Alex had a socially distanced, chat with Alan Clifford on 27 November, they discussed how lockdown has interrupted our routines and how some may be unsure about getting out and about again. Plus, not overdoing things when we get back to the gym…
You can listen here, simply click on the player above.
Whether you have an important work deadline to meet, a dentist appointment to book, or simply remember to pick up milk on the way home, we are all guilty of succumbing to the pressures of a never ending to do list.
Multi-tasking and always switched on?
With our fast paced and demanding lifestyles, we tend to put the majority of our thoughts to the back of our mind. However, when we are not able to recognise the relevance or influence of individual thoughts they can filter into the physical body as muscle tension or inflammation, which is why mindfulness could help relax your mind and body.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of yourself in the present moment, enabling you to identify how you feel inside and out. With this mind-body approach, you can clear your mind of negativity and unnecessary strains and ultimately, help against physical aches and pains.
Why is it beneficial?
Mindfulness allows you to understand your pain and teaches you how to let go of any anxiety associated with it, as these thoughts can contribute to increased tension, forming a vicious cycle of increasing pain.
As well as stress and chronic pain, mindfulness can help combat anxiety, sleep and eating disorders. Mindfulness increases positivity and energy levels which encourage healthier life decisions, improving your overall sense of wellbeing. So not only are you likely to make better food choices but you should be able to finally relax when it comes to getting a good nights sleep too.
How to practice mindfulness?
Simply take 10 minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness, by working on five basic tips.
Sit comfortably and relax
Focus on your breath
From your head to toes, bring awareness to each body part
You’re probably aware of the primary factors that can cause or worsen pain. These can include poor posture, injury, too little (or too much) activity, and specific conditions such as arthritis.
But did you know that what you eat can also help to manage or relieve pain, or even prevent it occurring in the first place?
Here are some of our top nutrition tips for managing pain.
Ditch the processed foods
Processed foods generally refers to most things that come in a packet with a list of ingredients: from biscuits to ready meals to breakfast cereals. They often contain little in the way of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. They may worsen inflammation and pain because they contain higher levels of unhealthy fats – in particular, processed omega-6 fats and ‘trans’ fats, which have pro-inflammatory properties. They often contain quickly absorbed sugars or refined carbohydrates too, which may exacerbate inflammation when consumed in excess.
In contrast, ‘real’ foods are as close as possible to how they are found in nature. They can include whole vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish, eggs and meat (whole cuts, not ‘deli’ or processed meats). These foods naturally contain higher levels of nutrients that can help reduce inflammation and pain, such as those we’re going to look at in more detail below.
Eat magnesium-rich foods
One of the nutrients that may help to manage pain and inflammation is magnesium. Magnesium helps our muscles to work normally, including helping them to relax, which in turn helps to avoid or relieve muscle tension that can contribute to pain. This mineral is also important for the nerves.
Magnesium is found primarily in whole unprocessed plant foods – especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, seeds and nuts, and whole grains including rye and buckwheat.
Include oily fish
Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies are high in omega-3 fats. These fats have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore may help to manage pain. The specific omega-3s in fish (EPA and DHA) can be more beneficial than the types of omega-3 found in seeds such as flax seeds.
Aim to eat a serving of oily fish around three times a week. These can include tinned sardines and salmon as long as they do not contain added vegetable oils (olive oil is fine). Note that ‘omega-3 fish fingers’ are not a good source of omega-3 fats – stick to the real thing!
Get plenty of vitamin C
You may know vitamin C for its role in the immune system. But in fact the primary role of vitamin C is in making collagen – a protein that forms the basic structure of most of the body’s tissues, including the bones, joints and muscles. If your body can’t make collagen properly, these tissues will lose strength and function, contributing to not only day-to-day pain but also potentially painful conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruit is the best way to get enough vitamin C. Although ‘five-a-day’ is the well-known recommendation, we should be aiming for at least seven portions a day, primarily of vegetables, in order to get good amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include peppers, kale, broccoli, kiwi fruits, Brussels sprouts, watercress and red cabbage. If you can, get your veg and fruit from a local producer (e.g. a farmer’s market) as it can lose its vitamin C when it’s stored or transported for long periods of time.
Include anti-inflammatory spices
The spices ginger and turmeric in particular can have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Use fresh ginger and powdered turmeric in your cooking whenever you can, make fresh ginger tea with a grated thumb-sized piece of ginger. If you have a good vegetable juicer you can even make fresh ginger juice to sip on – but watch out, it’s strong!
Try avoiding nightshades
The ‘nightshade’ or solanaceae vegetables may worsen inflammation and pain for some people. These are aubergines, tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), and peppers – including chillis and all types of chilli powder (cayenne, paprika etc.). If you’ve implemented the other changes for at least three months and not noticed a significant improvement in your pain, then try eliminating the nightshade vegetables.
Consider eliminating gluten
Gluten is a protein that’s found primarily in wheat, barley and rye. The most severe reaction to gluten is coeliac disease, where the sufferer has to avoid gluten for the rest of their life. But some people who do not have coeliac disease may also react to gluten in a less severe way, which can contribute to inflammation in the body. If you’re cutting out gluten it can be best to work with a nutrition practitioner (e.g. a nutritional therapist) for support to make sure you’re not missing out on any nutrients.
We’ve all heard our parents say “Don’t crack your knuckles, it’s bad for you”, but is it? The ‘popping’ sound is called crepitus and it happens when air bubbles are released from the joint spaces. It is extremely common for our joints to crack, especially as we grow older, so typically it’s not something to worry about.
As we age, our joints tend to make more noise because our cartilage wears down making the surface rougher when these rub against each other. The way you sleep, walk, move, and do daily activities has an effect on how often your joints crack but everyone will experience this at some point in their life.
The myth that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis is completely erroneous. There is no scientific study that proves that there is a relationship between these two. However, according to the US Anatomy and Physiology Instructors’ Cooperative, which examined 300 knuckle crackers, while no direct connection was made between joint cracking and arthritis, those who habitually did cracked their knuckles, showed soft tissue damage and loss of grip strength.
There are cases where this sound can indicate more, but only if accompanied by swelling and pain. As long as it’s not painful, joint noise is okay. If the cracking comes with swelling or pain, then it’s the time to see a chiropractor or a doctor.
In some cases, people like to crack their back and neck but there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. If you crack these too forcefully or too often, it can be very harmful to your health because you can pinch the nerves in these areas making it an extremely painful experience. In some cases, the pain can make it impossible for you to move.
In order to prevent any long-term damage, it’s advisable to visit a local chiropractor to help stabilise the joint which will stop you feeling the need to do the cracking yourself.
Have you ever been told to “stand straight”, maybe by your parents or teachers? They weren’t wrong to tell you that having good posture is important. The technical term for having bad posture is postural imbalance, and there are various reasons why you might be suffering from it. Some of the most common causes include; improper standing or sleeping, stress, slouching while sitting and bending your neck forwards while using your phone.
Although it might be something that you don’t realise at first, poor posture really can harm your overall health, especially in the long run. When we have poor posture, we add tension and compression to structures that weren’t meant to bear that weight. These stresses and strains build up over time and can wear down our bones, joints, and ligaments, even changing the way our muscles work.
If you are suffering from postural imbalance or simply want to prevent it, follow those exercises and tips that can help alleviate muscle tension and as a result, help to fix posture mistakes:
Sit correctly. Your muscles are may not be conditioned to support you in the right position as they are used to supporting you in the wrong position, so it might feel uncomfortable at first, but you can also do exercises like bridges, back extensions and planks that will strengthen your core.
When standing, keep your body in perfect alignment with your neck straight and shoulders parallel with the hips. This is a great fix if your bottom tends to stick out or have what some call the “Donald Duck posture”. Some exercises that can help correct your standing posture are; planks, side-lying leg raises, hip flexor stretches and standing thigh stretches.
Try standing with your weight evenly distributed on both legs. If you are usually leaning on one leg when standing or carrying your heavy backpack on one of your shoulders, you are causing extra pressure to that side of your body which can cause uneven hips. Doing planks, side-lying leg raises, and bridges will strengthen your hip muscles and as a result, help to correct this.
Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way. The more you practise these exercises and tips, the faster you will be able to correct your posture and maintain it for the long run.
If you have muscle or joint pain or if you think that you may have bad posture, consult with your GP or contact local chiropractic clinic.
Temperatures are changing as the colder seasons approach. Those who suffer with chronic back pain might notice that their condition aggravates as temperatures or seasons change. Although there’s not much scientific evidence to prove a link between chronic pain and humidity, temperature changes and wind speed, weather changes can certainly affect those who suffer with joint pain conditions, especially arthritis and osteoarthritis.
The most commonly accepted reasoning is that with colder temperatures comes lower air pressure, which can cause joint tissues to expand and further worsen joints already prone to swelling and tenderness.
If cold weather worsens your pain, you can take these three simple steps to combat it.
Including heat therapy in your daily routine can help to reduce stiffness and boost healing through increased blood circulation. Try applying a warm towel or a heating pad to your painful area for about 20 minutes for temporary pain relief. You can also opt for over-the-counter heat wraps.
If you like swimming, try to visit heated indoor pools with hot baths, Jacuzzis and saunas a few times a week for almost instant pain relief.
As tempting as it is to lounge on the sofa during winter evenings, it is crucial to keep your spine mobile and stay active. If your pain is too severe to go to the gym, try long walks with hiking poles or a Pilates routine at home.
However, if your pain stops you from leading a normal life, the best option is to visit your chiropractor and professionally address the root causes of joint and back pain.
Do you spend most of the day hunched over staring at the screen of your smartphone or tablet? This could be causing damage to your neck and shoulder joints.
Tech Neck, as it is known refers to the strain in your neck and shoulder muscles that develops as a result from excessively craning your neck down when you are looking at a phone or a portable tablet device.
Although many of us will use such devices when we are working throughout the day there are ways to ensure that they don’t cause too much damage to your spine and neck joints. One key way is to make sure you limit the time you spend on such devices; it is advised that for every 15 – 20 minutes you spend on your device you should take a 3 minute break. This is due to the fact that it is easy for a posture to change when we hold a position for a long period of time, so really try to limit yourselves to periods of 15 – 20 minutes where possible.
Making sure you’ve got the right posture can also be crucial. Rather than hunching forward to look at your screen, sit up straight and bring your phone or tablet up to eye level. This will help keep your spine aligned rather than curved and should reduce overall strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. This may feel a little odd at first but it will soon become a natural fit. If you are in an office you may want to think about a tablet or phone holder as this will help to raise your gaget up to your eye line instead of you having to hunch over. This also applies to your computer screen. For most people, the computer screen is located below your natural eye line leaving your head and shoulders to naturally hunch downwards. By raising your computer screen to your eye level you will force yourself to keep your head in a more natural position.
Seperate your screen from your keyboard to achieve the perfect posture.
Small and gentle stretches are a great way to relieve the tension in the upper body. Bend your neck to the right so that your ear moves closer to your shoulder. Relax and hold for 20 seconds. Return to centre, and then repeat the move to the left. Do a repetition of five. A further exercise is to do a simple chin tuck. Tilt your head down and tuck your chin into your neck. Hold for five seconds, and then look back up. Do a repetition of ten. These exercises will help release any tension that might be created due to excessive strain from hunching over.
Make sure to listen to your body. If you have any aches and pains in your neck, shoulders and upper back, it usually means something is not working properly.
We often talk about the immune system and how strong or weak it is; but what is it? Our body relies on our immune system to defend us from viruses, bacteria and anything that it considers to be a pathogen. Developing a strong immune system is vital not only to maintain good health but also to support our body in functioning to its full potential.
The world is currently facing a new crisis caused by coronavirus SARS CoV-2, which manifests as the disease Covid-19; this virus attacks the immune system and implants itself in the lungs, causing breathing difficulty. This new virus seems to affect those with a weak immune system, older people and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. During those difficult times, it is essential to protect ourselves and others by boosting our immune system and staying home. Following the UK Government guidelines here is how you can help end the contamination and save your life and the life of the ones you love.
What else can be done at home to boost the immune system?
Our lifestyle plays a huge role in whether or not we stay healthy. It can be hard to assimilate the right nutrients to boost our immune system only through a healthy diet. One way to maintain our immune system is to introduce food supplements like vitamin C, D and B, key nutrients into our diets.
Our immune system is made up of proteins, tissues, organs and cells (white blood cells) and all of these work together to keep us healthy. Its main role is to protect and fight against harmful organisms, pathogens, and neutralise them whenever they come into contact with them.
While much of chiropractic treatment focuses on muscle, joint and bone pain, chiropractic adjustments can aid the overall health.
One of the main causes of immune system problems comes from the compression of nerve pathways. Musculo-skeletal adjustment can improve our overall health by keeping us mobile and reducing the risk of getting chronic diseases.
Consult your GP or contact your local chiropractor if you have muscle or joint pain, or if your mobility feels restricted.