Turn your head all the way to the right and then all the way to the left. Do have any idea of what the ideal range of movement should be?
Between 160 to 180 degrees; i.e. you should be able to rotate your neck to the right and to the left, so that your nose is in line with your shoulder (or near enough).
The neck moves a heavy 4 to 5kg weight, around several axes of movement. It also has the big job of aiding in the position of the eyes which helps us see the world around us. The nervous system supplies our neck muscles and joints so that we can accurately position our eyes and visual specific objects, whether moving or static. This incredibly complicated system gives us the opportunity to act fast if we spot signs of danger or require an immediate action.
For instance, imagine you decided to go for a cooling swim in the river Nile. Suddenly you catch a glimpse of a crocodile’s snout poking out of the water. Your brain would need to identify exactly where the predator is, so it can then decide which direction you should swim and run before you become this croc’s next meal!
The same system allows us to calculate the position of an incoming tennis ball so the brain can activate certain muscles in our arms and legs to strike the ball accurately.
Signs of the system under strain can be a simple as reduction in the range of movement i.e less than 160 degrees. Dysfunction to the joints and muscles of your neck can wreak havoc on the complex pathways our neck has with our brain. An array of conditions can result as a consequence of this. Such conditions include certain types of headache, jaw pain, “mental fog” and dizziness.
Although whiplash, trauma and wear and tear maybe common sources, research is showing that poor posture and the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we are living maybe the biggest cause.
If you’re not getting your 160-180 degrees; if you’re struggling to turn your head when driving out of a junction, or if you’re fed up of relying on pain killers for your headaches,consider coming to see us and getting your neck get checked.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is bacterial infection spread by infected deer ticks. It is the most common tick-borne infectious disease with 2000- 3000 new cases in the UK every year, and is particularly prevalent in the Southern Counties, Yorkshire Moors, Lake District and the Scottish Highlands, probably due to increasing numbers of wild deer in these areas.
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures found on foliage and long grass in parks, woodlands, heathland and gardens. Ticks cannot jump or fly but climb on to humans and animals as they pass by. They then attach themselves by burrowing their head under the skin, where they can remain for up to 72 hours, swelling up considerably as they suck blood. Because they are so small, and their bite is not painful, it is very easy to have a tick bite without noticing. Most tick bites are not a problem, but a bite from an infected tick can cause Lyme disease.
Infected ticks only release the bacterium into the bloodstream 24-48 hours after the tick bite, so the longer an infected tick remains attached, the greater the risk of contracting Lyme disease. Initial symptoms can include a circular red rash, which is not itchy or painful, within 3-30 days of being bitten. The rash may spread outwards slowly until it resembles the bullseye on a dartboard, before gradually fading. There may also be mild flu-like symptoms such as headaches, high temperature, tiredness, neck stiffness, and arm and leg pains, which usually resolve after a few days.
If diagnosed early, Lyme disease can easily be treated with a 2-4 week course of antibiotics. Failure to diagnose and treat early can cause more serious symptoms to develop weeks, months, or even years after the original bite. These include painful and swollen joints (inflammatory arthritis), limb pain and numbness, facial muscle paralysis, memory or concentration problems, heart problems (myocarditis or pericarditis), and disorders of the nervous system such as meningitis or encephalitis. These may require a prolonged course of antibiotics, often given intravenously, but some symptoms may persist for a long time. A few people develop “post-infectious Lyme disease” with long-term symptoms similar to those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia, but it is not know why this happens, or how best to treat it.
You can reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease by using an insect repellent on exposed skin, wearing long-sleeved tops and tucking trousers into your socks, and keeping to footpaths and avoiding long grass or dense vegetation in tick-infested areas. If you go out into the countryside check for ticks on your clothes or exposed skin, and in particular check the head, neck and scalp of your children, before returning home to avoid taking ticks home with you. You should also regularly check your pet cats and dogs for ticks, and consider using a tick preventative medication.
If you find a tick on your skin, remove it as soon as possible using either fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool as close to the head of the tick as possible, and pull upwards slowly and firmly to avoid leaving the mouthparts in the skin, where they can cause a localised infection. Wash the area thoroughly and apply an antiseptic. Monitor the area for any changes for several weeks. If you develop symptoms, visit your GP and tell them you have been bitten by a tick. NEVER try to burn the tick off, squeeze the tick or apply any other substances like petroleum jelly to the tick as these may cause the tick to regurgitate infected material into the skin, increasing the risk of getting Lyme disease.
Enjoy yourself in the British countryside, but be tick aware.
One common question we are asked time and time again does not relate to medical matters. It usually starts by: “Can you tell me the difference between …” and at that stage we can usually finish the sentence: “…a chiropractor, an osteopath and a physiotherapist?”
We practitioners, have a tendency to forget that, if the answer to such a question is evident for us, this is not the case for members of the general public. Here is what I usually say:
Although chiropractic and osteopathy have distinct professional identities and philosophies, they are both founded on the two pillars of science and vitalism. Vitalism recognizes the patient’s own capacity for self-healing. Both professions have a holistic approach to health, integrating body, mind and spirit and use a hands-on approach. However, despite these basic similarities, there are some significant contrasts between and even within the two professions. This results in very different styles of practitioners leading to situations where one chiropractor and one osteopath will practise in a very similar way and two chiropractors or two osteopaths may be practising very differently.
In any case, practice tends to concentrate on treating the patient’s condition and leaves philosophy some way behind. Both professions treat similar conditions in a generally similar way and get similar results. The success of any treatment is therefore dependent on a wide variety of factors such as the condition, the patient, the practitioner etc. So, there is no simple answer to the “what’s the difference” question!
Physiotherapy emphasises the use of physical approaches to the prevention and treatment of disease and disability. In the face of growing competition from chiropractic and osteopathy, some physiotherapists have taken a greater interest in the use of mobilization and manipulation. As a result, there is now wider competition between the three professions with regard to the treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions (a very long word referring to the aches and pains and disabilities caused by the dysfunction of the framework of the human body).
As a member of both the physiotherapy and the chiropractic professions I can only emphasize the importance of touch and physical contact between practitioner and patient. In addition, chiropractic and osteopathy are both wellness-orientated rather than sickness-orientated. They are concerned with the patient rather than the illness. My advice is, whatever professional you decide to consult for your aches and pains and/or your disability, make sure he uses a hands-on approach.
Is exercise really good for you?
Patients often ask me how to prevent recurrent episodes of back problems. The simple answer is exercise, essentially it is anything that is going to stimulate your musculoskeletal system in a positive way.
But first let’s start by going to the other end of the spectrum and looking at the physiological effects on the body of not exercising. In addition, to make it more interesting, let’s consider the effect of smoking as well as not exercising as this intensifies the lack of exercise. We all know smoking kills and I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone how to run their lives, but if you want to ruin every cell in your body, smoking is just about the most destructive thing you can do. Buerger’s disease, or Thromboangiitis Obliterans, is the result of the gradual narrowing or occlusion of ALL your small blood vessels so that each time you have a cigarette you’re effectively suffocating the body bit by bit not only of oxygen but also of blood. You’re slowly killing yourself, what a cheery thought. So much for looking cool with a fag! Ah well, enough of that negativity let’s look at the other end of the spectrum.
What about choosing life and health? Cells like being fed with the right things. Therefore, the best thing to do is get the good stuff in and the toxic rubbish out. The best way of doing this is by exercising. Increasing the blood flow to every cell in your body helps prevent and reduce the incidence of or improve most conditions. The extra-oxygenated blood brings nutrients to the body’s cells and removes the products of metabolism. This is the best way to improve cell health. The added benefit of all this exercise is improved muscle tone. This protects your joints, holding your body in its correct position. This in turn aids better blood flow, which in turn gives you more energy, which in turn… oh, you get the gist…
The body is fantastic: give it a chance, give it a little of the good stuff and it will do you proud. Of course, treat yourself to some coffee too, or whatever takes your fancy because you cannot be good all the time.
As I lie here in bed writing this article it’s a cold frosty February morning. The BBC forecast of a dusting of snow hasn’t materialised and it promises to be dry and bright. The sun is up and the sky a vibrant blue. Snow drops have got their heads up and the first crocuses have appeared and soon the daffodils will be in full flourish with the buds of spring bursting into life.
But wait a moment, for we all know that April is the cruellest of months breeding lilacs out of the dead land. Who can tell what will happen when having braved January, February and March, April hoves into view.
Predicting the weather isn’t an exact science and so it is with our bodies. Predicting what is going to happen to us health-wise even in the short-term is almost impossible. Genetics has massively improved the accuracy of the list of possible/ probables but is still handcuffed by all the epigenetic (things that turn genes on and off) factors.
Cardiovascular disease is well studied and understood. It accounts for a third of all mortalities and is the biggest killer worldwide. Eighty percent (yes 80%) of these deaths are due to factors such as obesity, poor physical activity, heavy drinking, smoking, unhealthy diet and pollution.
Numerous other factors contribute with the possible/ probable outcome being a mixture of nature (genetics) versus nurture (epigenetics).
So with health, unlike the weather, we very often have a marked level of control. More often than not it’s possible to do things that benefit us. Often these changes can be done in little steps. Start with a small walk in the lunch hour; do some deep breathing; get to bed an hour earlier; not watch a screen before you to go bed; an extra glass of water. Simple but cumulatively promoting health rather than disease.
Chiropractic is all about helping the body, promoting health and preventing where possible musculoskeletal problems that could manifest themselves in the short, medium and long-term. Helping resolve the effects of lugging small children, shopping, digging, being stuck behind a desk or in a car. Take some time next time you see your chiropractor ask them what you can do in your situation to improve your health and I predict that you will come away with some good tips.
By the way the snow flurries did come.
Guildford Chiropractic Centre, has been caring for generations of families over 65 years. Our clinic offers a complimentary 15-minute informal chat with one of our expert chiropractors to answer your questions or to see if we can help you improve your health. Contact clinic reception for further details.
We are right in the middle of skiing season and by golly do many folks in Guildford love to Ski.
As well as being an enjoyable holiday choice, it offers an excellent cardiovascular workout and stimulates the nervous system.
As skiing is not free of injury (like any holiday for that matter), there are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk significantly.
The month before you go, you should be preparing your body to undertake the challenge of skiing holiday. Get down the gym or pull the bike out of the garage and work on your fitness endurance. Perform exercises to build up your leg muscles and core, e.g. squats, lunges, planks (speak to your chiropractor or personal trainer for further advice on this).
When you’ve finally reached the slopes, take note of the following tips for skiing:
Be sure to consult the chiropractor on your return if you had any significant bumps or falls and have your spine checked. Often, these small injuries can serve as precursors for other bigger injuries. Prevention is better than cure.
With that, if you are off skiing this winter season be sure to have a fantastic injury-free holiday!
Another New Year!
It’s the time of year when most of us will be thinking of New-Year-New-Me resolutions. Whilst some of the blogs you may read offer a more pessimistic perspective and describe how most of us break our resolutions by Valentines Day, I propose a more optimistic viewpoint.
We make resolutions to improve an area of our lives we are lacking in. The outcome, if successful, is an improved sense of well-being, productivity and happiness. After all, you deserve to be happy.
Every year in January, I have line of people coming in asking for help to change their lives, one way or another. Some have finally found the courage to say “I’m fed up with this back pain and how it’s ruining my life. I’m going to do something about it.” Or “I am out of touch with how my body works. I’ve not exercised in years, I’m two stone heavier than last year and I have aches and pains from head to toe. Help me!” January can be a very busy time of the year for the Chiropractor.
Some advice: when deciding what resolution to make, ensure you are doing it for the right reasons. This is your resolution – no one else’s. I ask my new-year-new-me-patients “Do you understand the difference between wanting to improve your health and wanting to want to improve your health?” Where are you on this scale?
Making big changes to your life requires coming out of comfort zones, making some mistakes and learning more about yourself. Self-motivation to make change is hard at the beginning, but it’s even harder to sustain. That’s why in certain situations, seeking professional help is better than doing it on your own. Although immediate results are few and far between, excellent results in the long term are not only possible but also within the reach of most people.
If you have a chronic ailment, for example back pain or headaches, and you need to get the second opinion that you never got round to obtaining, come and see us. In the new year we are offering free 15 minute consultations, with no obligation, during which we can tell you if chiropractic could help you.
I would like to leave you with one of my favourite New Year motivation comments by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaimen:
”I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
I would like to wish you a very happy and healthier new year.
“Well, it ’s normal isn’t it?” “Er … yes … and no”, comes the reply. Only ‘normal’ can be ‘normal’ but, fortunately for us, ‘normal’ in the body is variable, and is different for each of us, albeit often only slightly.
‘Normal’ comes in many guises: it is often dependent on our environment and how we interact with it; how we’re made; our genetics.
Since man first stumbled out of his cave onto the African Savannah we have had to deal with the vagaries of the weather and the intermittent availability of food and water.
The human body does its best to maintain ‘normal’. This process is known in medical circles as homeostasis. When the umpteenth antelope has cleared off into the middle distance and your belly is rumbling, the body is still doing everything it can to maintain correct levels of oxygen, sugars and other chemicals in the blood.
Try holding your breath: if you try to withhold oxygen, it won’t be very long before your body makes you breathe. See if you can pass out. I bet you can’t – your body won’t let it happen!
The body does the same when it’s trying to process the incoming torrent of chemicals from your ingestion of big Mac, fries and shake. As your lipid levels skyrocket and your pancreas goes into meltdown, spare a thought for all those background processes that your body performs faultlessly day in and day out. That is, until something goes wrong.
Most of the time, the mode of onset is poorly understood and so it is with musculoskeletal pain. Whilst we would love to have a direct cause and effect situation, the reality is rarely so. We are a complex combination of everything that’s happened to us throughout our lives – good, bad and indifferent. Most problems have a chronic component, a fatigue point if you like, where a problem builds until the body complains or fails.
So why not see a chiropractor and help your body get back to ‘normal’ or at the very least slow down its drift away from the norm?
The clinic offers a 20-minute complimentary chiropractic discussion and assessment to see whether chiropractic treatment can help. Please contact clinic reception for further details.
Seasons greetings one and all! Christmas will soon be upon us, and although it is the season of good cheer, it is also a common time for people to upset their spines! Be sure to take note of the following tips so back pain doesn’t ruin the festive holiday:
The problems can begin with shopping for Christmas presents. Traipsing around the shops looking for the “perfect” presents for your nearest and dearest, can put your spine under a lot of mechanical stress. Wear sensible shoes that support your feet properly, and try to balance the weight of your shopping bags equally in both hands. If you try to do all your shopping in one day, have regular breaks, even if it is only to take parcels back to your car. If you do most of your shopping online, take regular breaks away from your computer so that your back doesn’t get stuck in one position.
Once the Christmas shopping is finished, there is the tree and house to decorate. If, like me, you prefer a real tree, there will be a trip to a local Christmas tree farm to saw down or dig up the perfectly shaped tree, then you will need to manhandle it back to your car and set it up at home, ensuring it is vertical. All of this can put your lower back under a lot of strain, and leave you with aching shoulders. The next hazard is decorating the tree so take care when you pick up boxes of decorations. Keep your spine in a neutral position and bend your hips and knees, and do not bend, lift and twist at the same time. Have fun decorating the tree making sure that you get an even distribution of the lights and the colours of the decorations.
Wrapping Christmas presents can be great fun, but can also be hard work for your lower back. Try to wrap as you buy, rather than leaving it all until Christmas Eve. Sit at a table or stand at a kitchen worktop, rather than sitting on the floor or standing bending over a table. Make sure you take regular breaks and walk around, even if it is only to get a coffee or a glass of wine to keep you going.
What you eat and drink can also have an effect on your back. Drinking too much alcohol can cause you to fall over and injure yourself, and drinking alcohol over several days can increase any pre-existing inflammation in joints. Alcohol can also result in dehydration of the whole body, including the discs in your spine, so make sure you drink plenty of water too. However, drinking 2-3 alcoholic drinks can help muscles relax. At Christmas we also tend to overload on sugar in the form of Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, mince pies, alcohol, and the inevitable tins of chocolates. These excess sugars can affect your adrenal glands causing them to fatigue, leaving you feeling tired and drained, but they can also reduce the body’s natural anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, causing injuries to feel more painful.
When the big day finally arrives there are lots of things that can potentially upset your back. Cleaning the house if you are expecting visitors, standing preparing the all the vegetables for Christmas lunch, and then there is the turkey. Even a small turkey weighs around 15 pounds, and this can be quite cumbersome getting it in and out of the oven, so bend your knees and brace your lower back to avoid injury.
After the Christmas lunch, it is traditional to sit down and watch television. Unfortunately many sofas do not provide ideal lower back support, encouraging you to sit in a slumped position, so put a cushion in the small of your back. Having extra time off work over the Christmas period to relax may sound ideal, but try not to spend prolonged periods of time sitting down, but encourage the whole family to go for a walk instead.
If you do injure your back over the Christmas period, apply an ice pack (or a small packet of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the injured area for up to 10 minutes. As the pain reduces, gentle stretching exercises can improve your mobility. For your neck: bend and turn it gently from side to side. For your lower back, lie on the floor and bring each knee in turn up to your chest and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 6 times for each leg. Pelvic tilt exercises can also help: lie on the floor with your knees bent up, feet flat on the floor, then flatten your lower back on to the ground for a few seconds, and repeat 6 times.
Remember you’ve only got one spine: take good care of it!
Guildford Chiropractic Centre is only closed on Sundays and public holidays, so if you do injure your back over the festive period, you should be able to see one of our chiropractors promptly.
Finally, on behalf of all the team here, I would like to wish everyone in our community a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!