working, like we see after a stroke or say a tumour in the brain.

Our spinal column contains so much important information, so a tumour in the spine often causes weird symptoms in one of our limbs. Pressure on the spinal cord (or brain) can affect sensation below that area of the cord or can affect how our muscles work.

Also, our spinal column contains the densest areas of receptor sites for the chemicals of emotion in the body (Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion). Denser even than in the brain itself or the gut (where you experience your “gut reaction”. So it sort of makes sense that the spinal cord is actually an extension of the brain, not merely an appendage.

So next time your back hurts or you feel out of alignment, take a moment and think about how your spine may be distorting or adapting to what’s going on inside your spine (or inside your brain). And observe the emotions and feelings you may normally associate with being experience in your brain, may actually be experienced first in your spinal cord……

Posture A or Posture B?

Did you know that when you meet someone for the first time you’ve made up your mind about them in the first 7 seconds. If that’s an interview that is probably the time it takes to walk into the room and sit down .

A big part of how we evaluate people is how they hold themselves or put another way, how they posture. Because “posturing” is really how we wear our life through our body. So if someone has had a really tough life and it’s affected them negatively you can often tell by how they hold their body, how they move and how they breathe even. Most people find it easy to spot the child that has been bullied, and also (though not so easy) the child who is likely to bully.

Your nervous system and brain function has a huge impact on your posture

Find out more in this short video we explore this further and talk about what you can do to change

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

Is Sitting the New Smoking

There has been lots in the press about the impact of sitting on our health. With obesity levels at an all time high, a survey from Australia showed that people think that sitting too much and not exercising is the biggest cause of obesity.

Research shows that sitting decreases activity in the legs, reduces calorie burning to as little as one per minute and enzymes that burn fat drop 90%.

Whilst most people know the risks of smoking there still seems to be a lack of education as to the potential negative effects of sitting on health.

The current myth seems to be that you can lose weight by simply exercising a bit more and watching your calories, yet reality doesn’t seem to show this.

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Your brain – which is the control center of your nervous system, which in turn coordinates health and wellbeing in the body, needs constant input to work optimally. When we don’t move for long periods at a time this input dramatically decreases. I liken it to a bike dynamo which needs constant movement from the wheels to power the light, you brain needs input from your spine and body, and we get this from movement.

Everyone knows that even if we don’t want to exercise, if we manage to drag ourselves out for a walk or to the gym we always feel better afterwards.

So what can you do to counter the effects of sitting?

  1. If you are making a phone call – stand in you can. Walk whilst you talk. Move more.

  2. Sitting desks are becoming more and more affordable. You can either invest in one if you’re self employed or work on your boss if you’re not. The health benefits are potentially huge.

  3. If you use public transport to get to work, get off a stop early and walk

  4. Use the stairs not the lift

  5. Find a sport or activity that you love and plan to do it at least 3 times a week.

  6. Meet your friend for a walk, not a coffee, or take your coffee with you.

  7. If you are concerned you don’t move enough, invest in a step counter (there are so many affordable options on Amazon nowadays) and aim for a minimum of 10000 per day. Assess your levels currently and build up to 10,000 and beyond.

We all have a choice as to what we do with our time. With a little creativity you could improve your energy levels, relieve tension in your body, reduce stress and improve your overall health by moving more each day.

How can Wonderful Winter Walking help your spine?

Wonderful Winter Walking

The weather has been pretty unpredictable this winter from gales, to torrential rain to snow and frost. It’s tempting to batten down the hatches and hide away indoor. People are always asking me what they can do to support their healing, be it from back pain or something else, or just general advice as to how to get healthier. Here are a few reasons to maybe consider a winter walk.

  1. It’s really important to stay active and mobile, especially at this time of year. Walking doesn’t cost you anything, especially when you live somewhere as beautiful as we do.

  2. Walking can help to improve your postures. Especially if you spend a lot of time behind a computer, getting outside and walking helps to straighten your spine and improve how you feel.

  3. If you have a back problem, walking helps take the pressure of discs and helps to rehydrate them.

  4. Walking can help to bring the body back into balance, increasing circulation and even lowering blood pressure

  5. Walking is low impact and gentle on your body. It can help to release tension, especially in your shoulders and low back in a gentle way.

  6. Walking can be a great opportunity to meet up with old and new friends. Join a walking club such as the Ramblers or arrange to meet up with friends. Children love walking and being outside and it’s a great way to get the family together.

  7. Combined with a healthy lifestyle walking can help you to lose weight. Losing weight reduces pressure on the spine and body, helping painful areas to heal.

  8. Walking is a great way of getting more sunlight and raising your mood. During the short winter days a few hours outside can really help to lift your spirit.

So whatever your age or condition, find some time to get outside and give your body and mind a boost this February.

Is Your Spine Ski Ready

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As we move into 2018, many of us are looking forward to the annual ski holiday. Whilst skiing is an excellent way of enjoying the mountains in the winter, icy conditions, low temperatures and high speeds increase the risk of injuries.

Whilst it’s not possible to totally guarantee no injury to your spine, these tips can certainly help you reduce the risk of injuring or straining your back.

Preparation

As someone who learnt to ski in her 40’s I can certainly vouch for this one.

Skiing is physically demanding. It requires strength and stamina and whether you are physically fit or an armchair athlete for most of the year, it can take a toll on your body.

Ideally you want to build up your strength and your stamina before you hit the slopes. Many gyms can tailor a program specifically for you to prepare you for the slopes. And with the internet, YouTube is a great source of ideas you can do in the home.

The important factors are however the same. You want to focus on core strength, flexibility and balance and make sure your stamina and endurance is high enough to enjoy long days skiing.

Warming up before you ski is also important. Ideally you’ll warm your muscles up before stretching, there may even be a very gentle run close to your hotel where you can warm up your body before tackling the more difficult slopes

Take it Easy on the First Day

For most of us, skiing is an annual event (maybe bi-annual). So it’s easy to be out of shape and out of practice. Start on the easier slopes, building up to more challenging slopes when you feel ready. Don’t be pressurized by friends who may be of a much higher standard than you to attempt runs you are not ready for. And make sure you enjoy it.

Lift Properly

Injuries “don’t just happen”. As always it’s important to lift heavy suitcases and ski equipment correctly. Keep your back straight and bend your knees. Avoid turning or twisting your body whilst lifting heavy objects.

Stretch it Out

It’s important to stretch before and after skiing. Skiing uses muscles that you don’t regularly use and includes movements that are sudden and sporadic. It’s important to relax muscles after skiing and stretching is part of this.

Invest in Good Equipment and Maintain it Well

Make sure all your equipment is of good quality and is the right size for you. The wrong equipment can put extra strain on your body and cause injuries.

Of note, one of our skiing friends lost a lot of weight between seasons and didn’t adjust her skis to take account of this. Due to this her ski’s failed to release when she fell and she ended up with a severe fracture. So if you own your own kit, make sure you get it checked before every holiday so that the settings are right for you.

Know Your Limits

If you’ve not skied for a number of years it is unlikely that your body is going to respond like it did when you were 17. Even if you are a seasoned annual skier, pay attention to what your body is capable of. It’s not about impressing everyone else, it’s about having fun and being able to return to the slopes year after year.

Remember, just like driving, fatigue can lead to poor judgement and mistakes, so listen to your body and take adequate breaks. For me personally, nothing beats a steaming cup of coffee in a mountain top café, enjoying the view.

Talk to your Chiropractor

Getting your spine regularly checked is an important part of spinal health. In our office, Olaf is an experienced skier so if you have ski specific questions we direct you to him as it’s his expertise.

Enjoy your trip.

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.