New Year Fitness

As we enter the Post Christmas period many of us begin thinking about getting fit in the New Year. We all know that exercise is important for a healthy heart, joints and generally keeping us fit. However, with the best will in the world, many of us find excuses, ‘I’m too busy… the gym is too expensive… I’m too tired’. But what if exercise didn’t take so much extra time, money or commitment? Below are some ideas to help you more easily integrate exercise into your daily life.

The Tips

  1. Walk at work
    If you have a desk-based job, try to make the effort to walk over to talk to people you need to speak to, instead of always sending an email or calling them. As an added bonus this is good for networking and relationship-building as well. You can also take a stroll at lunchtime.
  2. Cycle to work
    If you can, consider cycling to work and give you a good daily workout. It is also better for the environment – even if you do it just twice a week. You may also be able to get a tax break on a new bicycle through the government’s cycle to work scheme. Tip: try doing the route on a weekend when you are not in a rush so you know where you are going.
  3. Take the stairs
    Try to take the stairs instead of using the lift. This is a no-brainer and takes pretty much the same amount of time. If you are really going for it you could try running up some of the stairs! Tip: if you have painful knees or arthritis, going downstairs is often worse for you than going upstairs. Listen to your body and stop if it makes your pain worse.
  4. Borrow a dog
    This is not a joke! Ask a friend who has a dog or look at BorrowMyDoggy.com which matches 1000s of dog owners throughout the UK with ‘borrowers’ who can take their dogs for “walkies” once or twice a week, or even have a doggy to stay. So you get all the fun of a pet without the commitments, and what better way to go for regular walks.
  5. Go on an ‘active’ date or night out
    Instead of going for the old haunts which involve sitting down all evening such as a pub, restaurant or cinema, why not occasionally get active and do something different? Find something you and your significant other both enjoy or try something new. Here are a few suggestions: swim and sauna, walk to a restaurant you’ve never visited, go out and learn to dance or go just go dancing.
  6. Exercise for fun with others
    Why not try a Zumba or Pilates class? They can be fun and very social occasions. If you have children and the kids do sports classes, use that half an hour to get fit yourself. If you are watching them play from the touchline you could jog or walk round the edge. Some organisations such as Kids Run Free involve parents in their races.
  7. Go for walks with family or friends
    It’s a fun way to exercise and help get your 10,000 steps per day and spend some quality time together and see new places. You could even start an informal walking group with friends. There are lots of suggestions for walks at in Kent at www.walkinginkent.co.uk

Sitting back waiting for trouble?

Over ten thousand people visit their osteopath each week because of problems caused by poor office seating, according to a recent survey carried out by Britain’s osteopaths.

The osteopaths reported that unsuitable office seating, and poor sitting posture are the cause of 50% of all the problems they see among patients who have primarily sedentary jobs. The recent survey, which was carried out amongst 1000 of Britain’s 4,500 practising osteopaths found that sedentary workers who use computers, or are secretaries, bank clerks and accountants are the most frequent visitors to osteopaths, suffering from a variety of back, neck and other problems.

It was found that 40% of people who visit their osteopath do so because of a problem or injury associated with their work. Of these patients, well over half are sedentary workers, many of whom are being forced to sit in chairs not designed for the job they do. Over a period of time they may develop severe back problems, pains in the neck, and strain to their arms and fingers without knowing the cause. It can frequently be traced back to an unsuitable office chair!

While computer secretaries and clerks are most at risk from these problems, bus and lorry drivers, and sale reps also suffer from injuries linked to sitting.

Many commuters, who sit for up to 2 hours a day in a car or train, and then spend 7 or 8 hours sitting at work, are especially vulnerable to low back pains and high back and neck problems.

EC legislation on office seating at VDU workstations may ultimately prevent this high level of musculoskeletal injury, but few companies yet provide their employees with the right kind of seating for the job.

The EC regulations say that all seating for VDU users should be fully adjustable for height, swivel and back position. Office workers can help prevent these potentially serious problems if they do some simple exercises in the office during breaks. Here at the Bower Mount Clinic our Osteopaths can advise patients what exercises are right for their particular seating problem. We can also recommend the best type of seating for you and we can even advise Companies on how to avoid back pain, repetitive strain injuries in their staff. We can also advise workers on manual handling skills.

BACK at School

Helping to avoid back pain in young people

Over the last few years we have found an increasing number of school children, teenagers and university students coming for treatment complaining of back and neck pain. One of the major factors in the development of these problems seems to be carrying bags of books and equipment that are just too heavy. The problem is often compounded by them carrying their bags on one shoulder causing an uneven loading on the spine. Research shows that alarmingly 50% of children and young people will have experienced low back pain by the age of 14. It is clear that the everyday physical demands of school life, combined with sedentary lifestyles and poor posture are contributory factors.

So what can you do to help make sure that you avoid back problems now and in later life? Here are some top tips on how you can help to avoid back pain:

  • Use a backpack with two padded shoulder straps and individual compartments so heavy items won’t move about when carrying them.
  • Never carry a bag on one shoulder – if you don’t want to put the bag on your back try carrying it in front of you holding it close to your chest.
  • Pack heaviest items into backpack first so they are carried lower on your body.
  • Keep weight in the backpack to a minimum by not carrying unnecessary items. The total weight of your backpack should never be more than 10% of your body weight.
  • Try not to keep your bag on your back if you are standing still­ take it off and put it on the ground or a bench.
  • Try to walk upright – if you bend forward when walking then your backpack is too heavy!
  • Don’t swing your bag round to put it on as it can cause damage to your back or shoulder muscles. When picking up a heavy bag from the floor, bend your knees and squat down, lifting the bag close to your body. This lessens pressure on your spine.
  • Don’t sit at a computer for more than 20 minutes at a time without taking a break.
  • Try to keep active – it’s recommended that children do at least an hour of physical activity a day as strong muscles will help prevent poor posture and back pain. Rather than spending hours watching TV or playing computer games do something active such as playing a sport, cycling, swimming or just going for a walk with friends.

Back in the Garden

Over the last few weeks we have seen an increasing number of patients attend the clinic suffering from acute back pain as a result of gardening or lawn mowing. Looking through the old clinic files we found an article written by the founder of the clinic Simon Fielding that was published in the local paper Maidstone Extra in August 1987. We reproduce the article below as it is as relevant today as it was back then and contains some useful tips on how to enjoying gardening without the pain!

Don’t back yourself into a fix!

Now the grass is growing fast, osteopaths are seeing an increasing number of patients who have overdone it in the garden. Prevention is always better than cure.

  1. If you have to dig, try to bend and lift from your knees as much as possible.
  2. Don’t carry on any one activity for too long as this will tire and overstrain the ligaments that support your spine. Do one job, such as digging, for 15 minutes, then try something else such as watering the plants.
  3. It is much better to weed the flower beds on your hands and knees, rather than stooping down for long periods. A piece of foam-backed carpet or kneeling pad will help to prevent you getting sore knees.
  4. If you use a hover type mower be careful not to swing it from side to side, as this can cause a severe strain at the bottom of your back. Always push a mower straight in front of you.
  5. When using edging shears, stand with your legs wide apart so you can work with a straight back.

After an afternoon in the garden, relax in a warm bath and, if your low back aches, try lying on your back, clasping your hands around your knees. Keeping your legs and hips relaxed, slowly pull your knees to your chest. Hold them there for about 10 seconds and slowly let them down again. This can be repeated several times. Do not attempt this exercise if you feel sharp pains. If any low back pain does not disappear in a few days, consider consulting your doctor or nearest osteopath.

Happy Gardening!

Paracetamol is ineffective at treating back pain and osteoarthritis despite being a recommended treatment

The headlines this month “Paracetamol is ineffective at treating back pain and osteoarthritis despite being a recommended treatment, a group of Australian researchers has warned” will come as no surprise to the hundreds of our patients who have tried the drug and found it provided little relief for their back pain.

The research published in the British Medical Journal is a review of 13 clinical trials and shows that paracetamol for back pain does not reduce disability or improve quality of life. In the light of this the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will review its guidelines on the use of paracetamol for back pain which it currently recommends.

Dr Christian Mallen from Keele University has correctly pointed out that treatment options other than drugs should be the “cornerstone” of the management of such conditions. NHS Choices underline this by stating that there is there is good evidence that osteopathy is effective for the treatment of persistent lower back pain.

Research shows that exercise is important in the management of back pain and the Charity BackCare recommend combining exercise with manual treatment. Acupuncture is also recommended for chronic low back so it’s really good to see that the integrated approach we have been offering at the clinic for over 30 years is now being shown to be the right one.