Monthly Archives: November 2015

Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain – What’s sitting got to do with it?

Lift the weight of the world from my shoulders again…

One of the most common presentations in clinic is neck pain and upper back pain. Classic symptoms people present with include an ache across the shoulders, pain on neck movement and occasional sharp shooting pains down one or both arms. This type of pain is often termed C/T junction dysfunction…

The C/T junction is the junctional area of the spine where the cervical spine meets the thoracic spine. The cervical spine is the neck, and the thoracic spine is the upper back. Both these areas of the spine take on different loads from the body, with the cervical spine curving forward (lordosis) and the thoracic spine curving backwards (kyphosis). Where these two sections meet, pain can often occur when coupled with individuals with a desk/computer job and a poor posture.

Many office workers, students and professionals in general will spend hours at a desk, and in front of a computer screen. Where an ergonomical setup is lacking, the stresses placed on the body add up and can lead to dysfunction. The presentation will often be a forward head posture, rounded and protracted (forward) shoulders, tight anterior muscles (pectoral muscles) and weak posterior muscles (rhomboids). This can lead to the spine becoming irritated, muscle spasm and nerve compression, causing the previously mentioned symptoms.

Fear not! The solution to this problem is simple and effective. A technique called the C/T lift, where the junction is opened up with a short and effective lift technique can relieve this area from excessive pressure, relieve any nerve compression, and together with soft tissue work, remove any muscle spasm. This needs to be maintained with correct ergonomic setup of work stations, and muscle stretching and strengthening.

If you are having neck and upper back pain, or have anything to ask regarding ergonomics, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy(with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.

The Importance of Good Posture for Children

“No one ever carried my load, I’m too young to feel this old…”

A few days ago my little brother started secondary school. Accompanying a list of new things he needed to have, was a note saying parents are not allowed to help carry their child’s bags into school…

Now the pros of this are fairly obvious, the child is taking responsibility for their belongings, becoming stronger, more independent and in essence, growing up.

Personally, the cons outweigh these noble characteristics the school is aiming to instill, especially in the long run. The amount of books, sports gear and musical equipment children can be seen lugging around with them these days is verging on the ridiculous. At any moment you expect the child is going to fall over backwards.

When I was in secondary school some 15-16 years ago, I remember people my age complaining of back pain, at the age of 13 or 14. I remember thinking at the time that these kids are like old men. And to get to the point, are children today being forced to grow up too quickly? And what effect is this having on their health?

It is important to educate children on posture early on in their lives, encouraging them to sit up straight, teaching them good techniques with lifting etc, just as we do with adults, by which time habits are set and difficult to change. In this age of tv, computers, laptops and playstation, and the sheer number of hours spent slouched in front of these gadgets, the effect on posture is detrimental.

None of what has been said is ground-breaking science, it is fairly obvious. The problem is that not enough effort is being made to educate children on posture and good habits, such as taking a break every 20-30 minutes from sitting down in front of the computer and moving around. Physical activity is just as important as having a good posture, and this must all be encouraged.

If you feel that you or your child has problems with posture and are unsure what to do or how to change, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy(with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can help with a variety of factors that may be contributing to poor posture.

Sleeping Pills and the Problem with Medication

“No pill can heal the ill of this sickness”

People are often attracted to the idea of pills and medications solving problems with pain and sleep. Often there is no good science behind the use of drugs for such problems and individuals turn to these methods due to a lack of knowledge of better alternatives.

Being unable to sleep, or sleep for an adequate amount of time, can be the most difficult and depressing experience a person can go through. The idea that a pill can solve this problem is therefore very appealing as it is deemed to be a quick-fix solution. However, sleeping pills do not cure the problem of insomnia, especially in the long run, and this is why…

Drug dependence and tolerance – taking sleeping pills on a regular basis will lead to drug dependence and drug tolerance. This means that a person may not be able to sleep (or have as good quality sleep) without taking the medication first. The more a person takes the pills, the greater the tolerance of the body becomes and eventually the person will require an increased dose in order for the drugs to have an effect. This will increase the side effects of the drug.

Side effects and withdrawal symptoms – the side effects of these medications can include drowsiness lasting well into the next day, confusion, poor memory and dry mouth. These side effects can be extremely severe. When the person tries to withdraw from these drugs symptoms such as nausea, sweating and shaking are common occurrences.

Drug interactions – if a person is taking other medications such as painkillers or sedatives, these can interact and worsen side effects, become dangerous and in some cases be lethal. Just think of Michael Jackson.

Rebound insomnia – if a need to stop the medication arises, for whatever reasons, the insomnia can sometimes reappear even worse than before.

Underlying problems – there may be an underlying medical or psychological problem, that if treated properly, could be more effective than medications.

So what can help a person get a good night’s sleep? For start, a good sleeping environment, relaxation and behavioural techniques. Stress can cause muscles, especially around the shoulder, the neck and base of the skull to tighten up and cause pain and headaches. Osteopathy can help with musculo-skeletal causes of poor sleep, through various muscle relaxation and soft tissue techniques and spinal/neck manipulation when necessary to correct posture when sleeping.

When having problems sleeping in bed, try the following…

If you sleep on your side – put pillows the depth of your shoulder under your head to avoid unnecessary strain on the neck. Lay on one shoulder with both hands in front of you to avoid rotation in the shoulders. Bend both knees and hips up to 90 degrees to avoid straining your back.

If you sleep on your back – put pillows so that your neck is in a neutral position. Bend both hips and knees up and use pillows for support, again to avoid excessive strain on the back.

Of course, there can be more severe causes of insomnia and osteopathy cannot help with these and so in some cases medication may be necessary. But pills are not and should not be the first port of call for sleeping problems.

If you have trouble sleeping, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.

Osteopathy for Low Back Pain

“People are fragile things you should know by now, be careful what you put them through…”

And be careful what you put yourself through. Whether you are involved with training others or yourself, it is important to understand the stresses and strains put on the body from various activities. Having observed elite athletes at Saracens, Fulham FC and Manchester United FC, the consequences of high training loads and stresses on the body become apparent at an earlier age than would otherwise be expected. Whether you are playing at Old Trafford on £100,000 a week, or at Power League 5-a-side twice a week, it is important to know how to take care of yourself.

Low back pain is a common complaint among the sporting and non-sporting population. The spine is designed to provide stability and mobility. When the balance of these is altered, problems occur.

Stability of the spine is provided by the muscles and strong ligaments that run along all aspects of the spine. The discs in between the vertebrae of the spine provide ‘shock absorption’ such as when walking or running. These factors, working in a different manner, coupled with the bony orientation of the vertebrae, also allow for mobility.

Individuals that are excessively mobile are at risk of back pain as much as those who lack mobility. Osteopathy can help with the majority of these factors causing back pain.

Where there is lack of mobility, soft tissue work and deep tissue massage, and specific joint manipulation where necessary, can markedly improve mobility and reduce pain. With excessive mobility, it is important to target and strengthen the weak muscles with exercise and rehabilitation, and mobilise the areas above and below, which may be causing excessive strain on this more mobile area. This process is also vaguely termed ‘core stability’.

If you suffer from low back pain, neck pain or other muscular/joint pain issues, or are unsure whether osteopathy can help, it may be worthwhile coming to see us at Atlas Osteopathy (with clinics in East Finchley and Moorgate, as well as the option of home visits), where we can explain your problems to you, why they occur and whether or not you are suitable for osteopathic treatment. Often this can be done via email or on the phone.