Get Healthy this Spring

 
 

With spring upon us and the days getting longer, now is a great time to get healthy. We always encourage our patients to be active and exercise. However, spring is the perfect time to shake off the winter blues and get in shape. Here are some simple ways to feel good again.

 Get Outside

There are so many benefits to being outside that just spending more time outdoors will make you feel better. Getting some much needed sunshine will boost your Vitamin D levels which will help boost your immune system and promote healthy bones. In the UK the ultraviolet rays in sunshine are only strong enough to make vitamin D between April and September. With the sun still fairly low in the sky try and get out of the office at lunchtime to get the maximum benefits.  The Association of UK Dietitians recommends 15 minutes of exposure 2 to 3 times each week without using sunscreen. If you have skin that burns easily and need to use a sunscreen then make sure you are eating Vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish (salmon), eggs, milk and fortified cereals. Vitamin D supplements can of course also help.

 Get Exercising

This could be simply deciding to walk or cycle to work if that is an option. With the longer days and better weather there is less excuse to jump in the car first thing in the morning. If that’s not an option, try a brisk walk at lunchtime. It will help boost your energy levels for the afternoon as well as helping to keep your joints and muscles healthy and improve your aerobic fitness. Aim to walk briskly for 30 minutes five days a week for maximum benefits but even walking for 10 minutes each day will help.

 Get Spring Cleaning

While for many of us the thought of spring cleaning might fill us with dread, a good cleanout and declutter can have a positive impact on our health in a number of ways. Opening and cleaning windows lets fresh air and light into your home. Dusting and washing away dust, mould and bacteria that have built up over the winter months will help reduce exposure to allergens. Throwing out old paints, cleaning products and medicines will help remove toxins from your home. There are also psychological benefits to having a clean, organised and clutter free house. Clutter can increase stress and distract us. Spring cleaning can improve our mood, decrease stress and heighten creativity.

 Get an Osteopathic Check-up and Treatment

Many of our patients don’t realise that osteopathy can be a great way of loosening up and re-aligning joints and muscles even when they are symptom free. After the reduced activity that many of us experience during the winter months, spring is a great time to get any joint restrictions or tight muscles assessed and fixed. This will help keep you injury free and feeling good as you get healthy this spring.

 

For more information about how osteopathy could help relieve your muscle and joint pain please visit us at www.vivos.org.uk

 To Book your osteopathic Check Up and Treatment:

call us on 01223 868300

or email us at vivos@live.co.uk

Tips to help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

 
 

 

 At this time of year as the days grow darker we often see patients who complain about tiredness, lacking energy and feeling down. These can be a sign that they suffer from Seasonal Affective (or adjustment) Disorder also known as SAD. While most people are able to continue with their everyday activities, in some cases patients might find it more difficult to cope. The good news is that there are some simple things that you can do yourselves to help avoid SAD or at least limit its effects.

 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) ?

SAD is essentially a form of depression that occurs in the autumn and winter months and then improves in the spring and summer. Different people will experience different symptoms but they typically include the following:

-         A constant feeling of tiredness and wanting to sleep all the time.

-         Feeling irritable.

-         Feeling lethargic and lacking energy and motivation.

-         A persistent low mood.

-         Craving carbohydrates (comfort food) and putting on weight.

 

What are the causes?

We are not sure of the exact causes of SAD but it is thought to be connected to the lower levels of sunlight that we are exposed to in winter. The lack of sunlight effects the function of part of our brain called the hypothalamus. The Hypothalamus controls many important body functions including:

-         The body’s internal clock which in turn controls our sleep patterns.

-         Production of melatonin. This is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. It is thought that melatonin levels rise in SAD.

-         Serotonin production. This is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. It is thought that SAD is related to a drop in serotonin levels.

 

What to do if you think you may have SAD?

If you are suffering with mild symptoms then the following tips may help relieve them.

1.     Expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible. Get out of your house or workplace as much as possible especially on sunny days. Draw curtains and blinds open. Sit near windows where possible.

2.    Exercise. Go for a long walk or cycle if possible but all aerobic exercise will boost your mood and energy levels.

3.    Adjust your sleep patterns by going to bed a little earlier. This will help to keep your body clock on track and increase the chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

4.    Maintain a healthy balanced diet. Avoid the temptation to eat sugary foods and drink coffee to keep you going. Although they help in the short term you will feel more tired when the effects wear off. The intestines actually produce their own serotonin so are important in mood regulation. Vitamin supplements may also help, especially Vitamin D3, Vitamin A and zinc.

5.    Consider buying a good SAD light box/lamp. These simulate exposure to sunlight and many SAD suffers find them very helpful.

However, if you are struggling to cope you should consult your GP. They may be able to prescribe appropriate medication or refer you for relevant counselling.

 

If you would like any further information then please contact us at vivos@live.co.uk or phone us on 07582 128662

If you would like help with any back or neck pain then don’t forget to book your appointment.

 

Tension headaches

 
 

Do you suffer from regular headaches?

Do they get worse during busy times at work?

Would you like to be pain free?

Read more about what may cause tension headaches and what can be done to help them.

 

The NHS estimates that more than 10 million people in the UK get headaches regularly with tension headaches being the most common type.

What are tension headaches?                                                                                                                                                                                             

The effects of tension headaches vary between individuals but there are some common characteristics.

-         Patients often describe a feeling of “compression” or a band of “tightness” around their heads.

-         They can affect one side of the head or be more generalised.

-         Pain commonly spreads to or from the neck and they normally last for a few hours.

-         Unlike migraines they don’t normally involve visual symptoms or nausea.

-          Although they usually respond to over the counter painkillers and are not disabling, they can in some cases become more              persistent and chronic.

What causes tension headaches?                                                                                                                                                                                      

The causes of headaches are not always clear and will vary from person to person. However some common triggers are:

-         Poor posture and prolonged sitting at desks and/or computers.

-         Musculo-skeletal problems especially affecting the neck and upper back.

-         General stress. This can lead to tension in the neck, shoulder and jaw muscles. This may exaggerate existing joint and muscle problems.

-         Dehydration and skipping meals leading to low blood sugar levels.

-         Changes in eyesight causing overwork of the eye muscles.

 

What can be done to help?

While pain killers may be sufficient in some cases, some patients find that their headaches don’t respond well or keep returning. The good news is that in many cases osteopathy can help relieve the symptoms of tension headaches.

As osteopaths we can take a detailed case history about headaches and your general health. This may include asking you to keep a headache diary recording frequency, duration and intensity of your headaches along with any triggers you may notice.

We will then assess your posture and look for any problems with the muscles and joints in your neck, shoulders and upper back. If the headaches are thought to be related to these areas we can create a specific treatment plan.

Osteopathic treatment normally involves gentle soft tissue techniques to release muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Gentle joint articulations and manipulation may also be employed to get the spinal joints moving more effectively.

The tissues in the scalp and head are also assessed and gently released as there are many small muscles in the head, jaw and face that can contribute to tension headaches.

 

What can you do to help yourself?

As part of the treatment plan we may also give advice on posture and lifestyle changes such as hydration and exercise. Here are some simple things that you can try:

1.     Desk set up: make sure your desk is set up well with the computer screen at eye level and directly in front of you. (See our previous blog for more specific advice on sitting at desks).

2.    Upper back exercise: A good way of keeping the joints in the upper back moving is to link your fingers together behind your neck. Then bring the elbows together at the front and make small circles with the elbow tips for 30-60 seconds.

3.    Gentle neck stretch: Tightly roll up a tea towel and place it under the base of the skull where it joins your neck. Lie down on your back and let the weight of your head gently press against the towel. Do this for no more than 5 minutes at a time but repeat at regular intervals if necessary.

4.    General exercise: Try and get away from your desk as much as possible and incorporate more walking into your day. This reduces the risk of joints and muscles stiffening up throughout the day.

5.    General health tips: Reduce stress levels where possible. Drink enough water and don’t skip meals. Develop a regular sleep pattern where possible.

The majority of headaches do not indicate any serious underlying health problems. However if you are concerned that you’re headache might be serious you should seek immediate medical advice.

 

If you would like to book an appointment with us to see if we can help your tension headaches please call:

01223 868 300  or  07582 128662

Or email us at vivos@live.co.uk

 

 

5 holiday tips

 
 

With the summer holidays now upon us we are getting ready for the annual rush of patients booking in for last minute treatment. We want to make sure that any back, shoulder or neck pain is sorted out before our patients head off on their holiday. We are of course always happy to help with treatment but here are some simple and effective tips designed to keep you pain free and able to enjoy your well earnt time off!!!

1.     The Journey

Many of you will be flying on budget airlines which are fitted with notoriously uncomfortable seats that no longer recline. The first thing to remember about sitting is try and get up out of your seat as regularly as possible and ideally at least once an hour. Even standing up in the aisle for a minute or two will help prevent the neck and back from stiffening up.

If you are likely to take a nap during the flight then it’s worth investing in an inflatable neck support cushion. These will prevent the head rolling into an awkward position and straining the neck joints and muscles. If you can’t get hold of a cushion then rolling up a small towel or T-shirt can work as a good substitute.

If you are prone to low back pain then a rolled up towel placed in the small of your back can also help offer some lumbar support. If you are planning to drive long distances the same advice applies.  Make sure your car seat is in a good position with your knees slightly bent and your hands able to comfortably reach the steering wheel. Have regular rest breaks where you get out of the car and have a good stretch. Aim to stop at least once every couple of hours.

2.     Luggage

Where possible avoid large and bulky suitcases which are difficult to manoeuvre. Most suitcases now have wheels and handles to pull them. Make sure the handles are adjusted to the right height to avoid low back pain. When putting bags and suitcases in the overhead locker on planes stand square on and close to the locker. Use both arms to lift the case. Ideally, placing one on each side and slowly lift the case above head height.

If you suffer from any shoulder or neck pain don’t be afraid to ask a fellow passenger or cabin crew to help you. When taking your case out of the locker all the same advice applies. Rucksacks are always worth considering if you intend to be moving from place to place with your luggage.

3.     Pillows and beds

Pillows and beds can be a source of problems for everyone. Not necessarily because they are of poor quality but often just because they are not what we are used to back home. With pillows, if you have space in your suitcase or car for one of your own then make sure you pack it.

If that’s not possible then aim to prop up any thin or flimsy pillows that you may find in your holiday accommodation. Ideally the head and neck needs to be supported so that if you are lying on your side your head is in a neutral position. The head should not be dropping down towards the bed or being pushed too far away from the mattress. Similarly, if you are lying on your back you don’t want your head to be dropping backwards or being flexed forwards too much.

Using 2 thin pillows is often enough to achieve this. Another option is to neatly fold a towel up and place it underneath the pillow.  This should improve the support and comfort. If suffering from acute neck pain, a tightly rolled towel placed under the neck can be helpful in supporting the neck and alleviating pain.

Beds and mattresses are of course harder to deal with. If the bed is offering very little support or is too uneven, it may be worth placing the mattress on the floor.

4.    Ice packs and simple pain relief

This may sound obvious but it is always worth taking a packet of basic painkillers and anti-inflammatories with you (providing you have no medical reasons preventing you from taking them). Also if you have a gel ice pack and access to a fridge or freezer whilst you are away then pack it in your suitcase and pop it in the freezer when you arrive. In many cases of neck and back joint strains a combination of ice, painkillers and anti-inflammatories is enough to keep the symptoms under control. Always remember to wrap the ice pack in a towel or T-shirt.  Apply it for no more than 10 minutes at a time and ideally at regular intervals up to 3 or 4 times a day.

5.    Exercise

Finally, although many of you will be on holiday to relax it is important to fit some gentle exercise into your daily routine. Swimming of course can be very good for your muscles and joints. Going for a gentle stroll once or twice a day is also a good idea to help prevent joints stiffening up. Whilst many of you will enjoy relaxing on a lounger and reading a good book it is important to get up every hour or so to reduce the risks of postural strains developing.

 

We hope that the above tips help to keep you pain free and able to enjoy your holidays to the full. Don’t forget we are experts in dealing with mechanical neck, back and shoulder pain so if you would like any treatment or additional advice please give us a call on:

 01223 868300 or 07582 128662

We wish all our patients a Happy Healthy Holiday!!!!

Simple desk based exercises to keep you healthy

 
 

Is sitting bad for your health?

Simple desk exercises to stay healthy!

 

There seems to be an increasing amount of research that suggests that prolonged sitting is not only bad for our posture but can also affect our overall health. In a recent article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an international group of experts examined the current evidence on the effects of sitting at desks for long periods. They found that prolonged sitting may increase the risk of cardio-vascular disease as well as conditions such as diabetes.

They recommended that where possible desk workers should initially aim to stand whilst working for 2 hours a day eventually increasing this to 4 hours a day. For most people this is not going to be practical unless you are lucky enough to have an adjustable sit/stand desk at your work station. So what else can you do to help stay healthy while at work?

Well firstly, as we talked about in our March blog on sitting you should aim to take regular breaks from sitting at your desk. Just standing up once every 30 mins is a good start. If you can get away from your desk for a minute or two – even better. But there are also some simple exercises and stretches that you can do while sitting at your desk. They will help to keep the muscles in your back, hips and legs moving which will in turn help to keep you healthy.

Our Osteopathic colleague Edward Paget has produced a great short video on simple desk based exercises. It is only a few minutes long but demonstrates some easy to follow exercises to keep you moving at your desk. Once you get the hang of them try and build them into your daily routine. Before you know it you will be doing them without thinking about it.

To view the video click here

To view the British Journal of Sports Medicine Article Click here

 

 Don t forget – we can help with your desk related back and neck pain!

To book an appointment call 01223 868300 or 07582 128662

5 common running injuries - how to avoid and treat them!

 
 

Many of our patients are surprised to learn that osteopaths can help with running injuries. However, as experts in muscle and joint injuries we can help speed up recovery from most running injuries and give advice on prevention of future problems.

With the London Marathon almost upon us and an increasing number of our patients taking up running we thought this would be a good time to give you our top tips on avoiding and treating running injuries.

1.     Runners Knee

What is it?

This is a common injury with pain felt in and around the knee cap (patella bone). It is caused by irritation in the cartilage underneath the knee cap or in the tendons around it or both. As with most running injuries there are a number of factors that can cause the problem. These include muscle imbalance in the legs leading to the knee cap being pulled out of alignment. It can also be affected my poor muscle tone in the hips and core stability. A sudden increase in the amount of running can also overload the knee joint.

What can you do?

Firstly increase your rest days and reduce your mileage. Don’t run through the pain. Avoid downhill running and use an incline on a treadmill as uphill running helps strengthen the gluteal muscles. Cycling, cross training and swimming all help maintain fitness without stressing the knees. Ice the knee cap after running. Strengthening the quads and stretching the IT Band (the band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh) can help if there is a problem with how the knee cap tracks. Lateral sidestep exercises and squats will also help.

2.    Plantar Fasciitis

What is it?

This is a common running injury affecting the sole of the foot and heel. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along the arch of your foot between the heel and toes. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this connective tissue becomes inflamed. Patients feel a dull ache in the sole or heel of the foot aggravated by standing and often worse in the morning. It can be caused by problems with foot mechanics such as high or low arches or over-pronation (foot rolling in). It can also be caused by muscle imbalance in the back and legs, poor footwear and increased levels of running.

What can I do?

This can develop into a chronic problem that can be difficult to shift. In extreme cases it can lead to the growth of bony spurs in the heel bone that may need surgery. Full recovery can take 3 to 6 months and sometimes a complete break from running is necessary. Rolling your foot over a rolling pin or frozen water bottle helps break down the tension in the tissues and reduce inflammation. Cross one leg over the other and pull your toes up to stretch the fascia. Stretch out calf muscles if tight and improve your core stability. Choose running shoes with the right amount of support for you arches.

3.    Achilles Tendonitis

What is it?

The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. When strained it becomes inflamed causing acute pain when running or even walking. It may also cause a feeling of tightness or stiffness in the calf and ankle.

What can I do?

If you have any pain during running then stop – don’t try and run it off. Take a break from running for a few weeks until the pain has gone. In the early stages use ice 3 to 5 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes each time. Gently stretch the calf muscles. When the pain starts to ease build up strength in the calf muscles by standing on a step with your heels just over the edge. Go up on tip toes before lowering your heels down just below the step. Do 10 to 20 reps at least once a day. Swim, cross train or cycle to maintain mobility and fitness levels.

4.    IT Band Syndrome

What is it?

The Ilio-tibial band (IT Band) is a thick band of connective tissue much like a tendon that runs along the outside border of your thigh. It connects your hip muscles to your knee. When you run your knee joint straightens and bends causing the IT band to rub against your thigh bone (femur) causing friction. Too much of this can lead to inflammation and pain. It is commonly caused by a big increase in running but will also be affected by muscle tightness or weakness in the thighs, hips and back. Other factors include differences in leg length and a long running stride.

What can I do?

Take a few days complete rest from running then reduce your mileage for a week or two. The IT Band is difficult to stretch but using a foam roller to break down tension can help. Stretching the gluteus muscles can also be beneficial. Trying to shorten your running stride by 5 or 10% may help by reducing the impact on the IT band and knee.

5.    Shin Splints

What is it?

This is pain in the front of your shin and is known medically as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. The muscles in the shin become overworked and tight causing them to tear or pull on the outer surface of the shin bone (tibia) causing inflammation and pain. They are normally the result of doing too much running too quickly.

What can I do?

Rest is again the first step. Take a week off running then return with a reduced mileage. Ice can also help reduce the inflammation. Make sure you have good running shoes with appropriate cushioning and support. For more chronic cases a prolonged break from running is recommended

Summary

There are of course many other injuries that runners pick up from muscle strains to stress fractures. Almost all of them will respond to the right combination of rest and rehabilitation. In general be guided by pain when running or working on rehab – if it hurts - ease up or stop. If your injuries don’t respond or get worse it may be helpful to get an osteopathic assessment. In addition to being experienced in diagnosis and treatment of running injuries we can also assess other factors that could be contributing e.g. posture, problems with the spine and pelvic mechanics.

For more specific information or advice or to find out how osteopathy can help you please check out our website.

www.vivos.org.uk

Five ways to avoid desk related neck and back pain

 
 

Are you suffering from constant neck and shoulder pain?

Are you working long hours stuck at your desk?

 

As osteopaths we are seeing increasing numbers of patients who come to us with neck and shoulder pain that is largely a result of working long hours at a computer or being stuck at a desk. As experts in treating mechanical muscle and joint pain we are normally able to give significant relief to our patients especially in the short term. For long lasting relief it is also important to make small changes to their daily work routine to prevent the neck and shoulder pain recurring.

Here are 5 easy tips that most people can do at work to help keep the neck and shoulders pain free:

 

1. Stand up

The first thing we recommend is simply to stand up at your desk. Regularly. Preferably every 30 minutes and for 60 seconds. The simple action of standing up resets your posture and gives a break to the muscles and ligaments that support your back when you are sitting. It is overworking these muscles and ligaments that leads to tissue fatigue and eventually tightness and pain. It is all too easy to spend an hour or two sitting down so set an alarm on your phone or use an egg timer to remind you when it’s time to stand.

2. Desk Setup

Even if you are standing up every 30 minutes it still means that most of the working day will be spent sitting at your desk. You don’t need an ergonomics expert to tell you the basics. Make sure your seat is at the right height. Ideally you want your hips to be slightly higher than your knees and for your forearms to rest comfortably on your desk. Make sure the screen is at eye height and located centrally so you don’t have to turn your head to see it. Try and keep the keyboard and mouse close to you to prevent slouching.

3. Desk Posture

Posture is of course important, If your desk is setup well to begin with it will be easier to get your posture right, Ideally you want your body to be facing your workstation squarely and for your back to be in a neutral position. This doesn’t mean forcing your back into a military style posture with shoulders pinned back and a deep arch in your low back. This isn’t a natural position for most people. It is more effective to imagine the top of your head being gently pulled up by a piece of string. This will allow the rest of your spine to move into a more natural position.

4. Desk Breaks

No matter how good your desk setup and posture are it is still important that you get away from your desk as often as your work allows. By walking over to the coffee machine or popping to the toilet you will be introducing some much needed movement to your muscles and joints. Movement is vital to maintaining joint and muscle health and even more so than standing will prevent the muscle and ligament fatigue that develops in neck and back pain. If you are able to escape the office at lunchtime then go for a walk. A brisk 15 or 20 minute walk is normally enough to get your breathing up which will free up the ribs and joints in the upper back. These so often play a role in work strain.

5. Stretching and Exercise

There are many specific stretches that can be given for desk related muscle strains. Regular stretching of the muscles in the forearm can help prevent muscle and tendon problems in the forearm and wrist. Simply hold one arm with your palm facing up out in front of you and pull down on your fingertips with the other hand. A good way of keeping the joints in the upper back moving is to link your fingers together behind your neck. Then bring the elbows together at the front and make small circles with the elbow tips. By spending just a minute or two every few hours doing this exercise you will help to keep the upper back and neck moving. Finally, it is of course a good idea to keep yourself generally active when you are not at work whether that is specific sports or exercise classes or simply cycling or walking to work.

For more specific information or advice or to find out how osteopathy can help you please check out our website.

www.vivos.org.uk