I wasn't surprised by the research findings that the so typically British 'stiff upper lip' may deter patients from seeing their doctor, as they are too embarrassed to disclose their symptoms or fear that they may be 'wasting the doctor's time'. These findings, part of a more lengthy study published in the British Journal of Cancer, may go some way to explain the surprisingly lower than expected cancer survival rates in the UK, when compared with other developed nations, despite access to highly trained medical staff and cutting-edge treatment interventions.
A survey of nearly 20,000 people in the developed countries of UK, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden revealed that one sixth of British men and women over the age of 50 were embarrassed to share their symptoms with their doctor, and a third were reluctant to visit for fear of being 'time wasters'. This could delay diagnosis and hence commencement of treatment - and early intervention is often the most critical factor in a successful outcome for the treatment of many cancers.
Fortunately, since we chiropractors primarily deal with problems affecting the musculoskeletal system, rarely do people present with cancers, or symptoms that might lead me to suspect anything more sinister. However, I am all too familiar with people's reluctance to disclose potentially important information that might help me to make the correct diagnosis and hence establish an appropriate treatment plan. All too often they might think that something in their history isn't relevant to their particular, current problem, or they might feel a little embarrassed or awkward about discussing things with me. However, I would urge all patients to provide me with as much information as possible - every consultation is totally confidential and we aim to provide you with a comfortable, relaxed, private environment. There isn't much that shocks me, and chances are, I've probably heard or seen similar before!
Whilst we chiropractors mainly treat the joints, muscles, nerves and soft tissues, we spend many years at University studying all the medical sciences, so we are trained to recognise and diagnose all sorts of illnesses and problems, not just those affecting the musculoskeletal system. So, if I were to pick up on something that I thought wasn't within my scope of practice, I would refer you on to your GP, or appropriate healthcare professional for further investigation (obviously with your permission).
Personally, I'm just like everybody else; I still squirm with embarrassment and sit there, on my clammy hands, giggling like a nervous schoolgirl, when having to discuss even the most minor of ailments with my GP. I even worry that I'm wearing 'sensible' clothing when seeing my own chiropractor! I faff around, delay making the appointment, fidget in the waiting room - and then feel so much better once it's done!
So, be brave and grab the bull by the horns. If you're worried about something it is far better to deal with it sooner rather than later, and if it is something serious, the sooner you get help the better! At least you'll have a definite answer to what the problem is - and this has got to be preferable to the sleepless nights, worrying and wondering and imagining the worst...
As so perfectly demonstrated by this poor little penguin and his unhelpful, mocking friends, venturing out in this cold, icy weather can be treacherous! Even a simple slip on an icy pavement can result in at least a jarred back, grazed knees or a banged bottom (not to mention a dented ego!) - or worse still a fractured wrist or even hip which may take months to heal (my husband is looking at 3 months in a cast after fracturing his scaphoid - a very small bone in the wrist! OK, we were snowboarding!!!). However, whilst it is tempting to stay snuggled up indoors, this is not always possible and even in the cold weather our bodies benefit from a little bit of fresh air and exercise.
With a few simple, sensible precautions you can avoid the fate of the penguin...
Now, how about another look at that penguin...
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!).
It's that time of year when our resolve is tested. A week in, and all those New Year resolutions are beginning to fall by the wayside. It is so easy to think that that little bag of crisps won't really hurt, a small glass of wine doesn't really count and I'll go for a run tomorrow when it's stopped raining...
Like most people, I vowed to have a healthy start to the year. A week of eating and drinking too much (I was away snowboarding over Christmas so had to join in the apres-ski!) left me feeling tired, jaded and a bit podgy round the middle. I packed away the Christmas decorations, cleaned out the kitchen cupboards, finished the half-eaten packet of biscuits and tin of Roses and dug out my running trainers, head-torch and high vis jacket. A healthy eating campaign, with lots of nutritious fresh fruit and veg, plenty of water, and no alcohol or rubbishy snacks beckoned, with a daily jog around the village - no matter the weather.
One week in and I've been flawed by a forgotten box of Ferrero Rocher and the remnants of a chest infection. Not wanting to make it any worse ('don't exercise if you have symptoms below your neck!') I've refrained from my daily run, and thought that I had the self-control to limit myself to just one little chocolately, nutty nugget... I was wrong.
However, all is not lost - working on the premis that tomorrow never comes, I shall just start again today. A healthy stir-fry for supper, and then a walk around the village with a few stretches and core exercises back at home (probably best to let my chest get fully better) and I'm back in the swing of it. And that's what I remind all of my patients - it doesn't matter if you slip up with the diet, or forget to do some exercises, or have a 'greedy' day - you just have to start back where you left off, as soon as you feel ready. So many people throw their entire fitness campaign out of the window simply because they slip up the once - but this is just crazy! You're throwing away all the hard work that you've done, and will quickly get back to where you were - just as soon as you get back on track. So, here's to a fresh start this New Year... even if it is somewhat belated!
Eich Ceiropractydd yng Nghlinig Ceiropracteg Llangefnii