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Avoid the one shoulder bag

Heavy, one shoulder bags are among some of the most popular types of bags to wear, but they actually come with many health risks. Holding the wrong bag can negatively affect your back more than you know. One-shoulder bags can leave you with chronic muscle pain, headaches, migraines, spinal damage, and even pinched nerves.

It is recommended to use a backpack because they evenly distribute the weight you are carrying on your back. It is important to remember to never carry more than 5-10% of your body weight.

If you are insistent on wearing a one shoulder bag, the smaller the better. Wearing a large bag hanging off of one shoulder can cause the upper trapezius muscle to begin to shrug. This happens as the shoulder adapts to the increased load.

Because the muscle attaches onto the base of the skull and extends across the entire length of the neck, there is potential to cause not only neck pain, but tension headaches as well. 

With time, wearing these types of bags can lead to a straightening of the natural backward C–shaped curve in your neck. This change in shape alters the weight distribution on the discs, putting more pressure on the joints leading to inflammation, osteoarthritis, and nerve compression.

If you find yourself still wearing a one shoulder bag, try and switch sides as frequently as possible. This helps to distribute the weight. Also, opt for a thick strap over a thin strap to resist it cutting into the shoulder


Better Energy

Many people feel tired or run-down at some point during the day. A lack of energy could affect your daily activities and make you less productive. The type and quantity of food you eat play an essential role in determining your energy levels during the day. A few simple changes in your diet may be all you need to get back to your brighter self. Give yourself an energy overhaul with the following tips.

Eat every three hours

Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon, with no longer than three hours between. This will stop those cravings for sweet foods. Keeping snacks such as vegetable sticks and hummus or peanut butter and oatcakes to hand will help you to resist sugary hits and keep your energy stable.

Drink up

It is important to regularly top up your liquid levels, to help you to feel more alert and focused, and to get rid of any brain fog. Our bodies are mostly made up of water, so replenishing during the day helps to keep us feeling our best. Aim to drink two litres of water throughout the day.

Power up with protein

Instead of carbohydrate-loaded cereals, switch to a lean protein source for breakfast. Protein takes longer to digest, so it will keep you fuller for longer, and also helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Try eggs, salmon and avocado to start the day. A protein-focused lunch will also help to curb the notorious afternoon dip, and a protein shake will keep your energy steady.

Be clever with sugar

If you are craving sweets all the time, swap to something with less sugar. Try eating dark chocolate, which you might be less prone to eating too much of. That’s because milk chocolate is mostly sugar and milk solids, but dark chocolate is richer in cocoa and satisfying after a square or two. Berries are also a good choice as they have sugar, but the fibre will help “buffer” the sugar high to prevent energy levels from rising and falling.

Choose wholegrain

Start buying wholegrain alternatives for your bread, pasta and rice. Whole grains release energy slowly as their carbohydrates break down slowly over several hours so that they do not suddenly flood the bloodstream with sugar. Also, this gradual release helps you feel fuller for a longer time, suppresses your appetite and stops you craving sweet foods.

Aim for more vitamins

Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will help you add important nutrients and good bacteria to your digestive tract. It is important to eat such foods as broccoli and cauliflower as they are full of micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre. If you find that your eyelids are hanging in the middle of the morning, choose fruit as a snack. Peeling and eating the fruit with its invigorating aroma will give you a pickup.


Sleeping with Lower Back Pain

Millions of people throughout the world deal with negative effects of lower back pain which can come about for a multitude of reasons including exercise, work, chronic illnesses, bad posture, standing for long periods of time and even sleep.

When you go to sleep, you lose conscious control over your body and you can potentially end up tucking your pelvis in or twisting your spine.  Any existing back pains can get further aggravated, resulting in a restless night.

Here are some sleeping tips that can help prevent stresses on your spine, keep your back relaxed and create a healing environment.

Buy a good pillow

Be sure to have a pillow that supports both the head and the neck. Finding the right pillow is crucial in keeping your spine in complete alignment throughout the night. Make sure the pillow is sturdy enough that your neck is aligned with the rest of your spine, while sleeping on your back or side. Be sure the space beneath your neck is completely filled to support its curve. Double check that the pillow is firm enough to support this alignment throughout your sleep.

Find a good sleeping position

An important element in dealing with lower back pains while resting is your sleeping position. You want to be mindful of your spine’s resting position and try your best to keep it neutral.

Sleeping in the fetal position with knees drawn towards the chest at 90 degrees, is a good sleeping position. Sleeping on your side also helps keep the neck in line with your spine. Keeping a pillow between your knees also helps to stabilise the hips. If you prefer to sleep on your back, be sure to properly align your body from head to toe and prop your knees up with a small pillow.

You can also take a reclined position by keeping one leg straight and the other one bent at the knee. This slight incline helps to relieve disc problems. A shallow pillow also helps to reduce back pressure. 

Don’t stay in one position all night

Don’t be scared of switching your sleeping position throughout the night. It’s natural — and desired — to move some during your sleep. All sleeping position, even if it’s an acceptable one, can put too much pressure on your back if you stay there all night.

Select the right mattress

Overly soft or firm mattresses can potentially cause lower back pain and aches in other parts of the body. A medium-firm mattress is generally accepted as a well-supportive option. It has an even surface and reduces body aches and pains.

Restorative sleep is crucial when trying to reduce your back pain. Learning how to sleep with lower back pain can take some time to get used to. Keep in mind these tips to help you get more restful, repairing sleep each night.  


Pillows For Sound Sleep

Today’s modern living which often entails hours of driving and hunching over work stations plays havoc with your neck. Neck pain can be felt in a large number of ways, either in your neck itself, across the shoulders, down the arms or as a headache. Neck and back problems are often worsened, if not caused, by improper sleeping habits and bad or worn out pillows. Sleep is very important to your body’s repair process, and a poor pillow often accounts for disturbed sleep. Compromise the quality of sleep, and overall health and mental fitness may suffer as well.

To support your tender and vulnerable neck you need to use a pillow that can be shaped to hold your neck in alignment and adequately support your head. This relieves muscle tension around your neck and shoulders and correctly positions your head, arms, and lower back for a relaxed sleep.

The support of a pillow should be mostly under your neck. Pillows that can be fluffed and squished to fit your unique contours, shape, and sleeping posture offer the best solution. A pillow should “fit”, just like a pair of shoes.

Natural-fill pillows such as down and feather provide the most comfort, long-term performance, and adjustability of any pillow, and they gently support your head. Unfortunately, most people hang on to a pillow long after its healthy sleeping power.

It is crucial you avoid using little or no pillow as this places your unsupported neck under strain all night long. It is equally unwise to use too many pillows or a pillow that is too firm as this can push your neck up, preventing the neck joints from moving properly, regardless of which position you sleep in.

It is also important to remember that a pillow should be placed between your neck and shoulder, but not underneath your shoulder itself. Taking this into account, a person with broader shoulders will require a larger pillow than someone with narrower shoulders, if they sleep on their side.


Mattress Matters

Could your mattress be the cause for your back pain? It’s time for a change!

While buying a new mattress can be a costly investment, it is important to take note of the signs that it needs replacing to reduce back and neck pain which can be triggered by a bad mattress. This is usually down to people only changing their mattress once every ten years, despite recommendations to do so every seven years, as advised by venerable sources such as the Sleep Council.

How often you change a mattress depends on lots of factors, including your weight and how well you care for your mattress. As soon as your mattress stops supporting your back, know that it’s time to get a new one.

5 signs that it’s time to change your mattress:

  1.  You wake up feeling stiff or aching.
  2.  You had a better night’s sleep somewhere else.
  3.  Your mattress is misshapen or sagging.
  4.  Your mattress creaks when you move.
  5.  You can feel individual springs.

4 factors to remember when choosing a new mattress:

  1. Choose a mattress that supports your weight; a heavier person will need a more supportive mattress than someone who is lighter in weight.
  2. Test your mattress before buying; your spine should be parallel to the mattress when lying on your side. Make sure your spine doesn’t sag, as this is a sign your mattress is too soft, or bow, as this is a sign that it’s too hard.
  3. When selecting a suitable pillow, make sure it allows your neck to become a continuation of the straight spine created by your well-suited mattress, making sure that your neck neither too high or too low.
  4. If you share a bed with your partner, make sure they are with you at the time of purchasing your mattress. Your ideal mattress tensions could be different. If this is the case, try buying from a range that allow two single mattresses to be zipped together so that you both get the support you need.

Eating to Beat Inflammation: 5 Tips

Inflammation: it’s a natural process that happens in our body to help us heal from injury and help our immune system fight off invaders.

But too much inflammation – or inflammation that lasts longer than it should – can be a problem. Most importantly for chiropractors, inflammation is a factor in many types of pain, including joint and muscle pain, arthritis, back pain, and pain from an injury that won’t go away.

Inflammation overload also plays a role in other problems such as skin conditions, and even in serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

While there are many things that can contribute to too much inflammation, one factor we can control is what we eat and drink.

So, here are five food-related tips to help you keep inflammation at bay.

  1. Load up on colourful fruit and veg

Most fruit and vegetables have great anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to their unique ‘phytonutrients’ such as flavonoids and carotenoids. These compounds are often responsible for vivid colours of fruit and veg, so you’ll find tons of flavonoids in purples and reds (think red cabbage, berries and pomegranate) and lots of carotenoids in oranges, light reds, yellows and greens (e.g. carrots, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and dark green leafy veg such as kale and spinach). So, think about ‘eating a rainbow’ of fruit and veg – not just a cliché, especially when it comes to beating inflammation.

Ideally, eat more vegetables than fruit, as the sugars in fruit can add up. And eat wholefruit rather than drinking it in juice form.

  1. Eat lots of oily fish

Oily fish are anti-inflammatory superheroes thanks to the omega-3 fats they contain.

Oily fish include salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, herring, trout and fresh (not tinned) tuna. Aim to eat three servings a week of one or more of these fish to build up your omega-3 stores.

Plant omega-3s such as those found in flaxseeds and chia seeds and their oils don’t have exactly the same benefits, as they provide a different type of omega-3. But they’re still healthy choices to include in our diet, and can be a substitute if you can’t eat fish.

  1. Keep it ‘real’

Generally speaking, the less you rely on processed foods, and the more you eat ‘real’ foods, the better.

‘Processed’ foods tends to mean anything that’s been made in a factory instead of being brought to you fresh or simply packaged. Processed foods also include junk foods, think supermarket baked goods, processed cheeses, most breakfast cereals, packet soups and ready meals. Junk food is not only generally low in natural vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory nutrients, they often contain added sugar or salt, as well as chemical additives.

‘Real foods’, include vegetables and fruit, whole grains such as brown rice, beans and lentils, unroasted nuts and seeds, and minimally processed animal foods such as eggs, fish, whole cuts of meat and pure cheese or milk.

  1. Switch your vegetable cooking oils

It is best to switch all refined cooking oils such as sunflower oil and anything labelled as ‘vegetable oil’ for more healthy options.

But how can they be bad for us, when they’ve long been touted as a healthy alternative?

Well, one problem is that polyunsaturated fats in their refined liquid form are quite fragile. When they’re heated to high temperatures during the refining process and cooking, they can easily become damaged. These damaged molecules may trigger more inflammation or ‘free radical’ damage in our own bodies when we consume too many of them.

The second problem is that vegetable oils tend to contain a very high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids. Now, while these are essential fats, when we get a lot of them in our diet, they can have an overall pro-inflammatory effect (i.e. encouraging inflammation), especially when we’re getting a lot more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

So what can you use instead of vegetable oil? Well, a good choice for cooking is coconut oil. It contains primarily saturated fats, which – contrary to what you might think – are actually the safest and healthiest fats for high-temperature cooking such as roasting, frying or stir-frying, as they’re stable and have a high smoke point.

Olive oil is a great option for lower-temperature sautéing and for drizzling on salads or using in dressings. Olive oil is made up primarily of monounsaturated fats, which are more stable than polyunsaturated, and has been linked to numerous health benefits – for our heart in particular.

  1. Spice it up

Many spices have natural anti-inflammatory activity, with winners including turmeric and ginger. Add them liberally to homemade curries and Asian dishes (use coconut oil rather than vegetable oils, of course!). Make them into hot drinks, such as homemade turmeric latte or fresh ginger tea; or find them in the form of herbal teas.

Tip: if you’re buying powdered spices, seek out organic rather than just settling for your average supermarket version for the greatest benefits. And note the colour of your turmeric: it should be an almost fluorescent orange-yellow colour if it’s a good quality one.


Staying Healthy, Safe and Fit During Winter

With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues! Here are some easy tips on exercise, diet, health and wellness that you can follow during the cold season.

Start a Keto diet

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that offers many health benefits. In fact, over 20 studies[1] show that this type of diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.

When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has numerous health benefits. Ketogenic diets may even have benefits against diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

Add Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that are naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory”. Studies[2] have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter, darker days of winter.

Cook with Spices and Spice Related Foods

Onions, garlic, ginger and turmeric are the perfect items to add flavour to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Fresh garlic, ginger and onions are more than flavouring.  Using all three together has a synergistic effect on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.  Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. This spice helps to combat a number of conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it also acts as a powerful antioxidant.

Plan your Workouts

If you don’t feel in the mood for fitness, you can do exercises at home. There are plenty of resources online that supply workout videos and exercises. These resources offer a variety of workouts including yoga, strength training, aerobics and other body-weight exercises. But try to stick to a weekly exercise plan so you don’t put off your regular exercise activities. On Sunday night, write down your exercise schedule for the next seven days. Choose your exact workout routines, activities or exercises for each day and how long they will be. Knowing what you’re scheduled to do each day ahead of time makes it easier to stick to.

Head to a Steam Room or a Sauna

If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress after the holiday season, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax, which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.

Frequent Hand Washing and Vitamin C

Frequent hand washing throughout the day and consuming lots of vitamin C are an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter.

Not only do they help protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and colds, they also protect others around you.


Top 5 Exercises to Help with Back Pain

Back pain is the second most common reason to visit the GP, with almost eight out of 10 of us experiencing it at least once in our lives. It’s also the number one cause of sick leave – and sufferers are getting younger. Chronic back pain has been called a modern epidemic – so how do we help prevent and manage it?

It rarely has a serious cause, usually being brought on by bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and other lifestyle habits. Exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce back pain and keep it from returning.

 Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain. Take a look below for five useful exercises to beat back pain: 

Pelvic Tilt

You need to take care of the core muscles that support your spine. There are many workouts for back pain that do this, and your doctor or therapist should be able to give you specific advice and training for your unique back pain condition.

A good example of a safe strengthening exercise is the pelvic tilt. To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your stomach muscles until you can press the small of your back flat against the floor. Hold the press for about five seconds and repeat up to 10 times.


Keeping your core muscles limber is as important as keeping them strong. Two good stretching exercises are the knee-to-chest and the hamstring stretch.

To do the knee-to-chest, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest and use your hands to pull the knee close while flattening out your back; then repeat with the other knee. The hamstring stretch is done from the same starting position. Pick up one leg with both hands placed behind your knee and then straighten your lower leg. These stretches should be held for about 20 seconds and repeated five times. Be sure to warm up before you stretch.

Stretches to avoid: one of the worst stretches for a person with back pain is bending over to touch your toes while keeping your legs straight. Even worse is bouncing while trying to touch your toes. Other bad workouts for back pain are ones that require you to bend or twist with any type of weight in your hand.

Water Workout

An aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses the big muscles of your body in a rhythmic and repetitive way. Aerobic exercise can get the blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase their strength. Walking is a good low-impact aerobics choice for your back, but swimming may be an even better workout for back pain if you get backaches.

In general, swimming is an excellent form of low-impact aerobic conditioning that is easy on the back and spine, with swimming there is practically no impact on the spinal structures. The water supports the body, relieving stress on all joints in the body.

Yoga and Pilates

Three all-around good workouts for back pain are Yoga, Pilates and working with an exercise ball. Yoga and Pilates are great because, as long as your teacher knows your limitations, they can be adapted safely for most people with back pain.

Yoga and Pilates are both fantastic mind-body workouts that can dramatically improve your overall fitness and wellbeing if regular practice is put into place. In terms of flexibility, both workouts can improve overall flexibility as well as increase spinal flexibility. Increasing spinal flexibility will really help to improve your fitness performance, in addition to helping prevent injuries.

Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility through the articulation of the spine. It is excellent as a strengthening exercise and supporting your back. Pilates and Yoga stretch benefits include improving your posture, helping support the spinal column, and alleviating back pain. However certain postures such as deep back bends and cobras can be a bit risky, especially if you suffer from any back pain.


Core Stability Helps Prevent Back Pain

If you’re following the trends in exercise and fitness, you’ve probably heard the phrase “core strength” or “core stability.” These terms refer to the muscles of your abdominals (stomach) and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced, helping to prevent back pain.

The core muscles lie deep within the trunk of the body. They generally attach to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the scapula. They stabilise these areas to create a firm foundation for co-ordinated movement of the legs and arms.

Core stability is also needed in everyday life, helping to keep you fit and to prevent injury when you are lugging those heavy shopping bags or doing the ironing. Rises in back pain incidence have been linked to the sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead. How about neck and shoulder pain? Time spent hunched over the desk instead of getting out and about can mean that we don’t pay enough attention to posture, and the muscles of those crucial “corset” muscles.

To strengthen your core stability:

  • Start by lying on your back with knees bent.
  • Your lumbar spine should be neither arched up nor flattened against the floor, but aligned normally with a small gap between the floor and your lower back. This is the “neutral” lumbar position you should learn to achieve.
  • Breathe in deeply and relax all your stomach muscles.
  • Breathe out and, as you do so, draw your lower abdomen inwards as if your belly button is going back towards the floor.
  • Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and stay relaxed, allowing yourself to breathe in and out as you hold the tension in your lower stomach area.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Bear in mind the following points:

  • Do not let the whole stomach tense up or your upper abdominals bulge outwards, as this means you have cheated by using the large rectus abdominus muscle (the six-pack).
  • Do not brace too hard; just a gentle contraction is enough. Remember it’s endurance not max strength your are trying to improve.
  • Do not tilt your pelvis nor flatten your back, as this means you have lost the neutral position you are trying to learn to stabilise
  • Do not hold your breath, as this means you are not relaxed. You must learn to breathe normally and maintain the co-contraction.
  • Use your fingers for biofeedback on either side of your lower abdomen to feel the tension.

Once you have mastered the abdominal hollowing lying on your back, practise it lying on your front, four-point kneeling, sitting and standing. In each position get your lumbar spine into neutral before you perform the hollowing movement. If you feel any pain or discomfort while doing these exercises, then stop immediately and seek medical advice before continuing.


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