In tribute to my dear friend Simon (1956-2017)

It was World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, and I was shocked to learn that every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide*.  With suicide still being the leading cause of death among 20-49 year old men**.

Much has been written about the general reluctance of men to ‘open up’ or talk about feelings. So, it’s heartening to see that tide start to turn as public figures such as Prince Harry become more open about their own struggles.

As an Osteopath, it’s generally a physical ailment or symptom that brings patients to my clinic. But I’ve long been a believer in the close link between physical, mental and emotional health. And for us to function properly as human beings these need to be in alignment.

Luckily, unlike often overworked and under pressure GPs, I have the privilege to properly explore the background to my patients’ issues. So, we might find out that the origins of the longstanding neck pain coincide with a painful separation or an increase in stress at work. And for men particularly, these emotional stresses and strains are still not something they often talk about.

So why don’t a lot of men talk (and some women!)?

Everyone is different but there are some common reasons why men often retreat behind a wall of silence:

  • They consider admitting to a problem or that they need help as a sign of weakness. This feeling can be underlined by society’s inclination towards expressions such as ‘man up’ or ‘grow a pair’
  • They worry that it’s less socially acceptable for men to express their feelings. Especially on an ongoing basis.
  • They don’t form friendships in the same way as women. Neither in terms of the number of friends they have nor in relation to the type of support they offer each other. This can leave them feeling that they don’t have anyone they can confide in.

Seeking help for the physical

But when emotional issues go unaddressed they can often develop into physical ones. And that’s when men tend to act. The most common physical manifestations of emotional include:

  • headaches, backache or other aches and pains
  • grinding of teeth, especially at night
  • the ability to heal from physical injury – from simple to complicated. Robin recalls discussing exactly this with a senior Cardiologist:

“He was intrigued why, hypothetically, ten men of the same age and with similar medical histories, would recover from identical major heart surgery in differing ways.    With some on the treadmill within a few days and others still wanting to lie in bed weeks later”

Big picture, little picture approach

Taking the time to work through a full history of how and when the problem started and what else might have been happening in a patient’s life, especially preceding the onset of symptoms, can be illuminating.  And, over the years, my holistic approach has developed so I now have a range of additional tools at my disposal to help determine and then treat the cause of a patient’s symptoms:

  • Naturopathy – based on the idea that the human body knows best how to heal itself naturally. We work with patients to identify factors that may be undermining their health and develop an individual plan to tackle problem areas.
  • Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) – enabling us to change our thought habits to enable us to alter how we feel.
  • Autogenic training – a potent relaxation therapy with powerful abilities in restoring, healing and developing mind and body. We teach patients a set of lifelong skills and exercises to use whenever and wherever they want.
  • Western Acupuncture – fine needles target trigger points associated with certain ailments to help with pain relief and so on.
  • Low Level Laser Therapy (or LLLT) –  low power or ‘cold’ laser light is used on problem areas to alter cellular function, improve outcomes and speed up the body’s natural healing process.

I have two clinics – one in East Finchley and a second in Central London.  So, if you, or someone you know, is struggling with longstanding physical issues and might benefit from a holistic approach that aims to get to the source of the problem then do book an appointment.  Either by calling 0208 815 0979 or by clicking here.

Sources

*World Health Organisation  ** Office for National Statistics

 

Cats stretching out Robin Kiashek osteopathic clinics

Observe any cat and the chances are that they are sleeping, stretching or grooming. Cats really know how to look after number 1, ensuring

that their basic needs are met by their owners while treating themselves to plenty of R&R and time off to spruce up and look wonderful for every occasion! So, in honour of International Cat Day (on 8th August), let’s give it up for the world’s favourite pet.

Health-boosting benefits of owning a cat

While it may seem as if cats have got it all their own way it is, in fact, a two-way street. Research shows that the animals have a positive impact on the 1 cardiac health, of their owners and taking a quick catnap during the day can improve creativity, focus and productivity. Our feline friends can also help alleviate 2 stress, anxiety and depression – and teach us a lot about how to relax and live the good life.

Live like a cat

Sleeping – cats sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day, more than most other mammals and twice as much as humans, reports the University of Arizona’s Rubin Naiman in the Huffington Post. Because cats have few predators, they can sleep safely in the knowledge that they’re unlikely to be hunted while they’re dozing. We might not be able to sleep for as long as a cat but we can improve our own sleep by:

  • switching off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before settling down
  • getting comfortable in bed, with supportive mattress and pillows, and enough covers
  • Maintaining an ambient temperature and level of darkness in the bedroom

Being active – you may think that your cat spends most of its time napping and you’d be right. But when cats move – playing or stalking prey, for example – they can be surprisingly speedy, leaping and pouncing with great strength and agility. We all know the benefits of regular exercise to the human body – weight control, flexibility, cardiovascular and other health and boosting mood to name just a few:

  • Opt for at least 30 minutes’ five days a week, or more if you can manage it safely
  • Limit sitting time by taking regular breaks if you work at a desk or getting up and putting the kettle during TV ad breaks at home, for example
  • Build a healthy exercise habit scheduling in regular exercise and remembering to warm up beforehand and cool down afterwards

Me time – no animal is better at taking time out for themselves, whether this involves resting, playing or grooming. We can do a lot to keep stress at bay by emulating their ‘so what’ attitude (within reason, of course), and grabbing some R&R by:

  • Pursuing a hobby
  • Going out with friends
  • Reading a book or watching your favourite show (remembering to get up during the ad breaks)

Stretching – cats stretch every time they wake up from sleep, which is often! As well as feeling good, the act of stretching loosens and realigns muscles, readying the cat for activity. It stimulates alertness by increasing blood flow to the muscles and brain. It also gets the lymph circulation on the shift, flushing out waste and toxins, including carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Stretching does much the same for humans. Over time, it also reduces tension, improves posture, strengthens and improves the flexibility of muscles (benefiting the joints) and enhances the body’s range of motion.

Safe stretching (for humans)

  • Stretch on both sides of the body to keep things even
  • Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds – and don’t bounce!
  • Keep breathing – breathe out when going into a stretch and hold this while you inhale
  • Focus on each of the different muscle groups in turn – working your way through the shoulders, neck, calves, thighs, hips, arms and the lower back

If you’re still feeling stiff and strained in your neck, arms or lower body do get in touch to see how osteopathy can help release the tension and relieve tight, inflexible muscles and bad posture.

 

  1. University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute’s 10-year study of over 4,000 Americans, 2008.
  2. A study by the State University of New York reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (September/October 2002).

About Exercise AddictionToo much exercise can lead to obsession

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.