Nutrition and Lifestyle Factors In Musculoskeletal Health

What do we need our musculoskeletal system for?

  • Support
  • Movement
  • Mineral Storage
  • Blood cell production

Pretty important stuff. So we obviously need to care for it. Here are some considerations:

Diet. Try to eat to provide the body’s tissues with the appropriate amounts of the nutrients needed. In a nutshell, eating a wide variety of whole foods, whilst limiting/avoiding processed foods should cover most nutrients required. Allergies and intolerances, ethical and religious beliefs might mean certain food groups are avoided. When this happens, care needs to be taken to make sure this is well compensated for.

Everything in our body requires water; for reactions to occur and for transport of various kinds. So try and get into good habits.

Diet is also important to maintain our bodies at a sensible weight. Maintaining an ideal weight will help avoid over-loading our joints and will help to manage a better posture too.

Stay tuned for next month’s posting. I will highlight the important nutrients for muscle and bone health.


Exercise. This serves many advantages. It obviously helps with mobility, you can work generally or on a specific area. It is true –  if you don’t use it, you lose it. Exercise can also build strength and aid support in the body. Both strength and mobility exercises are important to maintain strong bones. Work to your needs and ability.

Consider doing sports, or any activity outside for the added advantage of vitamin D synthesis (through a reaction with sunlight), which will also support bone health.

If you really hate exercise, just try and be more generally active. A few ideas are; stand more to do activities, take the stairs instead of the escalator or get off the bus a stop earlier. What changes could you make in your own daily routine?

Sea Bathing. Have you tried an Epsom salt bath? These salts contain magnesium which can aid muscle relaxation. So people can benefit if they have sore joints, or you might find it useful post-exercise or in managing tight and tense muscles generally.

Stress Management. Stress happens to all of us, sometimes it drives and motivates us. For short periods of time this might be okay. Over a long period of time our body chemistry can change, and this may create many negative health changes. Learning to relax and making time to ensure you do this can help general health alongside the obvious benefit of avoiding very tight and uncomfortable muscles.


Have you been following the exercises on the monthly posts? Set aside 10 minutes a day to give them a go, and see how you feel.


Anatomically the shoulder is considered a complex of joints. It consists of four joints; the glenohumeral (ball and socket), the acromio-clavicular (on the tip of the shoulder), the sterno-clavicular (between the collar bone and breastbone), and the scapulo-thoracic joint (between the shoulder blade and ribcage).

Injuries may occur in one or some of these areas. As they are all so closely associated, it is easy for a problem in one area to have a knock-on effect in another part of the complex. The joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments are commonly injured.

The nature of an injury provides valuable information as to which structures have been damaged. This alongside examination and testing allow the Osteopath to make a diagnosis and formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

The shoulder is a mobile complex, and can easily be placed under excessive strain. Commonly injured by sporting activity, falls, bad postural habits, or possibly excessive strain is placed on the area from an injury elsewhere.


These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.

Pectoral muscle stretches

Standing level with the doorway, place a flat palm and forearm against a door frame, start with your left side. Take a step forward with the left leg in a lunging motion. Keep the arm fixed on the door frame and your body facing forward. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Hold for a slow count of 30. Turn around and repeat on the right hand side.

You can stretch different parts of the muscle by slightly altering your arm position. Try starting with your elbow level with the shoulder, then slightly below, then slightly higher.

Gentle shoulder articulation

Place one hand on the shoulder of the same side. Draw circles with the elbow. Draw 5 in a forward direction, then 5 in a backwards direction. Try and keep your body facing straight forward as you do it, so to focus the movement at the shoulder.

Shoulder blade fixation

This is a great one for correct shoulder position. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then use the muscles (“the lats”) underneath your shoulder blades to pull your shoulder blades down. You should try and aim to have a degree of activation in these muscles as much as possible on a daily basis. This will have a positive affect on spinal and shoulder position.
Internal rotation of the shoulder (“the towel drying exercise”)

Take a scarf or something similar and place one end in each hand behind your back. Have one hand at lower back level, and the opposite above shoulder level. You are working the shoulder of the lower hand. Pull gently with the top hand to ease the lower hand up behind your back, Hold gently for a slow count of 2, repeat 5 to 10 times. Then repeat on the other side.
Big news recently have been the reports of problems for those with metal on metal hip joint replacements. Experts are calling for the replacement to be banned due to research revealing they have a four times higher failure rate. A large scale research project has been undertaken over the last eight years, looking at 400 000 people receiving hip replacements. It found complications were particularly high for women in their 50’s and 60’s, and for those with metal heads on their replacements. Yearly scans and blood tests for those with such replacements have been recommended. Metal ions can break off into the blood stream and cause muscle and bone damage.

Green tea has just upped it’s super-food status even more! It is thought to help reduce cholesterol, cancers, heart disease and halitosis, amongst other things. Because of the way it is processed it retains less caffeine, and as it tends to be drunk without milk and sugar, so a cup contains fewer calories.
The drug Protelos has been used to treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal ladies. Now clinical trials have shown it can slow down the process of degeneration in osteoarthritis. The tests have shown that for every three years of treatment, the progression of the disease could be slowed down by a year. This could potentially help millions who suffer with pain and disability from osteoarthritic joints. 

Growing Older

Growing older doesn’t mean accepting every ache and pain. Ageing is a normal process, which although may come with it’s frustrating changes, doesn’t mean life has to stop. An osteopath can help you continue to live your life to the full physically.

As we get older our muscles, bones, ligaments and joints age too, but ageing alone doesn’t necessarily result in increased pain or stiffness. Treatment and advice from an osteopath can complement care from your GP to help you stay active as your body changes over time.

Osteopathic appointments are readily available at Rivermead Osteopaths without the need for referral from a GP.

Feel free to call for information about how osteopathy can help with  niggles and aches that may be holding you back from the activities you enjoy.



The following is a good exercise for spinal stiffness to help you along the way. You don’t need to be a certain age to do this. As long as you’re comfortable then stretch away!

Start on all fours with your back in its natural position and looking straight down at the floor. Move the pelvis first – tuck the pelvis under and gradually take that movement to the lower back, then upper back, then neck. To reach an “angry cat” position as in the photo. To return, start with the pelvis. Bring it back to your start position, then the upper back, followed by the neck. You should be back where you started. Repeat 5-10 times.

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