Look out for your feet

Feet take the weight of our whole body, so over time it’s not hard to imagine how problems can crop up. Problems with feet can easily turn into problems elsewhere – ankle, knee, hip and spine problems can result from a foot injury, altered gait or weight bearing position.

Despite us all recognising the obvious strain our feet go through, it’s often the case we ignore them, or don’t think enough about looking after them. Statistics from the Royal College of Podiatry found 9 out of 10 people suffer with some sort of foot problem, with 1 in 5 reporting foot pain often or constantly.

As an osteopath I can help with foot pain, when it’s the result of a mechanical problem. People who suffer with their mobility, poor eyesight, or conditions such as diabetes that can result in poor foot health, should consider having their feet regularly checked and cared for by a podiatrist/chiropodist.

Try this exercise. It helps keep the joint mobile that can cause a problem with bunions, a common issue that can be painful and cause problems fitting into shoes. Practice it on both feet doing 10 repetitions each day. Stop if it causes pain, but it might take a little while to grasp it, especially if your feet are stiff. CLICK ON BUNION EXERCISE TO VIEW!

Bunion Exercise

The following are some general footcare tips:


  • Wash your feet daily in warm soapy water.


  • Dry your feet well, especially between your toes. This is where infections may develop.


  • Change your socks often to avoid foot odour.


  • If you get dry feet moisturise them. You can also use a foot file or pumice stone to remove dry skin. Note that sometimes a dry, harder area is evidence of a change in the way you bear weight through the foot. Think about seeing someone like myself if you have had an injury, or problems with pain.


  • Cut your toenails carefully. Cut straight across, never at angles to avoid in-growing toenails.


  • Be careful with your footwear. If you need to wear high heels at work or to go out. Travel to and from the office or party in sensible shoes and change in and out of them.


  • Sensible shoes should support your foot, fit well and be comfortable. Having a small broad-based heel, perhaps up to 3/4″ is better than having a completely flat heel.


  • Try and avoid wearing flip-flops for too long a period of time. They offer no support and can result in pain.




Have a happy and healthy festive season and beyond!


I’m definitely an advocate for doing the best you can to look after yourself, as I’m sure most people are. I’m by no means perfect, but try to exercise wisely, eat well and stay hydrated. All things I would recommend my patients to try and do too. We’re all different, what works for one, may not be the best course of action for another.

I’ve just read an article suggesting we ditch the new years resolutions of more exercise and perfect diets. The article discusses that this kind of approach places way too much pressure on us, and is destined for failure. Potentially making us feel a bit fedup with ourselves and as a result giving up the new year’s resolutions.

The article discusses the need to take a consistent approach, to adopt “a long term better approach to health”. This way we can start to combat the obesity issues the country is increasingly suffering, and the many problems that can run alongside them – diabetes, cardiovascular illness, musculoskeletal problems…

So clearly a great diet and regular exercise is the ideal, but maybe we should cut ourselves some slack. Try and do the best you can, for as much time as you can. If you don’t see changes you probably aren’t doing enough. You may need to seek advice from a professional – personal trainer, nutritional therapist, doctor or osteopath!

As an osteopath I can help you with your body mechanics, the musculoskeletal bits. So if you’re finding you have any niggling issues, may be problems that stop you being as physically active as you would like to be. I might be able to help.

I don’t just deal with backs! Although spinal pain is very common. I also look at problems relating to muscles and joints all over the body, and I take a holistic approach to this wherever your pain is. So it might be we need to look at another area of you, as well as the bit that hurts, to really address a problem fully.

I can help you get on top of the problem with osteopathic treatment, but also offer advice on exercise, and general lifestyle. Small changes can make a lot difference. We try and investigate what the root cause of the problem is. Often something seemingly trivial, but you do it a lot, can be an issue. Problems around work posture, poorly fitting bras, poor footwear, and many more everyday matters are very common.



So I hope you all have a fantastic festive season, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2017. Take a sensible approach to looking after yourself and call me if you think I may be able to help. 

Rivermead Osteopaths Tel: 01245 280636

Get started now for stronger bones


Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones more brittle and prone to fracture. Although osteoporosis can effect men and younger people, post-menopausal women are most at risk. One of the best ways to help maintain healthy bones is to exercise regularly – which encourages the bones to absorb calcium and other mineral salts that keep bones strong.

Weight bearing exercises and weight resisted exercises are best for strengthening bones and muscles, and as well as helping to keep bones in good health, may also reduce the likelihood of falls as you age. Weight bearing exercises are those where your body is supporting its own weight, such as walking or housework or carrying groceries. Weight resisted exercise involves pushing or pulling against an additional weight, like a dumbbell or barbell or resistance equipment in a gym.



The younger you start, the better.

Anyone can benefit from weight training, but it has been demonstrated that younger women who trained using weights have stronger bones later in life. This essentially means that you can bank bone when you’re younger to help prevent fractures later in life – a kind of insurance scheme for your body. A life time of active living not only protects your bones but also keeps your heart healthy and may protect you from other diseases such as cancer and type two diabetes.

But starting at any age will help.

Everyone can benefit from increasing their activity levels. Studies have shown that people who have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis can improve their bone health significantly through weight bearing exercising, the key is getting good advice on how to move well and how to self-manage.

Some more benefits.

Strong muscles burn more calories, so if you need to control your bodyweight, lifting weights can help. It also helps with balance and can help you to regulate your sleep patterns.


‘I don’t want to look muscled’

It takes women a lot of heavy weightlifting, and sometimes the use of controlled substances like steroids and hormones, to achieve the physique of the heavily muscled power lifter. Women don’t normally have enough testosterone in their bodies to develop bulging muscles, but can, with regular, moderate training achieve lean, toned and strong muscles.

‘I hate gyms’

No problem. There are plenty of other exercises you can do that don’t involve a visit to the gym. Dancing, yoga, tennis, Pilates, walking, running, gardening and even housework count – all you are aiming to do is increase your heart rate and make yourself feel a little warmer. You can do it in several short blocks of 15 minute or more but aim for at least a total of 150 minutes per week, over at least 5 days per week for the best results. If you’re unused to exercise, start slowly and build up to this target.

‘I don’t know where to start’

This is where your friendly local osteopath can help. They can screen you for any health concerns that might affect your ability to exercise, help to resolve any injuries or pain that might be holding you back, and advise you on what exercises might suit your goals best. Many can teach you how to exercise correctly, avoiding injuries and how to gradually build up as your ability and fitness levels improve.

01245 280636

This could save you money on Osteopath bills!

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

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.

  • 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.



01245 280636

Don’t give yourself a reason to whine about your spine!

Our spine is important and a vital part of our body. It transports information from our brain to the rest of the 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/school, long car journeys, carrying bags, strain through sporting activities, lifting and carrying, and restriction accumulated through poor positioning and posture. I’m sure we all aspire to remain active, to be able to carry out our lives as we wish to, and to stay free from pain. 

Some spinal problems are the result of poor care. The problem can build up slowly and isn’t always noticeable initially. It may follow months or years of bad habits. This is the stuff we can do something about! Mechanical problems in the spine can relate to the joints, discs, muscles, ligaments and nerves.



Here are some general considerations that could genuinely make a difference to you and your family, if you’re prepared to make a few changes:

  • 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, make sure your chair and desk are adjusted so that they work for you.

If you experience a problem. Osteopathy can help get you moving, it also helps relieve pain and discomfort. Call Claire today if you’re having a problem.



Probably the easiest exercise in the world?!

Don’t let the simplicity of this exercise underplay it’s effectiveness. Laying in the semi-supine position, see the picture below, has many benefits. Generally it can help improve posture, reduce tension and aid relaxation. Ideally you should aim to be in this position for 15 to 20 minutes a day, however a few minutes could be beneficial.

Lay on the floor, somewhere you feel comfortable. Either with a pillow, or a book under your head. You should support your head on something which allows your neck to lay in a straight line with the rest of your spine. Lay down with the head supported and your knees bent, try and have your knees about hip width apart.

When its time to get up. Bring your knees together, and allow both knees to drop to one side and then the other. Do this a few times to each side to gently mobilise your spine. Then finally drop your knees to one side, so that you roll onto your side, and then push yourself up to sitting from this position. Take it steady as you get up to standing again.

  • It can help maintain good alignment in your spine.
  • Good alignment helps to maintain good mobility.
  • Laying in this position allows the discs to “plump up”. So where they get squashed in an upright position. This exercise allows fluid to re-enter the disc, and nourish it.
  • It gives you time to yourself to switch off and relax.
  • It gives you an opportunity to think about your breathing, trying to adopt full, regular and relaxed breathing.



Happy Muscles and Joints

The Institute of Osteopathy - Member

Its important to look after our body’s muscles and joints to stay free of pain and remain mobile. Also if we take proper care, hopefully we will hold our bodies in a good position. This means our internal workings should run better too!


Here are some points for consideration:


  • Maintain your body’s mobility by staying active. Raising your heart rate is necessary for cardiovascular health. Other sports and activities can help with mobility and strength. Find something you enjoy and then hopefully will commit to. 
  • Try and maintain a good posture. Exercise can help with this. Do your own risk assessment of your daily activities – workstation, car, sofas, beds, hobbies… Is there something that might be improved to take the strain away from your body?
  • Drink plenty, our body is made up of 60-78% water (depending on age and sex). We need it to function well.
  • Some supplements are believed to help with joint health, eg. capsaicin, ginger, glucosamine, chondroitin. Follow this link for a guide on their usefulness. http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/complementary-and-alternative-medicines/cam-report/complementary-medicines-for-osteoarthritis.aspx
  • We often race around and don’t let ourselves rest. Its important to give your mind and body time to repair. Try and find regular times in your week to do this whether it be reading, meditation, socialising, cinema…Whatever calms you down.
  • If you have a pain issue. Consider getting the opinion of an Osteopath. This will help relieve the issue, and you will be advised on what you need to do help yourself. Possibly all of the above?! The advice will be tailor-made to you.




Vroom vroom!!



  • Remove wallets, purses or any other items from your back pocket that might push you into an awkward position.
  • To get in the car. Sit on the seat and then swing your legs in.
  • To get out. Swing your legs out of the car, and then stand up.
  • If you plan to start lifting items out of your boot. Especially if it has been a longer drive. Wait a few minutes after getting out the car before you start lifting.





  •  SEAT HEIGHT. The seat needs to be at a height where you can clearly view the road. Ideally your knees should be the same level, or just below your hips. Sitting on a cushion or wedge might help. Don’t go so high that you’re hitting your head, or having to crane your neck. You need to a) be able to reach the pedals, b) have enough head-room not to collide with anything in the car, c) feel comfortable to hold the steering wheel and the gearstick.
  • ADJUST THE SEAT IN ITS FORWARD-BACKWARD POSITION. Sit so you can depress the pedals fully and you’re comfortable. You shouldn’t be twisting, slumping or leaning to use the pedals.
  • LOOK AT THE SEAT BACK. Tilt the seat back to 100/110 degrees. Your bottom and back should as far back into the seat as possible.
  • HEAD REST.This is for support whilst driving, but also for protection if you have an accident. The middle of the back of your head should be on the rest. Try and make sure your head rests above your shoulders, so your head is neither pushed forward nor allowed to drop backwards.
  • LOWER BACK SUPPORT. You’re hopefully sitting right back into the seat. So make sure in this position there is no gap between the seat and the small of your lower back. This not only supports the lower back, but will hold your upper back, neck and shoulders in a good position too. Many cars have adjustable support, but adding a support or cushion may be necessary.
  • TILT SEAT BASE. Ideally your knees should be level with or just below your hips. Make sure there is even pressure across your thighs, and the seat isn’t pressing into the back of your knees.
  • STEERING WHEEL. To keep your shoulders relaxed whilst driving, have the steering wheel down and towards you. So as low as possible without interfering with your knees, and make sure you can see the dashboard. Use the telescopic function on the steering wheel to bring it closer if necessary. Holding the wheel in the 9 and 3 o’clock position should help keep your shoulders more relaxed.


Did you love your spine, this Valentines?


Here are my top 3 spinal mobility exercises to try. Hopefully helping you stay flexible, pain and stiffness free.

These exercises shouldn’t cause any pain. If you do 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 the person who is caring for you, to check the exercises are appropriate for you at the moment.




Start this exercise laying on your back on the floor with your knees bent. First tuck the pelvis under, in this position this is effectively pushing the small of your back into the floor. From here think about raising your spine off the floor one vertebra at a time. Go up to shoulder blade level, then return by replacing one vertebra at a time back to the floor. Until you return to the start position. Repeat 5 times in total.



Webster 076

Start this exercise laying on your back with your knees bent. Try and keep your shoulder blades on the floor throughout this exercise. Keep your knees and ankles “glued” together and allow your knees to drop down to one side. Go as far as you can with your shoulder blades in contact with the floor, and slowly return and drop both knees to the other side. Then return and repeat 5 times on each side.

If you find this easy (and you’re sure you’re doing it properly). Raise your legs up so your knees are bent at 90 degrees and thighs are parallel with the floor. Repeat the exercise as described above. You should feel your core muscles working harder.




As long as your knees feel comfortable, rest on your knees with your head and forearms ahead of you on the floor. The object of the exercise to to put an arching movement through your upper back. Raise yourself up gently to create this movement. Your neck and lower back should remain straight. Lower back to the start position, and repeat 5 times in total.

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.

Webster 078


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.

Webster 076


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.



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.

Webster 038


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.



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.