Friday, 25 November 2016

Christmas Shopping Needn’t Be A Pain In The Neck … Or Any Other Part Of Your Body!

Every New Year, our clinics see dozens of new and existing patients whose Christmases have been ruined by musculoskeletal pain, most of which could have been prevented – it isn't just a pain in the neck, we see backs, shoulders, knees, hips and a host of other problems at this time of the year.

There are a number of factors that lead to the upsurge in cases during December – starting with the dreaded Christmas shopping – a phrase that we all know can sometimes mean different things to different genders. 

Everybody is familiar with the stereotypes: women make multiple forays into town to accumulate gifts for children, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews breaking only for regular cappuccinos; blokes stick their head in the sand whilst getting privately stressed and grumpy, then rely on a mad dash sometime late on Christmas Eve.

There is, of course, a compromise to be struck: loath though I am to lift a finger towards Christmas until Advent is upon us, if I see a gift that fits the bill perfectly, I don’t let the fact that it’s still only November prevent me from buying it … and that’s our first tip to avoid injury: buying in smaller quantities prevents overloading muscles, joints and ligaments.

If, however, you are going in for a major shop then it’s a good time to forget about those 10,000 steps a day and park as close as you can to the shops and make regular trips back to the car to drop off bags before they become too heavy or awkward.

A couple of breaks for a sit-down and a warming, re-hydrating cuppa can also help take the strain off shopping-weary backs –as far as your spine and pelvis are concerned, there is a huge difference between walking at a constant regular cadence, and shuffling through the start-stop of shops: so start with a plan rather than wandering aimlessly, it will mean less time on your feet and less strain on your joints … tempting though it is to search out the best bargains, looking at the same item in half a dozen different stores adds mileage and any savings need to be offset again extra parking time… and a visit to a chiropractor if you’ve overdone it!  Five minutes preparation before you leave the house can also be worth a ton of cure:

   Wear comfortable, well fitting, shoes.
      – ‘Air soles’ help take strain off backs as well as feet whilst you’re pounding the pavements.

   Don’t bring any unnecessary things with you before you start shopping
      – You’ll have plenty to carry, so start light.

   Think about how you’re going to transport stuff.
      – Can you use a backpack?
      – A bag on wheels can be a good idea… but push it, don’t pull.

      – Carry shopping bags equally on both sides so you’re balanced.
      – If it’s heavy, can you get it delivered?

   Mind your posture!
  – Don’t let your shoulders slump: walk tall with your shoulders back.

• If something does go wrong… 
   – We have six chiropractors ready to spring into action
   – We are always happy to see someone before anything major goes 
        wrong, so why not get a winter check-up – an ounce of
        prevention can be worth a ton of cure!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

My shoulder pain isn’t getting better … That’s because it might no be coming from your shoulder!!

As with so much in life, clinical routine has its seasonal features: the overindulgence accident at Christmas; the gardener’s back in March after a winter of inactivity – most of these problems have an obvious cause an effect but there is one problem that strikes every autumn … and nobody is quite sure why.

Ask a chiropractor how they know when autumn has arrived and they will tell you it’s the sudden influx of patients with ‘shoulder’ pain – instead of half-a-dozen per week, suddenly it’s more than half a dozen every single day. 

Theories as to why range from the ‘cold wintery draught on warm skin’ to the effects of rapidly changing day length on serotonin levels, though no theory has yet been proved (it’s not a well-researched subject). What is, however, seems quite clear from clinical experience is that most of these seasonal symptoms are not shoulder pain at all!

If the pain is across the top of your shoulder or between the shoulder blade and the spine, then the chances are it’s coming from your ribs. Patients often look slightly sceptical on being informed that their ‘shoulder’ pain is coming from their costal joints (the joints between the ribs and the vertebrae) – “surely my ribs are in my chest?” they say.  In fact, the top rib actually joins with the base of the neck and acts as an anchor for some of the big muscles that run up the side and back of the neck (which can often feel as if they’ve been ‘pulled’ or ‘cricked’ if the underlying rib is injured).  You can easily feel your top (first) rib, it’s the bony lump you can feel at the base of your neck just behind your collar bone … that’s how high they go.

By comparison, most pain that arises from the joints and muscle of the shoulder is typically felt at the top of the arm. either whether the rotator muscle pass under the collar bone and attach to the arms or coming directly from the joint between the collar bone and shoulder blade or from the cartilage, ligaments and synovium of the ball and socket joint.

The other things patients often complain of is that – unlike ‘true’ shoulder injuries – they’ve no idea how they’ve done it: it just “came on gradually”, or, more commonly, they “woke up with it”.  That’s because the inflammation in the small joints between the ribs and the spine builds up slowly over several hours, so its not the injury (often from lifting at arm’s length) that hurts, it’s the body’s reaction hours later.

So, if you’ve got a intense ache across the top of your shoulder or feel there's a knife in your back just inside the shoulder blade, then you’re probably suffering from costovertebral syndrome, colloquially known as a ‘popped rib’ … and you may well be suffering: it can be one of the most painful of conditions;  fortunately, it is also one of the easiest and quickest for chiropractors to treat, with recovery often in days. 

There's also something you can do to help yourself if you’re suffering from seasonal shoulder symptoms, use an ice pack (or wrap some frozen peas in a tea towel) and apply for ten minutes or so every hour (that will reduce the inflammation), then pick up the phone and ask one of our chiropractic experts for confirmation that it’s your ribs and not your shoulder that are the source of the trouble.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

So how can your neck give you a headache?

Chiropractors treat a lot of headaches, it’s a daily presentation and most patients are chronic sufferers who have tried remedy after remedy and have formulated a cocktail of pills, potions and routines to keep themselves functional. 

It is sometimes hard to explain to someone who doesn’t suffer from headaches or migraines what it’s like but try to imagine having a really bad hangover … only without any of the preceding pleasure and with the knowledge that it isn’t going to feel any better after coffee and aspirin, or indeed any time soon.

But what causes headaches? And how can chiropractors treat them?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Which is most important: Your teeth, Your Car … Or Your Back?

Suffering in silence is not only causing untold misery to thousands of Somerset residents – it’s also costing business a fortune.  According to research from the British Chiropractic Association, a third of us have had to take time off work because of back or neck pain.

There is a myth that back pain gets better by itself; unfortunately, on the occasions that it does, it nearly always comes back again – and the problems tend to get more serious with time.

Home cures – used by over 90% of sufferers – are often ineffective: the traditional hot water bottle can actually make many types of back pain worse; bed rest also tends to hinder rather than help recovery and recent research has shown paracetamol of no help for back pain … yet these remain the treatment of choice for most people.

There are, of course, things you can do to help your back: our own #5stepping campaign, featured elsewhere on this site, is there to help your back as well as improve your waistline but, if your spine is groaning under the increasing stress of modern life here are our top tips for easing the load:

Stand up: Sitting for more than 4 hours a day is not just a recipe for spinal suicide, it’s going to damage your general health too. So take regular, short breaks every half an hour and stand and walk whenever you can.


• Walk on: All 5-steppers already know the health benefits of walking – it’s simple to add extra steps to your everyday routine.

Stop slouching: When you are sitting, relax and make sure you have your bottom against the seat back with your shoulder blades touching the back rest of the chair.

• Drive right: Given that we’re all going to be spending longer in our cars for the next few weeks, make sure the seat leans slightly backwards with your elbows at a comfortable angle for driving.

Drink up: Like the rest of us, backs are 70% water – try replacing one caffeinated drink a day with a glass of water.

The final tip is pure common sense – you don’t wait for your car to break down or your teeth to rot; if your back’s been hurting for more than a few weeks, or if the pain keeps coming back see a chiropractor: managing back pain is how we make our living!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

What does a Chiropractor do … on a Tuesday?

Because I work on Saturdays and have Mondays off, Tuesdays start early at 7:30 and begin with an assault on the in-tray: two days’ post, messages, following up patients, phone calls and making sure the social media for the week is planned and posted (thanks goodness for Hootsuite and ‘autoschedule’).

It’s important that the decks are cleared before patients start, because Tuesdays are invariably fully booked … and often overbooked, as was this particular Tuesday, which kicked off fifteen minutes early with an emergency patient, who had cricked their neck sleeping awkwardly the previous day and was nervous about seeing another chiropractor.

The morning consisted of a typical mix of patients: There were twelve cases of low back pain (including one new patient), one hip pain, one ankle injury (tennis), a couple more cases of cervicalgia, and a couple of headache, a child with poor gait, a cartilage injury in the knee, a rotator cuff tendinitis and a lady with temporomandibular disorder … and one no-show, which is always incredibly frustrating when you’re not only full but have people on the waiting list, desperate for appointments.  Fortunately, everyone was getting better and staying better apart from one of the headache patients, who was referred to our next specialist Headache Clinic so the dental and stress components that were preventing the condition from settling could be addressed.

Although I always try to run to time, the last couple of patients proved slightly more complicated than expected and that made lunchtime a bot of a scramble – Tuesday’s morning session is at Yeovil and the afternoon session is at Crewkerne … which gives me the opportunity to stop at home en route and quickly eat a rather belated lunch.

As ever, when time is tight, the traffic on East Street is backed up to Mount Pleasant (someone build a bypass for Crewkerne PLEASE!!) and clinic starts seven minutes late!  This, of course is the immediate cue for patients to be complicated, refactory, or to present with unexpected new conditions.

The first patient was typical of this, a lady with a recovering sacroiliac joint causing buttock pain who had been feeling so much better that she decided to move some furniture and now had raging sciatica and all the signs of a prolapsed lumbar disc.  The next three patients also all had sacroiliac joint problems; however, these were all recovering as per prognosis – improved after three treatments, better after six and two of the patients were ready to start some gentle home-based exercises to stretch out tight, fibrotic muscles and rebuild core stability.

The next case is a tough one – a whiplash injury that has been referred via a solicitor having previously failed to recover.  The delays involved in processing the claim has allowed the injury to become chronic and it’s not just neck pain, like a lot of whiplash there is also a jaw problem (which is preventing the neck from settling), back pain and a shoulder injury … all made worse by the stress of dealing with solicitors and the whole compensation process. Today, at last, there is some sign of improvement: everything is moving better and hurting less – but with so many areas to treat, there is no chance of catching up and now I’m running almost quarter of an hour late.There is, however, no point in worrying about that … most patients understand that sometimes you need to spend longer with a patient – next time, it could be them! 

Fortunately, the next lady in is a new patient: at last a chance to sit down for a few minutes and to take a case history. Fortunately too, her case is relatively straightforward: a long history of migraines, which sound like they’re coming from the neck with no evidence of anything sinister or untoward going on – the physical examination confirms the diagnosis and there’s time to start a course of treatment which turns out to solve fifteen years of weekly misery in just  couple of weeks!

The rest of the evening is full of complicated patients: a knee riddled with osteoarthritis that would probably do better with surgery but the lady’s determined to avoid the kind at all costs; neck pain in an eighty-four-year old lady with osteoporosis who needs particularly careful handling; another case of low back pain following not one but two car accidents (the neck and jaw had already responded to treatment); a lady with back hip and knee pain; a cervical disc injury causing arm pain and, to finish the day, a disc problem which is stubbornly refusing to respond to treatment and needs referral for magnetic resonance imaging in Bridgwater, where we have a special arrangement … all of which means that clinic finishes fifteen minutes late – which is still quarter of an hour earlier than the rest of the week (for historical reasons, Tuesday’s Crewkerne clinic ends at 6:30 rather than 7).

Home at 7pm having left at 7am. Although there is stuff to be done (when isn’t there?), the lure of an early night proves irresistible: tomorrow is going to be another early start with budgets, cashflow forecasts and marketing analysis all to do before another 36-patient day and a fresh brain will be required.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What should you give your body for Christmas?

You’ve ordered the turkey, hung the stockings and wrapped the presents. Chances are you’re either feeling footsore or your neck is stiff; your back may be giving out alarming twinges as you decorate the tree or your shoulders can’t reach to hang the mistletoe; your knees might be making alarming sounds as you squat down to put warm ham in the oven or the sciatica could be protesting at sitting through the Christmas Downton Abbey special.

At any one time, a third of us are suffering from musculoskeletal pain – so what could you consider putting under the tree to help alleviate that aches and pains that are waiting for you in 2016?  Here are our top tips for healing and pampering those painful problems.

   Do you need a new mattress?

The average lifespan of a mattress is about seven years, even with regular turning, though a top of the range model might last twice as long … and you won’t get one of these for under £1,000. You might baulk at spending that much on a mattress but ask yourself this: How much did you spend on your three-piece suite? – and how long do you spend sitting on it compared with the amount of time you spend in your bed?

• And how about a pillow to go with it?

One of the questions we’re asked most often is ‘which pillow should I use?’.  The problem is there’s no easy answer to this … trial and error tends to lead to the best solution.  There are hundreds of ‘orthopaedic’ pillows on the market and the best way to tell if it suits you is to use it.  This can be expensive, which is why we keep a stock of pillows for (non-smoking) patients to try (smokers’ breath makes the pillow unusable after a fortnight’s trial).  The rule is that a pillow should keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine – which will also depend on how hard your mattress is – and remember goose down may well be better than the most modern hi-tech materials.

• And when you’re awake?

The right office workstation can make all the difference. Your office chair should have adjustable height, tilt and a sprung back; it should have arms that are level with the top of your desk.  Typically such a chair will set you back around £120 – and it costs even less to make sure your screen is at the right height and that you’re using the right hardware: a trackball can put so much less strain on your arms and shoulders than a mouse for half the price of a chiropractic treatment.
• Prevention is better than cure

We spend a lot of time discussing with patients how to prevent problems.  We have masseuses in all our clinics to prevent the build-up of muscle tension and an Alexander Technique practitioner to remedy postural problems and we prescribe exercises to move fibrosis and improve stability.

• Put it right

If it hurts, it’s because something’s wrong.  If it keeps on hurting, it’s because there’s too much wrong for your body to heal – which is when you need a helping chiropractic hand.