I recently read a fascinating article written by Richard Brown, chiropractor and President of the British Chiropractic Association, extolling the virtue of chiropractic treatment as a drug-free, non-surgical intervention for the management of spinal and musculoskeletal conditions. One of the core philosophical tenets of chiropractic is that it is a drug-free intervention. We chiropractors recognise the body's natural ability to heal and repair itself and the fact that, if looked after with appropriate diet and exercise, it will remain healthy and pain free. This key principal is neatly summarised in the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry's 1979 report:
"As we have seen, much is made by chiropractors of the drugless and non-surgical nature of their therapy. But modern chiropractors do not suggest that there is only one cause of disease; they admit there are limits to their expertise; and they acknowledge the need for medical intervention and medical monitoring. They do, however, place emphasis on the body's natural functioning and its natural recuperative powers.
In these matters of emphasis we see some value in the contribution that the chiropractic outlook can make to healthcare generally. There cannot be any fundamental objection to an attitude to healthcare which restricts drugs to cases where they are shown to be a matter of necessity rather than a matter of mere convenience. Nor can it seriously be suggested that anyone is unreasonable to believe that it is better for the body's disorders to be relieved if possible, by natural rather than artificial or chemical means".
Whilst more than 30 years old, this statement still holds validity today in our professional methodologies. Obviously, as spinal care experts, working in the modern, scientific world alongside other healthcare professionals, we chiropractors recognise the benefit and necessity for patients to sometimes take drugs and even undergo surgery. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should stop taking any prescribed medications without appropriate medical advice, and indeed, at times I will refer my own patients to their GP to obtain appropriate pain relieving medication, understanding the fact that my patients' health and wellbeing is of paramount importance.
However, I am mindful of the fact that increasingly it seems that patients are turning away from drugs and surgery and are looking for an effective, research-driven form of natural healthcare. Something that gets to the root of the problem, and not just something that eases the pain or masks the symptoms. Added to which, ongoing scientific research and the media seem to increasingly highlight the complications, side-effects and contraindications for a number of commonly prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatories, often readily doled out for the management of spinal and musculoskeletal pain.
It is not surprising then that people seek out a drug-free, but safe and effective alternative - like chiropractic.
Patients are always asking me what type of bed or mattress is best for their backs. Up until now, I've been reluctant to recommend a particular make or design - they can often be incredibly expensive and people can get 'sucked in' by the sales pitch - and the best bed for one person may not be the ideal one for someone else. However, the British Chiropractic Association and one of the leading bed manufactures, Sealy Posturepedic, have finally got together to provide some advice...
First, a few facts and figures*: On average, we spend a third of our lives in bed. 58% of the population complain that they wake up feeling stiff and achey - anything but refreshed! 25% of people wouldn't consider changing their mattress - even if it is more than 10 years old. (*BCA and Sealy Posturepedic 2012)
Time for a change? So, when is the right time to consider changing your mattress? Generally, if it is more than 8-10 years old, uncomfortable, torn, discoloured and a bit 'manky' it could do with an update! If you can feel the springs or you feel it is less supportive than before, or you find yourself rolling into your partner, again it could indicate a need for something new. We should wake feeling rested and refreshed, so another indication is if you find it difficult to get comfy, or you wake up feeling stiff and achey in the morning (although it might be worth having a 'check-up' with the chiropractor too as it might be you, not your bed!).
So, what next?
Research it - ask your friends, find out the make and model of a comfy bed that you've slept on (I even phoned up and spoke to the manager of a hotel in Berlin to find out the specifications of a particularly comfy bed!), check out internet forums and blogs...
Choice - choose a reputable retailer that stocks a wide range of brands and mattress 'types' (foam, sprung, pillow-top etc) and make sure you get an informed opinion from an experienced salesman (Sealy Posturepedic have a wide variety of mattress types and do know what they're talking about!).
Try before you buy - Since you're going to be spending a large proportion of your life in bed, it's important to test out each mattress - lie on it for as long as possible, wriggle about, try getting in and out of it, take your other half with you and see how it works for the both of you. If you are a different size and shape from your partner, or you feel them wriggling about during the night, it might be worth getting two separate mattresses, as what suits them might not be right for you.
Go large - go for as big a bed as possible. This will allow you the freedom to move and wriggle about - important, as if you stay in any position for too long you'll stiffen up and put pressure on the joints, even if it feels comfortable initially.
Don't settle for second best - you don't have to spend a fortune, but a better quality mattress will tend to last longer, so may be a more economical option in the long run. A second-hand bed might be tempting - but remember that the springs and fillings will deteriorate with time, and there is the potential 'yuk-factor' of the previous owners' dust-mites and shedded skin cells...
Sleep Easy - make sure you lie in a comfy position, on your side or back, keep moving about, use a mattress 'topper' if you want a softer feel to a firm mattress and stretch gently before you leap out of bed in the morning.
For more advice check out my previous blog, or the BCA's website...
We all know that good posture can not only improve your posture, but improve your overall appearance. We know too that standing up tall, with our tummies in, head held high and shoulders back makes you feel much better and look fantastic - taller, slimmer and generally poised - and can minimise back and neck pain.
Ideally, we'd all have the strength and discipline(!) to maintain our own posture, but finally, help is at hand. M&S and the British Chiropractic Association have joined forces and come up with the 'Perfect Poise' TM range of lingerie, a 3 piece range cleverly designed to support and improve your posture.
“The Perfect Poise TM range of bras, knickers and shapewear has been specifically designed to increase the wearer's awareness of correct posture by supporting them in key areas. The bra and body incorporate a patent pending supportive back panel and seam-free cups for a smooth silhouette.” Paschal Little, Head of Innovation, M&S Lingerie.
The bra and body use hidden back panels to encourage the wearer to keep their shoulders back and the high waisted knickers have an in-built lower back panel which encourages body alignment. They also slim and smooth the tummy to give a more flattened appearance!
Independent trials by M&S showed that 87% of the women who tried the undies felt that the products supported their back and the national press have followed the story - although recent reviews do say that they need to increase the cup-size range (currently 34B - 40E, sizes 8 - 22) to accommodate everyone.
‘"Perfect Poise TM lingerie has been designed with the modern woman in mind. Our contemporary aesthetic combines graphic sheer and opaque panels to create sculpted, sleek pieces which are discreet under clothing.’’ Soozie Jenkinson, Head of Lingerie Design, M&S.
I'm tempted to try them myself but regrettably require something a little smaller(!), but would love feedback from anyone who's tried them...
Things are hotting up at the London 2012 Olympics. Only a few more days until the Opening Ceremony...
This week, the doors of the Athletes Village will open. Athletes and their support teams from 204 countries will start arriving. And, for the first time, chiropractors will be there!
Within the Athletes Village is the state of the art Polyclinic. Open 24 hours a day this multidisciplinary clinic is kitted out with some of the most sophisticated equipment in the country and staffed by highly skilled specialists - including, for the first time ever, chiropractors. It is expected that a high proportion of the anticipated 200 competitors visiting the polyclinic each day will be suffering from musculoskeletal injuries - sprains, strains, muscle injuries and joint pains - exactly the sort of problems that we chiropractors excel in treating. So, it is expected that the team of chiropractors are going to be kept busy, providing care from 7am - 11pm every day, with 24 hour emergency 'on-call' cover as well!
The state of the art Polyclinic in the Olympic Village
The team of chiropractors will be working alongside other musculoskeletal healthcare specialists - orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists, sports injury physicians - as well as other core services like dentistry, optometry, and physiotherapy. Together, this team of medical specialists will help to ensure that athletes are in their peak condition for this most important time in their sporting careers.
Richard Brown meets Lord Coe
Richard Brown, chiropractor and President of the British Chiropractic Association is one of the chiropractors who has taken time out of his busy practice and professional schedule to be treating the athletes. He had the opportunity to meet Lord Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, who voiced his support at the presence of chiropractors at the Olympics, and who said that his own career would have been far shorter, had it not been chiropractors.
Hopefully, Richard and the other chiropractors in the Polyclinic will be able to keep the competitors in tip top condition; here's hoping that they enable Jessica Ennis and a few of her fellow competitors to bring home some shiny medals...!
Taller than average? Wonder if tall people really suffer more with their backs? A recent study, published in the journal Spine* shows that tall people are at far greater risk of being hospitalised due to low back problems affecting the intervertebral discs.
*Wahlstrom et al. Risk factors for hospitalisation due to lumbar disc disease. Spine 2012 July 1;37(15):1334-1339
The study compared the incidence of back pain in over 260,000 construction workers over a period of 20 years. They found that taller people (190-199 cm; 6'3"-6'6") were 1.5 times more likely to be hospitalised due to lumbar disc disease than their shorter colleagues (170-179 cm; 5'7"-5'10").
These results are hardly surprising; tools and equipment are typically designed for those of 'average' height and build. Those at either end of the height spectrum find themselves having to use equipment that is not the ideal size for them which can cause extra strain on the spine.
Ideally, people should take time to find equipment that is the right size for them. Longer handled tools, raised worktops, properly adjusted seats and desks can help to prevent back pain. We chiropractors recognise that 'prevention is better than cure' and much of chiropractic care is about giving advice to help prevent back pain in the first place, as well as treating it.
A debate has been published today in the British Medical Journal (8 June 2012), questioning the safety of neck manipulation. The story has been picked up by a number of national newspapers, and has been discussed on live radio and television programmes. Regrettably, many of these focus on the negative, so often the case with sensationalist journalism. I hope that I will be able to provide a more realistic, accurate and balanced view.
Neck manipulation has been shown to be safe and effective and benefits thousands of people suffering from neck pain and headaches. In fact, the risk of a stroke after treatment is the same whether you see a GP and get a prescription, or see a chiropractor and get your neck adjusted. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18204390)
Manipulation of the neck is at least as effective as other medical treatments and is safer than many of the drugs used to treat similar conditions. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17258728)
The term chiropractic is often mis-used for treatment carried out by non-chiropractors. This leads to over-reporting of incidents blamed on chiropractors, including in the BMJ. In one report of 24 cases attributed to chiropractors, not one was shown to be a chiropractor. (http://chiromt.com/content/14/1/16#B21)
Chiropractors are highly trained in spinal care and manipulation. In one UK study undertaken in 2007, of 50,000 neck treatments reviewed, not one single adverse event was reported. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17906581)
The cherry-picking of poor quality research needlessly raises alarm in patients and does little to help people suffering from neck pain and headaches to choose the most appropriate treatment.
I hope that this has allayed any fears or worries about the safety and efficacy of spinal manipulation when carried out by a trained, professional pair of hands. However, should you have any further concerns or queries - please, just ask!
What better way to spend a wet, windy weekend than catching up on paperwork? And that's precisely what I've been doing - wrapped up in a snuggly jumper and armed with a large mug of tea.
People always wonder what I'm up to when I'm not in clinic seeing patients, easing their back ache, stiff neck and sore muscles. Much as I would dearly love to be at home, pottering about the garden, playing with Twiglet (our rabbit) or running on the beach, the job of being a chiropractor and running the Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic seems to be somewhat never ending! Or maybe I'm just inefficient, or perhaps a workaholic?!
One of the more time consuming activities is letter-writing. I like to communicate with each and every patient's GP (with the patient's permission, of course), to ensure that the GP is kept up to date with their chiropractic care. Obviously, there are also occasions when patients will require referral on to another healthcare professional for a second opinion. This letter writing also helps to build inter-professional relationships, and maintain the profile of chiropractic within the wider medical world.
In addition to this there is the work involved with my position on the British Chiropractic Association Council, and the 'business' side of running a chiropractic clinic. Then the ongoing reading to keep up with latest research findings and catching up with old colleagues to discuss useful techniques - or just to have a gossip!
So, that's probably why I'm finally getting around to writing this blog at 11pm, at the end of a productive rainy day. And yes, I did make sure I got up regularly for a wriggle and had a couple of walks, between the showers, for a bit of fresh air and exercise!
_Having been a member of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) since I graduated, I was delighted to have been elected to join the BCA Council. As one of nine Council members, I am in a key position to keep abreast of the latest developments that may affect the profession, and ensure that the Association continues to provide an exemplary service.
Established in 1925, the BCA is the largest and longest-standing association for chiropractors in the UK, and represents the UK profession at the European and global level. The BCA has a membership of more than 50% of the UK chiropractors and only accepts people who have graduated from a nationally or internationally-recognised college of chiropractic education, after a minimum of four years full-time training. The BCA ensures its chiropractors maintain high standards of conduct, practice, education and training, and operates a robust professional standards and complaints management procedure. The BCA is also keen to see the chiropractic expand and progress by providing support and encouragement in the field of chiropractic research. To find out more about the BCA, have a look at their website www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk
Fortunately, most of the communication with the BCA Council occurs electronically so I don't have to spend too much time away from clinic, although it is necessary for me to attend national and international meetings every now and then. However, this does provide me with the opportunity to experience the hustle and bustle of life 'down south' and makes me appreciate the more relaxed lifestyle that we have up here in North Wales and Anglesey!
Eich Ceiropractydd yng Nghlinig Ceiropracteg Llangefnii