Christmas time gives us all the opportunity to unwind, relax and catch-up with friends and family. Here at the Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic it's no different, although we've still got another week or so in clinic before we 'break up', and it's bound to be busy with everyone trying to come in and get sorted out this side of the festive period!
However, last week we were all able to get together and had an excellent evening out at local restaurant, Nant-yr-Odyn. It was a chance for us all to have a proper chat, away from the ringing phone and the hubbub of clinic, and to find out what we're all going to be up to over the Christmas break. So often, we barely say hello to each other, let alone have a proper conversation - once the first patient comes in the day just seems to whizz by!
It was also a chance for me to say a very big 'thank you' to all the reception staff. Without them, the clinic really wouldn't function. It has been said on many an occasion that a receptionist can make or break a clinic - they're the ones that speak to potential patients on the phone, and the first person that a patient meets on arriving at the clinic - and these first impressions last! They're also the ones that sit and chat with people when I'm running late, or have to deal with disgruntled patients who can't get an appointment when they want - and they have to put up with me on a busy day! So, it really was a pleasure to be able to express my gratitude to them.
And what about the previous lot?...
Carwyn is a Minister, working in and around Bala, but is also doing hospital chaplaincy between here and Wrexham. He's back and forth all the time, visiting his family here on Anglesey, as well as attending to his parishioners. He pops into clinic every now and then and keeps us entertained with tales of auditioning donkeys for the upcoming Nativity Play.
Evie is a teacher; she has taught English and Geography to at A level standard for several years, but has now specialised further and is working in a school specifically for children with learning difficulties and special needs. She got engaged earlier this year and is planning her wedding for sometime next year, blissfully happy in a little cottage nestled in the Welsh Borders.
Ceri has left Anglesey too; she married Steve, a soldier in the Royal Welsh, in July of this year and has moved with him (and the Regiment) to Wiltshire. She's adapting to life as an Army wife, but is hoping to continue her career in Law, or perhaps Social Work.
Sharon (sorry, no picture!) still helps out in clinic every now and then, but is taking a bit of time to focus on the non-stop project of her house renovation, and is concentrating on becoming a fully qualified Kennel Club trainer.
Hannah still helps out in clinic too, but is now working full-time as a fully qualified care assistant for adults with learning disabilities. She also teaches dance and drama, and helps out with the Rainbows. She's applied to University and hopes to be resuming her studies next autumn.
Olivia is enjoying time at home with her two little rascals - no doubt they're running riot at this time of year, awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas and his reindeer...
I really couldn't function in the Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic without my brilliant receptionists. They're the friendly face that greets people, the reassuring voice on the end of the phone and the competent professional that keep things running smoothly. The loyalty, commitment and friendship that they demonstrate both to the clinic, and to me, is second to none - and for that, I really can't thank them enough! I'm sure you'll share this sentiment...
Patients are always asking me if their problem is common. Have I seen anything like it before? Why them? Why has their back gone? Why have they been affected? I try to reassure them that they're not alone - low back pain, is unfortunately, a very common problem and, the majority of people will suffer from it at some point during their lives. However, it is difficult to find reliable evidence that answers this question - just how many people suffer with low back pain? It is easy to know how many people we see with back pain in a clinic, or how many people go to their doctor with a sore back, or even how many people take time off work with a back injury, but we don't know just how many people are walking around with low back pain on a daily basis.
Or, at least, we didn't - until recently. A reliable study,* published recently in a well-respected journal, has looked at just this question - what is the prevalence of low back pain in the general population? This study, conducted by the eminent Professor Charlotte Lebeouf-Yde over a one-year period, found an interesting pattern of low back pain in a random population of 50 year olds, revealing three distinct, but virtually equally-sized groups: 1) those who mainly do not have LBP (35%), 2) those who have it at times (30%), and 3) those who have it more or less always (35%). *Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2013, 21:30
"35% of people have low back pain more or less always"
This is one of the few studies that is truly representative of the occurrence of low back pain the general population; participants were randomly selected, not chosen in response to a particular advert or from a particular place of work or a treatment clinic. They came from all walks of life, were from different socioeconomic backgrounds, had different levels of education and did all sorts of different jobs - so truly represented the 'normal, average Joe'. The participants were sent a text message every fortnight, asking them how many days their low back had bothered them, and how many days (if any) they'd had to take off work because of it. These regular text messages meant that the participants didn't have to rely on their memory and recall their pain over a long period, thus further enhancing the reliability of the data. Whilst there was some dropout from the study, the majority participated in the study for the whole year, giving a very valuable pool of data.
"3% had low back pain every day for a year!"
Further detailed analysis of the data revealed more - a lucky 19% of the sample did not experience any low back pain at all, whilst an unlucky 3% had low back pain every day for the entire year! 9% experienced some low back pain for several days every fortnight (but not every day) but the majority experienced episodes of low back pain lasting anything from a few days to a few weeks.
So, what does this study mean? It shows just how common low back pain is within the general population. Whilst a fortunate third of people didn't experience any low back pain at all in an entire year, the remainder experienced some intermittent or constant low back pain. From studies like this which show just how common low back pain is, we can also anticipate the knock-on effect that low back pain has at an individual and societal level - the impact on a person's everyday life with ongoing pain and disability, the number of days off work, the potential loss of income and the resulting cost to society, not to mention the burden on our already stretched NHS. It highlights the necessity to provide a solution to this enormous problem - like chiropractic treatment which hopefully will one day be widely accessible and freely available to all those who are suffering!
This week is Back Care Awareness Week. Run by the charity, Back Care, the UK's National Back Pain Association, the focus this year is on back pain experienced by carers. I see many carers in clinic, and whether they are doing it as paid employment, or caring for a loved one at home, they often end up neglecting themselves. This is critical - not only do they need to be fit and well in order to provide the care and support that is required of them, but putting up with back pain can wear you down.
There are some startling statistics! There are currently around 6.5 million carers in the UK with the figure set to rise to 9 million by 2037. For many carers physical activity such as lifting is a significant part of their daily routine. However, not all carers will be aware of their back health when looking after someone.
Although paid carers may receive training on how to protect their backs during the physical aspects of their work, many unpaid carers, of which there are 5.8 million in England and Wales, may not receive any training or information about back care. It's often these people back at home that are most at risk - they don't have the adequate training or equipment, like hoists, to ensure that they do things safely. Day in, day out, the repetitive movements and heavy lifting can take its toll, overloading the body and causing strains and injuries. It is worth contacting Social Services as often there is equipment available on loan that can make life easier and reduce the risk of injury.
 Statistics taken from Carers UK http://www.carersuk.org/newsroom/stats-and-facts
 According to data from the Office of National Statistics from the 2011 census
However, there are a few things that carers can think of which may help prevent back and neck pain:
Golden rules for carers
· Think ahead - assess each situation and look for the best and easiest way to achieve the desired result, this may mean using any available equipment whether it be for specialist lifting or a simple sack barrow for moving boxes of supplies.
· Follow the weight - always try and face the direction in which you want to carry any weight - your body is strongest when you are square on to the weight, so don't twist from your hips.
· Take care when lifting - never lift while twisting from the waist. Bend your knees, try to have a relaxed, straight back and if possible, brace your abdominal muscles. For added stability make sure that your feet are about a shoulder width or more apart before lifting.
· Ask for training - whether you are caring in a formal setting or helping someone at home, make sure you have been properly trained in how to use any equipment.
· Supportive shoes are essential - wear good, soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip on the ground.
· Take regular breaks - if doing a repetitive task, take a break every 20 minutes and do some simple stretches to relax your muscles.
Following this simple advice can sometimes make all the difference, and ease the physical strain of being a carer. It's important to remember your emotional and psychological needs too - being a full-time carer can be a thankless task, particularly when circumstances have changed and you end up having to care for someone who has previously been a companion and soul-mate. Make sure you take time out for yourself - you need to 'recharge' - and take up people on their offers of help!
There's a very simple three minute exercise routine entitled ‘Straighten Up UK’ that has been developed by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) which is really easy to incorporate into daily life to help strengthen the spine and improve posture. This can help to stretch out the muscles and joints of the body, easing aches and pains.
For further advice, just ask me at the Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic - and don't ignore any persistent niggles!
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!...
There was a great article published in today's Mirror - I've re-posted it on my blog for sake of ease (technically, since the British Chiropractic Association contributed substantially, we sort of wrote it anyway, but thanks to the Mirror!). Those of you who want to read the original version you can follow the link. Just click here!
It’s no wonder back problems are the biggest cause of time off work in the UK, and the second most common reason for going to the GP.
A shocking survey carried out by the British Chiropractic Association has found two in three of us have suffered serious neck or back pain by the time we hit 35. Add in people over 35 and the figures reach eight in 10.
It’s no wonder back problems are the biggest cause of time off work in the UK, and the second most common reason for going to the GP.
But the latest research also shows surprisingly few cases of back pain are the result of a serious accident or injury – the vast majority are caused simply by the cumulative effects of lifestyle that we tend to ignore.
For example, the Prime Minister David Cameron’s recurrent back pain is likely to have been triggered, at least in part, by all those hours at a desk or travelling in cars – and stress when he’s not chillaxing on holiday.
“Simple daily habits, such as hunching to read your smart phone, slouching in front of your computer – even having a weekend lie-in – can, over time, strain your spine and the surrounding muscles, leaving you vulnerable to serious back injury,” agrees BCA chiropractor Tim Hutchful.
“People will come to me in pain and say, ‘I just bent down to pick something up and my back went’, but actually it’s their behaviour in the months or years before which has led to the weakness – the one-off event is just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”
So to stop back pain now – and prevent future agony – try targeting the following unexpected culprits…
1 Sitting still - Forget heavy lifting – sitting hunched over a computer all day is one of the worst things you can do for your back.
“Research has found that people who do desk jobs suffer more back pain than those working in manual jobs where lots of lifting is involved,” says Tim Hutchful.
“Using your joints and spine strengthens them, reducing risk of injury. But inactivity weakens them, which makes you more prone to problems.”
? Fix it: Get up and walk around for two minutes, at least once an hour, and improve your posture while you’re sitting down. Avoid bending forward and aim for a “neutral spine position”, in which everything is in line, with no strain spots.
Your shoulders should be relaxed, feet flat on the floor, and eyes in line with the middle of your screen. Click on to: bit.ly/bcapostureinf for more advice.
2 High heels and ballet pumps - Yes, tottering in high heels for long periods can make your back sore, but too much time in the wrong flats can do just as much damage.
“Heels cause problems because they force your foot forward, altering the angle of your body so your weight isn’t evenly distributed over the spine, which can trigger pain from your knees all the way up to your back,” explains sports physiotherapist Chris Hirons from N10 Injury & Sports Therapy Clinic.
“But popular styles of shoe – such as ballet pumps and flip-flops – aren’t a great deal better as they allow your foot to slide around.
“Again, the lack of stability that this causes puts pressure on your spine,” accordingly to Hirons.
? Fix it: “Ensure your shoe holds your foot firmly in place to keep you stable and protect your back,” says Hirons.
“And alternate between high heels, mids and flats. By wearing different shoes every day, you lessen your chance of experiencing long-term problems caused by using only one type of shoe.”
3 Sneezing - This seemingly innocuous, activity is apparently a very common cause of back pain – thanks to its sheer force.
A sneeze’s speed of release can be up to 100 miles per hour, and because it’s not considered polite to sneeze over someone, our first instinct is to quickly cover our faces and turn away.
But according to Janet Wakley, author or The Smart Guide to Back Care (Hammersmith Health Books, £14.99), this instinctive turn is one of the worst things we can do for our backs.
“Spontaneously twisting to the side, combined with the force used by the chest muscles to sneeze, can wrench the back muscles in just a second,” she warns.
? Fix it: “If possible, turn your whole body when you ‘re about to sneeze, so that your back remains straight,” recommends Wakley.
4 Your favourite bra - The latest figures suggest around 80% of us wear a bra that doesn’t fit, which can cause several muscular problems.
A bra that offers no support can lead to hunching and sore neck and back muscles, while one that gives proper support can help to minimise that forward hunch and relieve pain.
? Fix it: Get measured and fitted by a trained bra fitter – stores such as Debenhams and M&S both offer this service for free.
Go for styles with wider shoulder straps or a racer-style back, which offer better support and encourage you to pull your shoulders back.
5 Your pot belly - “Even an extra couple of pounds around your middle makes your pelvis tilt forward and puts it out of alignment as your body works to rebalance itself,” explains Chris Hirons.
“This means that your spine isn’t getting enough support from your abdominal muscles, which can cause excessive strain on your lower back.”
? Fix it: “Don’t do sit-ups – they won’t flatten your tummy if there’s fat on top,” advises Hirons.
“Fat-burning cardiovascular exercises, such as running or swimming, for 45 minutes, three times a week, are more effective at shifting the bulge.”
6 Stress - Just like the rest of you, your back muscles will tense up when you start to feel you are under pressure.
Muscles are designed to contract and relax but when you’re stressed, they may contract so much that they can eventually start to spasm, which in turn will trigger pain.
Stress also causes your levels of the hormone cortisol to soar, which increases inflammation in the body, making the problem worse.
? Fix it: Forget laying in bed as the latest research shows that gentle exercise, such as walking or yoga, is much more effective at relieving back pain.
It also has the added benefit of being proven to reduce stress levels.
7 Your smart phone - “The head-down position that you use to look at phones, iPads and laptops strains the muscles in the neck and the pain can extend all the way down your spine to your lower back,” explains chiropractor Tim Hutchful.
“This is especially bad for you if you are using them for hours on end because your body will eventually start to adopt this hunched position.”
? Fix it: Make sure you take frequent screen breaks.
Try to look straight ahead rather than down at your screen.
You might look for a stand to help you hold your laptop or tablet at a more back-friendly height and angle, such as the Trust ComfortLine Portable Ergonomic Laptop Stand (£16.90 from Amazon).
8 Your lie-in at the weekend - “Many people find a sore back is the downside of those extra hours spent snoozing in bed on a Sunday morning,” says Tim Hutchful.
“This is because your body is resting in the same position for too long, which can trigger or exacerbate existing aches and strains in both your joints and muscles”
? Fix it: “To stop this stiffness developing, I often advise patients to switch their Sunday morning lie-in for an afternoon siesta at the weekends instead,” says Hutchful.
I lost weight and Zumba-d the pain away Christina Taylor, 28, is a dance instructor from South West London an mum to Kyran, nine, and Josiah, who’s three...
"I developed severe back pain while I was pregnant with my second child, Josiah, and it just got worse after he was born. My doctor diagnosed a slipped disc and scheduled me for back surgery to remove it, which meant waiting on a long list.
Meanwhile, the pain was constant and some days I was taking 12 strong prescription painkillers just to function. The discomfort often left me in tears and sometimes just walking and looking after the kids was impossible.
I often had to resort to crutches to get around. I felt miserable and old before my time. I knew carrying too much weight wasn’t helping my back problems, but it hurt too much to go to the gym.
When a friend suggested Zumba, South American-inspired dance classes, I decided to give it a go – especially as I’d read that doctors now recommend exercise to ease back pain.
I started off slowly with one hour-long class a week but soon found the more classes I did, the more weight I lost, the easier movement became and the less pain I felt in my back.
I call Zumba exercise in disguise, because it has a party atmosphere with everyone just dancing away to the music.
After two months I was going to the classes three times a week and combining them with a tummy-toning class to help strengthen my ‘core’ back and stomach muscles and give my spine more support.
I couldn’t believe the benefits. After just four months I’d lost over three stone and was pain free for the first time in around three years and could stop taking the painkillers.
Better still, I felt well enough to cancel my surgery appointment with the back specialist. I’ve kept up the classes and now teach Zumba myself – I feel like a different person!"
Gadget saved me from disc agony Pip Caliskan, 45, from Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire used to work as a nail technician until she injured her back by twisting around while using her laptop…
"At the time I just thought, ‘Oh that hurt’, but by the following morning I couldn’t even get out of bed – I was in such agony. The pain was constant and then I lost the feeling in one leg and foot.
The specialist said a disc was pressing on my sciatic nerve and that I needed discectomy surgery to chop a bit off the problem disc.
But the surgery didn’t work and nor did a repeat op. I then had my third session of major surgery – a double spinal fusion – to remove the damaged disc and insert six bolts, a metal cage and a metal disc.
Things did get better, but the pain was still severe and I needed a cocktail of strong prescription painkillers to get through every day.
I was wiling to try anything when I heard about the Alpha-Stim – a small micro-current device, which is attached to your body by patches and claims to block pain signals to the brain and to kick-start the body’s natural healing process.
The instant I used it, it had a profound effect on my pain. You can’t feel the current, just a slight buzz, but it really works. I’ve been using Alpha-Stim regularly for two years and have many pain-free days – something I never thought possible. I'm off almost all my painkillers and, despite the initial cost, I must have saved a fortune on my prescriptions.
I finally feel in control of the pain and have my life back. I was even able to wear heels to my daughter’s graduation this summer!"
So, a good summary of things that can cause back pain - and a few handy hints and tips to prevent it. They obviously forgot to add in that a trip to your friendly, local chiropractor can help determine the exact cause of your problem and provide you with appropriate treatment and preventative advice to help ease it! :)
The end of the school holidays and the start of term needn't be such a pain in the neck - or the back.
I walked with my niece to her school the other day and was amazed at the weight of her school bag - not to mention her hockey stick, PE kit, packed lunch - and all the other stuff that she needed for the day. It's not surprising then that back pain is on the increase in our youngsters, but a few simple tips can make the start of term a bit less painful...
• Bag it up - a rucksack really is the best option, as long as your child carries it over both shoulders, with the straps are adjusted so that the bag is held close to their back and heavier items are placed at the top of the rucksack. They'll probably hate you for it now, making them look like a nerdy swot, but they'll thank you for it later in life when they haven't got such a sore back!
• Keep it light - your child should avoid carrying any excess weight in their bag – check it every day to make sure they aren’t carrying any unnecessary items. Encourage the school to provide lockers so that they don't have to carry all their heavy books around all the time.
• Best foot forward - wearing good, soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip on the ground will make carrying a heavy bag much easier. Ensure shoes laces are tied up properly for support (again, much cooler to have them undone, socks around the ankles - but just remind them that it's much less cool to have a broken ankle!).
• Move around - staying still for a long time is bad for the spine. Limit your child to 40 minutes on their phone, laptop, tablet, and computer or in front of the TV then encourage them to get up and do something else for a while. Hint - Hide the remote control so they have to get up to change channel.
• Keep fit - Regular and frequent exercise is best - the fitter they are, the less likely they are to injure themselves. Drag them out at the weekends or make the most of this late summer sunshine and head out after school. Encourage them to take up a new sport or active hobby. Exercise is good for us grown-ups too - set a good example and get out there! Ditch the car and walk or cycle them to school - and then carry on to work.
These few simple tips can help to make things more comfortable and reduce the risk of back and neck pain. Ultimately, this'll hopefully make for a happier, healthier child (certainly less whingy!).
Need another good reason to go out and kick a ball around with the kids? Or to send them outside to run around and burn off the ice-creams? Well, here's another one...
A study, recently published in the BMJ Open Journal, assessed the activity levels of over 7000 children between May 2008 and August 2009. They found that nearly half of all seven-year-olds remain inactive for between six and seven hours every day - far too little to remain healthy. The figures also revealed a staggering difference between boys and girls, with only 4 in 10 girls achieving the recommended hour or more per day of activity, compared with over 6 in 10 boys.
These figures are worrying - nearly a third of all children in the UK, aged between 2 and 15, are overweight and nearly 20% are believed to obese. These overweight children are likely to continue to be overweight into adulthood, with a predicted 50% of the UK population obese by 2030, and 3 in 4 adults predicted to be suffering from weight-related illnesses e.g. diabetes and heart disease, within the next two decades. Obviously, exercise levels alone are not only responsible for maintaining a healthy weight - diet also plays a huge part.
However, it is worrying that the kids of today aren't running about and playing - surely that is what childhood is all about?! So, set a good example and head out there, drag the kids off the sofa and away from their smart-phones and playstations. Take the dog for a walk, head to the beach, throw a frisbee - anything! It's good for the heart, and even better, good for the soul. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face as well as a spring in your step.
NB For those without children - head out there anyway - we're all just big kids after all.
One of the definitive highlights of this summer was the wedding of my receptionist, Ceri, to her lovely long-term boyfriend, Steve. The sun shone, the family gathered and the bride looked absolutely stunning and the groom scrubbed up pretty well too!
The day, held at the gorgeous Gwesty Carreg Bran in Llanfairpwll, had undergone a lot of planning and preparation - much of it whilst Steve was deployed to Afghanistan last year. Steve's absence gave Ceri the space and excuse to focus all her energies into making the day an absolutely fantastic one (and to make the heart grow fonder!). Thanks to Skype and facebook she managed to involve Steve as much as possible - no doubt a welcome distraction from the dust and tedium of an observation post in Helmand.
The only downside is that we'll all miss Ceri in reception as she spent the few days of her honeymoon packing up a van and driving south with her new husband and two baby kittens to set up home in Wiltshire. She assures me that she is keeping herself busy, fitting into the role of 'military wife' and trying to stop the baby cats from completely destroying the military quarter. However, she is keen to pursue a career in Law and has already circulated her CV to local legal firms and solicitors. She promises me that she'll keep in touch - and will doubtless be back up here in sunny Anglesey every now and then, catching up with friends and family. Hopefully she'll stop by clinic to say hello!
Many of you are heading to the 50th Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells this week. With over 50,000 people attending each day it's sure to be a bustling affair, showing off the best that Wales has to offer - livestock, food, produce, crafts and entertainment - there's something there for everyone!
However, whilst this glorious sunshine will help to attract people (particularly as there is no danger of cars getting stuck in the quagmire of parking as in previous years!) it can add to the overall exhaustion experienced by some people at this huge event. I'm hoping to get to it myself over the next couple of days and I'm planning a few things to help me enjoy it all the more...
It's sure to be a fantastic event and I'm looking forward to going - who knows, I might even bump into a few of you there (amongst the 49,999 other people!).
Inspired by this fantastic weather, the glow of the impressive Snowdon range in the hot summer sun and my friend Alastair's blog, I headed up to the hills yesterday evening after clinic. Armed with a couple of bottles of water, some fruit and nuts and the all-essential flapjack, a friend and I did the long slog up the Llanberis Path to the Snowdon summit in a couple of hours.
We took our time - plenty of breaks were needed to admire the absolutely stunning view down across valley to Llanberis (obviously nothing to do with the fact that we were both puffing nearly as much as the train!).
It was worth the trek, and refreshed with another bottle of water and piece of flapjack at the top, we headed down a different way - starting off on the Snowdon Ranger Path and then headed cross- country - we were back at the car fairly quickly and home, hungrily tucking into to barbequed sausages and chicken kebabs, by 9.30pm.
I'm stiff and achy today but in a good way; like many of us the '9-5' grind can wear us down and it sometimes seems that all we do every day is wake up, go to work, come home, have supper and go to bed. However, this little 'micro-adventure' (and my achy legs!) have reminded me that it is definitely worth making the effort to go out and DO things. That way, you feel as though you've achieved more in the day than just exist. It makes you feel as though you've actually lived.
So, whilst I might not be climbing Snowdon on a daily basis I've made a pact to try to DO something every day - a short walk after supper taking in the cool of the evening as things settle down after a long hot day, or a quick splodge on the beach with my morning mug of tea before clinic. It doesn't have to be much, but it really is the little things that count (although I can see my resolve breaking if this fabulous weather turns!).
Eich Ceiropractydd yng Nghlinig Ceiropracteg Llangefnii