One simple step to prevent back & neck injuries in the car

neckpainIt’s National Car Safety Week so we thought we’d offer our advice on preventing back and neck injuries in the car should you be involved in a car accident where another driver runs into the back of you.

There’s one very simple thing you can do: adjust your headrest. That’s it.

And here’s why.

The headrest is there to limit movement of the head in the event of a rear end collision. It’s there to support your head and prevent your neck from bending backwards upon impact. If the headrest is set too low and too far from the back of your head, it offers no support and you’re putting yourself at risk of a whiplash injury.

Upon impact from behind, your car is accelerated forwards. As this happens the seat pushes against your back. Your back is cushioned by the seat, but your neck and head continue to move backwards with the force of the impact. If your head isn’t supported properly because of a headrest that’s set too low, it will continue to move backwards over the headrest. This can lead to hyperextension of the neck, compressing the back structures of the neck and stretching the front ones. As well as the neck, the mid back often gets compressed as a result of the impact and compression against the seatbelt. The lower back may also get involved as the body moves forwards and backwards with a fixed, strapped down pelvis. Often there is a delay between the incident and the onset of symptoms.

How high?

The top of the headrest should be slightly above the level of your head, as you tend to rise with a rear impact and your headrest needs to restrain your head from moving too far backwards.Adjusting the headrest to this position will make sure it offers you greater support.

How far back?

Make sure your headrest is no more than 5cm (2 inches) from the back of your head when you’re sitting in your normal driving position.

Adjust your headrest as we’ve advised and, should you have a back end collision, your head, neck and torso will move in alignment and at the same speed with reduced risk of serious injury.

And don’t forget to adjust your passengers’ headrests too – while they’re in your vehicle, you’re responsible for their safety.

If you’ve suffered a collision that’s left you with whiplash or more general back and neck pain, visit one of our osteopaths, physiotherapists or chiropractor to find out how our team of could help to ease your pain. 

Start your running right

joggersSo your new year’s resolution was to take up running. You’ve started your programme and things are going fairly well, but how can you be sure you’re running right to maintain good posture and avoid injury?

A poor running posture can lead to injuries anywhere from your hips to your feet. Ultimately it can cause back problems owing to the huge amount of stress running activity places on the lower back.

Running involves repetitive stress and impact, sometimes for a long duration. All that repetitive pounding of your feet on the ground sends shock waves to your spine and hips. The spinal discs are the shock absorbers of the lower back, and running’s repetitive impact on the spine can put stress on these discs.

Here’s our advice on adopting a good running posture:

Keep your head up. Letting it drop or looking towards the ground as you run will create tension in your neck and shoulders. Keeping your head up also helps to keep your airways open.

Try to keep your shoulders down. This helps to keep your arms swinging forward and back which in turn helps with the running motion. Have your arms close to your body and bent at 90 degrees.

Relax your hands. Clenched fists can create tension in your back and shoulders as you run.

Don’t run bent at the waist. Allow gravity to give you a helping hand as you run, pulling you forward, by leaning slightly from your ankles, not your waist. Leaning from the ankles avoids putting unnecessary stress on your lower back muscles, while also reducing the chance of striking the ground with your heels as you land.

Try to relax your muscles before you set off on your run. When people start running, they feel tired, not only from being out of shape but from having muscles that are stiff and not used to moving. Some people say that learning to relax your muscles is more important than conditioning. Allow your bones, ligaments and tendons to support your body weight. When you force your muscles to bear your body weight at the same time as moving it, they can’t relax. Muscles that aren’t relaxed don’t move freely or efficiently, causing pain and sometimes injury.

Run lightly, as if you’re skipping. Lighter steps reduce the severity of jolts to your spine.

Strike the ground with the middle of your foot. It’s the safest, least injury-prone way to run. Try to ensure your foot lands below your hips too.

Stretch your hamstrings two to three times per day. The hamstring runs from the back of your thigh and connects with your buttocks and lower back. Runners often have very tight leg muscles, which can pull on the muscles in the lower back. Remember to stretch every day, even on a no running/rest day.

 

We like this post on Competitor.com about the five most common running form mistakes.

 

Choosing the right running shoes

Don’t just grab your trusty old trainers to head off on a run. Proper running shoes designed for forward motion can give you the support you need as a runner. And it’s best to go to a dedicated running shop where a trained salesperson can watch you run on a treadmill with gait analysis and pressure plate testing to properly assess what you need.

Here are our tips while out shopping for running shoes:

  1. Buy your socks first – it’s a good idea to go for padded running socks. These have extra padding across the ball of the foot, toes and the heel area to cut down on shock and protect areas that can blister. Running socks also usually have padding or a tighter area through the arch to allow your running shoes to fit more closely and give better arch support.
  2. Once you’ve got your socks, wear them to shop for your running shoes. But don’t go shopping for running shoes first thing in the morning. Later in the day your feet will have expanded a little, meaning you’ll get a better, truer fit.
  3. When you find a running shoe you like that’s comfortable, make sure there’s a thumb-width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This ‘wiggle room’ will ensure you have enough space for each footfall as you run.
  4. If you have particularly high arches, consider buying extra arch supports. This will increase the cushion on the bed of the shoe and prevent fallen arches and other injuries. Foot injuries can be another cause of low back pain.
  5. And if you keep up with your running, remember it’s a good idea to replace your running shoes every year even if visible wear and tear is minimal.

There’s more advice about choosing the best running shoes for you on the Runner’s World website.

The NHS Couch to 5k programme is a great way to start running and build up gradually over nine weeks. Find out more on the NHS Choices website.

Could acupuncture hold the key to you giving up smoking for good?

acuFor many people making New Year’s resolutions involves giving up smoking… again. Could acupuncture help you throw out the cigarettes for good this year?

Studies show that most smokers attempt to quit two or three times – or sometimes more – before finally kicking the habit. When conventional methods to quit smoking have failed, smokers often turn to alternative medicine for help.

Acupuncture is an ancient and holistic system of healing. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, health depends on the body’s energy, known as Qi, moving smoothly through a series of channels beneath the skin. Qi is made up of two equal and opposite parts: Yin and Yang. Acupuncture can be used to restore the balance of Yin and Yang when they become imbalanced, encouraging healing and helping achieve wellbeing.

Auricular acupuncture – the practice of putting acupuncture needles into the ear – in particular is often used to treat people with addictions including nicotine addiction.

How it works

When a smoker attempts to quit, he experiences tobacco withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms are produced by the effect of nicotine withdrawal on his liver function. Put simply, the liver of a smoker has become used to the stimulation of tobacco, which has substituted a part of the liver’s own energy and resulted in the liver having less energy. Between cigarettes, the level of tobacco in a smoker’s bloodstream falls, meaning the liver doesn’t have enough energy to function properly. This causes the withdrawal symptoms we mentioned above and leads to feelings of addiction.

Acupuncture for smoking cessation works by stimulating your liver function, increasing its energy back to a more normal level and easing your tobacco withdrawal symptoms. In short, it encourages your liver to function properly again without the need for tobacco.

Studies have found that acupuncture treatments can also alter how pleasurable smokers find the taste of cigarettes, so that over time if they do light up a cigarette, they don’t enjoy it in the way they used to.

Rather than being successful in making you quit smoking, acupuncture helps to make it easier for you to give up, reducing your cravings and how you feel about smoking.

Mrs P – a case study

61 year old retired nurse Mrs P came to us to try acupuncture because she had heard that it was good for stopping smoking. She had tried to stop numerous times over the 38 years that she’d smoked and the longest she had managed was four months. Mrs P had a very good motivating factor now as she had become a grandmother and wanted to be as healthy as possible for her grandson and not expose him to smoke. However, since he’d been born she had tried twice to quit and had failed.

We discussed her current frame of mind regarding smoking and any further reasons she may have for giving up. We outlined the process involved, explaining that she had to be 100% sure she wanted to give up, had smoked her last cigarette before the treatment, and had cleared her house of all temptation; and we also did a few visualisation exercises. We discussed her general health to see if there were any other concerns.

We explained the process: a few sessions could be needed (usually three weekly sessions), and told her where the needles would go – in her ear (using the NADA protocol) and body points – and how long they would be left in for (normally 20-30 minutes). At the end of each treatment session, we would put in some ear seeds (mustard seeds on micropore tape placed over pertinent points on her body and ears), which she could stimulate over the week if she needed to. These would give low level stimulation to the ‘stopping smoking’ points even without applying pressure. Our acupuncturist Robert explained he would also use Reiki because he has found it very useful for people making lifestyle changes. Mrs P was very happy with the process she was about to undertake.

Mrs P did very well and found she did not want to smoke at all after her first session and completed the course of three treatments. She came back eight months later for two more treatments when she had had an argument and had smoked a cigarette, and again 15 months later when she had found that she was thinking about smoking again. She found the acupuncture very potent for helping her. She told us, “I don’t how it works but it does. I seem to completely lose interest in smoking after having a treatment”.

It’s rare for acupuncture patients to feel any pain during their treatment. Acupuncture needles are much finer than conventional medical needles, so as they are inserted into the skin the feeling is more of a tingling or dull ache rather than a sharp stinging sensation.

The number of acupuncture treatments needed to treat an addiction varies from individual to individual. Only once your treatment has begun, and we can assess how your body responds to acupuncture, will we be in a position to give you an idea of how many treatments you may need.

If you’d like to find out more about how our acupuncturists could help you give us smoking in 2015, get in touch with our reception team.

The NHS Choices website has lots of useful advice for preparing to give up smoking, including self-help techniques and how to avoid weight gain.

Avoiding injury on the slopes

Skiing We’re hitting that time of year when winter sports enthusiasts hit the slopes. Since the majority of people who jet off on skiing holidays are not trained skiers, injuries are common.

While skiing and snowboarding are more likely to result in injuries to the knee or the upper body, stress on the lower back can also produce or worsen a lower back condition. Lots of twists and jerks to the spine in winter sports can cause stress to the spine and the soft tissue structures connected to and supporting the spine.

To avoid injury on the slopes, preparation is key. It’s a good idea to boost your fitness and get your body ready for spending hours on the slopes by training for at least six weeks before your holiday. Strengthening the bottom and thigh muscles can help reduce the risk of some knee injuries. Strengthening the hips and core body muscles is also good for gaining extra stability and rotation.

If you have weak hip muscles or muscular imbalances around your hips, this could transfer some of the stress of skiing to your lower back. The same goes for the core muscles – if they are untrained or out of shape, they won’t be able to stabilise your spine as you ski and your back will be at greater risk of injury.

So if you can, prepare your body for the exertion of winter sports. And here’s some more advice for enjoying your ski holiday and returning home injury free:

  1. If you have a pre-existing back problem, consider taking lessons from a ski instructor who has experience of working with people with back conditions. A good instructor will also take time to show you how to fall safely to avoid injury.
  2. Be sure to warm up properly before you head off onto the slopes – spend a bit more time stretching your muscles and ligaments to avoid injury. A longer warm-up period may be necessary in cooler temperatures to allow for thorough stretching.
  3. As you ski, try to distribute your weight across the whole of your foot, rather than into your heel or the ball of your foot. This will help you to retain your balance.
  4. After a day on the slopes, ice any painful areas. If you have muscle pain, take a whirlpool or hot tub after skiing.
  5. And take care when you first arrive home – because of the sheer fatigue of skiing, you need to allow your muscles time to recover from the stresses they’ve experienced. While they recover, you will be more susceptible to back injuries.

It’s a good idea to book yourself in for a remedial massage treatment upon return from a winter sports holiday. When the muscles are fatigued, they’re more prone to injury. A good massage can unravel the stresses and strains of overexertion on the slopes and give your muscles some much needed TLC when they are at their most vulnerable.

An osteopathic MOT is another great idea. Our osteopaths will give you a thorough screening from head to toe following your skiing holiday to identify any problem areas and treat dysfunction in the joints.

To make an appointment, just contact us.