As many of my patients already know, I frequently combine osteopathy with one or more other therapies, such as Western acupuncture, when seeking the best treatment outcome for a patient.

Acupuncture has been used in the Far East for over 2000 years, reaching the West during the 17th century. The medical profession now increasingly recognise and use it as an effective form of pain relief. One or more fine needles are inserted through the skin into specific points within the body and left in position for a short while. These can be manipulated by hand or via low-voltage electrical stimulation (known as electro acupuncture). Basically, acupuncture stimulates nerves within the skin and muscle. It releases endorphin and serotonin – the body’s own painkillers – into the pain pathways of the spinal cord and the brain. In this way it modifies how pain signals are received.

East vs West

In my practice we use Western acupuncture, also known as dry needling. This version of the therapy combines the use of the same acupuncture points and needles as Eastern (Chinese) acupuncture with a Western approach to evidence-based medicine and the latest scientific knowledge.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture seeks to balance opposites – yin and yang, hot and cold etc and facilitate the flow of the life force Qi – in the pursuit of general good health or to ward off illness. In contrast, Western acupuncture uses a ‘neuro-physiological’ approach to target specific issues.

How Western acupuncture can help you

In recent years, a growing body of research as reviewed by the Acupuncture Evidence Project* has shown that acupuncture can help by:

* Providing pain relief for tension headaches/migraine, TMJ, back, neck, shoulder, leg and knee pain and discomfort resulting from arthritis, rheumatism and operations

* Relieving trapped nerves, muscle strains, sports injuries and generally increasing the range of physical movement

* Reducing reliance on and side effects of medication

* Relieving nausea, including morning sickness in pregnancy

* Helping with infertility

* Dealing with sleep problems

* Promoting natural healing and well-being

Benefits of Western Acupuncture

The therapy offers several hugely important benefits, as it is:

* Largely (although not always) pain free, with a minimal risk of bruising or bleeding

* An effective painkiller, stimulating the release of the body’s own natural analgesics

* Safe, including during pregnancy – The British Medical Association has undertaken several studies regarding its safety

* Able to combine safely with osteopathy, and patients can usually benefit from both therapies during the same session

How I treat patients using Western Acupuncture

Once I have assessed a patient and I feel that acupuncture may benefit them, we discuss what it involves. Assuming they are happy we then agree a treatment plan. Initially, treatment might take place once a week to begin with, then at longer intervals as the patient feels better.

In the UK acupuncture is taught at post-graduate level to those with existing medical qualifications. I studied with The British Medical Acupuncture Society, qualifying in both Western acupuncture and related Electro-Acupuncture, offering both at my clinics. For more information on Western acupuncture or to book a consultation in one of my London clinics, please feel free to contact me.

*John McDonald and Stephen Janz, The Acupuncture Evidence Project, 2017

Do you experience pain in or near your heel, especially when getting out of bed first thing in the morning? If so, the chances are that you could be one of the 10% of people who suffer from Plantar Fasciitis. It’s a common but painful condition, and one that I’m frequently asked about in both my Central London and North London Osteopathic clinics.  

Plantar Fasciitis is caused by an inflamed or swollen plantar fascia. This is the strong band of tissue that stretches all the way from your heel bone to your toes. Basically, its function is to support your foot arch and act as a shock absorber within your foot. But repeated small injuries to the fascia (for any number of reasons) can result in inflammation and pain, often where the plantar fascia attaches to your heel. Here, too, you might also get a bony spur on your heel bone (calcaneum) thanks to a build-up of calcium.   

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis 

  • Pain and tenderness under the heel (and often about 4cm forward from your heel) when standing up and placing weight on the foot, especially first thing in the morning or after prolonged sitting 
  • Stiffness in the arch of the foot 
  • Difficulty in raising your toes off the floor 

Triggers for Plantar Fasciitis  

Damage to the plantar fascia can be brought on by various situations and lifestyle factors: 

  • Excessively standing, walking or running (especially on hard surfaces), causing overuse or stretching of your sole  
  • Having either high arches or flat feet 
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, that are too flat or provide minimal cushioning for the sole and heel 
  • Being overweight, thereby placing extra strain on your heel 
  • Having a tight Achilles tendon, impairing the mobility of your ankle 

 Treatment and future prevention for Plantar Fasciitis 

Although fascia tissue generally heals slowly, sometimes taking several months, the good news is that Plantar Fasciitis pain does ease over time, aided by lifestyle changes such as: 

  • Resting and not putting too much weight on the affected heel  
  • Wearing well-fitting shoes, preferably with a 2-3cm heel (for both men and women), avoiding going barefoot wherever possible and using a cushioned insole for extra protection  
  • If you’re a runner or jogger, buying your training shoes from a specialist running shoe shop 
  • Fitting in at least 20- or 30-minutes’ gentle movement each day, starting with walking if you’re a beginner – regular exercise promotes flexibility and a healthy lifestyle  
  • Warming up and cooling down before exercising, including daily calf and plantar fascia stretches (such as rolling a plastic bottle of water under the affected foot for 15 minutes twice a day)  
  • Losing weight (slowly and steadily) if you need to 

If your heel pain is persistent, please come to see me at one of my Osteopathic clinics. I will take a detailed case history, assess your feet – how you stand and walk – and check out the relationship between your pelvis, leg and foot. If you do have Plantar Fasciitis, I will offer lifestyle advice to aid recovery and prevent future recurrences. In terms of treatment there are two very effective options: 

  • Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) uses low power or ‘soft’ laser light to aid and speed up your body’s natural healing process safely and effectively 
  • Osteopathy and Western Acupuncture used in combination (and if relevant) will help to address underlying biomechanical issues in your legs and pelvis that may be affecting your Plantar Fascia 

 Kind words from sufferers of Plantar Fasciitis 

Here’s what one patient said to me recently: “Robin diagnosed that I had developed mild Plantar Fasciitis. He treated me with a Low Level Laser Therapy, which took away any pain by the next day; it’s very effective. The next week he repeated the treatment and, consequently, I have no further symptom. My problem could have developed into full-blown Plantar Fasciitis but, because of Robin’s use of Low Level Laser Therapy, the symptom was prevented from becoming more advanced!” 

 Please click here to request a consultation with me in either the North or Central London Robin Kiashek clinics.

‘take more exercise’ is our favourite New Year’s Resolution!

As 2019 hurtles towards us I thought it might be a useful time for some salutary words about New Year’s Resolutions.  I know.  You haven’t even put up the decorations yet!  But this save you some time, effort and hopefully a whole lot of guilt!

According to a Comm Res poll, ‘take more exercise’ is our favourite New Year’s Resolution.  With 38% of us setting this as a goal.  Followed by ‘lose weight’ (33 percent) and ‘eat more healthily’ (32 percent).  But from my experience in clinic, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to setting physical goals.

I see patients spending hours in the gym trying to get the perfect shaped backside or six pack.  And highly stressed professionals self-medicating with excessive exercise.  They cycle or run to work, put in a full and often stressful day, and then cycle or run home.  They sign up to increasingly testing challenges – running further and in more and more difficult conditions or trekking and climbing all over the world.

But if the goal is unrealistic or the lifestyle unsustainable then I’m afraid to say that the chances of something physically ‘giving way’ eventually is high.

So, before you decide on a 2019 resolution to emulate the figure or physique of your favourite Instagrammer (thank goodness for growing up pre social media!) or take to Facebook to broadcast how many kilos you plan to shift (or lift!) by the end of the year, take a moment to consider whether some ‘alternative’ resolutions might be called for.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t aspire to move more and eat more healthily but, from a professional perspective, these are some resolutions I’d recommend incorporating:

Positive Mental Attitude

We all do it – even if we’ve ticked 20 items off our ‘to do’ list we focus on the tasks that remain outstanding. And it’s often the things that went wrong that stay with us rather than our numerous accomplishments.  Which can lead to a rather negative mindset.  To switch this thinking up, take a moment at the end of each day to write down three things that have gone well.  .

Be kind to others

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion,” says the Dalai Lama. And kindness towards others leads to enhanced well-being. For inspiration, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a list of kindness ideas to get you started.

Be mindful

 I’ve blogged about this before.   Mindfulness is simply about paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you.  Something that’s easy to overlook in our fast-paced lives with so many calls on our time and distractions  – particularly electronic ones.  But mindfulness can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing.

For those of you planning to embark on more exercise in the New Year, why not consider a New Year appointment to iron out any niggles that might affect your success?

We all get angry from time to time. After all, anger is just another human emotion that can arise as a result of work, family or money problems coupled with overwhelming demands on our time or emotions.  Into this potentially explosive mix, you can add in a handful of genetic and family upbringing factors that make it difficult for people to manage their emotions properly.  

Of course, anger can be extremely helpful, enabling us to defend ourselves in dangerous situations as part of our fight or flight system. But on a day-to-day level, that’s not always appropriate. What we do with our anger can have a huge impact – often negative – on our health, wellbeing, relationships and careers.  

According to research by University College London, a brief outburst of temper can cause surges in blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of a heart attack by 19 per cent. And beware arguing with your partner! Scientists at Ohio State University found that a 30-minute argument can slow down healing rates, raising the level of cytokines (immune molecules that trigger inflammation), and thereby the probability of developing arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

Long-lasting and simmering anger, including subtler forms such as sarcasm and impatience, is no better. A study in Michigan, USA, found that women who suppressed anger while arguing with their partners had twice the risk of dying from conditions such as heart attack, stroke or cancer. Even recalling such stressful incidents several days later can cause blood pressure to rise, says the International Journal Of Psychophysiology.

 

The mind-body link

The inescapable fact is that our emotional and physical health are inextricably linked, with strong emotions such as anger often bringing about physical changes to the body, including: 

  • Muscle tension 
  • Heart palpitations or tightening of the chest 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Risk of stroke/heart attack 
  • Headaches/migraines 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sweating 
  • Jaw clenching
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Abdominal discomfort  
  • Depression 
  • Digestive and bowel problems 
  • Skin problems 
  • Auto-immune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis  

Most people will experience episodes of anger which can be managed without a damaging impact on their lives. Learning healthy ways to recognise, express and deal with anger is vital for maintaining optimum mental and physical health.

 

Top tips for managing anger effectively: 

Remember, you can’t always control situations that make you angry, but you can choose how to respond:  

  • Take time out – In situations where an angry response is a tempting, count to 10, breathe deeply and walk away. Give yourself time to calm down and, if necessary, express the anger in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself or others by, for example, punching a pillow or writing an angry letter (that you don’t send). Mindfulness techniques can also be useful. 
  • Look after yourself – Sleeping and eating well will help you handle situations in a calmer and more measured way while regular exercise can let out angry feelings and improve your mood.  
  • Talk – confide in someone who is not involved, such as a friend, family member, counsellor, your GP or the Samaritans.  

 People often come to me complaining of muscle tension, headaches or backache. When I ask them more about their lifestyle, it can become clear that their ache or pain is a physical manifestation of anger, and that dealing with the root cause will help them to feel better. If this sounds familiar then please contact me and we can have a further discussion at a consultation. 

 

 

With a few short weeks until Christmas the build-up, and all that it entails, is fully underway. The festive season offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with family and friends, and we all love it – really! The flip side is that it can all be pretty stressful. The prospect of sitting down with a dozen or so relatives, aged from 9 months to 90, for a slap-up Christmas dinner (that you’ve spent hours cooking) can get the most laid-back among us clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth. If this sounds like you, then read on.

Do you ever experience, headaches, facial pain, earache, popping, grating or clicking noises when opening your mouth or chewing, coupled with jaw, neck or shoulder pain? Do you struggle to open your mouth wide or does your jaw lock? If so, you could be suffering from pain in your TMJ or temporomandibular joint.

 

TMJ and TMD explained

In case you’re wondering (and most people haven’t a clue), the TMJ connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull (temporal bone) in front of the ear. Disorder of the TMJ (aka TMD) affects that joint and the muscles involved in chewing, manifesting itself in the symptoms listed above. There’s no definitive cause but TMD can be brought on by injury, over-clenching the jaw and teeth or unknowingly grinding your teeth (bruxism) causing wear and tear in the inside jaw. Stress and unexpressed anger are often behind such behaviours.

Untreated TMD can significantly affect a sufferer’s quality of life, and not in a good way. There are a few things you can do at home to alleviate the discomfort, such as:

  • Eating soft foods
  • Avoiding excessive jaw action (ie chewing gum, biting nails and clenching)
  • Applying a warm or cold flannel to the affected area several times a day for 10-20 minutes
  • Massaging the painful muscles
  • Not resting your chin on your hand

 

The power of osteopathy

If symptoms continue, do seek medical advice. Your dentist can advise if an uneven bite is the cause. Osteopathy can also be effective in addressing the local TMJ pain using osteopathic techniques combined with Low Level Laser Therapy but, importantly, looking at the bigger musculoskeletal picture, which involves the relationship between the jaw, neck and upper back. I receive referrals from dentists whose patients suffer with TMD and one patient who came to see me with extreme tiredness and TMJ pain said:

‘I was first treated by Robin Kiashek two years ago for headaches and tiredness. Robin used Cranial Osteopathy to successfully alleviate these symptoms. I have been seeing Robin periodically since that time and have found his holistic, sympathetic approach to treatment to be highly beneficial. He diagnosed TMJ (temporomandibular joint – a joint hinging the upper and lower jaw bones) dysfunction as a principal cause of my symptoms. This was confirmed by a dentist and further by a consultant neurologist. Robin has been able to mitigate the pain, relieve the symptoms and hasten the recovery. I would highly recommend Robin based on my experience to anyone needing osteopathic treatment.’ (JS, a patient).

If you’re a TMD sufferer who wants to alleviate painful symptoms, then why not request an appointment?

 

In this world there seem to be two types of people – the knuckle (and other joint) crackers who indulge their habit on a regular, if not daily basis, and those who have to put up with it.

Joint crackers defend themselves by saying that they find great satisfaction or even release in pushing, pulling or bending fingers, knuckles or other joints until they pop. Onlookers tend to find it a) revolting b) unnerving c) plain annoying but nothing they say seems to make a difference. Neither do dire warnings from friends and family that a lifetime of cracking could damage the joint. Those poppers just keep on popping.

That popping noise explained

After nearly 100 years of mystery and various theories, we seem to be getting closer to a definitive explanation for the distinctive noise produced by the cracking process. That’s thanks to curious École Polytechnique graduate student Vineeth Chandran Suja (a veteran knuckle cracker) and Dr Abdul Barakat, who together developed mathematical equations to describe the sound of knuckles cracking.

Each joint is lubricated by synovial fluid – its presence helps to facilitate optimal joint/bone movement and comfort. Suja and Barakat compared a recording of popping sounds from the model joint that had a bubble in its surrounding fluid with the noise from their own knuckles and found that the two were very similar. They concluded that the knuckle cracking sound comes from a partial collapse of bubbles in the synovial fluid. Their findings were published in March 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Why do people crack, and can it cause problems?

That’s the big question. A combination of nervous habit and stress relief could be part of the picture. But joint manipulation also stimulates nerve endings1 and this action relaxes the muscles surrounding the joint, so crackers may feel momentarily more mobile in that joint. Overly forceful cracking can injure the joint but several studies have failed to demonstrate a solid link between habitual knuckle-cracking and the onset of arthritis.

Caring for your joints

Joints are essential to maintaining full mobility, enabling you to work, rest and play. Check out our tips for taking care of them:

  • Try not to crack your knuckles and other joints. If you must, be gentle!
  • Maintain an appropriate body weight to help reduce pressure on the joints.
  • Take regular, low-impact exercise such as walking, cycling and swimming to help keep joints healthy, reduce stiffness and minimize the risk of injury. Try to build up the muscles surrounding the joints so they can better support the joints and act as a shock absorber. A gym instructor or personal fitness trainer can help you with this.
  • Stretch every day, to facilitate flexibility and free movement of your joints.

If you are experiencing pains in any of your joints, give The Robin Kiashek Clinics a call on 020 8815 0979 or request an appointment? We will assess you thoroughly and provide a personalised treatment plan, including exercises and guidance on preventing injury and making the most of your body. It may or may not include ‘cracking’ depending on patient preference and requirements!

 

1 Medical News Today 21 June 2017 (reviewed by William Harrison MD)

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s Backcare Awareness Week (8th to 12th October) focuses on back pain in older people. Awful at any age, back pain can be really disabling and miserable in the over 60s.  BackCare, the National Back Pain Association, offers useful information and resources but I want to talk about how we can help sufferers of all ages at the Robin Kiashek clinics.

Impact on society

A staggering 80% of us will suffer with some form of back pain during our lives – at my osteopathic practice in London I see several sufferers each week. The human cost in terms of pain, misery, impairment plus the knock-on effects on family and friends is enormous. Factor in the economic impact – NHS statistics for 2016/17 show that a staggering 3.2 million days were lost to back pain – and we can see how society as a whole is affected. And we do abuse our backs, with long hours of driving, sitting hunched over a screen, heavy lifting and carrying, caring for children, the elderly or disabled and some very bad lifestyle habits!

Getting help for back pain

Here at The Robin Kiashek Clinics we aim to relieve pain and help strengthen the body, making it less susceptible to further discomfort or injury. Our range of gentle and effective treatments include Osteopathy, Western Acupuncture and Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).

We also recommend yoga. It promotes physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing and helps develop and maintain a fit and supple body.  It is also an effective antidote to the stresses of modern lifestyle. A US study among 1000 long-term lower back pain sufferers found that those who practised yoga were most likely to see improved mobility and reduced pain levels. And classes are readily available and safe to try, whatever your age or level of fitness. All you need is a mat!

Based on the premise that prevention is better (or easier) than cure, here are some simple tips to maintain a healthy back:

Top tips for a healthy back

  • Keep mobile – walking, cycling and swimming, (especially back stoke) will help your back to stay supple. Remember to take a short break from sitting every half hour.
  • Reduce excess weight – extra pounds can place enormous pressure on the spine and muscles, exaggerating the curve of your lower back and causing your spine to become misaligned.
  • Lift heavy objects correctly – bend at the knee, not the back. Carry heavy loads in a well-fitted rucksack, using both straps, rather than slinging a bag over one shoulder.
  • Consider your posture – sit up straight, don’t slump in your chair.  Use a laptop riser and walk with your shoulders back and head up (not staring at the ground!).
  • Stop smoking – it can reduce blood supply to discs between the vertebrae and cause disintegration.
  • Check your bed – does it provide the correct support for your weight and build?
  • Manage stress – beat this leading cause of back pain by learning relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or breathing.

 Get in touch

If you are experiencing back pain then why not call The Robin Kiashek Clinics on 020 8815 0979 or request an appointment? We will assess you thoroughly and provide a personalised treatment plan, including exercises and guidance on preventing future occurrences. This can bring relief and even be life-changing and transformative, allowing you to regain and retain independence.

 

Mental health - Cartoon brain walkingIt’s well known that regular exercise brings huge benefits. In a society where sitting has become the norm, being active helps to regulate weight, build and maintain strong muscles and bones, boost energy and promote healthy sleep. It can also reduce the risk of injury and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and osteoporosis. It can also protect memory and thinking skills. But did you know that physical activity can help stave off depression too?

Backed up by research

Recent research among 200,000 people by King’s College London showed that regular exercisers are 16% less likely to develop the blues. This rises to 31% if you follow the Government’s advice and opt for 150 minutes’ physical activity a week – that’s just 20 minutes per day. Interestingly, the results applied across all age groups, from children to pensioners.

The reason? Exercise of any type or intensity brings about changes in areas of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, allowing you to relax and enjoy life more.

This is partly thanks to the increased production of endorphins, (‘feel-good’ chemicals). These are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce one’s perception of pain.

So the message is get moving, whatever your age, state of fitness, experience or ability. It’s never too late and there are many forms of exercise to choose from, either alone or as part of a group – from gardening, walking or dancing to joining a gym or aerobics class and so on. The better your preferred activity fits in with your lifestyle, the more likely it is that you will remain motivated and keep it up.

Staying safe

If you’re starting out or a bit rusty, here’s how to exercise safely to minimise the risk of injury:

  • Seek advice from your GP, osteopath, gym instructor or personal trainer. He or she will assess your current fitness levels and put together a personalised training programme if appropriate.
  • Always warm up and stretch muscles before exercising and cool down/stretch properly afterwards.
  • Rest for a day between exercise sessions to prevent overuse and enable the body to repair itself.
  • When starting a new exercise programme, expect a little post-exercise aching and soreness. This should ease within a couple of days but if not or is very painful, rest, use ice (wrapped in a wet towel for 5 minutes and remove for 10 minutes, repeating twice more) and anti-inflammatory gel to help relieve symptoms.
  • Never train if injured or experiencing discomfort.
  • If you experience acute pain or any post-exercise discomfort continues beyond a day or so, book an appointment with osteopath Robin Kiashek to check you over.

Happy, healthy kneesRunner’s knee, jumper’s knee, housemaid’s knee (yes, it does exist!) and so on – the list of painful complaints that can affect this complicated joint is as long as your arm. Problem knees are surprisingly common in people of all ages, placing severe restrictions on both movement and lifestyle as a whole.

Strong and stable joints

On a day-to-day basis, we expect great things from our knees. As the largest joint in the human body, the knee basically forms a sort of hinge  where the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia), meet. This enables the leg to bend, straighten and generally move freely so we can run, twist, jump, fall over and so on. Knees must be also strong and stable enough to support our weight, even if it increases. These joints are ably assisted in their task by bones and soft tissue including muscles, cartilage, ligaments and tendons – all of which have the potential to go awry.

The knee joint may be a sophisticated mechanism but it’s still relatively easy to injure. For example, a sudden increase in intensity or duration of exercise can temporarily damage the bone, muscle or ligaments. Problem knees can lock, click, catch, give way or refuse to straighten. More gradually developing pain, especially in older people, points to conditions such as osteoarthritis. Here, the cartilage facilitating smooth movement between the femur and tibia gradually wears away, forcing both surfaces to rub together and resulting in pain and stiffness.

It’s all a bit of a catch-22. With persistent knee pain, most people’s instinct is to rest the knee and avoid putting any weight on the joint, therefore taking less exercise. While this would appear to be a sensible thing to do, if not diagnosed and treated, long-term weakness of the surrounding leg muscles can slowly develop.

Looking after problem knees

So, what should you do if you suddenly develop painful knees? Here are a few initial things that you can try at home:

  • The key is basically RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation. This means, at the very least, not irritating the joint and, at best, giving the joint a chance to recover under its own steam;
  • When icing, use ice wrapped in a wet towel for 5 minutes and remove for 10 minutes, repeating twice more;
  • Sit, rather than stand, with the leg elevated, to avoid putting weight on the knee – rest as much as you can;
  • If suffering with acute or severe pain, in the short term, take painkillers such as Paracetamol;
  • If you feel up to it, try some gentle exercise, such as walking at a pace that does not aggravate your symptoms or non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming;
  • If your knee pain is still present after several days or is getting worse, why not book an appointment with Osteopath Robin Kiashek to see if we can find the cause of your discomfort and get you back on the road to recovery.

As we head into Migraine Awareness Week (3rd to 8th September), here are a few facts about this disabling condition that might surprise you:

  • Migraine is the world’s third most common illness, suffered by one in seven people across the globe and eight million people here in the UK;
  • Migraines affect twice as many women as men and can also strike at young children;
  • Most sufferers have an average of 13 attacks a year, lasting between four hours and three days;
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) categorises chronic migraines as more disabling than blindness, paraplegia, angina or rheumatoid arthritis;
  • The illness costs the UK around £2.25 billion per annum, taking into account the cost of medication and the 25 million days of sick leave!

(Sources: Migraine Trust/ Migraine Action)

 What is migraine?

Migraine is, therefore, an absolute headache in every sense of the word. But more than that, it’s actually a complex neurological condition that can affect the whole body. Usually (but not always) there’s a painful headache preceded or accompanied by disturbed vision or aura. This can present with, for example, flashing lights, blind spots, zig zag patterns, pins and needles, numb limbs, confusion and difficulty in speaking. Not all sufferers experience aura, and other common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound and smells. Attacks can vary in frequency and severity with an often enormous impact on someone’s work, family and social lives.

There is no known cause or, sadly, any cures currently on the horizon. What we do know is that most sufferers have a genetic predisposition and that their migraines can be triggered by one or more factors – stress, alcohol intake, the environment, hormones (women) and lack of food or sleep. It’s no longer helpful just to blame chocolate, cheese and red wine, and the best way of pinpointing your particular triggers is to keep a daily ‘migraine diary’.

Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London, describes migraine as “an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger”.  (Source: Migraine Trust).

Best treatments for migraine

Most treatments focus on controlling the pain, severity and frequency of attacks via the use of medication.

Having said that, complementary therapies such as Western medical acupuncture – piercing the body with fine, sterile needles at certain points to regulate pain – has had some success in reducing the need for medication and the frequency of attacks..1 This approach has been endorsed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), particularly for patients who do not respond to certain medications.

Osteopathy is also popular because it helps relieve symptoms whilst understanding and addressing the underlying, sometimes multifactorial, factors involved. The treatment utilises a variety of osteopathic techniques.

Kind words from migraine sufferers

I’ve seen many patients struggling with migraines.  One said:

“I had been suffering from headaches since childhood. Over the years, these had become more frequent and debilitating to the point where it was most unusual for me to have a day free of headache. Headaches became migraines and I felt ‘better’ when the migraines had retreated to the state of ‘mere’ headaches.

I was recommended to Robin who set about releasing the tension in my upper back and neck through a series of manipulations and cranial massage. He also gave me some shoulder and neck exercises to do at home. I was asked to keep a ‘headache diary’ showing severity and frequency in order to plot any improvements.

After around 5 or 6 sessions the headaches became less severe and didn’t turn so readily into migraines. About 8 weeks into treatment I had a major headache which, when it subsided, disappeared completely. Thereafter I began to get not only headache-free days, but headache-free weeks. The cycle had been broken.”

So if you’re suffering from migraines why not book an appointment with me to see what can be done to alleviate the symptoms and cause of your migraines.

 

1 Migraine Trust/Vickers A. et al. Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomised trial BMJ 2004;328;744-9.