Hello Everybody!

I spend a lot of my time telling people that Osteopathy isn’t just a treatment for back pain. It treats many musculoskeletal conditions body-wide. Having said that, the focus of this month’s newsletter is back pain! I hope you find it interesting, and possibly useful.


When I refer to back pain, I mean pain originating from the spine. So it could be from the neck, upper back, lower back, or from the sacrum and coccyx at the base of the spine.

Pain can be felt locally at the spine, and may be experienced as central, both sides, or one side more than the other. Nerves are extensions of the spinal cord, which are encased/protected by the spine/vertebral column. The nerves exit the spine at each vertebral level, so they are sometimes susceptible to injury alongside back complaints. The nerve may be irritated or impinged by a back injury, and may cause pain in the area the nerve travels to. This very commonly happens down into an arm or leg. Alongside pain, common symptoms of nerve compression are pins and needles, tingling and numbness.

From a musculoskeletal perspective, there are several structures that may commonly create pain in the back. These are joints, discs, and the soft tissues – muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia.

Problems can arise from a wide range of factors. Possibly wear and tear changes, road traffic accidents, sports injuries, overstrain from everyday activities; for example gardening. Postural strains and stresses may develop through occupation, hobbies or just bad habits.

Osteopaths are trained to assess posture and movement in order to diagnose the structures causing the pain. Sometimes additional orthopaedic and neurological tests are indicated too. Treatment works to restore function through a variety of soft tissue massage and articulation techniques. Very often additional exercises and advice is offered.


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.

December’s post, (see news tab on website) included some useful back exercises. Here are some additional ones to try.


Gently allow the head and neck to drop forward. From this position, look to each shoulder and repeat 5 to 10 times.


Position yourself on all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips. To start try and have a straight spine.  The movement starts from the pelvis, so tuck the pelvis under and then arch up through the spine. Working first the lower back, upper back and then neck. Return to normal, start with the pelvis, followed by the lower then upper back, then neck. Finish in alignment at the start position. Repeat 5 to 10 times.


Lay onto your back with your knees bent and a small pillow for neck support. Roll up a towel (like a big sausage!) and place this horizontally at shoulder blade level. The ideal placement of the towel would be at the part of the upper back that’s most rounded. Rest laying on the towel for two minutes, think about relaxed breaths fully utilising the diaphragm muscle.


Babies are more than twice as likely to have colic if their mothers suffer from migraines. Daily Mail
This was very interesting to me, since I treat babies with colic fairly often using Cranial Osteopathy.

The research states that babies are 2.5 times more likely to have colic if their mothers suffer with migraines. It suggests that colic may be an early sign a child may be predisposed towards migraine in later life. As yet, there has been no link found between colic and excessive crying, with gastrointestinal problems. There is also no difference with regard to colic, between babies fed on breast or formula milk. More research is planned, following groups of babies over their childhood.

Losing weight is twice as hard as you may think…cutting down calories slows down your body’s metabolism. Fiona Macrae, Daily Mail

I think we’re all familiar with this, but interesting nonetheless. The article advises patience to dieters, and not to expect too much weight loss quickly. After factoring in the reduction in metabolism when dieting, US experts found expectations of weight loss were too high. It had previously been stated that a reduction in calories of 500 a day would result in a 1lb weight loss, a week. This is incorrect. An online calculator has been developed so we can better work out a more realistic weight loss plan – bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov.

‘Chemist on a chip’ could be the end of jabs. Aiden Radnedge. Metro

Patients with chronic diseases may no longer have to give themselves daily injections thanks to a new microchips currently being developed. A wafer thin microchip could be implanted under the skin. So far they have proved a success in trials involving osteoporotic ladies. A computer wirelessly links to the chip ensuring that the drug is released at the correct time. It proved to be as effective as daily injections, and also improved bone formation and reduced the risk of fracture.


Use a red plate to lose a bit of weight: People who eat off them cut their intake by 40%.
Meals on red plates and drinks from red cups are reported to reduce our consumption by 40%. This study was carried out by German and Swiss academics, they believe red may encourage people to avoid snacking, as people associate red with the idea of “danger, prohibition and stop.”
MY THOUGHTS: Who knows!? If it helps I’m prepared to give it a go. My plates are purple, I’m curious as to what that may trigger in me behaviour-wise!?

Intense back pain and brittle bones at just 29 – all because I had a baby, Fiona Duffy.
This story talked about the relatively rare incidence of osteoporosis in pregnancy. Osteoporosis is most often thought to be a condition of post-menopausal women. However, bone density can drop temporarily in the late stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding, as the woman’s body provides calcium to the growing baby. Usually the body adapts – “levels of the hormonal form of vitamin D increase in order to enhance calcium absorption from the gut and also to encourage the breakdown of bone which is “reabsorbed” by the body as another form of calcium.”
Experts are unsure why the problem occurs in some women, and not others. Studies have shown that the vitamin D hormone levels didn’t increase in some pregnancies. Or it is thought that some women who suffer with this, may have already had a lower bone density before the pregnancy.
Osteoporotic fractures can cause permanent deformity and disability. It can be controlled with medication. The lady in this article fell pregnant again and gave birth to another child. She did unfortunately suffer further fractures, but at least she was aware of the issue, and care with medication was given from the outset.


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.

Squats with core ball against the wall
Standing up straight, place the core ball between your back and the wall. Maintaining the ball between you and the wall squat down, try and bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Then return to standing. Try and repeat 10 times, then rest and try again. This is a great exercise to build strength in your quadriceps muscles.

Quadriceps stretch
Standing, consider using the wall or a chair for support if necessary. Bring your heel up to your bottom, and hold your foot/ankle here in order to maintain a stretch at the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Knee mobility exercise
Sitting on the floor with both legs out straight ahead of you. Bend one knee and slide the foot in towards your bottom, bend your knee as much as possible and relax to the floor. Repeat 10 times on each side.


The knee is the largest joint in the body and is very complex. It consists of the joint between the patella and femur (kneecap and thigh bone), and between the femur and tibia (thigh and lower leg bone).

As a weight-bearing joint it is required to be strong, yet it must also be flexible. It is a common area to suffer degenerative changes, and often sports injuries. It is effected by our choice of footwear and an increase in our body weight. It is prone to strain from problems above and below the joint. An injury at the ankle or foot can alter the position of the knee, and vice versa. A hip or spinal problem will readily place more stress on the knee as someone adapts and tries to compensate for the pain. The lower back and hip may even refer pain to the knee.

Common structures causing pain at the knee are ligaments and cartilage. Most commonly the medial collateral ligament, then the medial meniscus (cartilage), and then the anterior cruciate ligament.

Early and accurate diagnosis is essential. A delay could result in an increased chance of developing degeneration in the joint.

Osteopaths are trained to assess the knee joint, taking the area through an active and passive examination. Including orthopedic tests as appropriate. Osteopaths also consider the knee within the context of the whole individual. If another area were placing undue strain on the knee joint, then this could be addressed in treatment too. If necessary, referral for further joint imaging may be necessary.


Happy february! I hope you’re all keeping well. If you are experiencing any musculoskeletal problems, please do feel free to telephone or email and enquire if your problem is suitable for Osteopathic treatment. Until the next time, stay well. This month’s post focuses on the knee, I hope you find it interesting and perhaps of some use.


Happy New Year to everyone! Hopefully we’re feeling refreshed and looking forward to a healthy 2012. This month’s news focuses on respiratory health, and how Osteopathy can get involved in helping those who struggle. Read on through the January posts. The exercises can be done even if you don’t suffer from a respiratory ailment, it is beneficial to try and maintain efficient breathing mechanics.


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.


Laying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Breathe in through your nose and try and completely fill up your lungs with air. Make sure you use your lower ribs and diaphragm. Relax and breathe out through your mouth. To try and see if you’re doing this, place a scarf under your lower ribcage, and hold the two ends at the front. When you breathe in, you should feel the scarf pull if you’re working the right area. Alternatively place your hands over the lower ribcage, feel them rise, and feel your ribcage expand outwards and into the floor.
Focus on this for a couple of minutes, just relax and don’t hyperventilate. It may take time to get used to this pattern of breathing.


From standing, raise one arm above your head and side-bend in the opposite direction to the arm you have raised. You may use your other arm to hold the forearm and increase the stretch. Take a deep breath into your lower ribs, to further increase the stretch. Repeat on the opposite side.


Sitting on a chair, grab hold of the seat base on one side. Lean your body and your neck away from the side of the seat you have hold of. You should feel a stretch on the side of your neck, hold for 10 relaxed breaths, and then repeat on the opposite side.


WHY PUFFY KNEES CAN BE A SIGN OF “SILENT” ARTHRITIS (DAILY MAIL, ROGER DOBSON) – This article highlights how often symptoms of arthritis can be ignored, in this case the article is particularly talking about Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It reports that if symptoms aren’t treated within 3 months of their onset, then there is a risk of long term joint damage, disability and pain. The article states that many ignore symptoms such as pain, stiffness and swelling. Putting it all down to the ageing process, or over-doing things.
The exact cause of RA remains unknown – a genetic predisposition, or possible viral/bacterial infection may trigger it? There is no cure, but there is a range of medications that can be used to alleviate the symptoms. Sometimes surgery may be indicated. The article talks about an injection which is currently being developed, it’s purpose is to stop the immune system from overreacting. Apparently results so far are promising, and seem to help the worse effected patients.
The key symptoms to look out for are early morning joint stiffness lasting longer than 30 minutes. Persistent swelling of one joint or more, especially in the hands. Also pain when the joints are squeezed. MY THOUGHTS, RA is a terrible joint disorder and can cause terrible deformity and disability in those worse effected. Not everyone who suffers morning joint stiffness, pain and swelling will have RA. But its important for people to observe their bodies and report any persistent issues as appropriate.

SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT: WOMAN BANISHES MIGRAINES…BY HAVING FROWN MUSCLE REMOVED. (DAILY MAIL, CLAIRE BATES) – A 47 year old lady having struggled over 3 decades with migraine headaches has finally become head pain free. She has had an operation to remove the corrugator muscle (frown muscle). She had to have many tests to assess the potential effectiveness of this procedure for her, the surgery was carried out in Berlin. MY THOUGHTS, there are many different reasons why people suffer migraines, and it is a problem that is poorly understood. Any procedure which makes such a dramatic transformation to someone’s life is wonderful, but its unlikely to be the solution for all migraine sufferers.


Osteopathy can treat respiratory function via the musculoskeletal system. In acute and chronic disease we change the way we breathe to deal with the problem, especially with chronic (long term) issues where these changes become adaptations over a period of time. The system develops “bad habits” and over-relies on areas, often resulting in pain.

Osteopathy works on the areas directly related to breathing, so the diaphragm muscle, ribcage and associated muscles, are commonly effected. The ribs and diaphragm attach to the spine, so often this area is strained and can become symptomatic. A good example of this would be in the case of a persistent cough. Very commonly we will place greater emphasis on what are termed the accessory muscles of breathing. We have to when there is a disease process, it’s a coping mechanism. There are several muscles we utilise more, for example those that travel up into the neck from the upper ribs – scalenes, and those that travel across the chest and attach to the ribs – pectoralis minor.

Poor breathing mechanics can alter an individual’s posture, so an Osteopath would look at a whole individual to assess the areas effected and work accordingly.

The types of respiratory problems that very commonly present to Osteopaths are asthma, bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), people who are very stressed, and the common cough and cold. Obviously there is a need in some of these instances for appropriate medication to be given, and for the patient to be monitored by their GP. An Osteopath won’t cure these conditions, but Osteopathy may help when people struggle to manage their symptoms.


Happy December/Christmas! Welcome to the new Rivermead Osteopathic Clinic monthly bulletin. My aim is to offer some useful and interesting information.

After a mild autumn, we are now experiencing the cold once more. This weather can often highlight people’s aches and pains. Try and stay as active as possible and wrap up warm. If you have any persistent joint and muscular issues, I may be able to help. Osteopathy treats musculoskeletal problems from head to toe. It could really make a huge difference to your daily comfort.

Read the rest of the December posts, it may be of particular interest to you if you suffer or know anyone else who has hip pain. There are some exercises to try and keep us all more mobile, whether we experience pain or not.

Enjoy the festivities!

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