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Living without pain: The benefits of regular chiropractic care

We get annual health checks with our GP. We go for routine dental checkups. We eat healthily. We hydrate. We exercise. All these things we do to maintain our body- but what can we do specifically to maintain our spine?

Chiropractic care focuses on helping your body function at its peak. Chiropractors work to restore movement in joints that are stiff and not moving as they should, relieving tension in muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can help improve your flexibility, reduce pain, help your joints stabilise and of course have you feeling GREAT.

Whilst many people come to see us because pain or discomfort is preventing them from enjoying their day-to-day life, we often see patients for regular check-ups to help maintain their musculoskeletal system. It might be tempting to seek care only when things hurt. Pain is usually the last symptom to arrive and the first symptom to go. Before our brain will tell us something hurts, it will first process a vast amount of information before deciding if we need to experience pain. This means that there is often a threshold, where we can accumulate problems within our body that do not cause us pain until they’ve got to a more serious level.

So you can see, having regular appointments can help prevent problems from accumulating, helping you to avoid pain and keep functioning well

What is pain?

Pain is our body’s way of telling us there’s something wrong. It’s your best friend, and how our body serves to protect us. When we experience pain, we take action. It therefore makes sense that when our body is truly fed up with us ignoring something, it produces pain so we DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. A common misconception is that pain is produced by injured structures- but we now know that pain, no matter where or how it is felt, is produced by the brain.

Pain shouldn’t be ignored

It’s all too tempting to ignore pain, which is like putting duct tape across a “check engine” light in your car. Sooner or later, it’s going to cause a problem. We know that when people seek care during the early stages of a problem, they recover quicker and better than those who wait and see if the pain goes away on its own.

If, for example, your pain is caused by a joint that isn’t moving correctly, the pain may settle as your body learns to adapt to that faulty joint. Later on, the pain may reoccur and may be worse each time it does, because this time it’s accompanied by a bigger problem- the faulty adaptations your body has made to cope with that dysfunctional joint. It’s hugely beneficial to get the problem addressed quickly and effectively as soon as it happens.

If you are one of the many people who has ongoing problems, chronic conditions, or a jobs that requires prolonged sitting or physical exertion, regular chiropractic care may be an option for you to consider.

How often should I see a chiropractor?

Research shows that those who seek regular care (usually 3-4 appointments per year) experience almost a month less pain than those who come in when it hurts. Regular dental checkups help ensure your mouth and gums are healthy (with no potential problems looming on the horizon). A chiropractic check-up ensures your spine and nervous system are healthy and able to cope with the demands of daily life.

A study conducted by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) has found that spinal adjustments or mobilisations are an effective treatment for adults with acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain, migraine prevention, and cervicogenic headache. They are also effective for several extremity joint conditions affecting our arms and legs.  Thoracic manipulation also offers healing benefits to people with acute or subacute neck pain.

Regular visits to a chiropractor helps ensure the continued health of your muscles and joints so you can enjoy doing what you love. One of the key benefits of regular care is also the preventative aspect. By identifying any areas of your body that are not functioning correctly, we can help prevent pain and problems from recurring in the future. This can help ensure you remain healthy, active and pain-free, reducing your likelihood of needing time off work or being unable to enjoy life due to pain. Should any problems happen, regular care can help you recover faster, reducing the severity, duration and intensity of the problem.

How can I book an appointment?

Our highly experienced chiropractor Philippa can help – Book your appointment here.

Understanding our pain

How well do you understand the pain you experience?

Pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”, which is an interesting concept in itself as the definition clearly states that pain can be tangible, or simply mean that the potential for damage is there.

The amount of pain you experience does not relate to the severity of the injury you have sustained- think how painful a paper cut can be even though it is a relatively minor injury!  Similarly, we can continue to experience pain long after the original cause has resolved, simply because the body perceives that we are still in danger; this is due to changes in the local tissues.

One common misconception is that pain is produced by injured structures- but we now know that pain, no matter where or how it is felt, is produced by the brain. Before our brain will tell us something hurts, it will first process a vast amount of information before deciding if we need to experience pain.  Have you ever cut yourself and not realised until you looked down and saw blood?  This is because your brain processed the injury and did not perceive it as a threat to warrant pain signals.  Pain relies heavily on context and the brain’s perception of further threat- if you bump into a lamppost, it will hurt, but will it still be painful if you’re about to be run over by a train? Unlikely, because your brain will realise the incoming train is life threatening !

Pain can be both a help, and a hindrance- for example, if we put our hand on a hot stove, the acute pain we experience tells us that we are burning ourselves.  However, persistent pain can be very unhelpful as often it does not indicate ongoing damage.  This persistent pain is like leaving the volume knob on our radios turned up to maximum- it can block out other senses and become very disruptive in our lives.

When we are left with persistent or chronic pain, it can be hard to believe that there is no ongoing damage, it is because this persistent pain is more to do with our nervous system’s interpretation of the information it is receiving.  If you were asked to do the same task all day every day, it wouldn’t take long for you to become very good at it, performing the task quicker and more efficiently each time- the body can do exactly the same.  It can become very good at sending pain signals, and can actually adapt so that it sends these signals more frequently.  The body can then become so sensitive that it misinterprets normal messages (such as light touch) and responds to them as if they were dangerous.  We call this process “sensitization”.

What happens when our nervous system becomes sensitized?

When we perform recurrence activities they become familiar to us, and we become very good at doing them efficiently.  Now try to imagine if these activities were painful to perform.  If we perform these painful movements for long enough, the brain will associate the connection between those movements and pain, to the point that even preparing, or thinking about a movement can cause pain.  This can be very confusing and worrying if we do not understand why this is happening.

Deep, unexplained pain can often cause more worry and anxiety simply because we cannot see what is happening, nor can we sometimes understand why it is happening.  As the definition of pain says, it is both a physical AND an emotional experience- the two go hand in hand.

Have you ever noticed your back pain gets worse when you are stressed at work, or not sleeping well?  Have you ever noticed your back pain gets better when you’re on holiday, relaxing in the sunshine?  There is a vicious cycle that exists between pain and anxiety, which can be hard to break.

What we focus on as practitioners is addressing the factors that have led to us feeling pain. These factors can be our overall physical wellbeing, social environment, health beliefs, mental health, and social environment.  We aim to progressively increase your activity and work to restore your confidence in movement as these will all help to reduce your pain levels, and help break that vicious pain cycle and turn it into a positive experience whereby more movement and confidence means less pain.

So how do I help myself?

If we learn to view pain as a motivator to encouraging us to help our bodies, we can start to work with it to get ourselves better.

  • Exercise. Implementing strategies to encourage more physical activity will help your body release  feel-good chemicals (endorphins) which will make us feel better, blood flow to the brain increases and so our ability to function and concentrate improves, muscle strength and endurance will improve.  Remember, as you start to become more physically active, you are likely to continue to experience some pain- however, hurt does not equal harm.  With practice, and focus, normal movement will return and your pain levels will decrease.
  • Set yourself realistic goals.  As humans we often set ourselves up for failure by setting unattainable targets (New Year’s Resolutions being a prime example), and so when we do fail, we lose the motivation to try again.  Set yourself an attainable target, such as being able to walk the children to school and back within three months, or being able to hoover the lounge without sitting down. Competing in your very first triathlon in a months’ time is NOT an achievable target for everyone.
  • Take charge of your pain. Learn more about it, read around the subject, understand your condition.  By increasing your understanding and addressing your thoughts and feelings about pain, you can actually affect your own pain levels by giving yourself more control over your pain.  No health professional can take your pain away from you, you must take control.  There are a number of resources available to help you learn more:
    –  www.paintoolkit.org
    www.knowpain.co.uk
  • What is your coping strategy?  You might think that the sympathy offered to you by friends and family is helpful, but we actually know that those with a more attentive, concerned spouse/partner will report higher levels of pain.
  • If you have been prescribed help, this must make sense to you and increase your understanding of your problem.  If something does not make sense to you, ask, we are here to help.  A good clinician will help you master your situation but you must feed back to them if you do not understand what they say.
  • Research shows that if you have a good understanding of chronic pain, you can feel more in control, make better decisions in your self-management of pain, and experience less pain as a result.  Taking simple steps to increase your understanding of pain, such as reading and understanding this blog post, means you are already making a positive step to addressing and taking charge of your pain.

Download our “Understanding Pain” resource here.

Chiropractic care for horse riders

Chiropractic care for horse riders

Horse riding has many benefits, from sharing an emotional bond with an animal, to being able to get outdoors and explore the countryside. As such a physically demanding activity, it should keep you fit and healthy. However, horse riders can often be saddled with injuries – but don’t worry, regular chiropractic care can help!

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Sciatica – just a pain in the backside?

Sciatica is a general term for a set of symptoms; namely, pain in the buttock that radiates into the leg. It’s not a condition in itself, because it has different triggers.

What is sciatica?

location of the sciatic nerve sciatica

Sciatica gets its name from the sciatic nerve. The longest nerve in the body, it runs from the lower spine, down the leg into the foot. The term sciatica refers to irritation of this sciatic nerve, usually due to compression. This can be caused by a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease for example. Conditions that place strain on the spine like being overweight or sitting for prolonged periods can also trigger irritation.

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Lifting to avoid back pain

Back injury is the number one cause of days off work in the UK,  and so injury prevention and rapid return to work of injured workers is a major focus of industries throughout the world.  The burden of low back pain is huge, both financially for companies, and emotionally for workers.  Reducing injury at work is crucial, for both employee and employer.

Many companies try and counterract this by paying for employees to take manual lifting courses, teaching us to “bend through the knees and hip, not the back.” Unfortunately, this conventional method of lifting isn’t always possible, or appropriate.  Objects have to be lifted from the floor, from parts bins, from above- any number of possibilities, and so this conventional lift won’t help avoid injury in these situations.

The thought process behind a conventional lift is that it reduces physiological load (the amount of stress put on your joints and muscles) and is more energy efficient, however the validity of this depends on a number of different factors, such as the size, weight, and density of the object, coupled with where we are moving it from and to, over which terrain, and how many times we have to repeat the lift.  Squatting repeatedly throughout the day is physically tiring, and we know that many workers end up stooping to lift objects as they tire throughout the day.

If there is no one perfect lift, how do we help avoid injury?

  • Remove the stressors that are causing or aggravating the injury
  • Enhance the activities that build healthy supportive tissues

Injuries don’t often occur as the result of one major event- often because minor injuries accumulate over time, amounting to pain and problems when eventually the structures are no longer able to cope with what is being asked of them.  It is therefore more important to address the cumulative causes of the injury in order to prevent reoccurrence.

You may think that injuries are more common in those with physical jobs, however injuries are just as prevalent in those who have sedentary jobs.  Gagnon (2003) studied “expert lifters” and concluded that their personal body movements, as well as their individual lifting strategies, were key to their avoidance of injury- in fact some evidence exists to suggest that our personal spine movements (how we naturally move our backs) can influence whether or not we will become injured.

Olympic weightlifters often provide the best example of lifting technique, as they have recognised the importance of avoiding lumbar flexion (bending from the lower back) to prevent injury.  We therefore need to stop emphasising the importance of stooping or squatting to lift, and instead work on placing the load closer to the body to help reduce forces on our joints, and avoiding full flexion of our lumbar spines when lifting.  This avoidance of full flexion is really the key element in lifting.

So what other lifting techniques could be used?

Here’s two alternatives for the conventional technique and when they could be used.

Golfer’s lift-

When to use: Great for picking up light objects out of deep bins/containers or picking up small objects off the floor

How:

1- Place one hand on a stable surface next to the object to be lifted- this is to help stabilise your upper body during the lift.

2-  Keeping your back straight, lean forward, allowing the leg opposite the stabilising hand to swing out straight behind you as you lean down.  This will act as a counterbalance to the weight of your body.

3- Prepare for the lift: Look forward, and begin to push down on the stable surface with your hand as you lower your leg to the floor.  Focus on keeping your spine straight.

Tips: Good for people with knee problems.

Tripod lift-

When to use: Good for heavy objects with uneven weight distribution (such as sacks of food)

How:

1- Put one foot next to the object, keep your spine straight, push your buttocks out and lower yourself down to the floor, keeping one knee bent up, one knee on the floor.

2-  Position the object close to the knee on the ground.

3- Slide the object from the ground on to the mid-thigh of the knee on the ground.

4- Keeping your spine straight, lift the object on to the opposite thigh.

5-  Palms upwards, put both forearms under the object and hug it into your chest.

6- Prepare for the lift: Extend your legs with your back straight, pushing your buttocks out, keeping the load held close to your body.

Tips: This is a good lift for people who may not have great arm strength.

Swallowing Awareness Day

Eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties have potentially life-threatening
consequences. They can result in choking, pneumonia, chest infections, dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss. They can also make taking medication more difficult and they can lead to a poorer quality of life for the individual and their family.

Dysphagia can affect people at any stage of their lives and speech and language therapists support and enable them to eat and drink safely.

Are you, or someone you know, suffering from difficulties swallowing?

Swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia, affect a significant proportion of the population for a variety of reasons. Both adults and children can be affected and at any point in their lives. There is always an underlying reason for the swallowing difficulty and can be either short or long term, static or progressive. In any event advice should always be sought.

For adults swallowing difficulties can occur post stroke, from progressive neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Alzheimers and other dementia’s. Those with learning difficulties or post traumatic brain injuries can also be affected, along with those post head and neck surgery. Even a urinary tract infection can affect a person’s swallow.

For children swallowing difficulties can occur with cerebral palsy, cleft lip and palate, muscular dystrophy, other cranio-facial abnormalities.

Swallowing difficulties can manifest as:

  • Coughing and choking during or after eating and drinking,
  • Feeling like something is stuck in the throat,
  • Loss of food and / or drink from the mouth,
  • Holding food or drink in the mouth and not swallowing,
  • Signs of anxiety or distress when eating or drinking,
  • Refusal to eat or drink,
  • Chronic weight loss,
  • Recurrent chest infections.

Chest infections and pneumonia can be due to food or drink going into the lungs instead of the stomach. With some people this can occur without any coughing or choking and is known as ‘silent aspiration’. As such difficulty with swallowing may have life threatening consequences and can lead to an impaired quality of life.

An impaired quality of life may not just be due to health and the physical aspect of swallowing but also due to embarrassment and lack of enjoyment of food, which can have profound social consequences for both the person and members of the family. Anxiety, distress and frustration can occur.

Treatment of swallowing difficulties is through a team approach. If you, or somebody you know is suffering inform the GP. They can then signpost you to professionals who can help:

Chiropractors: Can listen to the chest post swallowing. They can advise on posture, address mechanical issues that may affect the swallow or help improve posture and can advise on breathing and exercises to keep the chest clear.

Speech & Language Therapists (SLTs) : SLTs are fully qualified to assess, advise and treat swallowing difficulties. They are the first port of call when difficulties occur. They look at the swallow to determine what is working well and where difficulties might be occurring. As well as this they also look at how posture, environment, medication and anything else might be affecting the swallow. Different textures of food and drink may be trialled to determine what is the safest and most comfortable for someone to swallow. In addition strategies or exercises might be given to improve the swallow itself.

Occupational Therapists: They can look at the utensils that are being used and give advice on anything that could be used to assist e.g. special cups, adapted cutlery. They can also give advice regarding wheelchairs and positioning. All working towards a person being as independent as possible.

Dietitian: They will work very closely with speech and language therapists to look at the nutrition and hydration the person is receiving. If the person is unable to take much by mouth the dietitian can advise on supplements and how to fortify food in order to make sure the person is receiving adequate nutrition.

Throughout any intervention the person themselves, family and carers are central. They are the ones who experience what is going on day to day, give information to the therapist and implement strategies and advice. It is a truly collaborative approach.

So if you, or a loved one, are experiencing any difficulties with swallowing no matter how big or small please do seek advice – you can be helped! Reduce the stress, anxiety and discomfort, It’s time to enjoy meals again….

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Acorn Health © 2014 - 2022

Website Created by WebHolism