Chronic back pain has been called a modern epidemic- so how do we help prevent and manage it?
Back pain is the second most common reason to visit the GP, after skin conditions, and almost eight out of 10 of us will suffer from it at least once in our lives. It’s also the number one cause of sick leave – and sufferers are getting younger. 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. Most minor cases of back pain can be reduced with regular exercise and tailored workouts. Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your body’s skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain. 5 great exercises to beat back pain:
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 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.
An aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses the big muscles of your body in a rhythmic and repetitive way. Aerobic exercise can get 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 a regular practice is put into place. In terms of flexibility, both workouts can improve overall flexibility as well as increasing 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 articulation of the spine. It is excellent as a strengthening exercise and supporting your back. Pilates and Yoga stretches 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.
The 21st century has brought us amazing technological advances and trends that have taken over (pretty much) everyone’s lives. Alongside from the many obvious benefits from these advances, there inevitably comes new struggles. Modern day aches and pains are becoming more and more common with causes varying from mobile phone use, gaming and over-working. Keep reading for tips on how to keep your 21st century self ache and pain free!
You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. Smartphones have become a necessity for the majority of the population, with an estimated 94% of adults in the UK owning a smartphone. ‘Text Neck’ occurs as a result of smartphone users tilting their heads downwards, which considerably increases the loading on your neck, to look at their phones. This can lead to inflammation of the neck muscles and could lead to more long-term problems. Try as best as possible to hold your phone level with your eyes, this will reduce the amount you need to tilt your head down, and in turn, reduce the weight on your neck and upper back. If you do think that you suffer from ‘Text Neck’ try this simple exercise
: the ‘exaggerated nod’; simply look up to the ceiling, let your jaw relax and open your mouth, keep your head here and bring your lower jaw to your upper jaw.
Gaming has sky rocketed in the 21st century, with some gamers even earning millions by entering into various competitions. Some of the top pro gamers even admit to training for up to 15 hours a day! Needless to say that our bodies do not favour this amount of time spent sitting down. If you think you fall into the category of a ‘gamer’ it is recommended that you stand up and stretch your legs for 10 minutes every two hours or so. This will reduce the risk of our muscles seizing up and potentially leading to more serious injuries.
Burnout is now officially recognised as a real health condition by the World Health Organisation. Millions of people are now working longer hours; not only does this lead to burn out, it can also bring with it a lot of aches and pains. Much like gamers, people working overtime are also spending too much time sitting down and constantly looking at a computer screen. Try to keep the top of the computer level with the top of your head, this will place your eyes in the right place to look at the screen and should reduce the strain on our neck.
Too much pain and not enough gain
Clinical studies reveal that chronic pain, as a stress state, often induces low mood. With 80% of adults experiencing lower back pain at some point in their lives, this is a very widespread problem.
Whether back pain causes low mood or vice versa, it can be hard to conclude because low mood can cause frequent and unexplained pain, just as back or chronic pain can cause restlessness, stress and other emotions associated with low mood. Regardless of where the pain comes from, it is important to learn how to take care of yourself and your back, in order to prevent back pain from occurring at all.
Back pain and low mood can be caused by a plethora of things, so here are a few tips to help ensure a healthy mind and body.
Enlisting exercise into your daily routine is absolutely crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you are a gym-goer, make sure you consult a trainer to make sure you have proper form and aren’t overdoing it. Additionally, make sure you warm-up, cool-down and stretch after every session. Stretching allows for posture improvement, blood-flow and tension reduction — stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors, muscles that are attatched to the pelvis, can also help reduce back pain.
- Healthy Diet
When people are busy, they can often forget to eat properly, putting deadlines and workloads first. However this can leave you with little energy and in a bad mood, as food is ultimately fuel for your mind and body. Healthy, whole foods are pertinent to long-lasting energy, maintaining a balanced mood and helping your body fight pain. Along with drinking more water, try adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet to give your body the boost it needs.
- Seek treatment
If you have been in pain for a long time, then it may be time to seek advice or treatment a healthcare professional. Chiropractors specialise in pain reduction, which can sequentially improve the overall health. Rather than using medicine, they use their hands to restore the structural integrity of the musculo-skeletal system
As lifestyle changes in the 21st century make the condition of osteoporosis ever more prevalent, it becomes a threat that you should take into consideration.
The ageing population, dietary trends such as dairy intolerance and the increase in eating disorders like anorexia all contribute to the growing numbers of sufferers. Today’s indoor lifestyle is also a factor, since a lack of vitamin D from the sun hinders your absorption of dietary calcium.
The frightening part of this condition is that it is sometimes not diagnosed until a bone is broken. A way to assess your risk of fracture is a bone density scan. This is the most accurate way of measuring the strength of bones. This scan can be organised through your GP or private clinics, and then appropriate advice can be given by your GP or chiropractor.
There are precautions we can all take to minimise the threat of osteoporosis to our physical health and mobility, both by medical and natural means.
A nutritious diet, and taking supplements where need be, is of paramount importance. If you’re vegan or don’t consume dairy products for other reasons, it’s important to find an alternative source of calcium in your diet. Leafy greens or tinned, soft-bone fish such as salmon or sardines are great options. It’s important to be aware that some foods make it harder to absorb calcium, such as carbonated drinks.
To help your body absorb calcium, vitamin D is essential. As well as synthesizing this from the sun’s UVB rays, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines provide some vitamin D. However, especially in the UK, vitamin D supplements are recommended.
Another key nutrient for bone health is magnesium. While this mineral contributes to many functions in the body from nerve function to immune health, it is primary found in bone crystals, contributing to their strength. Magnesium is often included in calcium supplements.
Vitamin C plays an important role too. Collagen is the main protein in bone, and Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis. Vitamin C is present in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and in many vegetables.
Chiropractors are fully qualified manipulative practitioners who diagnose and treat disorders of bones, as well as muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. Your chiropractor will give you specific advice on how to strengthen your skeleton and minimise your risk.
These days doctors often ‘prescribe’ exercise as a way to maintain good health and with good reason. Being active not only makes us feel better, it can also help ease various symptoms and cut risk of disease.
Studies have shown that people in their late 70s who undertake at least 20 minutes of exercise per day need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital than those who don’t . Exercise has been shown to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as certain medication, as well as being shown to improve heart and gut health, memory and balance. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends exercise 3 times per week between 45min to an hour, for 3 months for those with mild or moderate depression. The physical activity also stimulates our brains and helps prevent anxiety and stress, as well as increasing the lifespan and improving the quality of life.
- For Living Longer – Jogging
A US study showed that adults over 65 who ran or jogged for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week were as healthy as young adults in their 20s . This might not sound important, but your walking style is a key indicator of mortality, so the longer you can stay spritely on your feet, the longer and healthier your life should be. Meanwhile, another study found that light jogging (between 70-120 minutes per week) was linked to the lowest mortality rate compared to sedentary people and heavy runners – so little and often is key here .
- For Improving Memory – Dancing
A study from 2017 found that all exercise can help reverse the signs of ageing in the brain, but dancing more than any other sport . The study, which focused on adults in their late 60s who took part in a weekly dance class, found that all participants showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain, which can be affected by diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as more general age-related decline.
- For Back Pain – Active Therapies
Many GP appointments are connected to muscle and nerve problems- and these are often based in the back. If you suffer with back pain, you will know that it can affect your movement and sleep and leave you feeling quite low. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of gentle stretching. Also, research shows that active therapies, such as chiropractic treatment, are a great option for managing back pain and to create optimal alignment, balance and symmetry.
- For Depression and Anxiety – Walking
Science agrees – walking outdoors (especially in groups) has been linked to a reduction in stress and a boost in mood, particularly for those who have just been through a negative life event such as serious illness or loss of a loved one. Brisk walks have also been shown to help women deal with the anxiety and stress that’s sometimes associated with menopause. Movement helps your brain to release endorphins, feel-good hormones that can reduce the perception of pain as well as depression or stress.
- For Bone and Muscle Health – Weight Training
Experts are increasingly suggesting a bit of strength training goes a long way when it comes to better bone and muscle health. As we get older, we start to lose muscle mass, which can leave us prone to falls, as well as making it easier to gain weight. So think of strength training as insurance for your later life. While this could mean leading to lift lightweights at the gym, it can also mean strength exercises using your own body weight – such as sit-ups or squats. It’s really never too late to start. A study of 90-year-olds found that 12 weeks of strength training improved their muscle tone, ability to balance, general power and walking speed.
Don’t forget 150 minutes (just over 21 mins daily) is the minimum moderate exercise the NHS recommends for adults to stay healthy! And the best part is, it’s freely available to most of us, small things make a big difference. Movement is the new medicine!
Short-term relief, long-term pain
A recent study has revealed that smokers are three times more likely to suffer from back pain than those who do not smoke. 
Smoking slows down blood circulation and reduces the flow of nutrients to joints, which in turn damages tissue in the lower back. Smoking may also affect the way the brain sends pain signals to the body and therefore may increase the risk of pain.
While smoking is a difficult habit to kick because of how nicotine and tobacco trick the body into feeling good, no temporary pleasure is worth a life of pain.
Including exercise into your everyday routine is extremely important.
Exercise activates endorphins, chemicals in the brain, that can help you feel good and has the potential to decrease pain. If the pain is not subsiding than think about seeing a doctor to kick the smoking habit and a Chiropractor to help get the pain under control. The effects of smoking such as: heavy coughing, slowed circulation as well as growth and damaged tissues has the potential to increase the risk of back pain. The next time you are in agonising pain, think about choices you could make to improve overall health.
80% of UK adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives – so what is causing it? With this rate being so high, it is important to highlight some of the everyday activities, which, if conducted wrongly, can lead to back pain. One of the main ones to focus on is sleep – everyone does it, so it is important to know how to do it properly!
Below are some of the sleep positions that can cause you pain:
- When sleeping on your front, your head is turned slightly to the side as not to suffocate completely. As a result, this can cause a large amount of strain on the neck, which could lead to pain throughout the day. This position also means that your spine is completely unsupported, which could lead to extreme back pain.
- When sleeping on your left side with your arms completely out, you are essentially restricting blood flow and putting a large amount of pressure on your nerves; which can result in soreness in the shoulders and arms. Like sleeping on your front, the spine is completely unsupported in this position and therefore could lead to both upper and lower back pain.
- Whilst sleeping in the foetal position is a favourite amongst many, it is actually one of the worst sleep positions because of its complete lack of support for the neck and spine. As a result of the curvature of the spine in this position, neck and back pain is extremely common.
These positions can ease back pain:
- By sleeping flat on your back, your spine is completely supported, which will help ease the pain caused to the neck and back. By keeping your arms by your side, you are reducing strain on the shoulders as well.
- If you continue to feel soreness in your back after sleeping on your back, try the exact same position but with a small pillow underneath your knees. This helps your body to maintain a healthy curve in the lower back.
- If you want to sleep on your side, you absolutely can by just making sure your arms are kept down by your side instead of being stretched outwards. This actually supports the spine in the position of its natural curve.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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With party season approaching, ladies are likely to be high heel searching! However, there are many problems associated with wearing high heels. Beyond the traditional parental warning of “you’ll break your ankle in those!”, there are many other issues, seen every day by professionals, that are caused by high heel wearing.
High heels are the worst possible shoes for your feet. When heels are excessively high, the ball of your foot absorbs the full amount of pressure on your foot and the weight of your body on this one area can cause a huge range of problems, including bunions, aching and tired feet, and a burning sensation in the balls of your feet.
As the fashion for higher and higher heels grows, as does the range of foot problems occurring. Conditions such as bunions are becoming more prevalent as women opt for skyscraper heels and the higher the heel, the greater the risk of falling and causing serious injury.
The height of the heel is directly proportionate to the increase in pressure on the ball of the foot and to how short each stride becomes.
It’s not uncommon to hear notorious high heel wearers complaining of bunions. High heels, especially those with pointed toes, force your foot to slide forwards, so that all the weight of your body is on this part of your foot. This crams your toes together and pushes your big toe in toward your other toes. Over time, this repetitive action can cause a permanent distortion, called Hallux Valgus as your foot tries to change its shape to fit such shoes. To protect the area a fluid filled sack builds up over the area called a bunion, when this becomes inflamed it can be very painful.
Wearing high heels can also cause issues beyond your feet. High heels cause the calf muscle fibres to shorten, even when not wearing heels. If you wear heels most of the time, your foot and leg positioning that is adopted in heels becomes the default position for your joints and the structures within your leg and foot.
Advice is not to wear heels or flat shoes all the time, but both in moderation. Wearing a variety of heel heights will help you to get your calf muscles used to change. Also, if you wear heels day-to-day, kick them off wherever possible to allow your foot to relax back to a better position. So, enjoy heels during party season but give your feet some TLC, too, allowing them time to recover between festivities.