Keep a sunny feeling all year around!

The evidence is inconclusive. Is the colder, damper weather responsible for an increase in people’s joint pain? Research has tended to focus on the effect a change in atmospheric pressure has on the joints. It is hard to measure something that is subjective like pain, when there are so many other variables like general health, diet, exercise, mood…….So the jury is still out on this one.
Anecdotally however people often report an increase in their joint symptoms with a change in the weather. So here are a few things you could think about to try and stay comfortable in the colder months ahead.
Try and eat a varied and balanced diet. Stay hydrated. See if you can include the following in your diet to take care of your joints.
Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. For example found in salmon and nuts.
Vitamin K is said to have pain soothing properties, and is important in the formation of bone protein. Cabbage, kale and fermented foods contain vitamin K.
Vitamin C may have some effect in halting cartilage loss in arthritis. Bright coloured foods like oranges, red peppers kiwi fruit, guava, brussel sprouts and tomatoes are examples of foods containing vitamin C.
Avoid refined grains that may have an inflammatory effect and choose whole grains, that may reduce inflammation.
Avoid Omega 6 as this may promote inflammation in the body.
If there is a reason your body doesn’t take in certain vitamins and nutrients. Maybe through illness. or you choose to avoid. Supplementing may be necessary?
Glucosamine and chondroitin. Some studies have found evidence to support these supplements nourish the joint cartilage, effectively lubricating the joint. However there is evidence that supports and refutes this.
Vitamin D will help keep your bones strong. It is important alongside calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. Vitamin D can be manufactured through sunlight, but over the winter months in the UK the sun isn’t at a sufficient strength for this. Look for vitamin D3, the type of vitamin D our body manufactures from sunlight.

Stay Active. 

Inside and outside. If the weather gets too cold, then try and do some gentle exercises indoors to keep joints mobile. Tai-chi, yoga and Pilates are controlled exercises that work to stretch, mobilise and improve posture. Alongside all the other health benefits that can be gained from this.

Back Awareness Week in October

The focus of 2015’s Back Awareness Week has been back pain in children of a school age. The “8000 Schools Campaign” aims to raise money to address back pain prevention in schools.

The Back Care charity reports that 1 in 4 secondary school students gets regular or daily back pain. Half of those that suffer with back pain report their school bag is too heavy, or too tiring. Amongst this half back pain was 10 times more common.

Problems can develop from our younger years if we don’t take proper care. A problem not identified in childhood/adolescence may become an issue in adulthood. Four out of five adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

Please forward this post to any children or grandchildren where its appropriate. However it applies to us all. Here are some tips on how to reduce back strain:

  • Check your bag? Does it evenly distribute the weight you carry on your body? Do the straps dig into you? A rucksack carried with both straps across each shoulder is the ideal bag for your back. The straps should be padded. Waist and hip straps can help redistribute the pressure from your shoulders.

  • Don’t carry more than you need to? Check your bag regularly for clutter!

  • Try and avoid sitting where you can. Sitting for long periods can strain your back. Getting up and moving around regularly is ideal.

  • When you need to sit, try and sit well. So sit up straight on a chair, with your bottom to the back of the seat. Ideally the seat would support your lower back. Adding support in the small of your lower back with a rolled up jumper or jacket might help. Avoiding soft and low seats should help too.

  • Lead a generally active lifestyle. Rest is important too, but find an activity you enjoy to regularly move and strengthen your body. As well as keeping you mobile, there are obvious benefits for your heart and general well-being.

  • Be careful that your footwear doesn’t add unnecessary strain to your back. A flatter, supportive shoe is far better than a high heel to spend a long time standing in.

  • Drinking plenty of water, and eating a balanced diet, are also very important to keep your whole body healthy, not just your muscles and joints.

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

Around 3 million people in the UK have Osteoporosis. Its a problem that can lead to bones becoming fragile and may cause a bone to fracture more easily. It can then lead to pain and disability. Osteoporosis is when the mesh-like structure of bones weaken and become fragile. Fractures might occur anywhere, but they’re most common in the spine, hips, and wrists.

Just because you have Osteoporosis it doesn’t mean that your bones will break, but you will be at greater risk of a fracture. Osteoporosis doesn’t change the healing process either. Bones will heal in around 6-8 weeks if they’re aren’t any complications, just as in anyone else.

Hip fractures from osteoporosis are most prevalent in the 70 – 80 age group. They can heal resulting in no disability, but it does depend on how healthy the person was before the fracture.

Broken wrists in people with osteoporosis are often the first sign that someone has this. They are known as Colles’ fractures. They often occur in middle aged women who have put their hand out to protect themselves on falling.

Spinal fractures in osteoporosis are often referred to as compression fractures. Apart from in unusual cases, these spinal fractures don’t damage the spinal cord and don’t cause symptoms like paralysis. These are most likely to occur in the upper or lower back.

Spinal fractures can cause the vertebrae to become wedge-shaped. This may cause the individual to develop quite a rounded/stooped appearance in their spine.

So there can be knock-on effects to this in mobility, discomfort, finding suitable clothes, effects on adjacent body systems. Possibly problems with digestion, problems with breathing, possibly issues with stress incontinence. This is due to the lack of space for the body’s internal organs, and a change in position may not allow things to function properly.


There is a need to take plenty of weight-bearing exercise, and eat a balanced and calcium-rich diet.

It isn’t just a female problem. Other risk factors might be:

Excessive alcohol.
People at risk of falling.
Genes and Ethnicity. Caucasian and Asian people are more likely to suffer.
Low Body Weight.
Previous Fractures.
Some medications may be predisposing.

If you think you may need help, seek advice.

Great, Healthy Boobs!

If you see me as a patient, or viewed any of my previous blog postings. You may have heard me talk about posture once or twice? Supporting your boobs in a well fitted bra can contribute to good posture and is important for ladies. The purpose of a well-fitting bra is to offer support of the breasts for comfort, wellbeing and appearance. It is estimated that 80% of women in the UK are wearing the wrong size bra.
Sometimes problems that I deal with as an Osteopath, can be caused by, or contributed to by a poor fitting bra.

Problems that can result from an ill-fitting bra
  • Pain from direct pressure.
  • Postural problems related to poor support, this may then cause pain.
  • Alongside changes in posture, you may get a knock-on effect on the internal organs/structures. Then possibly changes in breathing, circulation and digestion. Heartburn, indigestion, IBS have all been documented.
  • Skin rashes from direct pressure.
A well fitted bra can contribute to better posture and wellbeing


How to fit your bra – what to look out for
Look at the band around your torso. It should fit securely. You should be able to slide 2 fingers underneath the band at the back, and one under the middle part at the front, “the gore”.
If the band at the back of the bra rides up, then it is too big. In this scenario, you would tend to compensate by tightening the shoulder straps. So other signs that this may be the case are indents on your shoulders from the straps. Or maybe pain in the shoulders.
The central part, “gore”, at the front of the bra should also sit on your body. You should be able to raise your arms up above your head and for this to remain the case. If this doesn’t happen it maybe the case that you should increase the cup size and reduce the band size.
Another sign of an ill-fitting bra is the “quad boob”. So this is when breast tissue bulges over the top of the bra. The bra needs to encapsulate all the breast tissue.
To measure:
Measure with a fabric tape measure underneath the bust where the band should be. The tape measure should be tight, ideally you should do this naked. Make sure the tape measure is parallel. This is where 90% of the support from your bra comes from.
Bra sizes come in even numbers, round it up if necessary. This is your band size.
Next measure around the fullness of the bust. Do this naked and bending forward. This is so all your breast tissue moves forward and can be incorporated in the measurement. The tape measure should be looser on this measurement.
Then take the difference between the two measurements to get the cup size. SEE CHART.
Difference between 0″    <1″    2″    3″    4″    5″    6″    7″    8″    9″    10″   11″    12″
2 measurements
Cup size                  AA    A      B     C     D    DD   E     F     FF   G     GG    H      HH
So this is a basic guide. There will be variations between brands and so your bra size may alter between styles and brands. Remember that the band size is proportionate to the cup size, so if you reduce the band you will likely have to go up in the cup and vice versa.
In conclusion, if your bra doesn’t fit snugly and encompass everything, and/or causes pain. Then it is best to take the advice offered here today.

Why worry about posture?

We all know we would should probably take more care of our posture. Do we know why we should do this? Here are my top reasons for the importance of maintaining a good posture:

1          Poor posture may not cause pain or problems immediately. However, if you hold your body awkwardly or out of balance for any length of time. You will inevitably be compressing, tightening, weakening and over-stretching areas. This might then be the slow build-up for potential issues in the future. Perhaps when you challenge your body, it won’t be able to cope and you may suffer an injury. HELP TO PREVENT INJURY.
2          For similar reasons to number 1. If you hold your body in a way that stresses it. It maybe that wear and tear of these compromised areas could occur more quickly, or to a greater degree. HELP TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE/SEVERITY OF WEAR AND TEAR/OSTEOARTHRITIS.
3          A poor posture may effect other body systems, not just the muscles and joints. A change in position could mean you don’t breathe as well as you might. This may effect the mechanics of respiration, your body’s ability to take in oxygen and expel CO2. A slumped posture might also have negative knock-on effects on circulation and digestion as you compress and restrict the diaphragm and abdomen. IMPROVE GENERAL WELLBEING.
4          Not only do we function and feel better as a whole with good posture, we also look better too. AESTHETIC IMPROVEMENTS.

            We’re all different, and quite possibly asymmetrical. We may have different predispositions for posture relating to disability, natural structure, occupation and activity. Some of these things can be worked on and improved. We can only do our best with what we have.
            Try and consider balance in your body, between left and right, and front and back. So think about how you position yourselves in an activity. The shoes you wear, how you carry a bag……..any daily activity you regularly undertake.
            To make improvements first identify risk factors in your day-to-day life. Then think how you may reduce them. Try and lead an active lifestyle, also giving yourself time for good quality rest, sleep and repair. Consider exercises that will help improve your mobility, and increase your strength for postural support.

            Osteopathy can help if there are any problems. Treatment will address the issue and advice can be given for long term prevention.

Hand and Wrist

There are many different issues that might cause pain in our hands and wrists.
Common problems in the hand tendons are a trigger finger or thumb. People who are insulin dependent diabetics can be prone to this, but anyone could get it. It is caused by thickening in the tendon which causes the tendon to catch and “trigger”. People who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis may develop nodules on their tendons and this might cause triggering too.
Tendons may be strained, or even cut and ruptured. A cut or fully ruptured tendon may need surgical repair.
Ganglion cysts commonly appear on the hands. These cysts contains synovial fluid that has leaked from a joint or tendon tunnel. They are harmless and may well go spontaneously of their own accord. Sometimes removal, or work to remove the fluid from the cyst might be necessary.
Fingers and wrists can suffer with arthritis. Most commonly osteoarthritis. This is the normal wear and tear changes that we are all likely to get to a greater or lesser extent. This could cause localised stiffness and pain in the joint effected.
If you have a problem in the hand and wrist area, it may effect the way you use your arm. So problems higher up the arm might occur due to excessive strain placed on them. Even into the shoulder, neck and upper back.
The above is a sample of some reasonably common hand and wrist issues. It is important if you have a problem that you get it assessed and diagnosed so the correct treatment/intervention can take place.
To try and keep your hands generally mobile. Consider doing some simple daily exercises.







Extend your arm out ahead of you with your palm facing up. Gently stretch your fingers back towards your body. Repeat on both sides holding for a count of 10 to 15.

Extend your arm ahead of with your palm facing down. Gently stretch your fingers back towards your body. Repeat on both sides holding for a count of 10 to 15.




Spring Into Spinal Care!

Our spine is important and a vital part of our body. It transports information from our brain to the rest of our body, and vice versa. It is involved in all activity and it has to put up with a great deal – sitting for long periods at a desk at work/home, long car journeys, carrying bags and schoolbags, strain through sporting activities, lifting and carrying, and strain accumulated through poor positioning and posture. From a functional and comfort perspective, we all want to remain active and be able to carry out our lives as we wish to, free from pain. 

Osteopathic treatment can help. By looking at your own individual body position and possible issues. An Osteopath can diagnose a problem, or highlight areas of concern that may need to be addressed to avoid a problem. So Osteopaths can be consulted if you are in pain, or even as a check-up if you’re not in pain. In both instances, you can receive the physical treatment and also receive advice on how best to maintain good spinal health for you.

Some general tips:

  • A rucksack is the best bag to carry to try and avoid back problems. It should be carried over both shoulders, and adjusted so the bag sits close to the back.
  • De-clutter bags so you’re not carrying around unnecessary items.
  • We all need to stay as active as possible. Take regular exercise to help general fitness and improve your mobility.
  • Wear a decent pair of shoes that will be comfortable, supportive and appropriate for the sport, job or task you’re undertaking.
  • Stay mobile generally. If you find you’re at the computer, or TV, on a car journey or just sitting around. try and get up every 40 minutes to avoid getting too stiff.
  • Check your computer set-up. This can make an enormous difference.

It’s February! How are the New Year resolutions?

How to get the most out of your New Year’s resolution 
We all tend to over indulge a little at Christmas and doing a little more exercise is a common New Year’s resolution. But how do you get the most out of your gym routine and how much exercise should you do to stay healthy?
There is no denying that exercise is good for you. We know that those who perform a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis are considerably less likely to suffer from diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart attack or experience insomnia. Exercise helps older people maintain their independence and is one of the most effective methods of weight management, a growing problem in western societies. It is also very important for our psychological health, as it stimulates the release of endorphins, natural pain killing chemicals that can also improve our mood.
However, some people become a little disenchanted with the exercise if it doesn’t have the desired effect.

“Most of the time, it’s because people are not clear on the type of exercises that are most likely to achieve their goals” says, local osteopath Claire Webster. “Different types of exercise will be more appropriate, depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish.”
“As a general rule”, she continues “if you are trying to build larger muscles, the most effective method is to use a weight which you can manage to lift 8-10 times before the muscles fatigue, in order to get the desired effect. If you are looking for stronger, leaner muscles, a weight programme based upon 20 repetitions would be more appropriate.”
If you are trying to lose weight, cardiovascular exercise (anything that gets your heart rate up such as running, swimming, dancing or football) is the way to go. In order to be most effective, this should be performed at 60 – 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is a lot less strenuous than you might think (Subtracting your age from 220 will give you your advised maximum heart rate. You can buy a heart rate monitors from most good sports shops or online to monitor this).
It’s also important not to train every day. The body needs time to respond to the strain of the training, and it’s during the recovery period that the gain takes place.”
But going to the gym for two weeks before you go on your summer holidays to shed a few pounds is likely to end in frustration. “It takes 4-6 weeks to start noticing the health benefits of excercise,” Claire Webster advises. “Doing something you enjoy makes it more likely that you will persist, which is important if you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste.”

But how much exercise do you need to do to be healthy? If you are aged between 19 and 64, research suggests that you perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise each week plus muscle strengthening exercises on at least two separate days of that week. The good news is that this exercises does not need to be all in one go, and activities such as walking briskly to work (if your journey is more than 10 minutes) counts as part of the total.
If you want to know more about what would class as moderate or vigorous exercises, or if you are outside of this age group, visit the NHS choices website at:
Claire Webster is a member of the Institute of Osteopathy and can be found at The Rivermead Osteopaths, Chelmsford. She can be contacted at: Tel 01245 280636 or 07771 591298.

Keeping your spine mobile

Last month I talked about spinal joints. This month I want to show and describe a few great ways to try and keep your spine mobile.

I recently read a caption. “Have you ever heard of a spine transplant? Neither have we. Take care of the one you have.” I wholeheartedly agree! Osteopathy can help solve and manage spinal issues. The ideal would be to try and practice staying mobile regularly, to help yourself as much as possible too.

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.

Spine Curl Exercise

This is a great way to work through stiffness in the lower back and coming up to shoulder blade level.

Start laid down on your back with your knees bent. To begin the move tuck your pelvis under so that your lower back flattens to the floor. Then think about raising your spine off the floor one vertebra/spinal segment at a time. Come up to shoulder blade level to avoid over-straining your neck in this position.

From the initial tucking of the pelvis, to raising up into your upper back, Really try to focus on moving one vertebra at a time to get maximum benefit from this. There may be sections of your spine that are very stiff, and this will be more difficult. Keep practicing to gain more mobility. Or/and seek some treatment to help if you feel its necessary.

Reverse this process to come back to the start position. Replacing your vertebra to the floor one at a time.

Repeat gently 5-6 times.

Upper Back Rotation With shoulder “Opening”

Lay on your side. For an ideal start position, make sure your hips and shoulders are stacked on top of one another. So you are laid in a balanced position. To try and allow the movement to focus through your upper back and shoulder, you will need to try and fix your hips in this position whilst performing this exercise.

Start with your arms out straight ahead of you on top of one another. They should be at shoulder height and around 90 degrees to your body. 

Raise the top arm and bring it as far back as you can. This will encourage a rotation in your upper back and a stretch to the front of your shoulder. Allow your neck to rotate with this movement, but keep the hips still. Return to normal. Repeat this exercise, with care and control 3-5 times on each side.

(This exercise is demonstrated below by a Pilates professional. Stewart Heath. Stewart owns Bodysense in Hatfield Peverel. They provide a wide range of Pilates tuition.)

Upper Back Extension

The natural shape of the upper back means that it is often held in a slightly rounded position. It is an area that we may struggle with posturally if we get into slouching habits. It naturally doesn’t move so well, as it is surrounded by rib cage too.

This exercise is a very gentle way to counteract this rounded position. You will need to really think about your spinal movement as you perform this, to get the sense of the movement in the right area.

Start in a knelt position, body resting forwards, with arms ahead of you, and the forearms resting flat on the floor.

Raise your body up. Allowing your forearms to leave the floor. Try and keep your neck as straight and in line with the rest of your spine as you can. You want to try and feel the slight arching movement between your shoulder blades/mid upper back. Return to the start position and repeat 5 times.

These exercises demonstrate ways to mobilise your spine. They can also be performed whilst considering your core muscles, and thinking about effective breathing. If you wish to pursue this, and it would be advised. Seeking out a good Pilates instructor is the way to learn all the exercises and techniques properly.


Spinal Joints
The spine is formed of 33 vertebrae. The spine is divided into regions – the neck, upper back, lower back, sacrum and coccyx. All these regions show differences in anatomy and function, but there are similarities throughout.

Each vertebra (bony segment of the spine) articulates with the segment above and below. These areas of articulation are the spinal joints. These joints allow mobility through the spinal column. Some areas of the spine will move better in different directions. The joints form part of a system that allows us to bend forwards, bend backwards, bend or twist from side-to-side. Or combinations of these.
Most of the spinal joints are covered in cartilage, and form a synovial joint. The same type of joint as the knee.
Spinal joints can be injured. They can become very stiff or “locked”. They can become inflamed and painful. They are often the cause of what is commonly referred to as a “cricked neck”. This could happen anywhere in the spine.
Osteopaths are very well trained in anatomy and physiology. So when examining a patient it is possible to identify what area is causing the patient the problem. Examining the area hands-on, Osteopaths are able to feel whether a spinal joint is mobile, and also to assess the quality of the movement.
Osteopaths don’t just treat spinal joints. So this examination would take into account other tissues. Other symptoms experienced alongside such an issue may require further assessment.
If a joint is found to be the cause of the problem, then an Osteopath can work to improve the mobility. There are many different ways to encourage this mobility, it may be done in a repetitive way, or it may be possible to gap the joint quickly to encourage movement. It will very often be the case that other tissues would need to be worked on alongside this work on the joints. So specific soft-tissue massage techniques would more than likely be incorporated into the treatment.
Your Osteopath would also provide additional advice on helping to settle the area, and perhaps some exercises and advice to manage and/or avoid the problem in the long-term.

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