By friend and patient, 19th June 2019
It’s been an interesting time for Philip Hehir and Annie Colman, the owners of Guildford Chiropractic Centre. If you’re not a patient and their names ring a bell, it’s because you’ll recognise them from the Burchatts Farm Barn debacle back in March…
After entering a bid to Guildford Borough Council (GBC), their planning permission was later rejected. That doesn’t sound too unusual, however they found their planning permission became marred by local elections and local political campaigners, some even sending inappropriate messaging via social media and other groups launching a media campaign. They’d unfortunately found themselves part of a landscape they never dreamt of being a part of.
But like all people who find their lives at risk of complete devastation (loss of business, their life savings gone and risk of homelessness), they couldn’t just give up. They’re still fighting for the future of their business and their need to support the clinic’s patients. It’s commendable to say the least.
And so the story continues just 3 months later.
Here we find out exactly what happened with Burchatt’s Farm Barn back in March, and what the Chiropractors will do next…
Can you tell us why you’ve both decided to speak up now, and why in this way?
Annie: Excitingly, we’ve finally been able to take action after the rejection and wanted to share the news with our patients, and anyone else that’s been following Burchatt’s Farm Barn since this all began.
Philip: I think by being able to explain in our own words we’ll be able to take back the truth, and hopefully by opening up, more people can understand our position. There’s a saying that a lie gets half-way around the world before the truth has had a chance to get its pants on. In this case the lie seemed to make its way round Guildford twice before we even knew what was going on, and so we felt like now is our time to tell the truth.
OK, so how did all this start?
A: It’s a really long story! As you know, Burchatt’s is owned by GBC, and it’s been closed to the public since early 2016 because it was losing up to £70,000 annually. We all know from the news that our local councils are under huge pressure, so it’s not surprising that there was a directive from central government to make their assets more financially stable. Our understanding is that they’d been hiring it out to the local community and businesses for a long time, but due to a lack of use they’d had to increase rates to try and cover the costs needed to run it.
P: Knowing they had to do something, GBC decided to take a new course of action.
A long term plan to maintain Stoke Park was formulated which included finding alternative uses to ensure the future of the barn. Historic England actually states that the best way to protect a building is to find a long term sustainable economic use for it and so the decision was made to find a local business who could take the building on and look after it properly – financially (rent) and physically (repairs).
A: That’s where we came in – we were one of the local businesses who put a bid together.
Tell us more about the overall process…
A: We had to put together an incredibly detailed proposal with all our plans, which included the way our clinic works, our current lease situation and information about the small changes to the interior we would need to be able to run a clinic there, and comply with modern health and safety standards. We know that 11 other local businesses also bid for the space in the first round, who were then shortlisted down to three for a second round where the more detailed information was submitted. The process was remarkably thorough, and we had no knowledge of who else had bid until things were put out in the media.
We couldn’t believe it when we were successful, we had been under so much stress and pressure for so many months and finally we thought we were saved!
P: We knew we then had to apply for planning permission to change the usage of the building. As far as we have been made aware, all of the other companies that bid would have also needed to apply for a change of use before they could have officially leased the building too.
After submitting planning for change of use as per the council’s instruction, local commentary was taken as part of that official process, the same council’s planning committee then voted and rejected our plans.
A: During the whole process we found everyone we dealt with at the council to be very helpful. We have no issues with the way the planning officers dealt with our application and were pleased that the planning and conservation officers recommended our application for approval to the committee.
We are just very unclear as to why the committee, some of whom had been part of the decision-making team who awarded us the lease, then voted against our planning application.
We had been advised independently by several sources that our planning would go through as we complied with all the regulations we needed to and we’re only asking for very minor changes. The change of use from D2 to D1 should have been granted. The councils planning team and conservation officers must have agreed with this as they had recommended our planning for approval, which apparently the elected committee should then adhere to but it seems they had other pressures.
We completely understand that planning, and the inner workings of the council, are very complicated which is why we thought there was more to it. We have since become more enlightened to the depth of manipulation occuring behind the scenes and it is frankly very disappointing and quite concerning.
Some have said, why Burchatt’s? Why not hire another property?
P: Good question. The high street has been suggested but the high street is not the only problem for Guildford independents, many of us just can’t operate on a high street but we have property issues of our own. If only it was that simple, we certainly wish it was. We are fully aware, like everyone else, that there is an oversupply of A1 (shop space) in Guildford but that is irrelevant to us as we can’t use it. There are many reasons why the high street is 100% not an option for us. A1 rent alone is usually three times more expensive per square foot than D1, we just can’t afford it and anyway change of use is usually not granted. We also need desperately to have good access and parking very close to the building for those who are elderly or in pain and enough floor space for our way of working. Just like you wouldn’t find a GP surgery on a high street, we have similar needs.
A: We love our current building and personally, at this stage in our lives we wouldn’t have been considering moving if we didn’t have to. We’ve already had to put off our wedding and delayed buying our own house because we feel a huge pressure that this historic clinic could go under on our watch and the implications to all the people that affects. I know it’s frustrating that we can’t be more specific on our property issues than this due to confidentiality reasons.
P: We could create an amazing health hub providing a wider range of health and rehabilitation services, interesting and educational evening talks and workshops, and eventually we hoped classes such as Pilates. We believe the council saw what a perfect fit we were for the site and how this would benefit the local community.
A: We have identified around 10 other local health professionals who are also having property issues and this can’t be right when we have buildings standing empty and we need more health services. We need the help from our community to ensure that Guildford can provide the right kind of commercial property in the right places for our local businesses to survive and thrive in these changing times. We are all out there but we need the right kind of space to be able to do our good work.
P: In regards to other businesses using it, no matter which business were to take over the lease a change of use would have needed to be agreed with the council. The campaigning from local fractions initially didn’t make sense to us, it was hard for us to fathom as we only do this job to help people. One can assume from the evidence that they weren’t against the change of use really, but that they were supporting another bidder– and that’s what we found to be so upsetting. Because we support our community too and would have had the amazing space opened up to so many more people, we just all support our community in different ways. Us small independents support each other so we can only imagine it was others that were behind this.
A: And so it came down to a small group of people who were essentially risking the wiping out of a long standing clinic that help’s and serves people who are suffering with what can sometimes be debilitating pain. We are a 65 year old multidisciplinary clinic with an amazing team of long standing local staff who do this job because they love helping people. We only provide well recognised services by highly qualified practitioners and help around 250 local patients a week, which also helps take pressure of our local NHS services.
What do you mean by ‘small group of people’?
P: Well it seems that this small group who supported an alternative outcome were able to create a false narrative regarding the process which was then spread throughout the wider community. It felt like we were cast as a faceless outsider rather than the long-standing, multi-disciplinary health clinic we are and it was also spread that we were competing with just one other well loved local company and that we planned to do much more extensive work to the building that we actually were. So many people were misled into being fearful for the future of the barn, which is completely misplaced. Yes technically our clinic is run commercially as we do have to charge for our services, but we really couldn’t be more part of this community.
A: There was clear campaigning to garner objections, all using this same false narrative. At no time during the whole media storm did anyone ask us for a comment or come to us to fact check information. No one contacted us at all, even though they were publishing completely biased pieces of news with only comments from those who supported one specific alternative outcome. We find the whole thing very curious, as it seemed after it was all over that they were fully aware of who we were and could have picked up the phone at any time to talk to us – they were certainly able to contact us after the rejection.
P: No one wants to lose community facilities and local halls. Interestingly however, we recently looked into it and Guildford has over 100 village halls for rent which is higher per capita than any other local borough. Guildford, in fact has an oversupply of D2 meeting space while there is a huge lack of the D1 space that most of the companies who bid on the barn need. It’s odd that even though this information is available some objections from the planning committee stated the opposite as a way to reject our planning – yet when you look at the facts and figures – that simply isn’t true.
A: We also received a private message online from a political party associate warning us to “leave the barn alone” on the day I had to go and speak at the terrifying planning committee meeting, as well as a member of the same party encouraging as many people as possible to turn up to the meeting in person on social media. To me this all felt quite threatening and very intimidating. How could it have all turned so political? But of course local elections were just around the corner and we think certain people used that to get the outcome they wanted, by creating a certain pressure on their candidates, or using the story to build their own political narrative to help their campaigning.
Will you tell us who these people are?
A: We decided very early on that this is not who we are and we will continue to do our best to be positive and not be dragged into the negativity. Now the dust has settled and the situation has diffused we want to explain our situation to our patients and those following and to try and make those who were involved think of the real consequences of their actions. We had to gather evidence to put forward for our appeal which will be published by the relevant authorities but we’re not looking to continue this any further, there has been enough upset. We just need somewhere for this clinic to survive and we are so grateful for the support we have been shown so far.
Then what most people want to know now is, what are you doing after the council rejected your proposal?
P: After much soul searching and consideration, we have decided to appeal the council’s decision. We still truly believe that we could use the barn to benefit our local community in so many ways.
A: We bid in a confidential process on this space with what we now know to be 11 other companies out of necessity. It took us over a year to find Burchatts Farm Barn and nothing else has come up since. Unfortunately, Guildford has a serious problem brewing with lack of space for healthcare clinics like ours.
P: We’re going to keep searching for alternative options of course – it’s the only thing we can do at this point in time.
We think the fact that so many companies bid for the barn also shows the healthy number of local businesses, who are raring to go and benefit this community and economy but are struggling to find the right property to succeed. That needs to change so we want to make sure that message is heard.
Lastly, is there anything else you think people should know?
P: Firstly, we really hope all the other businesses that bid find what they’re looking for too. We want to see local businesses like us thrive in Guildford. Small, local businesses are so important.
A:The only people in a position to make a fair decision and who had all the facts regarding each of the twelve businesses were those few members of our elected council who were tasked with choosing the best fit for the site. It was confidential so no one else would have the facts. But other individuals who had very little or no information still managed to manipulate the outcome to their own agendas and that just doesn’t seem right. Our local planning system has really let us down personally and as a business and the appeals process will still take many months to hopefully put right these wrongs.
We’d also like to say having experienced being part of a stream of “fake news” for the first time in our lives, please don’t believe everything you read, even in your local newspapers, opinions are not truth.
P: Lastly, we want to say a huge thanks to everyone and anyone that has emailed us, mentioned us on social media, or simply called and wished us well.
It’s easy to see all businesses as just financially motivated entities but most small independents are just a small group of local people like us with a dream, trying to do their best and provide a service. Most small business owners like us live and breath it, the clinic is so much more than a place of work to us and we put our everything into making it work, we also know how much it means to so many others in this community.
A: We’re now waiting to hear back about our appeal, so as soon as we know anything, we’ll let you all know. And if you were of the persuasion that we may not have been the right people for the barn, or if you have any questions about what we want to do, then please do get in touch. We’re just two very normal people, doing our best trying to support our community, staff and our clinic. Feel free to pop in and talk to us, we’d be very happy to chat.
And for our supporters, please keep your fingers crossed for us! And thank you again.
If you have any questions for Philip or Annie, then feel free to contact email@example.com. In the meantime to stay in the loop with regular updates about their appeal and the future of the clinic, follow them on Facebook, Instagram or email them to ask to be put on their mailing list.
Recently we sent out a little update to our patients about our big news – we’re moving! Our new home is the beautiful Burchatts Farm Barn on Stoke Park, just two minutes away from our current location, and closer to the clinic’s original site at Abbottswood.
As you may have seen in the press and online, the barn is a council owned building which in recent times has been struggling financially. Because the usage was too low, the council had to close it back in 2016 as it was leaving a huge hole in local budgets, whilst the barn started to become run down as they didn’t have enough money to repair and restore where needed. The council then took the decision to let the property to a commercial business to help reduce the financial burden and future-proof the building.
With that, several local companies put together proposals for how they would use the space and serve the community. We knew that this was the perfect opportunity to give our clinic a new home, with a safe lease, that would enable us to save the business as we’d been looking for a new home for near on two years.
Out of around a dozen companies who put in a bid, we felt incredibly lucky to then be shortlisted along with three other companies. After what felt like a long wait as we considered what we might do to save the business if this didn’t work, we heard that we had been the lucky company that had won and been chosen to progress with their vision for the barn. We were so unbelievably happy that our long-standing local clinic would have a new home, and was safe once again.
As local members of this community, we would now have this amazing space to improve and make better use of, not only for our patients but local residents too. We hope to be able to offer more services, better access, and facilities and a space for education. In the future we wish to broaden our scope and offer more health care services such as podiatrists, dieticians or mental healthcare. We also plan to use our new space to run educational and interesting talks and workshops related to health and wellbeing which will be open to all – patients, locals and professionals.
However, we’re not quite past the finishing line just yet… As part of the leasing to a commercial business, the barn has to go through planning, for change of use from a D2 (Assembly and Leisure) to D1 (non-residential institution). This would be the case for any of the businesses that had entered a bid, but due to local campaigning we’re now at the point where we’re waiting for a council committee to determine whether the change of use will go through. We said we’d keep all our patients in the loops, and so on Wednesday 27th March the planning committee are likely to make their final decision.
We want to thank all those that have supported us so far, we’re so incredibly grateful to know that our patients and friends of GCC are behind us as we try to secure the future of our long-standing clinic. Keep us in your thoughts, cross your fingers, as we wait to hear from the council.
We’ll be in touch with the final result and what that means for Guildford Chiropractic Centre and its patients very soon. In the meantime, feel free to read some more information below, and let us know if you have any questions.
Philip & Annie
Practice Principal & Practice Manager (the Co-owners of GCC)
We have been reducing pain, improving lives and promoting wellness here in Guildford for nearly 70 years, serving the local community since 1953. We are one of the oldest Chiropractic Clinics in the UK, now a multidisciplinary clinic providing Chiropractic, Physiotherapy and Clinical Massage Services. In the future we wish to broaden our scope further and offer more health care services such as podiatrists, dieticians or mental healthcare.
We’re in demand:
Nearly 3000 individual patients have regularly visited us in the last two years, and there are many, many more of you who may not see us as frequently but know we are there when you need us. Many of you and your families have been visiting us for generations, which we consider an honour. We are also growing year on year as demand for quality, affordable private healthcare rises and knowledge of the benefits of our services increases. Last year we welcomed a record 525 new patients through our doors for the first time.
Without our services many of our patients would visit the NHS more regularly whether it would be a visit to a GP or emergency service when in pain, which only adds further strain to the service. We cross refer with and complement the NHS, providing what their stretched services and limited budgets can’t. With back pain affecting 40% of adults and being the number one musculo-skeletal cause of time off work, we are an ever more important service.
Protect & Care:
We are a low impact organisation which will protect and care for this beautiful heritage building, ensuring all repairs and restoration happens when needed, and at our own expense. We also have great synergy with the other organisations that occupy the Burchatts Farm site and users of the park, promoting health and wellness being our main purpose.
We hope to become a local hub for health and well-being, not only looking after our current patients, but also being able to offer increased services such as podiatrists, nutritionist or mental healthcare. We’ll also be running free local events focused on health, well-being and general interest talks and workshops, which will be open to all. We want to be a useful asset to the community and local residents above and beyond our current services, and so are keen to know your thoughts on the services you would like to see offered. Let us know if you have any ideas or requirements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you are as excited as we are and will be happy to join us at our new home!
Going forward we will be keeping you updated with developments as necessary. The move itself won’t be for several months and so you don’t need to do anything. We want to make this easy for you, a completely seamless transition. Any appointments already booked in will be at our current venue, 200 London Road and we will be letting everyone know exactly when the move date is and will distribute all the finer details in due course. If not signed up already, please head over to our facebook page to sign up to our newsletter which we will be using to share updates.
We are always here to help:
If you have any questions at all about our move you can always talk to us. You can call us (01483 562830) and ask for Philip or Annie who if unavailable right away will call you back. You can also email us at email@example.com. And lastly, you can pop in and talk to our reception team or speak to your practitioner at your next visit.
In recent weeks we’ve noticed that there are some common misconceptions in the press and on social media about Chiropractic that are all too often reported as facts. We know it can be hard to know what’s accurate online these days, so this article aims to highlight some of the most common myths whilst delving into them a little. We’re here to dispel the rumours so we can empower our patients in making the right decisions about their own pain management and well-being.
Of course, we’re always at the end of the phone or email if you ever have any questions or want to know more about Chiropractic healthcare and can point you in the direction of official sites that may also help to detangle any queries you may have.
Let’s take a look…
Nope! You do not need to see your GP before making an appointment for chiropractic treatment. Most people who have any kind of chiropractic treatment end up paying for it privately, as it isn’t widely available on the NHS or if it is waiting lists can be too long. It is provided in some areas, so seeking advice from your GP first can be beneficial. However, we are primary care practitioners, meaning we’re trained to diagnose, refer for further investigations (like x-rays), and are able to manage conditions without the need for a GP referral. So, if you’re looking for a faster route to pain management then going directly to a Chiropractic clinic is definitely advised.
Did you know that Chiropractic is recognised by the World Health Organisation? And that in the UK chiropractors will train at a world-wide accredited college or university, full-time for 4-5 years, and often to a Masters level? Our training encompasses general diagnosis, neurology, extensive radiology, as well as more relevant subjects to Chiropractic care. We are all licensed as primary health care practitioners, and as chiropractors we focus on the treatment and prevention of disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system, and how these disorders may affect your general health.
This simply isn’t true. If you are seen by a professional, registered chiropractor you are always going to be in safe hands. In the Uk, to be licensed as a chiropractor you must be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) who regulate the profession. It is in fact illegal for someone to call themselves a chiropractor if they are not registered with the GCC.
Like other professionals, we are also required to undertake continuing professional development each year, to follow a set of codes and standards set by the GCC, and to ensure the health of our patients always comes first. That means if we believe you need further treatment, we will advise you to stop treatment and take another course of action. Your health is important to us, even if that means advising you to seek alternative treatments or help elsewhere.
This is one we’ve seen recently actually. We believe the writer meant that chiropractic is a made up form of pain management, a type of treatment without any kind of medical grounding or research and thus not a successful form of healthcare. Perhaps people are less aware of the physical and mental health benefits of chiropractic treatment because here in the UK the ratio per head of population of chiropractors to people is 1 per 22,000, with as a little as 3000 chiropractors nationwide. Where as in Canada it’s the ration is 1 per 4000 people. However, in 2015 it was reported there were some 10 million chiropractic appointments for treatment each year. Additionally, in 2018 the British Chiropractic Association released research detailing that more people in the UK are suffering from back and neck pain each week, than they were five years ago. This means the need for our treatment is higher than ever. Chiropractic manipulation, massage and exercise are now widely recommended as a first line treatments for back pain. With a robust body of research, and significant amounts of patient satisfaction backing the practice, you can believe that not only is our type of care safe and effective, it is indeed real. Ask the thousands of patients here at Guildford Chiropractic Centre!
False! You’ll find that many patients treated by chiropractors will feel instant pain relief immediately after their adjustments or joint manipulations. Naturally, those having suffered from longer term back or neck ailments may experience some discomfort, but for most patients this is simply not the case at all. We tend to find patients are in fact more nervous about the sound certain adjustments can make. For the record, the sound is believed to be a result of a release of gas bubbles from your joints, similar to sound of cracking your knuckles. It’s also important to note that adjustments should always be provided by a professional – just as you wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself or loved ones, be sure to leave it to a licensed practitioner. Even chiropractors cannot adjust themselves!
Fake news! We will provide an initial assessment when you first seek treatment, which includes a history and physical examination. From these first observations we’re able to diagnose and prescribe a course of treatment, a care plan to help manage your pain and health goals. The plan will recommend a number of visits based on your diagnosis, with routine monitoring of your developments. Treatments become less and less as we resolve your ailments. As with any kind of healthcare, once the pain stops it’s still wise to build some maintenance into your routine to help prevention of problems returning – just like returning to the dentist for check ups! But ultimately, the decision is always yours. We’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure your health is priority, managed, and always looked after.
Chiropractors are actually neuromusculoskeletal experts, this means we’re trained to assess, diagnose and prevent a whole host of biomechanical disorders. Simply put, we address your muscular, skeletal and nervous system ailments and complaints. We do make spinal adjustments, but they help fight against many conditions like headaches, joint pain in the leg, hip and knee, tennis elbow, stress, tension and the inability to relax, as well as the most commonly thought of back, neck and shoulder pain. We’re also able to offer advice on lifestyle changes that will help you overcome your healthcare issues alongside the physical treatment we offer.
Being able to ask questions about your health and treatment options is the utmost importance to us. Your understanding and participation in your treatment plan enables us to better meet your health goals, and ensures we provide the best care possible. If you ever have any questions about chiropractic care, whether before, during or after your treatments please always feel free to ask your physician.
Breaking a bone is a relatively common type of injury. From falls to car accidents and sport injuries, there are many ways to damage and fracture our framework. For an uncomplicated break a period of immobilisation in a cast (usually six weeks) is generally enough to allow the bone to heal. If the break is more serious, surgery may be necessary to reconstruct the bone and stabilize the fracture. This is usually done using plates and screws. The severity of a fracture will also depend on where it takes place. Breaking a bone near a joint (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle) will be considered to be more serious than breaking it at a distance from a joint. This is because joints are complicated structures allowing bones to move in relation to each other. Damaging a joint and having to immobilise it for weeks to allow the healing process to take place can have long term consequences on its function.
Joints are not the only structures to suffer from a period of immobilisation, muscles will waste away. This is why it is important that during the time a splint, a brace or a plaster cast is worn the parts of the limb which are not immobilised should be moved. This will fight muscle wasting and increase blood supply in the area. For example, if your plaster leaves your fingers or your toes free, it is important to move them. Studies have even suggested that just imagining exercising can delay muscle wasting by creating stronger connections between the brain and the muscles.
In most cases, 6 to 8 weeks of immobilisation is sufficient for bones to heal and as soon as the plaster is removed the period of rehabilitation must start without delay.
This is when the physiotherapist will (or should) appear on the scene. Being given a sheet of exercises is very useful but not necessarily enough to enable you to recover quickly and completely and it is at that point that too little and too late may create problems for the future. The first stage of the rehabilitation process should address the loss of mobility of the part of the limb which has been affected by the fracture. To achieve this, the joint must be gradually and passively mobilised to allow it to recover whatever mobility it has lost. It is at this point that the expression “no pain, no gain” becomes significant.
Although the exercise sheet will tell you what to do, it will not answer questions like: “How far should I go?”, “Should I go through the pain barrier and, if so, how far and for how long?”, “Do I run the risk of breaking the bone again if I overdo it?” It is at this stage that an assessment followed by some extra physiotherapy sessions may prove useful. To save time and money it is sometimes possible for the physiotherapist to train a relative who can become a kind of “home rehabilitation assistant”. With mobile phones it is easy to film a rehabilitation session and this provides both the patient and the helper with some extra guidance. Once maximum mobility has been restored, recovering muscle strength is going to be much easier and is usually only a question of time and repetitive exercises. If you think you need some help with your rehabilitation after a fracture, you can always contact us for some physiotherapy advice and guidance.
Prolonged loads on your spine is bad for you. With the average Brit spending about 9-10 hours a week driving, it’s important that we drivers assess our driving ergonomics to avoid any unwanted back strains.
We also need to feel comfortable when operating a vehicle. Discomfort whilst driving is a known cause of distraction behind the wheel, risking not only our own safety, but that of our passengers and those around us.
Discomfort whilst driving is a known cause of distraction behind the wheel, risking not only our own safety, but that of our passengers and those around us.
If you wish to see one of our chiropractors, you can either book directly online via our website or contact one of our friendly receptionists by telephone or email.
Some of us will have already begun our Christmas shopping, hoping to avoid the ensuing chaos the festive season brings. It is also around this time when our Clinic begins to see the annual Christmas shopping -ankle, -low back, and -knee injuries! Most will try and blame Guildford’s ever-inclining cobbled High Street. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
We have compiled a list of tips to help you get your shopping done without straining yourself or creating injury.
Rest assured, that most niggles and pains developed throughout the festive season should resolve themselves when everything returns to normal in the New Year. If however, you find that you’ve overdone it by; shopping for too many hours; moving furniture to fit around the Christmas day table; or tumbled off a stool whilst placing the star on the Christmas tree, just know that Guildford Chiropractic Centre is back open 2nd January 2019.
Wishing all the members of our community a wonderful Christmas and a happy healthy New Year 2019.
Between the ages of 0-7 years a child’s nervous system is developing at its fastest. Learning to sit up, crawl and walk go hand in hand with falling over, which can physically stress the joints in the spine and pelvis. Children are naturally curious and often have boundless energy, which can also lead to accidents and injuries, further stressing the joints. These physical stresses can lead to biomechanical dysfunction of the spine and nervous system. Of course this does not mean that every time your child has a fall you should rush them to the chiropractor, but look out for changes in their posture, how they walk, and how they do things; if they develop a limp, are unable to use an arm properly, or simply look “lop-sided”, it may be worth having them checked over.
As children become teenagers, there are other issues that can cause dysfunction in the spine. For sporty children the intensity of sport may increase, and it is important that they warm up properly before playing to minimise the risk of injury. Children that are not sporty often spend more time sitting watching television or playing games on a console or computer. This can lead to a forward head posture, putting more stress on the joints and muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back. In addition, prolonged sitting can affect the joints in the lower back and pelvis.
A significant problem that teenagers encounter is carrying heavy schoolbags full of books. Rucksacks worn correctly on both shoulders, or a messenger bag worn diagonally across the body, are best, as they distribute the weight more evenly over the body. Any bag worn on only one shoulder causes the teenager to hunch that shoulder up to stop their bag falling off their shoulder, which can lead to neck, shoulder and upper back problems.
Studies have shown that children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight, and that carrying 15% of their body weight can be damaging to a musculoskeletal system that is not fully matured. However, children regularly carry up to 20% of their body weight, and sometimes more if you include sports equipment and musical instruments, so it is no wonder that back and neck pain can be a significant problem for schoolchildren. Unfortunately these pains are often not taken seriously, either because parents don’t realise that children can develop similar back problems to adults, or the pains are simply put down to “growing pains”.
Another issue faced by secondary school pupils in particular, is the type of desk and chairs used in schools. In the days of yore when I was at school, we sat on upright wooden chairs and had individual sloping desks, which encouraged a better sitting posture, and angled your work towards you. Nowadays chairs are usually plastic, offering little or no lumbar support, and the use of flat tables encourages children to lean forwards over the table in order to see their work. This posture significantly increases the load on the discs in the lumbar spine, and can contribute to lower back pain.
Chiropractic treatment can be very beneficial in helping relieve back and neck pain in children of all ages. The techniques used are more similar to those used in an adult, but the force used is reduced to what is more appropriate for the age and size of the child.
If your children experience back, neck or shoulder pain, or have been injured playing sport, we offer free 15 minute spinal assessments to see if their problems may benefit from chiropractic treatment. Contact clinic reception for further details.
People often ask what the typical age of a chiropractic patient is. The answer is that patients come in all shapes, sizes and ages, right from newborn babies up to nonagenarians, although the majority of patients probably fall in the age range 25-60.
Why should children, let alone newborn babies, need to have chiropractic treatment I hear you ask? The answer is that dysfunction or restricted movement in the spine can occur at any age for a variety of reasons. The aim of chiropractic care is to enable optimal movement in the spine, thereby reducing any tension on the nervous system, and allowing the body to function fully, rather than the diagnosis and treatment of specific paediatric medical conditions.
The birth process can be a difficult, stressful, and sometimes traumatic journey for a baby, especially if the mother gives birth lying on her back, which means she has to push the baby out uphill due to the shape of the pelvis. Although assisted delivery using forceps or Ventouse may be necessary if the baby has become “stuck” in the birth canal, they can put additional physical stress on the baby’s neck and skull, causing the baby to show signs of discomfort such as excessive crying for no reason, a significant dislike of lying on their back, and feeding or sleeping problems. Recent research has shown that there is an association between a baby having a difficult birth and crying excessively.
However, physical stress on the baby’s developing spine can begin long before birth due to in-utero constraint. This is where the baby does not lie in the most ideal position in the uterus, adopting a breech, transverse or facial presentation, which can restrict the baby’s movement, and can lead to compression of the neck and spine.
Chiropractic treatment of babies is very gentle, using gentle finger pressure on the restricted segments of the spine as well as relieving tension in the associated muscles. Cranio-sacral therapy can also be used to relieve abnormal tension in the bones of the skull. Babies usually tolerate treatment very well, and often sleep much better after treatment. Specific abdominal massage can also be very beneficial in helping to relieve constipation.
At Guildford Chiropractic Centre we have a special cushion for babies to lie in, to make them feel safe and secure during treatment; alternatively they can be treated whilst lying on their mother’s chest or abdomen. We are also aware that sometimes babies may need to stop for a feed during their treatment, and this is not normally a problem for us.
If you have a baby that you feel may benefit from chiropractic treatment we are happy to discuss this with you by phone, or by having a free 15 minute spinal assessment to ascertain whether our chiropractors feel that treatment may be beneficial.
Sciatica is debilitating condition that will impact around 5% of us. Sciatica is when a nerve root or portion of the sciatic nerve in the buttock is pinched resulting in pain and/or tingling; numbness and weakness in the leg and back. Most cases are the result of a bulging disc, muscle spasm or joint arthritis. Often the sufferer will have to take time off work or their social activities, thus having a major impact on their quality of life. Thankfully, the vast majority of these will respond positively to conservative treatments such as those given by chiropractors or physiotherapists, and pain medication prescribed by a GP. There are a small number however, who will require more invasive treatments such as surgery, which is not only more expensive, it carries a greater risk of complication and should be reserved for the minority of cases.
Researchers in Finland* looked into risk factors relating to sciatica, and in particular those who were more likely to be hospitalised/needed surgery. Here they followed a group of over 35,000 people for up to 30-years and assessed certain lifestyle choices.
Here’s what they found: If you either cycle or walk to work, you are 33% less likely to develop sciatica which requires surgery compared to the normal population. Likewise if you smoked or obese you were 33% more likely. If you were obese with abdominal fat, your risk went unto 41%. Interestingly, former smokers didn’t share the same risk as smokers.
Authors of the study were surprised to see that no effect on hospitalisation was witnessed by other forms of leisure time activities. They believed this may have been due to the fact that regular, moderate activities such as cycling and walking don’t add excessive strain to the back, unlike other higher-intensity exercises that would.
This study emphasises the need to keep mobile and gives us yet another reason to exercise regularly. Using those opportunities such as traveling to and from work can be an easy way to incorporate such healthy habits into our lifestyle.
Furthermore, studies have indicated that sciatica patients noticed a significant improvement when they underwent a number of treatments, including spinal manipulation as performed by chiropractors. As such the UK national guidelines recommends these sorts of treatments. Specific hands on procedures and exercises can be used to reduce nerve irritability, thus reducing pain, muscle spasm, inflammation and weakness.
If you or anyone you know, suffers from sciatica, our practice offers a complimentary 15-minute assessment to provide free advice to any sufferer. Contact clinic reception for further details.
*SHIRI R et al (2017)Lifestyle Risk Factors Increase the Risk of Hospitalization for Sciatica: Findings of Four Prospective Cohort Studies Am J MedDec;130(12):1408-1414.
Scars, also called adhesions when situated deep in our body, are an inevitable fact of life. They are the results of the body’s healing process. The tissue involved in the process of scarring is called the connective tissue. “Connective” because it connects, supports, binds and separates other tissues or organs.
When we injure ourselves, the repair process has to happen quickly. Because of the emergency of the response, the tissue produced is not of the same quality as the original one. Instead of a good, strong “patch” of well-aligned fibres, we end up with a lower quality tissue, looking more like a game of pick-up sticks. The poor quality of this new tissue results in poorer functionality. For example, somebody with a poorly healed ankle sprain or a pulled muscle will be more likely to have a recurrence of the same injury.
As living creatures we are very exposed to traumatic events such as sprains and strains, pulled muscles and torn tendons. These injuries will heal with the inevitable scar tissue. In addition, the healing process resulting from any inflammation and infection will also result in the formation of some scar tissue.
Surgery, particularly abdominal and pelvic surgery, is also a cause of internal scarring, called adhesions. The problem is that these adhesions can squeeze organs, diminish the blood flow, trap nerves and reduce or impede the mobility of organs. The end result usually involves discomfort, pain and reduced mobility.
If we imagine our body as a structure delicately balanced between ‘elasticity’ (the skin, the muscles, the connective tissue) and ‘rigidity’ (the bones), we have a very smart design allowing stress to be distributed equally throughout the structure. The end result is flexibility and stability. As soon as there is scarring or adhesions anywhere in the body, this delicate balance is compromised. This in turn results in us ‘cheating’ and compensating e.g. if we cannot turn our head, we will turn our body.
When scar tissue is formed it often traps other important structures in the area such as small nerve endings and blood vessels. Trapped pain receptors can cause a scar to remain painful long after the injury has healed. This is often the case with coccyx pain (pain in the tail bone after a fall on the buttocks). During the healing process other receptors may be disturbed by the surrounding scar tissue and this may prevent the brain from receiving the correct feedback allowing it to control properly how we stand and move.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the damage and to redress the balance. The most important thing to remember is that although it is important to give an injury time to heal, it is just as important to start the rehabilitation process as early as possible. We are designed to move and lengthening the period of immobility is not helpful. This is why in the case of a mild whiplash injury, for example, neck collars are only advisable in a very limited number of cases and for as short a period as possible.
Physical therapists, including chiropractors, can help by monitoring any healing process whether of an internal wound, the skin, a muscle, a tendon, or a ligament and will progressively introduce soft tissue work (superficial or deep massage) and gentle passive, active and resisted exercises. This will improve the quality of the scar tissue and restore functionality by increasing mobility, flexibility and strength.
Scarred for life? Not necessarily, if you take the right steps at the right time.