- Pace yourself - do a job for 30 minutes, then do a different one, then go back to the first one for a bit. This will avoid overuse of one particular set of joints and muscles (and stop you getting bored!).
- Lawn-mowing - the grass is often wet and heavy at this time of year which can strain the back as you manoeuvre a heavy lawn-mower. Wait for a dry windy day as the grass will be drier, and therefore lighter, and raise the level of the blades. This will make it easier to cut - and the grass will thank you for it too (it's better to leave it a little longer over the winter months). Better still - leave the box off the back and let the mowings 'mulch' in.
- Raking - the twisting, pulling movement that we do to rake up leaves can really twist and jar the low back and hips. Try to do shorter strokes and move your feet to avoid twisting at the waist. Easier still, make a cup of tea and let the wind do the work - the leaves will blow across the lawn and get trapped by the stems in the flower bed where they'll act as a good mulch over the winter.
- Pathways - paving slabs and decking can be lethal in the winter months. I was at my parents' house the other weekend and 'jet-washed' the path - much to the dismay of my Dad who liked the 'mossy' look. However, as I reminded them both with Mum's slightly fragile bones and Dad's artificial hips it was an accident waiting to happen - and I can't be spending the autumn driving back and forth to Oxfordshire (added to which I nearly broke my neck slipping on the stones last time I was galloping out to the car). So, a happy afternoon with the pressure washer and my wellies and the path looks much better (even Dad agrees, reluctantly) and is far less slippy. Have a bag of cheap dishwasher salt handy to sprinkle down if it gets icy - or even a bucket of salty sand from the beach!
- Digging - don't attempt to do the winter digging all in one go. Do a little bit each day, and don't bother breaking up the clods - the worms and the frost will do the work for you!
- Wheelbarrows - it's really tempting to fill the barrow to the brim, whether it be with lawn-mowings, weeds or logs for the log-burner. However, this can make it unstable and heavy which might cause you to strain your back and shoulders. It's far better to half-fill it twice as often, and make sure you bend your knees when you lift anything heavy. The same goes for the log basket or coal bucket - half fill it twice as often.
- Get help - They say that many hands make light work, so if you're going to be doing a slightly difficult job, get someone to give you a hand. Whilst at my parents I suggested that it might make more sense for me to go up the ladder and cut back the climber from the side of the house, rather than Mum doing it - another possible broken hip averted...
With the evenings drawing in and the mornings feeling damp and dewy, there's definitely a sense of autumn in the air. Thankfully we're still getting a few warm sunny days and there are plenty of jobs that need doing, tidying up after the fantastic summer we've had and preparing for the winter ahead. Whether it be mowing the lawn one last time, digging up the last of the potatoes, or reaching up to get that enormous blackberry at the top of the bush just don't overdo it! Otherwise, you'll be calling the clinic, and much as I love to see you, there are a few things that you can be doing to stay away!...
With spring approaching, the days lengthening and the wintry sun gradually warming up the air, we're beginning to come out of 'hibernation'. We're generally getting a little more active - out into the garden, spring-cleaning, attacking that DIY project in the house, or taking a bit more exercise than we have during what seems to have been a long winter.
Despite our enthusiasm, it's important to take things gently at first, letting the muscles and joints warm up. Every Monday morning, the phone in the clinic rings non-stop, with people who have 'overdone it' in the house or garden at the weekend. Whilst some gentle exercise is generally good for the back, overexertion can cause problems.
Try to ease yourself into it - do some gentle stretches and warm up exercises first (marching on the spot, shrugging the shoulders, circling the arms) to get the blood circulating through the muscles, and pace yourself. Do lots of different jobs, changing your posture and position regularly, rather than concentrating on the one thing for too long. Listen to your body too - if something is niggling or painful, stop and don't be tempted to 'work through the pain' - it is your body telling you something isn't right. If the niggle persists, or worsens, phone the clinic and get advice!
A simple, 3-minute stretching exercise routine is Straighten Up that will keep the body supple and loose if practised regularly.
A recent study, published in the European Spine Journal, investigated the link between levels of physical activity, physical fitness and the incidence of low back pain.
The study was conducted in the Netherlands and asked a population of police officers about their activity levels and episodes of low back pain over the preceding 12 months. In addition to questioning, their levels of physical fitness were actually measured objectively (hence minimising the problem that often arises with this sort of study where people inaccurately record their activity levels, often tending to over-report). Results were collected from nearly 2000 individuals and the findings were conclusive - moderate levels of physical fitness (both muscular and aerobic) correlated with a lower incidence of low back pain, whereas the occurrence of low back pain increased with lower levels of activity and physical fitness. So, the implications of this are clear - exercise regularly, improve your fitness levels and you should experience fewer episodes of low back pain!
However, it is not quite that simple - it may be that people refrained from exercise due to their low back pain, hence their back pain worsened, hence they exercised less - something of a Catch22 situation! Additionally, the findings showed that excessive levels of exercise actually increased the episodes of low back pain - this was particularly true of highly strenuous, vigorous activities such as weight lifting or heavy gardening and was a problem that mainly affected the male cohort of the study.
In conclusion, this study showed that physical activity, strenuous enough to improve physical fitness, was strongly associated with lower levels of low back pain. So, the message is clear - get moving, get fit and you should have less low back pain (but take it gently and sensibly as excessive exercise might cause more harm than good!).
One of the things I love about my job is the great diversity of people that I see on a daily basis. Not only is it hugely satisfying to have the skills to be able to relieve someone's back or neck pain and watch them put their socks and shoes on and walk out of clinic when they have hobbled in, but I love the contact that I have with so many people from so many different walks of life.
In just one clinic I have had conversations about: holidays to Corfu; walking around Mont Blanc; the political and military situation in Afghanistan and Syria; sheep farming and the lambing season; the possibility of an extra silage harvest this soggy summer; the weather (where would we be without it?!); bereavement; Wimbledon (will Murray get to the finals this year?!); the unflattering cut of the Olympic Torch bearers' outfits; the risk of flying fast jets; the economy and whether Bob Diamond was right to resign; the bitter battle with cancer; diet, lifestyle and exercise regimes; gardening (including a great recipe for Raspberry Vodka!); the horrors and joys of childbirth; scuba diving; local crime and the Police's endeavours to deal with it; fishing; motor bikes and track days; and finally, nuclear fission (honestly!).
It is this interaction with my patients that keeps me going every day. It is my motivation for going to work each morning; not only do I have a responsibility to care for and treat my patients but I look forward to talking with them. It makes me a richer, more balanced person, and for that, I am grateful.
The Easter weekend is a time to relax, unwind, catch up with friends and family or tackle those DIY projects around the house and garden.
Whatever you're up to, just be careful! Avoid neck and back pain, or those general aches and pains by following a few simple tips...
'How does your garden grow...?'
'Spring is sprung, and grass is ris. I wonder where the birdies is?'
Without wanting to tempt fate, perhaps we have turned our back on the winter. The days are getting longer, the heating is turned down and the birds compete for pole position in the garden, full of the joys of spring!
At this time of year, we all start itching to get out in the garden, cut the grass and tidy up after the dark winter months. Tempting tho' it is to crack on and 'blitz' it, it pays to be cautious and pace yourself. I always see a glut of 'gardener's back' at this time of year; people paying the price for overdoing it.
A few words of warning...
Your Chiropractor at Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic