Author Archives: Nikki Sturzaker

Health

Mindfulness-based stress reduction only slightly improves low back pain

Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs (MSBR) appear to improve low back pain only slightly, and only temporarily, a review of previous research suggests.

These programs combine meditation while sitting and walking, yoga, focusing attention on different parts of the body, and incorporation of mindfulness/awareness into everyday life. Earlier studies found MBSR to be helpful for a variety of chronic pain conditions.

But for low back pain, “it was surprising that we could not identify any difference between MBSR, usual care, or other psychological interventions on ‘mindfulness’ and acceptance of pain in the short and long term,” Dennis Anheyer of University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, told Reuters Health by email.

Anheyer and colleagues looked at data from seven previously published studies involving 864 patients altogether.

The studies that looked at pain intensity and pain-related disability found small improvements with MBSR only over the short term, and even these improvements were of questionable significance, they report in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Some studies showed meaningful improvements in physical functioning in the short term but the improvements not sustained in the long term.

“Our review also showed that studies using MBSR programs that included yoga had better effects on disability and physical functioning than studies using MBSR programs without yoga,” Anheyer said. “Physical activity might therefore be important for these factors.”

Surprisingly, MBSR was not associated with improvements in mindfulness.

The inconsistent findings point to a need for larger, carefully designed studies of MBSR and its various components in patients with low back pain, the researchers say.

In the meantime, patients with low back pain can safely attend MBSR courses, Anheyer said. “However,” he added, “they should not neglect the physical activity. (And) if you practice meditation or any kind of physical activity, do it regularly and continuously.”

Dr. Judith A. Turner from the University of Washington in Seattle, who has studied MBSR and cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic low back pain, told Reuters Health by email, “People with low back pain may find MBSR to be helpful, not only for their pain but also for managing stress and other problems. The risks are minimal, especially when compared to some other treatments for low back pain, such as surgery and opioid medication. Benefits for pain may be modest, but this is true for most treatments for chronic low back pain.”

“It is interesting that interventions that included a yoga component reduced disability, whereas those that did not include yoga did not reduce disability,” she said. “This suggests that MBSR programs might be most helpful for back pain when they include yoga, although more research is needed to confirm this suggestion.”

“This review was of only a small number of studies and some of the studies included had methodological problems that limit confidence in the results,” Turner said. “Nonetheless, patients with chronic low back pain and their health care providers are looking for effective treatments that are alternatives to opioid medication, and MBSR is one such option. Another such option is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been demonstrated effective in the short- and long-term for chronic low back pain.”

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Health

Hunched over your computer? Three stretches for a better posture

There’s a physical issue at the heart of the digital revolution – physically, we aren’t equipped to be spending all day at a desk, or hunched over a laptop, or with our necks bent over a mobile phone, developing ‘text neck’. 

Unless we’re going to create a generation of hunchbacks, shuffling and creaking between desks, and damaging our bodies by, basically, doing nothing, then we have to find ways to alleviate the problem. It can start with adaptations to your workstation, but there’s more you can do. Essentially, by taking exercise, but by doing so at the workplace.

And here’s some things you can try, introduced by Erica Fritz, who is a physical therapist and the manager of the Orthopedic Physical Therapy Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. She says office workers should, indeed must, stand more and do these stretches in order to alleviate the pain from sitting all day. Here’s some of her ways to tackle the problem.

It won’t solve everything, but its a good start.

 

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Health

How to make your workstation less of a pain in the neck

Let’s assume that you don’t work for a huge company with an enlightened human resources team and hot and cold running ergonomics experts waiting for your to snap your fingers.

Let’s assume you work for quite a small company or for yourself. And let’s assume that you are sitting at your work desk now. And that you’re feeling a bit achey, that your neck doesn’t feel quite right and that your fingers and wrists could do with a really long holiday.

On the basis of all those assumptions, the answers lie with you. Not to get a new job, but to take control of your own work space, and become the one who works out your own ergonomics that will remove that backache and get to know what does a pulled muscle feel like . So to make sure that you’re not a victim of your own workplace, and end up needing an osteopath, look at these issues.

And for more general advice on protecting your back in the workplace, look here.

Find your natural posture

Push your chair back from your desk and make yourself comfortable – feet on the floor, hands in your lap, relaxed shoulders and your backside slid back on the chair. This, then, is your natural position (if there is such a thing in an office chair). Your back is pretty straight, though not bolt-upright and you feel ‘right’.

Remember that position, because you want to be as close to that as you can.

Sort out your keyboard and mouse

You may have a mouse or a mousepad, but either way your desktop of laptop should be positioned in a way that keeps your elbows to your sides, and your arms at or below a 90-degree angle, reducing the strain.

The keyboard should be 1 to 2 inches above your thighs, which may mean one of those pull-out keyboard trays. Or a lower desk.

Position your screen

Keep your screen fairly close so that you aren’t leaning forward to read. If you’re one of those fancy-dan designer types, and have two monitors set them up side by side (no gap), and place the secondary monitor off-centre (don’t pretend you use them both equally, no-one does that). Once you’ve done that, sit back and extend your arm – the screen should just be brushed by your fingertips.

Once you’ve done that little trick, close your eyes. Now open – your eyeline should be on the address bar of your browser (assuming you’re at full-screen).

Sort out your chair

Go back to that natural position – and make sure you have a chair with the back support that promotes that position. Once you’ve got that right, then, once you’re on there, there should be a small, fist-sized, space between your knees and the edge of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your thighs should be slightly lower than your hips. And you should be able to keep that natural position without any strain (or else its either not natural or your chair won’t allow it).

Don’t just sit there
No matter how good your workstation is, you can’t spend all day sat at your desk. Take regular breaks for physical activity, at least once an hour to walk around and stretch. That’ll make the biggest difference of all.

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Health

The best ways to protect your back in the workplace

For many people, the most common cause for back pain and joint pain is their work. While lots of people find their job a pain in the neck, there’s a good proportion for whom that’s just too literal. In fact, over 10 million working days were lost due to work-related back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders in the UK alone in 2014.

The most common causes for work-related back pain are strained muscles or ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress, and most of us will have some back pain at some point. Usually, it’s not serious, and the pain clears up (although that can take up to 6 weeks).

But you want to do all you can to take preventative measures at work – keeping you away from the osteopath (though we’re always happy to see you). In the modern workplace, that’s not always possible – sitting badly in front of a computer for hours on end is storing up trouble. The body can tolerate being in one position for only a short period of time before you feel the need to adjust.

So take a good look at your workstation. The factors that can affect your back include:

  • The position of your seat
  • The position of the computer screen
  • The height of the chair
  • The position of the keyboard
  • The position (and the way you use) the mouse
  • The position of the rest of your kit on the desk.

If you work in an office and use a computer, you can avoid injury by sitting in the right position and arranging your desk correctly. It’s mostly common sense, but if you’re not sure about your seating position and workstation, ask your manager to arrange a workplace assessment for you.

Good posture when sitting at a desk can help prevent RSI, which is a cause of back pain. Sit up straight and make sure that your lower back is supported.

By law, workstation chairs must be stable. The standard office chair has five legs in a star shape and the seat height must be adjustable, and the back rest must be adjustable in height and tilt. Ideally, the back rest should move independently of the seat to allow a comfortable position.

When you’re sitting, your thighs should be at right angles to your body or sloping slightly down.

If your chair is properly adjusted, your feet should be firmly on the floor, but if it’s more comfortable, use a footrest. The basic rule is to plant your feet on the floor and support your back.

But no matter how good you work station, you should also take regular breaks from your desk, adjust your posture plenty of times, vary your activities and sit up straight. You should take lots of short breaks (which are better than fewer and longer breaks), and stretch out a little when you do so, and do jobs which take you away from the desk – make yourself popular and do the tea run!

More generally, your lifestyle will have an effect, so exercise regularly and lose any excess weight.

Away from the desk, it’s heavy lifting that causes the most problems. They can happen inside the office environment or on the building site – the rules are the same:

  • Make sure you’re physically capable of lifting the weight. Don’t show off.
  • Keep the load close to your waist
  • Keep your back as straight as possible
  • Avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways
  • Keep your head up
  • Always push, don’t pull, a really heavy object

So take sensible precautions and think about your keeping your body working smoothly while you’re at work. We’re always pleased to see you, but you can do some of our work for us.

For tips on the prevention of back and joint pain, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Education Health

How you can help your pupils’ posture

We’ve spoken before about the stresses and strain being put on young people by their lifestyles – and there’s every reason to assume it’s getting worse.

Hunching over mobile phones, sitting badly while using laptops, and not paying enough attention to workstations and deskspace all contribute to poor posture and the associated health issues that can create.

So, next time, you’re in the playground, classroom or heading in to school, look at the posture of those shuffling in. As the kids potter to school, the chances are the majority will be glued to their smartphone, with their shoulders hunched and their necks strained.

Chances are, you’ll be hunched over a laptop or phone reading this – the gadget-driven lifestyle is starting to degrade our health rather dramatically. Bad posture can be a symptom of that, but also a cause – if you have bad posture, your muscles have to overwork to support you and they will slowly weaken or become inflexible – this can lead to health problems and poor mood.

So take a look at this, from Murat Dalkilinç, a Turkish physiotherapist, where he explains the health issues associated with posture, and how you can tackle it.

And sit up straight while you watch.

 

Nikki Sturzaker is an osteopath in South London.

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Education Health

How you can help your pupils' posture

We’ve spoken before about the stresses and strain being put on young people by their lifestyles – and there’s every reason to assume it’s getting worse.
Hunching over mobile phones, sitting badly while using laptops, and not paying enough attention to workstations and deskspace all contribute to poor posture and the associated health issues that can create.
So, next time, you’re in the playground, classroom or heading in to school, look at the posture of those shuffling in. As the kids potter to school, the chances are the majority will be glued to their smartphone, with their shoulders hunched and their necks strained.
Chances are, you’ll be hunched over a laptop or phone reading this – the gadget-driven lifestyle is starting to degrade our health rather dramatically. Bad posture can be a symptom of that, but also a cause – if you have bad posture, your muscles have to overwork to support you and they will slowly weaken or become inflexible – this can lead to health problems and poor mood.
So take a look at this, from Murat Dalkilinç, a Turkish physiotherapist, where he explains the health issues associated with posture, and how you can tackle it.
And sit up straight while you watch.
 
Nikki Sturzaker is an osteopath in South London.

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Education Health

Seven ways to help a child’s back and neck pain in schools

Every morning, on the school run, you’ll see children staggering in, weighted down by the heavy bags they feel they need to carry – a week’s books, sports kit, snacks… it all adds up. The problem is that the sanctions that come with forgetting sports kit or books is worse, in a child’s mind, than the possibility, long hence, of back pain. Yet they could be setting themselves up for some serious issues – as an osteopath I, sadly, see a lot of children.

But there’s things that parents and teachers could do, which help take those damaging decisions out of the childrens’ hands:

1) Get them to use a backpack – and use both shoulder straps. Using both shoulder straps might be less cool – might make them look like a language tourist – but it keeps the back straighter and so stronger.

2) See if the school can use ergonomic chairs. Not the cheap option obviously, and may need to be restricted to ICT or computer studies classes. But it will help.

3) Don’t let children sit on the floor, or use bean bags, to work or play on a laptop or games console. Make sure they use a chair. They won’t thank you for it at the time, but maybe they will later…

4) Make sure that when children are using a PC, they mimic the workplace and create for themselves a decent workstation. Good desk, good chair (ideally a proper office chair), and a computer screen set at eye level.

5) Consider only letting them use a desktop PC, in fact. A laptop tends to encourage poor posture – but if a laptop is the only real option, make sure they sit correctly. Straight back and all that …

6) Don’t allow them to slob about in front of the TV, especially after a long session in front of a PC. Get them outside, get them doing sport, get them active.

7) If they develop back or neck pain – get them to a doctor, an osteopath or a chiropractor. These are tender years in a child’s physical development. Don’t let things drift.

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Education Health

Can giving pupils standing desks help concentration and health?

What started off as something slightly faddish in the workplace is beginning to be increasingly normal as more and more offices, especially those where staff do mostly computer-based work, are giving their team standing desks.

But could it work for pupils? Some schools are trying it out, to try and find if it can help with some health problems, especially the growing issue of obesity, and aid concentration.

Schools in the US, the UK Australia and New Zealand are all giving it a try and all are noting significant improvements, even in the short term, in energy and concentration levels. Sitting down for long periods have shown negative impacts on concentration and behaviour, while having a less sedentary approach improves the general level of fitness and lessens the chances of diabetes in later life.

As students become increasingly reliant on digital tools for their education, the issues around a workstation become more important. And the work habits gained in early life will continue into adulthood.

When it works, the standing desk will:

  • Give pupils more energy – keep the blood flowing and the mind alert. It’s harder to fall asleep at your desk if you’re standing. Unless you’re a horse, but that’s unlikely.
  • Early on though, pupils will find it tiring. Sore feet and legs for those not used to the constant standing. Be ready for some whining, especially for those without the most comfortable shoes. Fatigue mats would be useful, but are unlikely to be in the budget.
  • Improves posture and core strength – issues that can be especially problematic for those who might otherwise be hunched over a laptop.
  • But that does necessitate adjustable standing desks. Pupils grow at different rates, so allow a bit of faffing at the start of each lesson as students alter the height of their desks.
  • More engaged. It’s easier to join in class discussions when standing up. There’s more visibility and increased engagement.
  • It may not work for every lesson. Science lessons, perhaps, with experiments going on, may benefit from the enforced discipline of seated pupils 

While the fatigue issue can be a real one and it may not work for every type of lesson, it’s worth considering – while much of the evidence is too anecdotal to be conclusive, the indications are that it might be a significant change to the classroom.

 

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Health Work

The best apps to improve your health

It’s been mooted for a while now that the data generated by wearable tech can be the key to transforming health. The ability to measure activity, blood pressure, sleep and stress levels make people try to participate in HIIT Fitness Classes more often.

The drug treatment finders, however, can be good habits and, while it may seem rather low-tech, the answer to that may lie in apps as much as data. Pilates music can prompt ‘good’ behaviour can be transformational in helping people make the small changes that can make all the difference:

Fooducate
Ignore the daft name, this can make you buy better food, and the benefits of that are obvious.Its has the ability to scan a database of supermarket products to help you get the most from your meals, with a rating system that helps you worry about calories slightly less and nutrition slightly more.
Free, from the app store

101 Juice Recipes

You may know Joe Cross from documentaries such as ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’. You may well not, but he has built his reputation just as he has rebuilt his health, through the dogged pursuit of dieting and health. This is a rather pricey app, but offers a good deal of inspiration on the juicing front as you search by ingredient and colour, create shopping lists and mix recipes based on their illness-fighting properties.

£10.99, appstore

Sleep better

Never underestimate the power of sleep in improving your health. And while the sleep-depriving properties of mobile phones and tablets are becoming clearer, anything which helps you monitor your rest and be more disciplined in its pursuit, has got to be a good thing. There’s plenty out there, so its worth investigating, but this one monitors how you feel, your dreams, sleep patterns and predicts optimal waking time.
Free, appstore

Stress and Anxiety Companion
The biggest threat to your sleep patterns, and your health generally, is likely to be stress. This slightly oddly named app (who wants a friend for their anxiety?) is designed to manage your mental well-being with good habits, including the old favourite of deep breathing, and generating a positive outlook on life.
£2.29, appstore

Runmeter

Runners love data. Their data. Everyone else’s data. They love it almost as much as the running itself. So this is an essential – it tracks performance, heart rate, cadence… all your little legs could need, and it does it with years worth of your data so you can see how you’ve improved or not. For the partners of runners, this just means they become even more self-absorbed.

Free, appstore

7 Minute Workout

And for those who find running too time-consuming, this best-seller (in 127 countries) is the answer. High-intensity, but brief, workouts to get you fit 420 seconds at a time. For the busy, pudgy amongst us.

Free, appstore

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Education Health

Don’t add sports injury to new year resolution

It’s the New Year – and once again it’s time to make those resolutions and be a slightly better person this year.

For many of you, that will mean exercising, and getting up from your desk-job, blowing the dust off your trainers and trotting gamely around the local park. You’ve got a sedentary job, it already feels like a long winter, you’ve been home all Christmas…

But the creaking noise you can hear is the sound of your body rebelling in protest and something fundamental going wrong, and doctors’ waiting rooms and A+E departments in hospitals swap the New Year alcohol-related injuries for a big rise in the number of people sitting glumly in muddy kit on plastic chairs. Runners crank up their mileage too quickly, soccer players make clumsy tackles or turn awkwardly because they remember they had the conditioning to get those moves right last time (four months ago), and gym members who couldn’t even face the rainy trip to the warmth will lift heavier weights than they can manage. As an osteopath in South London, I see the results of this all too often.

So joints, muscles, cartilages, ligaments and bones take a hit. Sports-related problems are almost always mechanical, but there are ways you can make sure your keep that mechanism working at it’s best:

Take it easy, slow down and recognise your limitations. The biggest cause of sports injuries is impatience

Warm up properly before you exercise. All those stretches really do work. If you feel a bit foolish, then feel free to do them with an ironic look on your face

Don’t push your body beyond your current fitness level. It might be mentally painful, but be realistic about yourself.

– If you are doing a contact sport, especially, then use the recommended safety equipment such as shin guards for soccer or hockey or a gum shield for rugby. The day you forget your gumshield is the day you get a smack in the mouth.

– Don’t be too proud to get coaching for your technique. That might involve a better running of swimming style, a better kicking or approach to tackling. Whatever it takes to get your body operating properly. And it has the addd bonus of stopping you looking like a fool…

By all means, get up and get the blood flowing again. But be careful out there…

 

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