STRETCHING. LETS MAKE SEPTEMBER FLEXIBLE!

Stretching is an important part of keeping our nerves and muscles long and healthy.

Regular stretching can also be used as part of a programme of regular care to help maintain flexibility, range of movement, good posture, and relaxation.

Here are a few ways of stretching some of the main muscle groups.

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.

Hamstrings and Calf Muscles
Use a length of elastic exercise band, or a scarf. Hook the mid-section of band/scarf around the base of the toes. Holding the two ends of the band/scarf close to your body. Support your leg to feel a stretch up the back of the leg. Flex the toes towards the body to increase the calf muscle stretch if necessary. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30. Repeat on the other side.
 
 
Quadriceps
 
Stand next to a wall or piece of furniture if you need help to balance with this one. From a standing position, bring your foot and heel up towards your bottom to feel a stretch at the front of the thigh. As much as is possible for you, keep your pelvis level and hips facing forwards. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, then repeat on the other side.
 
 
Ilio-Tibial Band (Outside Muscle of the Thigh)
The same start position is needed for this stretch, as in the hamstring/calf muscle stretch above. With the leg raised, bring your leg inwards towards the opposite leg, and rotate the leg inwards from the hip (in a clockwise movement). You should feel a stretch along the outer part of the thigh. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
 
Pectoral/Chest Muscles
 
A really simple pectoral muscle stretch. Raise your arms up to the sides and rest at shoulder height, palms facing forward. Extend the arms backwards to feel a stretch at the front of he shoulders.
 

This is another pectoral muscle stretch, its a little stronger. You can use the side of a barn (as in the picture!) Or a doorframe is a good place to do this one. Stand level with the doorframe, raise the arm up onto the doorframe so your palm and forearm rest flat against it, and your elbow is a t shoulder height. With the leg of the side you’re stretching (that’s the side on the doorframe). Step forward, make sure you keep your forearm planted on the doorframe to feel a stretch across the front of the shoulder. Try to keep both shoulders facing forward when you stretch.Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, then repeat on the other side.

 
Rhomboid Muscles
 
Bring your arm across the front of your body, with the other arm place pressure above your elbow joint to encourage stretch in the shoulder blade area. Try and keep both shoulders facing forward as much as possible. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
 
Biceps/Forearm Stretch
 
Extend your arm out ahead of you, palm facing up and elbow straight. Apply a gentle downwards pressure to the fingers to feel a stretch at the front of the arm and forearm. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
 
Triceps Stretch
 
Raise your arm up, bend at the elbow, and allow your hand to slide down your upper back. Apply gentle pressure above the elbow to encourage stretch along the back of the upper arm. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
 
Hip Flexor Stretch
 
If this is aggravating to your knees, avoid it, or try it kneeling on a cushion. From a kneeling position, lunge forward with one leg. Rest at a point where you can feel a stretch across the front of the back hip. Make sure your knee doesn’t travel ahead of your foot, so extend the lunge if necessary. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and repeat on the other side.
 
 
Cat Stretch
 
On all fours, try and position your knees below your hips, and hands below shoulders. This exercise stretches and opens the joints in our spine. Start the exercise in a neutral position, that is lower back not to arched and neither too rounded. Start with the neck level and your gaze to the floor.
Tilt the pelvis, and allow the movement to travel up the spine sequentially. So rounding the lower then upper back. Finally allowing the neck to gently flex forward. So your position is a little like an “angry cat”.
To return, start from the pelvis, gradually bringing your pelvis, lower back, upper back and neck into your neutral start position. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
 

 

Gluteal/Hip Stretch
 
Start this exercise laying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Allow one ankle to cross over and rest on the front of the opposite thigh. Reaching forward, with both hands grasp hold of the back of the thigh (the one that remained in it’s original bent start position.) You should feel a stretch in the buttock area of the crossed leg. Hold for a slow count of 20 to 30, and then repeat on the other side.
 




DESK WORKSTATION SET-UP

The basic set-up

Image supplied by Google

Start by looking at your seat. You should sit right back into your chair, so have your bottom to the back of the seat. When you’re sat up straight, the chair should be supporting the curve of the lower back. Office- style chairs may have an adjustable lower back support. You can buy lower back/lumbar supports if necessary. Cushions and pillows perhaps will offer temporary assistance.

So you should be sitting well in your chair. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, bring your elbows into your side and your forearms out horizontally. The level of your forearms should indicate the ideal height of the desk. So you may now need to adjust the height of the chair? You need to try and keep a flat wrist and hand to avoid overstrain of these areas. It’s personal preference if you use an armrest, and sometimes whether it is practical. Some people like them to keep their upper limb relaxed. Sometimes they prevent you pulling yourself close to your desk. If this is the case they maybe aren’t appropriate as you should be able to do this.

You may have to adjust the tilt of the seat base of the chair. The ideal is to have an angle of 90 to 120 degrees at the hip. So really this means that your knees should be level with or just below the hips. Feet should be flat on the floor, or on a footrest if preferred, or necessary.

So you should be sitting tucked in close to your desk. We now need to look at how the desktop is arranged. Your monitor needs to be set straight ahead of you, at an arm’s length away. The top of the monitor should be level with your line-of-sight. The keyboard should be straight ahead of you, and within easy reach. Everything you use regularly should be within easy reach. So the mouse, the phone any documents…

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, then a head-set may be a wise purchase to avoid the tendency to tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder. Or using a hands-free function on the phone. There are different style mouses which change the digit and position they are worked by and in. This may be helpful if you’re suffering any strains through the upper limb. Document holders may be useful if it’s necessary to constantly be referring to paperwork.

Above describes the very basic points to consider. There can be many different configurations depending on the nature of the work.  Feel free to email me with any queries.

It’s important to make sure you get up and move around regularly, try every 30 to 45 minutes.

THIS IS AN EXERCISE YOU MAY HAVE SEEN BEFORE! I have included it in this post as upper back stiffness is a common consequence of poor workstation posture. It is one of my favourite Pilates 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.




Lie on your side. For good positioning, think about the hips and shoulders being stacked on top of one another. Have the knees ahead of you and slightly bent. Place your hands gently clasped behind your head and neck, as in a sit-up position. Raise the upper arm, to open the chest. At the same time rotating the neck and head to look up, and rotating your upper back.

It is important to keep the legs stacked upon one another and the pelvis stable. In this way you will be able to focus the movement in the upper back. At the end of the movement, take a deep breath into your rib cage to further expand the thorax. With control move back to the start position, and repeat 5 times on each side.

NB To maintain the position of your pelvis, you will need to think about activating your core muscles. So you pull up your pelvic floor (the muscle you would use to stop yourself having a wee), and contract your lower abdomen (pull your navel back to the spine). Keep practising, if you haven’t used these muscles specifically for a while, it can take some time to get used to. Pilates can really help you find and work these muscles effectively.

If you would like some assistance on how to find and contract your core muscles. Take a look at the October 2012 posting.

WHAT IS OSTEOPATHY, WHY IS IT DIFFERENT?

Many of you reading this will have a good idea of what Osteopathy is. I just wanted to reinforce the reasons why Osteopathy is different, and why you may consider Osteopathy first as a form of treatment.

Osteopaths treat problems in the musculoskeletal system. So that is problems arising from bones, joints, tendons, ligament, muscles and fascia. By working through these structures you can also have an effect on nerves and the circulatory system.

Osteopaths can treat problems body-wide. You would tend to find that if you went to an Osteopath with an area of pain. The Osteopath would assess your whole position. To try and ascertain other factors that may have created the problem, and other areas that may be taking undue strain in relation to the problem. In this way Osteopathy is holistic.

Osteopathy is also holistic in the way it will consider the musculoskeletal relationships to internal structures of the body. Often helping problems relating to digestion and respiration, and effecting blood vessels and nerves. It can improve the mechanics relating to these areas, with the goal being to improve general health and well-being.

Here is an exercise you may like to try to assess flexibility of the back of your body, and possibly improve it.

This exercise 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.

There is a line of a structure called fascia (the body’s packing tissue) running down the back of your body. Its called the Superficial Back Line. It runs from the undersurface of your feet, up the back of your body, back of the neck and over the head to the brow bone. A dysfunction in any part of this line, may have a knock-on effect and cause a problem in another part of the line.

Being careful with your back, this shouldn’t cause pain, but may highlight tightness. Bend forwards, think about where you feel the stiffness – head, neck, back, legs? Come out of this position, and with a golf ball/tennis ball. Spend two minutes rolling the undersurface of your foot over the ball. Make sure you cover the area between the balls of the toes and heel well. Try the bending forward test again. Does that side feel freer? Repeat on the other side for balance.

This is one great way to picture the connectivity of our body structures. It’s a common part of the body to get very tight, and so this exercise may be an easy way to access this line and try to keep it freer.

NOVEMBER FOCUS – WORKSTATION POSTURE

IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE A FREE WORKSTATION EXERCISE SHEET. THAT IS, EXERCISES THAT ARE ALL DESIGNED TO BE PERFORMED AT YOUR DESK. PLEASE EMAIL ME (info@rivermeadosteopaths.co.uk).  I WILL SEND THEM TO YOU ATTACHED IN AN EMAIL.

Please read this! I know it’s not the most stimulating of subjects. If you pay a little attention to your set-up at your computer/desk, both at home and work. Then it can make an enormous difference to your daily comfort. Trying to prevent the accumulation of an issue, which may result in pain. Everyday of my working life I spend talking about this! Believe me its a worthwhile practice, so I urge you to take note.

The basic set-up

Image supplied by Google

Start by looking at your seat. You should sit right back into your chair, so have your bottom to the back of the seat. When you’re sat up straight, the chair should be supporting the curve of the lower back. Office- style chairs may have an adjustable lower back support. You can buy lower back/lumbar supports if necessary. Cushions and pillows perhaps will offer temporary assistance.

So you should be sitting well in your chair. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, bring your elbows into your side and your forearms out horizontally. The level of your forearms should indicate the ideal height of the desk. So you may now need to adjust the height of the chair? You need to try and keep a flat wrist and hand to avoid overstrain of these areas. It’s personal preference if you use an armrest, and sometimes whether it is practical. Some people like them to keep their upper limb relaxed. Sometimes they prevent you pulling yourself close to your desk. If this is the case they maybe aren’t appropriate as you should be able to do this.

You may have to adjust the tilt of the seat base of the chair. The ideal is to have an angle of 90 to 120 degrees at the hip. So really this means that your knees should be level with or just below the hips. Feet should be flat on the floor, or on a footrest if preferred, or necessary.

So you should be sitting tucked in close to your desk. We now need to look at how the desktop is arranged. Your monitor needs to be set straight ahead of you, at an arm’s length away. The top of the monitor should be level with your line-of-sight. The keyboard should be straight ahead of you, and within easy reach. Everything you use regularly should be within easy reach. So the mouse, the phone any documents…

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, then a head-set may be a wise purchase to avoid the tendency to tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder. Or using a hands-free function on the phone. There are different style mouses which change the digit and position they are worked by and in. This may be helpful if you’re suffering any strains through the upper limb. Document holders may be useful if it’s necessary to constantly be referring to paperwork.

Above describes the very basic points to consider. There can be many different configurations depending on the nature of the work.  Feel free to email me with any queries.

It’s important to make sure you get up and move around regularly, try every 30 to 45 minutes.

The bits that caught my eye in the news

Musculoskeletal pains, like chronic back or neck and repetitive strain injuries. Account for half of absences from work, and 60% of those who are permanently unable to work due to their pain. This costs the European Union €240 billion every year in benefits, treatments and lost production.
Office workers, who often average around 40 hours a week sat at a desk, and on the computer and phone, commonly suffer problems. There is a tendency to hold a phone between the ear and shoulder whilst they attempt to multitask.
In 1983 the first call centre head-set was developed. This has now evolved into a lightweight, ergonomic and wireless device. The innovator company of the headset – Plantronics, and the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic, have carried out a study on pain reduction in headset users. In 4 weeks, half of the subjects who suffered neck ache and headaches at the start  of the study (54% and 44% respectively) reported no pain. Shoulder and upper back pain was also reduced. 60% of the users found the headsets “very useful”.

A common practice 200 years ago was bodysnatching. An article I read recently made me think of everything that may have gone before, in order to create the anatomical textbooks I studied from. Cambridge scientists have claimed that bodysnatching has had a greater influence on medical science, than advances made in World War I. Both gave medical students a vital insight into the affects of disease and illness on the body.
Apparently bodysnatching became so prevalent, relatives would watch over their deceased, and even over the grave after burial.

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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