Are your joints frozen?

The Winter weather can make us want to hibernate, and so perhaps we’re not getting the movement we need through our joints. Take a look at the following to help keep the lower back moving. The exercises will help if you do them regularly.

The following are some useful lower back exercises. Your Osteopath can direct you as to which exercises may be appropriate to help your type of lower back pain.

Ideally perform these exercises on a mat or towel on the floor, with a pillow under the head for support.

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LOWER BACK FLEXION

Lay on your back with your knees bent. Gently hug your knees towards your chest. (Grasp behind the thigh if you have any knee problems) Hold the stretch for a slow count of 10. Relax, repeat 3 to 5 times.

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LOWER BACK ROTATION

Lay on your back with your knees bent. Allow both knees to drop down to one side. Only allow the knees to drop as far as you can, whilst maintaining contact on the floor with your shoulder blades. Return your knees back to the start position, and then repeat to the other side. Repeat 5 times on each side.

For a greater stretch through the lower back and hips. Be sure to keep your ankles and knees “glued” together as you perform the exercise. Sometimes placing a small cushion or ball between the knees can help with this.

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STANDING SIDE-BENDING STRETCH

From a standing position. Reach one arm up straight so it rests alongside your ear. Bend side-ways, away from the side of the raised arm. You could add some additional stretch by gently stretching through the raised arm with the opposite hand. At the end of the stretch. Take a deep breath into your lower ribs, and then return to normal. Repeat 3 times on each side.

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CAT STRETCH

Start on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders, and knees under hips. Try and start from a neutral position in the lower back and pelvis (so not too arched through the lower back, but equally not too tucked.) Have a straight neck, with your gaze to the floor.

Begin by tucking your pelvis under, and then continuing the movement up through your lower back, then to your upper back, and then to your neck. So you are arching up like an ‘angry cat’.

Then to return to the start position. Bring your pelvis back to neutral, followed by your lower back, then upper back, and finally your neck.

Repeat 5 times.

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PELVIC TILT

Lay on your back with your knees bent. Contracting your pelvic floor muscle (the muscle you would use to stop yourself having a wee), and your lower abdominal muscles. Flatten the small of your back into the surface you’re laying on. Hold for a slow count of 2, and repeat 10 times.

Bone Health

A natural change with ageing is a loss of bone density. It is important to do what you can to keep your bones as strong as possible to avoid potential fractures, and the possible knock-on effects and recovery from these.

So there is an expected loss of bone density as we age, but a loss of bone density can occur as a result of some illnesses and taking some medications. There is also a sharp change in hormones around the female menopause. This can make ladies more susceptible to a reduced bone density, however reduced bone density is not just a female issue.

The ideal scenario would be to try and counter these changes with more conservative approaches in order to try and prevent further issue later down the line. The best time to do this is in childhood, this is the time you build-up your skeletal mass. Think of it as a “bone bank” that you borrow from for the rest of your life.

So we need to be guiding the young people in our lives regarding diet and exercise (see below) as well as possible to give them the best “bone bank” possible.

Another crucial period of time in a female’s life, is the year running up to her menopause. But how do we know when this will be? We don’t. We may have a rough idea what could be likely if we know what our mother’s age of menopause was. We know the approximate age it’s likely to happen at. But this is an unknown. So it’s important to make taking care of your bones a part of your lifestyle.

 The following factors are important to counter an excessive loss of bone density:

  • Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, skipping and jogging. Do what feels appropriate for you. Also resistance exercises help. So try a little weight lifting. Just using a little resistance would help e.g. baked bean cans for upper body weights. You don’t have to train to an Olympic standard!
  • Making sure you have the appropriate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium (see below). This may need to be through a combination of diet and supplementation. Keep a food diary for a couple of typical weeks for you to try and gauge what, if anything is required. These are not the only vitamins and minerals essential to bone health. A consultation with a nutritional therapist might be necessary, since nutrition can affect how healthy it is and how a person feels in energy and focus.
  • If you know you have suffered an illness, possibly an eating disorder or a digestive issue that may effect the uptake of nutrients. Be aware that you could be at slightly more risk and discuss this with your GP.
  • Be mindful that some medications can predispose to a reduction in bone density, especially if they have needed to be taken over a long period. For example steroid treatment, and some epilepsy medications.

These are the current recommendations for supplementation.

  • Calcium – for all adults, aged 19-64 years of age 700mg/day.
  • Magnesium – for men aged 19-64 years of age, 300mg a day. For ladies of the same age range, 270mg a day.
  • Vitamin D (be aware that it can be difficult to get the required amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Vitamin D is largely synthesised in our bodies via a reaction through sunlight on our skin. This is not possible all year around.) 5 years of age to adult = 10mcg a day. This is possibly only necessary over the autumn and winter months.

 The following foods are examples of sources of the above:

 CALCIUM (Ca)

Whitebait 100g is 870mg/Ca

Cheddar/Edam cheese 50g is 350mg/Ca

Canned Sardines 70g is 350mg/Ca

Raw spinach 100g is 170mg/Ca

A large orange is 70mg/Ca

20 shelled almonds is 50mg/Ca

MAGNESIUM (Mg)

Pumpkin seeds 35g is 184mg/Mg

Taco shell 100g is 104mg/Mg

Muesli 95g is 90mg/Mg

Boiled brown rice 100g is 88mg/Mg

30 Peanuts is 70mg/Mg

2 slices brown bread is 40mg/Mg

 VITAMIN D (Vit D)

2 fillets cooked mackerel (about 110g) is 21micrograms/vit D

Tinned salmon 100g is 12.5 micrograms/vit D

Tinned tuna 100g is 5 micrograms/vit D

1 egg (60g) is 1 microgram/vit D

All Bran 45g is 0.8 microgram/vit D

1/2 pint semi-skimmed milk is 0.03 micrograms/vit D

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.

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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