JULY FOCUS – THE UPPER EXTREMITY

Hello again! I recently said to somebody that my next newsletter would be on the upper extremity, they said on what?! The upper extremity is the arm, but anatomically is referred to as the arm, forearm and hand. The upper extremity describing the whole.

In the clinic, I commonly see problems in this region that relate to repetitive strain. So tendonitis issues at the elbow and shoulder. Golfer’s and tennis elbow being very common. Carpal tunnel syndrome also presents regularly. Any repetitive strain could create these issues, so often they relate to a hobby, a work posture or a sport.

The exercises this month show how you can stretch and mobilise these areas. It is very important to think about your overall posture too in relation to the upper extremity. If you hold yourself poorly at the shoulder, then already you are holding the upper extremity in an altered position. So remember sit up straight, feel as if there is a cord pulling up through your spine and up through the top of your head. Think about fixing your shoulder blades to maintain a good position through the shoulders. Activate the muscles underneath the shoulder blades, ‘the lats’. Use them to glide your shoulder blades down your back across your rib cage, this will have the effect of moving your shoulders downwards and backwards slightly.

EXERCISES


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.


I have demonstrated these exercises on a chair. So really there is no excuse, you can do them anywhere! It would be particularly good to do them at work. If you work in a typical office setting, they would be perfect to keep you stretched out and hopefully steered clear of problems!


Wrist/forearm stretches


Be gentle, the wrist is a delicate joint. With your arm ahead of you, palm facing up. Encourage your fingers back towards your body. You should feel a stretch across the front of the forearm and wrist. This will stretch what are known as the flexor muscles. Hold for a slow count of 20 and repeat on the other side.

To stretch the extensor muscles on the other side of your forearm. With your arm ahead of you, turn your palm to face the floor. gently encourage your fingers towards your body. Hold for a slow count of 20 and repeat on the other side.


Arm stretches

To stretch the biceps muscle. Similar to the wrist flexor stretch. Hold the arm out straight ahead of you though, with your palm facing upwards. As you gently encourage the fingers back towards your body you should feel a stretch in the front of the arm and forearm, So you could do two sets of muscles in one here! Hold for a slow count of 20 and repeat on the over side.
To stretch the triceps muscle at the back of the arm. Raise the right arm up alongside your head and bend the elbow so the right hand rests against your upper back. Use the left hand to apply gentle pressure at the elbow, to encourage the right hand to slide a little further down the upper back. This stretches the right triceps, hold for a slow count of 20 and repeat on the left side.
For a gentle, sitting pectoral muscle stretch. Raise the arms up to shoulder level on both sides. Have the palms facing forward, thumbs up. Gently extend the arms backwards to feel a stretch across the fronts of the shoulders and the chest. Hold for a slow count to 20.
THE BITS THAT CAUGHT MY EYE IN THE NEWS

Not really surprised by this, I’m sure you won’t be either. Research was reported this month that reducing our body weight, can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Thus reducing our reliance on pain medication and cost to the NHS. A Danish study looked at 175 patients who were overweight and suffered from arthritis in the knee. For 16 weeks they followed a radical diet plan, taking them down to 440 calories a day. They were given specially formulated soups and shakes, plus mineral and vitamin supplements to make sure the essential nutrients weren’t missing from their diet. The results showed the volunteers lost a huge amount of fat, without a reduction in bone density. Thanks to the diet the volunteers were able to reduce their dependency on pain medications. They were also able to stay a lot more mobile, in order to assist their joints and aid further weight loss. These measures are short-term solutions, and need to be followed up with a sensible eating plan.
A “new dawn” in regenerative medicine has been hailed! A pioneering stem cell treatment has been discovered, allowing scientists to create tissue from fat cells. The technique has initially been used to create bone, and could eliminate the need for painful and damaging bone grafts. The technique can also be used to produce other tissues including heart, skin, muscle and cartilage. The technique isolates the stem cells found in body fat that can form bone. They are cultured to produce more stem cells, then mixed with a growth factor to form bone stem cells. Different growth factors would be added to form other tissues. 
Researchers found that heavy snorers, and those suffering sleep apnoea almost doubled the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be triggered by an autoimmune response. Scientists feel the explanation may be that chronic sleep apnoea can lead to inflammation in the blood vessels. This may act as a catalyst for the arthritis. In this study sleep apnoea patients (1411 people) were compared with strong healthy adults (7000 people). They were monitored over a 5 year period. They found that of the snoring group, 91% were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, or other immune system problems – ankylosing spondylitis and systemic lupus erythmatous. Despite this they stressed that the absolute risk of falling ill was still very small, only 2.91% actually experienced any arthritis-related problems.
One or two glasses of wine a day may protect women from osteoporosis. Drinking moderately as part of a healthy lifestyle, so considering diet and exercise is recommended. Especially for postmenopausal women. The report states, alcohol appears to behave in a similar way to oestrogen, in that it reduces bone turnover.