Laser Therapy and Pain Relief

Laser therapy is beneficial for pain relief and to help the body heal itself. Beyond examination to assess its suitability, laser may be useful and used in isolation or alongside osteopathic treatment

It is the different wavelengths of light which can allow me to focus on different body structures in the treatment. It works at a cellular level and its effects are cumulative as a course of treatment progreses. It works on healing and repair at the skin and it also works upon nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone.

Laser therapy offers pain relief and it is this aspect I wanted to think about a little bit more in this newsletter. The types of pain that laser helps are:

  • Nociceptive pain. This is the pain that is caused by damage to a body tissue. For example an ankle sprain.
  • Neuropathic pain. This is pain that can occur if your nervous system is damaged or not working correctly.

When receiving laser therapy the laser device is in contact directly with the skin. This is where the laser starts to work on the nerve endings at the edges of the body. The laser works on the cells within these nerves to inhibit the passage of information up to the central nervous system. It is in this way that the laser helps with neuropathic pain.

The laser also works to encourage circulation, reducing swelling and inflammation and over time improving tissue healing, all at a cellular level. The removal of inflammation and swelling of a body tissue is another way that you can work on the nerves, reducing the chemical irritation of a nerve locally.

I wanted to tell you about a lovely lady that I have used the laser treatment with recently who has found it beneficial. She has been receiving osteopathic treatment with me for some years. Prior to her visiting me she had undergone lower back surgery in relation to back pain and a partial foot drop in one leg. A foot drop occurs when the nerves that lift the foot are damaged or compressed. Not allowing the foot to be lifted adequately, or sometimes not at all. In this lady’s case the spinal surgery she had received did offer her benefits but she has ongoing problems with lower back pain, a partial foot drop and the changes in sensation and muscle spasms at the leg.

She was enthusiastic to try the laser therapy when it was available at the clinic. What we have found is that it has not completely got rid of her symptoms, but has actually made them more liveable with. The difference she told me at her most recent session is that the laser therapy has improved the sensation and reduced the muscle spasms that she experiences in her foot. She has also found it reduced her lower back pain and generally means she gets a better night’s sleep.

So sometimes the laser seems a little bit like magic, people have sometimes described it as a magic wand! But it would be wrong of me to pretend that it’s a magic cure. However it has made a significant difference in most of the people that have come in for the treatment so far.

In a wide variety of cases people have gained complete relief through laser therapy treatment. For others it has made a meaningful change which has improved their quality of life.

If you think laser therapy might be of interest to you. Please get in touch for more information.

Upper Crossed Pattern Syndrome

This is a description of a specific posture and its common.

The Upper Crossed Pattern in relation to posture is; rounded shoulders, a chin that pokes forward and a slumped body position. We have likely seen this in others, or maybe even noted it in ourselves.

If this posture is allowed to continue then a combination of both muscle tightness and muscle weakness will develop. In this situation pain is often reported in one, or a combination of – the neck, shoulders, chest, upper back, and sometimes this position can create headaches.

To address this situation an assessment of position, mobility and muscle testing will be needed in order to correctly address the changes in muscle patterning.

Hands-on osteopathic treatment can help create change in the tissues and improve joint mobility. Then a number of progressive exercises can be followed in order to gain better balance and improved function, with a reduction in or even complete relief of pain. This depends on how advanced the changes are. Advice on workstations, furniture, habits…may also need to be addressed in order to manage an improved body position.

If you recognise this in yourself or others, call for help. Action sooner than later is necessary for long term freedom from restriction and pain.

Osteoporosis – Know About Bone Health

As the weather becomes more consistently Spring-like, we now may be more inclined to get outside. This should be positive for the health of our bones.

  • The sunlight triggers a reaction in our skin producing vitamin D. Good news as this helps us use calcium which is necessary for strong bones.
  • If we become more active, the pressure through our bones will increase their strength.

A loss in bone density is normal as we age. Some illnesses and medications may also cause problems with bone density. Sometimes the losses are greater causing conditions called osteopenia or osteoporosis. These put you at a greater risk of a fracture. These conditions don’t hurt. They are often not discovered until someone unfortunately experiences a fracture. Other consequences of these problems can be changes to body position and the discomfort and disability that may bring alongside this.

These changes affect both men and women. In ladies they are often more prevalent due to the sharp shift in hormones around the menopause.

It is never too late to be looking after your bones and we should encourage the younger people in our lives to take good care of themselves in order they effectively build a “bone bank”. So they are in good place before these natural changes occur.

Care needs to be taken to exercise regularly. To create controlled stress into our limbs and spine to allow the bones to remodel. There is something that everyone can do, but depending on your situation you may need guidance as to what is most appropriate for you regarding activity and exercise.

We should also maintain a healthy diet. Balanced and varied containing those vitamins and minerals required for ideal bone health. Sometimes supplements might be appropriate.

If you receive a diagnosis of osteoporosis there may be prescription medication you need to take to assist with this further.

I am very happy to complete a FRAX questionnaire on your behalf. This assesses your susceptibility to these kind of fractures. This would be most appropriate for ladies over 65 and gentleman over 75 years of age.

When you’re next in the clinic, let me know if you would like me to do this for you. If needed, I can also help advise you on the care you should ideally take for good bone health.

In the meantime take care, look after yourselves and stay well.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can be taken as a stand-alone treatment or combined with osteopathy. From the latter part of January 2022 Rivermead Osteopaths are trialling a laser therapy machine in the clinic. If this trial proves successful we will install laser therapy treatment as a permanent option.
– Laser therapy might help you become more comfortable and go from dismayed to happy!

Laser therapy works at a cellular level. It promotes changes that increase energy in the cell, this has the effect of speeding up healing and reducing inflammation. It also works to reduce pain by reducing the stimulation of the nerves at the area.

The general  benefits of laser therapy are:
  • It is non-invasive.
  • Painless to receive.
  • It is time efficient, often just 3-10 minutes.
  • Benefits are sometimes felt within minutes.
The problems laser therapy can be helpful in treating are:
Muscle spasm and back pain
Arthritis
Sprains and strains
Back pain
Hip pain
Knee pain
Sciatica
Bursitis
Tendonitis
Haematoma and oedema
Sports injuries

Reasons you might choose to see me!

  • You have an injury or a pain. Osteopathy addresses musculoskeletal problems from head to toe. Problems relating to muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Not just the spine, also the peripheral joints and associated tissues. The problems we address are wide-ranging. From sciatica to sports injuries, neck-related headaches and postural issues, knee injuries and problems from stress and tension… A typical course of treatment is around 4 to 6 sessions. Sometimes slightly more or less. Everyone is different and as such assessed and treated as an individual.
  • Osteopathy isn’t only the hands-on manual therapy treatment. There is very often additional advice I can give you to benefit your recovery and general health. This includes advice on pain relief, posture, diet, sleep, exercise, relaxation…

  • Often people like to see an Osteopath on an “MOT-type” basis. We can find we look after our cars better than ourselves – terrible! Osteopathic treatment can form part of a management strategy in looking after your musculoskeletal self and regularly assisting general improvements in well-being. View yourself as a finely-tuned sports car.

  • I am also a certified Pilates instructor. I work with people on a one-to-one basis. Either this is used as a means to assist rehabilitation of a specific injury. Or, can again be part of a way you choose to care for yourself on an ongoing basis. I provide the equipment and the expertise.These sessions are bespoke to your own abilities and needs. 

Passion for Pilates – Practice, Practice, Practice!

Someone observed yesterday that it’s called Pilates practice because that’s exactly what it takes, that couldn’t be more accurate. It’s never been called Pilates perfect. It can be uncomfortable sometimes as you develop your skills. Areas of your body will try and work harder for you whilst you gain more mobility and strength. This should always be “comfortably uncomfortable”. You should never be in pain, please stop if that’s ever the case.

When you’re working with me I can identify some of these issues and give you modifications to help you move forward. Whilst you’re working at home, unless you did wish to train online, this isn’t possible. You may need to make a movement smaller, bending the knees can often help in some exercises, or perhaps find a prop – legs up on a chair or Swiss ball for instance.

The following are a few common issues that could crop up. So take a look and see if any of this could be of help to you:

Struggling to sit up straight. One option is to bend your knees or adopt froggy legs! This may make it more comfortable. Or you could sit on a yoga block or a couple of hardback books.

Froggy legs!

Neck strain. This is common with abdominal exercises ( eg. your abdo and oblique prep exercises) whilst you’re building up the strength in these muscles. So you could try placing a towel longitudinally underneath your body. Hold on to the two upper corners of the towel and allow this to act like a hammock for your head – offering support. A similar support can be gained from the Pilates Circle if you have one.

Not everybody is happy laying flat on their back, sometimes if someone has a very rounded upper back, or a deeper curve in their neck this can be uncomfortable. So use a small pillow support or folded up towel, or a small Pilates ball. Just to note, that the bridge exercise is not generally performed with any head support, as this would place too much strain on your neck as you come up into full bridge.

Struggling to get up from the floor. Try rolling onto your side and using your arms to push yourself up to sitting, then kneeling before coming up to standing. This is great back care regardless of any struggles you do or don’t have and a habit I would advise you to try and adopt. Even having a chair nearby before you start practising might be useful, it may support you on your journey back up to standing.

You feel tight in your hips and your lower back. If this is the case when you’re lying on your back or on your side then just bend your knees and this should help with the positioning and comfort in your lower back and spine. Remember to maintain your neutral spine position whilst exercising.

Uncomfortable pressure on the wrists. It’s really great to do some work weight bearing through your wrists, it helps to keep them strong. If you struggle you might try rolling up the edge of your mat, or use a towel and create a wedge for your palms to rest on. Or alternatively use your fists to lean on, or simply transfer your weight down onto your forearms. If you are exercising laying on your side, extend your outstretched arm underneath your head, as opposed to resting a hand under the head to reduce wrist strain.

Lower back discomfort whilst laying on your front. Use a small cushion or rolled up towel underneath the abdomen to prevent lower back strain in this position.

Stick with your practice, you will gradually  feel stronger and more flexible, this will reduce the strain you feel in your body. You may find some of these modifications unnecessary with time and you might want to revisit an original exercise in the future. Any problems don’t be afraid to get in touch.

Lockdown Limitation

Out of your normal routine and feeling restricted. Maybe you’re needing to work from home. More time spent at the computer, and ongoing online meetings. You find yourself screaming at the screen because technology just isn’t playing the game! Your normal daily movement is possibly limited, and with the best will in the world. Our posture can slip stuck at a computer for hours.

Maybe staying in has reduced your motivation, and you find yourself on the sofa for longer periods. Or not sure how to fill the new amount of free-time.

Maybe the lockdown has affected you financially. You’re worried about how long this could all last. Possibly feeling tense and anxious.

You maybe worried about keeping friends and family safe. Or perhaps spending 24/7 with your family is driving you around the bend!!

Any of these factors, or a combination of, could quite understandably make you feel stiff and uncomfortable. We can’t control the external factors working upon our current daily existence, and we don’t know how long this is for. We can however do something practical, and relatively simple to try and look after ourselves.

So the following exercises give you a short routine to limit restriction and try and relax for a moment. Remember, nothing should be painful. So stop if you have a problem.

Unfortunately I can’t help you in the usual way, but am available for online consultations should you have any more pressing issues.

 

Stand/sit tall. Keep your gaze level. Look over each shoulder 5 times.
Stand/sit tall. Keep your gaze forward and bring your ear towards the shoulder. 5 times each side.

Sitting on a chair. Place your right hand to the back of the seat, left hand onto your right knee. Keep the gaze level and twist to look behind you. Hold for 5 relaxed breaths. Reverse the position to repeat on the other side.

Standing or sitting. Raise your arms to shoulder level. Gently push your hands backwards to feel a stretch across your chest. Be careful not to arch your back.

Do this with arms up or down. Bend to one side. If your arm is raised. Then add a little more upward energy with the opposite hand to increase the stretch to the side. Hold for 5 relaxed breaths, then repeat on the other side.

To stretch the shoulder blade area. Bring one arm across the chest. Add pressure above the elbow with the opposite arm. Repeat on the other side.

This could be a chair or a low step – your choice. Place a heel onto whatever you’re using. Hinge at the hips to lean forwards and feel a stretch at the back of the leg. Repeat on the other side.

Hold onto something for support. Swing your leg back and fourth 5 times. Try and make sure your back remains still. This will probably make the moment smaller, but will be purer at the hip joint. Repeat on the other side.

Finally chill-out for as long as you can. Lay down, or practice sat down. Think about breathing deeply into your lower ribs and diaphragm muscle in a relaxed way. Placing a hand on the tummy area will give you a better sense this. If you are breathing into this area, you will feel this hand rise with the in-breath.

 

Pilates 1:1 Rehabilitation

An announcement! I have been training away in the background so that I can add to my care of you in the clinic. I have been training in Pilates rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, in the time of COVID 19, as it requires closer contact, I don’t feel its appropriate to start this now. So when we get back to normal, this could now form part of your care at Rivermead Osteopaths.

However, in the meantime, and to avoid getting stiff in isolation. Take a look at this excellent selection of online Pilates classes. Created by the people I have trained under. Some very knowledgeable manual therapists.

Follow this link to take a look.
https://online.appihealthgroup.com/ref/29/?campaign=Don’tLetSelfIsolationMakeYouStiff

 

A couple of spinal mobility exercises

If you experience problems, check with your health practitioner as to whether these exercises are appropriate for you. Do not continue with them if you feel any pain whilst performing the exercise.

Standing Side-bending Articulation and Stretch

Standing up tall. Slide your arm down to the side of one leg, try and keep the shoulders and pelvis facing forwards. Repeat 5-10 times on each side. For an extra stretch, raise the arm up to be alongside your ear. Use the opposite arm to support and increase the stretch. Hold this for three relaxed breaths into the lower ribcage, and then repeat on the other side.

 

 

 

Spine curl

Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet and knees in-line with your hips. Scoop/rotate your pelvis backwards so your lower back flattens into the floor. Then try and peel your vertebrae up off the floor one at a time until you get to shoulder blade height, your body in a diagonal line (be sure you are not placing pressure onto your neck). Then reverse the process, by returning each vertebrae to the floor one at a time. Until you return to your start position. Repeat 5 times. Try and avoid holding your breath through the exercise.

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The Importance of Breathing?

If we’re lucky we don’t need to think about it. Its automatic and hopefully unproblematic. So the importance of breathing:

  • It means we’re still alive! It may need to work in different ways for different people due to injury or illness.
  • How we breathe has an effect on the mechanical parts of our body. Directly related to the process are – ribs, and associated muscles, the spine and diaphragm muscle. If we breathe “well” then hopefully these areas will work effectively and without discomfort. Common issues with breathing mechanics can occur with respiratory disease, ongoing stress and problems that effect our spinal position, including general poor posture.
  • There are many important structures that pass through the diaphragm muscle, notably the oesophagus (food pipe) and major blood vessels. Poor use of the diaphragm muscle can also have a knock-on effect on digestion and circulation due to these relationships.

Ideally, on taking a breath in you want to use the full capacity of your lungs. Really feel the lower rib cage and diaphragm expand. Shallow breathers tend to breathe far more through their shoulders and upper ribcage.

If you experience tension across the shoulders and in the neck, it can sometimes relate to alterations in breathing mechanics. Also, in other areas of the spine in relation to the rib and diaphragm muscle connections. Sometimes mechanical pain issues need to be considered more holistically, including breathing changes alongside other mechanical aspects. People who are in a lot of pain breathe differently. Other factors might include underlying illness, mental wellbeing and lifestyle factors.

There is much talk about meditation these days in relation to the benefits that can be gained mechanically, also for relaxation, and in the ways it can help people manage persistent pain. The focus on breathing in this practice may be enormously useful.

Whether you struggle or not, taking time for yourself to chill-out and stop is beneficial for  general wellbeing. There is no need to over-think it, just note what you’re up to, and if necessary, gently try and implement some changes. Don’t panic! We all need to do what feels right for us, but if you fancy giving it a go. The following is a simple breathing meditation you might wish to try.

Lay on your back or sit in a position you feel comfortable, try and keep your spine straight. 

Close your eyes if you feel comfortable to do so. Soften your gaze if not. Focus your attention on your belly. Feel your belly rise or expand on the in-breath. Then fall and recede on the out-breath.

Focus on the sensations in your body as you breathe. It may be the physical action of breathing as described, or the air travelling in and out. Or any other sensations that work or are noticeable to you.

Sometimes placing a hand over your belly/lower ribcage is a nice way to provide a better sense of the movement.

Spend as long as you want/can focusing in this way. Focusing on the in and out breath in the way that works for you. Trying to note your own pattern of breathing, and trying to breathe deeply into the diaphragm and lower ribcage, gently and without force.

It is inevitable that your mind will wander. When you recognise it has, accept it, and take yourself back to focusing on your breath.

 

 

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