Too much exercise can lead to obsession

About Exercise Addiction

We all know that physical exercise offers many health-giving benefits. These include strengthened muscles and bones, and a reduced likelihood of developing such nasties as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Not to mention its mood-enhancing and stress-busting properties. But some people take it too far and become exercise addicts. According to Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas, authors of The Truth About Exercise Addiction, a worrying 25% of all runners suffer with exercise addiction, compared with 0.3% of the general population.

Nature’s best stressbuster

Our over-complicated, over-sedentary, over-digitised 21st century lifestyles have a lot to answer for when it comes to creating stress. Exercise is certainly an effective way to counter this. Any form of physical activity releases endorphins – chemicals that enhance mood – in the brain but this is particularly true of cardiovascular exercise such as running and cycling. That’s why you get the ‘runner’s high’, and it’s also why you want to keep repeating the experience.

I’m seeing more and more 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. They’re on the brink of developing an addiction to exercise.

Symptoms of exercise addiction

  • Ever more exercise is needed to achieve the perceived benefits – the exercise ‘high’, increased self-esteem or reduction in anxiety – with addicts regularly exceeding their exercise limits.
  • Addicts experience withdrawal effects (anger, fatigue, anxiety) when they cannot work out as planned.
  • Time spent exercising is often at the expense of that spent with family and friends, at work or doing non-exercise related activities.
  • They persist with physical activity despite illness, injury, anxiety and depression and even against medical advice to take a break.

Exercise addiction and injury

If someone’s exercise goal is unrealistic or the lifestyle unsustainable then the chances of something physically ‘giving way’ eventually is high.

Which is when they appear in my Osteopath Clinic looking for an instant cure for their shin splints, muscle strain, fatigue and so on.  We are, after all, the ‘next-day delivery’ generation that expects a guaranteed recovery in just days or even hours. So, imagine their distress when I explain that the healing-time for an exercise-induced torn ligament for example, can stretch into weeks, requiring plenty of rest and patience, alongside Osteopathic treatment. My patients are then deprived of a tried and trusted outlet for their stress, which escalates.

I always look beyond the injury that brought the patient to my Clinic and probe deeper into their lifestyle and emotional wellbeing. This usually provides helpful clues for treatment and preventing a re-occurrence. As a qualified Osteopath and Naturopath, I work with patients to identify areas that might be undermining their health, such as diet, lifestyle choices, medical history, and physical or emotional circumstances. Treatment plans then encourage the body to heal itself and help guard against future illness or injury.

Give stress the boot

Since stress can be such a large part of the mix, I encourage patients to engage in new ways of managing it:

  • Autogenic therapy, a type of relaxation. I teach patients a set of simple mental and physical exercises and techniques, often incorporating this therapy into a patient’s treatment plan to help them manage their stress and/anxiety and promote greater healing of both mind and body.
  • Mindfulness. This is hugely popular and has become big business with plenty of its own apps and gadgets! But the basic idea is good – paying more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings, and the world around you. Rather than sitting cross-legged focussing on one’s breath, ‘being in the moment’ and relaxing can take many different forms – long walks, gardening, swimming or even talking to friends. All these ways of unwinding can be a refreshing break from distractions (especially electronic ones) and have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. You can find out more about Mindfulness here.

The good news is that most people who exercise are able to maintain a healthy balance with the other areas of their life. So, please get in touch if you’ve got a pain or niggle anywhere, or if you’d like any advice on how to relax, manage stress or establish healthy habits.

 

A mindful activity

Hands up who really understands what Mindfulness is? As an activity it’s become fashionable with its own gadgets, Apps, clothing and general paraphernalia! All of which I fundamentally disagree with, which is why I dislike the word ‘Mindful’.

Having said that, I have no problem with Mindfulness as a practice, provided that a) it’s not hijacked by commerciality and b) people understand what it is – and is not.

Mindfulness explained

It’s about:

  • Being present – engaging with the here and now, paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, sensations, as well as to the world around you. Not letting your mind wander to your shopping list or what’s on TV tonight!
  • Living with intent – deliberately moving through your life rather than being on auto-pilot.
  • Accepting that life isn’t perfect, so working with what you have now, not what was or should have been.

Why should we bother?

Being Mindful can have huge benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing by:

  • providing a break from distractions (especially electronic ones)
  • reducing anxiety, stress and the (very real) possibility of burnout
  • improving attention span
  • boosting creativity
  • enabling us to manage our emotions better
  • helping to reshape our perspective, bringing us back to what’s important in life

 Main barriers to being Mindful

We simply don’t have the time or space, thanks to our fast-paced, teched-up 24/7 lifestyles. When did you last sit down and reflect quietly or walk the dog without being attached to an electronic gadget?

I swim regularly, as many of my patients know. It enables me to ‘be in the moment’. I feel the water on my body, I pay attention to my breathing and I clear my mind. For me, riding my motorbike in the countryside or walking the dog is equally good.

Recently, I spent a week in Portugal on a woodworking course, learning how to make a chair from a mimosa tree using traditional woodworking tools. The scenery was spectacular and I enjoyed the sun and warmth on my body, the feel of the wood and the creative process of making the chair. The action of planing was soothing and therapeutic. There were no bleeps, rings or reminders to do things. I just lived in the moment, on my senses. And it was wonderful.

I’m not saying that everyone should go to Portugal. Or that you need special kit or gadgets. In fact, the opposite is true – anything can be done in a mindful way by anyone!

Tips for being Mindful

  1. Sit down quietly and become aware of your senses: notice what you can you see, smell, taste, touch and hear, to help keep yourself in the moment. If your mind wanders, just notice it and gently bring it back to your senses. Try this for just a few minutes at a time.
  2. Start each day with a few deep breaths and think about your top three priorities. Check back at different points during the day to see if you’re on track for achieving these.
  3. At the beginning of each task, take a minute to breathe, refocus and get into the moment, giving it your full attention. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task but sometimes focusing on one activity and seeing it through to its conclusion is simply better.
  4. Set boundaries so that you switch off mentally at the end of each day, giving your brain time to recharge ready for tomorrow.

So, do think about giving it a go this summer, remembering the one golden rule of Mindfulness: anytime, anywhere – and anyone!

Ballet dancer risking snapping hip syndrome

Snapping Hip Syndrome, aka coxa saltans, iliopsoas tendinitis or dancer’s hip, is a condition that’s often seen in ballet dancers, athletes or swimmers. And that’s because of the sheer stress and strain they place on their bodies day in, day out. As it’s also common in people of all ages and levels of fitness, you don’t have to be a contortionist or fitness fanatic to develop it.

What is Snapping Hip Syndrome?

As its name suggests, this disorder is characterised by a loud ‘snapping’ noise when the hip joint moves in a particular way. It often occurs when a muscle or tendon that may be tight catches minor bony growths or fragments of cartilege in the front of the hip joint (‘internal’ snapping) or the top of the thigh bone (‘external’ snapping). This exerts pressure so, when the hip moves, the muscle or tendon ‘snaps’ over the bone. It’s not normally painful and can occur during normal movement, such as sitting or walking, although it’s more common during the more rigorous flexion and extension of the muscles while exercising. Repeated snapping can also lead to pain and inflammation of the bursa (cavity) at the front of the hip joint.

What are the symptoms of Snapping Hip Syndrome?

The following are all potential symptoms:

  • A snapping noise, often painless, on the external part of the hip or within the groin
  • A sensation of the muscle/tendon catching and then releasing
  • Trembling in the skin after snapping
  • Pain during physical activities
  • Stiffness especially after sitting or standing for a while
  • Weakness
  • Reduced range of movement
  • Swelling/inflammation

Self help and professional treatment

Never ignore a snapping hip. If you do, it might become so painful that it interferes with your daily life. Knowing what makes it worse can also help:

  • Avoid activities involving flexing or rotating your hip or that you know result in snapping
  • Gently stretch the muscles on the outside of your legs to reduce snapping and pain
  • If pain is severe apply ice to the affected area regularly
  • Don’t lift any heavy weights such as toddlers or bags and avoid pushing shopping trolleys or buggies
  • Get adequate rest to help reduce stiffness in the muscles and tendons

If symptoms do not improve after a couple of days please do come and see me. I will take a case history and give you a thorough examination, referring you for further tests if necessary. Treatment generally involves gentle manipulation, acupuncture, low level laser therapy – or a combination of all three! Going forward I may also give you gentle exercises to help change the mechanics in your hips and improve your posture.

For more information on snapping hip or to book a consultation, please click here.

Autogenic training banishes stress

Feeling anxious, stressed out and uptight? If so, a powerful relaxation technique, such as Autogenic Training (AT), could really help you.

What is Autogenic Training?

AT is a series of simple mental exercises which can bring about profound mental and physical relaxation. They help balance the activity of body and mind, facilitating (with practice) a mental and physical shift into a state of calm as and when you choose. The clue that you are in charge of the process lies in the word ‘autogenic’, which means self-induced!

The technique dates back to 1932 when German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz sought to reduce anxiety and tension by recreating the relaxed state experienced by people under hypnosis. Since then, AT has become a well-established method of relaxation in many parts of the world. We know from research, including a 2008 meta-analytic study, that autogenic training can be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety and help with insomnia.

Stress and the body

Stress and anxiety result in a series of changes in the body, thanks to the actions of the autonomic nervous system. This also incorporates the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic element regulates the ‘flight or fight’ response, so-called after the choice our ancestors made in the face of danger. Nowadays we’re unlikely to be faced with a hungry sabre-toothed tiger, but if we feel upset or angry the physical effect is much the same – release of the stress hormone adrenaline, raised blood pressure and heart rate and dilated pupils – to ready the body for physical exertion. It’s important to remember, though, that the fight or flight response’s limited range of bodily functions supersedes others, such as digestion or cell repair, and is designed for short-term use only.

It’s the job of the parasympathetic nervous system to dampen these responses – lowering blood pressure and returning the body to its normal resting state – once the threat has passed. In an ideal world, the body maintains a healthy balance between fight or flight and the rest, repair and recuperate states.

Unfortunately, the stresses and strains of modern life cause us to be in fight or flight mode much of the time and our bodies are unable to perform routine mechanisms such as muscular relaxation or digestion. This is why sustained stress can significantly contribute to long-term ill-health.

Benefits of Autogenic Training

For health…

AT helps switch off the autonomic nervous system so that this remains or returns to a restful state, enabling your body to repair and recuperate itself. It:

  • Reduces anxiety, stress and tension and induce a feeling of calm, especially in social situations
  • Improves well-being, mood, energy levels and sleep
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Improves efficiency, concentration and creativity
  • Develops the resilience to manage and overcome adversity

Logistically…

  • AT is versatile – you can practise the exercises anywhere
  • It’s effective if you can do it for 10 seconds or 10 minutes – however long you have available
  • You don’t need equipment or special clothing
  • This lifetime ‘toolkit for coping’ will relax, refresh and restore you in most situations

How I can help

As an Autogenic Training practitioner, I offer this as a course at both of my London clinics, although I usually incorporate it into an Osteopathic session to reduce costs.

I will help you to find the right exercises for you and together we’ll ensure that you feel confident enough to perform them on your own. You will need to practise them at home for a few minutes each day so that AT becomes part of your life and an everyday resource for health and wellbeing.

For more information on Autogenic Training or to book a consultation, please click here.

One grateful patient recently wrote: “Because of my anxiety disorder, I have struggled to do everyday things like taking the tube, answering my phone when an unknown number rings, eating around other people and leaving my house. As I progressed through the autogenic training course, I found myself being able to cope with taking the tube, I was able to push myself in social situations, and I felt more comfortable when leaving my house. Autogenic training has helped me throw my anxiety in the backseat and as a result has stabilised my blood sugar levels, making diabetes easier to control. Robin has given me all of the tools and support to conquer my anxiety and for that I am forever grateful.”

Western Acupuncture in London

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.

Eastern vs Western Acupuncture

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 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)