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I recently spent a fascinating day at the Royal Society of Medicine for the 9th Annual Spinal Symposium which looked at the spine from a range of perspectives.

The spine is often the part of the body that people most readily associate with Osteopathy (although we can assist with many other issues and help you to reach your goals in mind and body).

I think it’s vital to remain up to date with current thinking and I regularly refresh my learning with CPD events such as this, where I am always interested to hear about new developments, opinions and practices.

Annual Spinal Symposium

We heard from six excellent orthodox medical consultants who covered topics including dizziness and facial pain, degenerative spinal diseases and sport and the spine. But, for me, the most interesting speaker was Rheumatologist, Dr Roger Wolman who talked about the different types and levels of pain that people experience, and then focussed on chronic pain.

This is an issue that fascinates me and Dr Wolman’s assertion that there is often a poor correlation between chronic pain and structural abnormality certainly resonated with my experiences in clinic. Pain is often a measure of distress , both physical and sometimes emotional and not necessarily injury.

Managing chronic pain

He spoke at length about managing chronic pain and the important role that we can play in educating people about it. According to Dr Wolman, even just understanding chronic pain can help to change pain levels. He also stressed the need for patients to understand the relationship between stress, anxiety, depression and pain; to know their pain triggers; and the limited role of medication in these situations.

I have written before about the approach I take at my Clinics and how I believe in treating the person and not just the symptom they present with. This ‘body-mind detective’ role – systematically locating and treating the root cause of often very complex problems – is one I greatly enjoy and I have been able to help a number of patients who have been suffering with chronic pain over long periods of time.

Review

I’ll leave you with the kind words from a patient: “Robin’s treatments have helped reduce my back and neck pain which had plagued me for years. He has taught me how to reduce re-occurrences through exercise and lifestyle change – I was very despondent before I came to see him and he continues to help me hugely; I’m very grateful.”

So, if you’ve been nursing a niggle or putting up with pain for a while then why not book an appointment?

How to Keep a Healthy Spine

Did you know that back pain is one of the most common reasons for  sickness absence in the UK*

Healthy Spine

According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 141.4 million working days are lost each year to sickness or injury.  With musculoskeletal problems – including back pain, neck pain and upper limb issues – often cited as the reason.  And the bad press about back pain doesn’t end there. It has also been recorded in recent years as the top cause of disability**.

The spine is our body’s central support structure. It’s a column of 26 bones — 24 separate vertebrae inter-spaced with cartilage, plus the sacrum and coccyx.  It makes up the spinal ‘scaffolding’, through which the spinal cord passes, keeps us upright and enables flexible movement.  It also sets us apart from those famous invertebrates – the jellyfish!

And it can be a master of disguise.  Back problems can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck to the lower back.  And they might include referred pain, which can give widespread symptoms (pain, numbness, pins & needles and weakness) into the upper or lower limbs, the head and abdominal/chest regions. And these referred symptoms can make diagnosis more difficult.

So, since prevention is better than cure, I’ve compiled a list of five everyday things we can all do to help look after our backs:

Good posture – day and night

Avoid slumping in a chair or on the sofa, hunching over a desk or walking with your shoulders up by your ears. And, of course, the 21st century curse of resting your chin on your chest while using your phone.  Instead, ensure your lower back is properly supported, sit up straight when you’re working on a computer or laptop and keep your chin up while you text!

And since we sleep for a third of our lives (hopefully), it’s also worth spending money on a good mattress and divan (slats do not support your mattress and in turn, your back).  The latter being ‘a mattress for your mattress’.  Ideally, the divan should not incorporate storage boxes as these lessen its effectiveness.

Bend at the hips

Always be sure to bend at the hips and not your back. Try to do this by keeping your upper body upright as much as possible and your chest forward. If you do a lot of lifting or bending, make sure you attend specific manual handling training.

Avoid shoulder/messenger bags

They might look fashionable but carrying heavy loads in shoulder and/or messenger bags can cause an imbalance of weight on your spine. If you lug around weighty items, like laptops and books, as a minimum, opt for a comfortable rucksack and be sure to use both shoulder straps. But ideally, do consider a rucksack with wheels.

Don’t stress – take a ‘chill pill’ (as my children kindly tell me)

As a trained Osteopath and Naturopath, I know there’s a close link between physical, mental and emotional health and that problems originating in one place can often show up as referred pain in another. And while some people manifest stress in their minds, others manifest it physically. Which causes us to tighten our muscles, particularly around our shoulders and down our spine.

Take a stand

Sitting for long periods of time has been proved to be bad for our health.  So get up, go for a walk or get a drink every 30 minutes to get your back muscles (and everything else) working.   If you spend your day at a desk, I’ve written before about the benefits of Active or Dynamic Sitting.  This is where your seating allows or encourages you to move, increases your stability and strengthens your core abdominal muscles.  There are lots of options on the market including the ‘Swopper Chair’, which I use myself.

Look after Your Spine

As we’ve discussed, the spine is a wonderful thing and it’s important to look after it.  So, if you’ve started the new year with back, neck or hip pain then Osteopathy may be the answer.
Why not get in touch for more information or to book an appointment?

We have Osteopath clinics in Central London and North London

 

*Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2018

** Back pain is a massive problem which is badly treated

Here at Robin Kiashek Clinics we have been looking after patients with back pain and structural spinal problems for over twenty years. In some cases, pain is related to the way we are built but in others pain is present because of a recent or historical injury. Any pain is a signal that the body is out of balance and needs assistance in getting back to normal.

SONY DSC

At the Robin Kiashek Clinics, as well as treating acute pain when it occurs, we also aim to prevent problems in our patients before they take hold, so here is a list of 10 tips on how to look after your spine to ward off potentially debilitating problems.

Tip 1 – Rest Your Spine

We mean it! If you have suffered an injury or you are in acute pain, after seeing a specialist, ensure you thoroughly rest your spine. If there is swelling & inflammation, it will need time to go down and the tissue needs rest to recover.

Tip 2 – Wear Supportive Footwear

This might not be immediately obvious, or what you want to hear if you are a lover of high heels, but the plain truth is your footwear determines your posture. Your musculoskeletal structure is one system. Where one part is impacted it is felt elsewhere.

Tip 3 – Quit Smoking

This is not a big headline but it really should be. Nicotine and the general dehydration that goes along with smoking can adversely affect your spine. Also, in the same way that smoking affects blood vessels and circulation, it affects the vascular structures in your disks and joints. Many smokers suffer from lower back pain. It is no coincidence but backed up by research.

Tip 4 – Get a Massage

getty_rf_photo_of_hands_on_backMassage is good for so many aspects of your health. Primarily it helps increase endorphins – your body’s natural painkillers – that provide relief to sufferers of chronic pain. It helps stimulate your circulation, bringing a good blood supply to the affected area, and it improves your lymphatic drainage system helping your body combat disease.

Tip 5 – Limit Sitting Time

This is rather hard if you have a desk job, but you can combat stiffness and aches by regularly getting up from your desk and having a walk around, ensuring you get outside for part of your lunch break. Some people swear by standing desks. If at home, using advert breaks to get up and potter about for 5 minutes, or setting a simple kitchen timer for 45mins to remind you to move, could help you. Any movement and activity is good.

Tip 6 – Have an Ergonomic Workspace

Taking a little time in planning where and how to position your seat, your keyboard and screen or other things on your desk or workspace, can really save your back from straining and twisting. If you spend a lot of time shackled to a phone, for instance, it makes sense to give some thought to positioning essential tools or supplies.

Tip 7 – Practice Good Posture

Whether standing or sitting, try and be aware of your spine’s position. Stand with feet a comfortable width apart and try to hold your tummy in, elongating your spine if you can. When sitting, try to sit up, and if necessary, use a lower back support to help the natural curve in your back to stay in position. Knees bent at right angles and feet flat on the floor should also help steady your posture and support your spine. It’s surprising how we forget such a simple thing!

Tip 8 – Get Comfortable in Bed

Sleep will elude you if you are not comfortable in bed at night. Ask yourself if you need any extra support (maybe a cushion under your knees or between our knees if you sleep on your side) to take the pressure off your hips or lower back? Are you getting enough support from your pillow or mattress? Even things as basic as temperature and atmosphere can affect your sleep and whether you feel pain or not.

Tip 9 – Hydration, Nutrition and Weight

Drinking plenty of water is essential, whether you have a health complaint or not. Eating right also makes the difference in the speed at which you can bounce back from pain and injury. Particularly for people with any joint or muscle pain, sufficient hydration helps lubricate the joints and eating regular, well balanced meals means good lubrication of joints and disks, and nutrition reaching the parts of the body that are struggling. Excess weight puts unnecessary pressure on already beleaguered bones and joints, and can delay recovery or prolong pain. Consider seeing a dietician if you struggle with nutrition or controlling your weight.

Tip 10 – Stay Active and Exercise Your Core

As long as you aren’t in severe pain and have the green light to walk or exercise, try to do as much as you can manage, especially if your specialist has given you particular exercises to practice. If you are able to go to classes at the gym or are fortunate enough to have a personal trainer, depending on your level of fitness, you can hone in on core strength exercises to strengthen the muscles of your abdomen and back, and also your legs. This will support your spine and take the pressure off your lower back. Ensure your instructor is qualified to help you and always make them aware of your condition.

Be it a herniated disk or muscle strain, only a thorough examination by an experienced specialist can reveal the kind of pain it is, and consequently, how to treat it. At The Robin Kiashek Clinics we can offer the very best care and all that Robin’s vast experience can offer. Requesting a consultation is easy – click here to enter your details.