80% of UK adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives – so what is causing it? With this rate being so high, it is important to highlight some of the everyday activities, which, if conducted wrongly, can lead to back pain. One of the main ones to focus on is sleep – everyone does it, so it is important to know how to do it properly!
Below are some of the sleep positions that can cause you pain:
• When sleeping on your front, your head is turned slightly to the side as not to suffocate completely. As a result, this can cause a large amount of strain on the neck, which could lead to pain throughout the day. This position also means that your spine is completely unsupported, which could lead to extreme back pain.
• When sleeping on your left side with your arms completely out, you are essentially restricting blood flow and putting a large amount of pressure on your nerves; which can result in soreness in the shoulders and arms. Like sleeping on your front, the spine is completely unsupported in this position and therefore could lead to both upper and lower back pain.
• Whilst sleeping in the foetal position is a favourite amongst many, it is actually one of the worst sleep positions because of its complete lack of support for the neck and spine. As a result of the curvature of the spine in this position, neck and back pain is extremely common.
These positions can ease back pain:
• By sleeping flat on your back, your spine is completely supported, which will help ease the pain caused to the neck and back. By keeping your arms by your side, you are reducing strain on the shoulders as well.
• If you continue to feel soreness in your back after sleeping on your back, try the exact same position but with a small pillow underneath your knees. This helps your body to maintain a healthy curve in the lower back.
• If you want to sleep on your side, you absolutely can by just making sure your arms are kept down by your side instead of being stretched outwards. This actually supports the spine in the position of its natural curve.
As we approach the Christmas season, you might be more worried about piling on the pounds and feeling like a Christmas Pudding on the big day than anything else, but you’d be surprised how many people hurt their back over the festive period.
Chiltern Health Centre Chiropractor Jennifer Garratt explains, “Surprisingly, we often see an increase in patients visiting the clinic with back aches and pains which have appeared during the Christmas period.”
There are many ways you can hurt your back at Christmas. Bending and lifting heavy items like Christmas trees, furniture or even the turkey can easily strain your back or exacerbate existing aches and pains.
If you do hurt your back or neck during the holidays, your first thought might be to put your feet up on the sofa and watch some festive films and wait until the pain disappears. Although this may seem like a tempting option, it is much more beneficial for your back to keep your muscles moving.
Jennifer Garratt explains, “Try to stay as active as possible, sitting around for long periods of time can strain your neck and back, so why not go out for a walk on Christmas day!”
Going for a walk can also be a good break from wrapping presents! Spending hours on the floor slouching over wrapping paper and Christmas cards can hurt your back if you are in that position for too long.
“If you’ve left it to the last minute and have a lot of wrapping to do, make sure you sit or stand at a table to stop you bending over too much. If you’re sat down, make sure you’re supporting your back at all times with a small cushion.”“If you’re lifting heavy or awkward objects like the Christmas tree or furniture, always ask for help and make sure you also bend your knees when lifting heavier items! When you’re putting up decorations, use a step ladder to avoid over stretching or straining your back or neck.”
For further information, please contact Chiltern Health Centre on 020 8661 1613.
We are open normal hours all over Christmas except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day when we will be closed. We will also be closing early at 1pm on Christmas Eve. An answerphone will be available when we are closed and we will get back to you as soon as reception is open again.
You might love going on road trips and feel quite comfortable sitting in your car seat for hours on end but be aware that you may be setting yourself up for future spinal problems.
With back pain being the number 2 reason why we visit our GPs and costing the NHS £1.3Million per day, it is not surprising to see that over 60% of drivers in this survey agreed with the statement ‘my car seat can make my back ache worse after a long trip’ and maybe more importantly, over 40% of drivers said that the car seat was the main cause of their backache.
According to a recent survey commissioned by AutoExpress magazine, a poor seating position in your car can lead to both back in neck problems while a slouched position can also compromise your safety.
Local Chiropractor Jennifer Garratt explains; “a slouched position can alter the way you wear the seat belt, reducing its effectiveness while an uncomfortable car seat can also lead to driver distraction and loss of concentration.”
Jennifer shares some tips on how should a car seat should be set up to protect your back and neck:
“Make sure that your car seat is not too far away from the pedals. When you fully depress the clutch your legs should remain slightly bent.”
“Make sure that your backrest is not tilted back too far. Your elbows should be slightly bent when you position your hands correctly on the steering wheel in the ‘10 to 2 position’.”
“Make sure that you increase the lumbar support as much as possible to support the natural arch in your back to avoid slouching. If you do not have a lumbar support built-in, you can use a portable, dedicated lumbar support cushion or roll up a towel and put it behind your back.”
“Make sure that the top of your headrest is above the top of your ears. If it is too low it can increase the risk of neck injuries in case of an accident.”
“Now, stretch yourself up and make your spine as tall as possible sitting in an ideal posture. Set the rearview mirror so you can just about see the traffic behind you. This will help to correct your posture every time you look in your rearview mirror, because if you slouch you will not be able to use the rearview mirror.”
“Make sure that your seatbelt is correctly positioned. If possible, adjust the height so it is not sitting on your neck and according to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the belt should be worn as tight as possible, with no slack and the lap belt should go over the pelvic region, not the stomach.”
Why not call in to the clinic and speak to a chiropractor if you are concerned about your spinal health and get your car seat checked as part of our service.”
The way you sleep could be causing you unnecessary aches and pains. We are told time after time that we should be sleeping flat on our backs, but many of us have already developed habitual sleeping patterns, which are hard to get out of. However, if you suffer from neck or shoulder stiffness, muscle tension or more commonly back pain, you might want to think twice about curling up into a ball next time you reach for the sheets.
Incorrect alignment and poor support of your spine and limbs will put pressure on different areas of the body, which is why you may sometimes wake up with pain or discomfort.
Your spine also plays a huge role in sending nerve signals around the body; delicate nerve tissues helpcontrol your critical organs, so any damage to these tissues can lead to problems affecting impairment in balance, vision, temperature regulation, digestion and hormonal regulation problems.
Follow these sleeping tips and give your back a break:
Refrain from sleeping on your stomach as this causes your spine to arch unnaturally and usually results in both back and neck stiffness
Laying on your back or side is the ideal position, however to perfect your alignment try to use an orthopaedic pillow to give your neck adequate support
If you sleep on your side, consider placing a pillow in-between your knees for support to prevent your back and pelvis from twisting
If you sleep on your back, consider placing a pillow under your knees to take the tension off your lower back
Acknowledging and correcting your posture throughout the day will help you find ease when it comes to sleep
Importantly, remember that an underlying neck can cause poor quality sleep or back problem causing increased muscle tension. So if you are experiencing poor sleep, see a chiropractor to have your neck and back checked.
It’s recommended that we take 10,000 steps a day. However, a recent study conducted at Stanford University found that the global average for steps taken per day is 4,961. Though the UK’s average is above this stat, it’s a far cry from the suggested amount.
Local chiropractor Jenny Garratt from Chiltern Health Centre – Sutton Chiropractic Clinic in Sutton, highlights the many benefits of walking; from reducing the risk of heart disease to helping you sleep easy! Swapping walking on pavements for paths in green spaces, you’re likely to improve your mood, get the creative juices flowing and reduce feelings of depression. With so many lovely green areas around Sutton and Surrey, a little change in your daily routine can do wonders for your wellbeing!
“A good walking technique is key to ensure your back is properly supported. Tighten your stomach muscles to engage your core and support your entire body weight. Spinal alignment is vital; try to stand up straight and keep your chin parallel to the ground. Let your arms swing naturally and roll through your foot from heel to toe.”
“As you move your body weight from heel to toe try and make a slight rolling motion inwards. This will help you when you push off with your foot and will give you a faster stride. Speed-walking can burn as many calories as jogging especially if your posture is correct. Try and hold your ribcage up and your tummy muscles in.”
It’s also a good idea to shorten your strides; this will reduce the strain on your knees, calves and shins. Make sure you get the right technique as you start off so that bad habits don’t develop! Getting the right footwear is key to ensuring you establish a good walking method. When buying shoes you’re going to walk in make sure you go at the end of the day as your feet will be a little swollen meaning you’ll purchase the right size. Its important that your toes have room to move and that your heel doesn’t slip. This will give you ample support both in your ankle and further up in your lower back.
Local chiropractor Jenny Garratt encourages incorporating a walk into your daily routine. By releasing endorphins and boosting vitamin D levels, walking’s benefits are sure to leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
Up to half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress every year, which often results in illness.(Health and Safety Executive 2011) Other factors that affect stress levels include alcohol, smoking, exams, pregnancy, divorce, moving, death in family, lifestyle, drugs, poor nutrition and unemployment.
The signs of stress can vary from one individual to the next.(NHS Choices 2011) They may manifest physically as an illness, tiredness or lethargy, or as symptoms such as sore, tight muscles, dull skin, lank hair, or erratic sleep patterns. Mental stress can result in depression, mood swings, anger, frustration, confusion, paranoid behaviour, jealousy or withdrawal.
Stress is a common complaint cited by acupuncture patients, with a variety of possible associated symptoms. The most prevalent of these is anxiety. Some other conditions that can be affected by stress are back pain, chronic pain, depression, headache, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal symptoms, migraines, premenstrual syndrome and urinary incontinence.
Conventional treatments include medication such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, cognitive behavioural therapy and relaxation techniques.(NHS Choices 2011)
How acupuncture can help with stress
Some studies have found acupuncture to be of benefit in reducing stress, among these are the following;
In a study using 17 volunteers, the use of one specific acupuncture point led to marked reductions in stress (Chan 2002). The acupuncture point called “Heart 7” was needled in four weekly sessions using volunteers recruited from staff in a hospice. 16 of them (94%) showed improved ‘psychological stress’ according to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The greatest fall in the EPDS scores was observed within the first two treatments and at the end of the study the average reduction was 44%.
Another study, which was a randomised controlled trial (RCT), suggested that acupuncture might be successful in treating the symptoms of chronic stress (Huang 2011). A group of 18 patients was used in the study. The Perceived Stress Scale 14 (PSS-14) and the “Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile” (MYMOP) were completed before and after treatment. After 5 weeks, the acupuncture group reported significant changes. Improvements were not limited to the acupuncture group and were observed in other groups too. The study concluded that acupuncture might be successful in treating symptoms of stress
Other RCTs have investigated acupuncture in very specialised situations. As an adjunct to anaesthesia, it was found to help keep haemodynamics stable and reduce the stress response during laparoscopic cholecystectomy (Wu 2011). Acute acupuncture appeared to control excessive sympathetic excitation during mental stress in patients with advanced heart failure (Middlekauff 2002).
Several uncontrolled studies have looked at various aspects of stress and the effects of acupuncture. One found that it might be effective in attenuating psychological distress, as well as increasing cellular immunity (Pavao 2011). In another, acupuncture was associated with less stress around embryo transfer and improved pregnancy rates in women having IVF (Balk 2010).
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:
Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010; Hui 2009);
Improving stress induced memory impairment and an increasing AchE reactivity in the hippocampus (Kim 2011);
Reducing serum levels of corticosterone and the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive cells (Park 2010);
Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009; Zhou 2008);
Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response;
Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with stress reactions (Arranz 2007);
Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).
References on Stress
Arranz L et al. Effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2007;35(1):35-51
Balk J et al. The relationship between perceived stress, acupuncture, and pregnancy rates among IVF patients: a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2010; 16: 154-7.
Chan J, et al. An uncontrolled pilot study of HT7 for ‘stress’. Acupunct Med 2002; 20: 74-7.
Cheng CH et al. Endogenous Opiates in the Nucleus Tractus Solitarius Mediate Electroacupuncture-induced Sleep Activities in Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2009; Sep 3.
Fassoulaki A et al. Pressure applied on the extra 1 acupuncture point reduces bispectral index values and stress in volunteers. Anesth Analg. 2003; 96: 885-90.
Huang W et al. An investigation into the effectiveness of traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA) for chronic stress in adults: a randomised controlled pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2011; 17: 16-21.
Hui KK et al. Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Auton Neurosci 2010; 157: 81-90.
Hui K.K.-S. The salient characteristics of the central effects of acupuncture needling: limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network modulation. Human Brain Mapping 2009; 30: 1196-206.
Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther 2007; 6: 251-7.
Kim H et al. The effects of acupuncture stimulation at PC6 (Neiguan) on chronic mild stress-induced biochemical and behavioural responses. Neuroscience Letters. 2009; 460: 56-60.
Kim H et al. The effects of acupuncture (PC6) on chronic mild stress-induced memory loss. Neurosci Lett. 2011; 488: 225-8.
Komori M et al. Microcirculatory responses to acupuncture stimulation and phototherapy. Anesth Analg 2009; 108: 635-40.
Kwong EY, Yiu EM. A preliminary study of the effect of acupuncture on emotional stress in female dysphonic speakers. J Voice. 2010; 24: 719-23.
Lee B et al. Effects of acupuncture on chronic corticosterone-induced depression-like behavior and expression of neuropeptide Y in the rats. Neuroscience Letters 2009; 453: 151-6.
Middlekauff HR et al. Acupuncture inhibits sympathetic activation during mental stress in advanced heart failure patients. J Card Fail 2002; 8: 399-406.
Park HJ et al. Electroacupuncture to ST36 ameliorates behavioural and biochemical responses to restraint stress in rats. Neurol Res 2010; 32 Suppl 1: 111-5.
Pavao TS et al. Acupuncture is effective to attenuate stress and stimulate lymphocyte proliferation in the elderly. Neurosci Lett 2010; 484: 47-50.
Wu Y et al. Effect of acupuncture-assisted anaesthesia on stress response during laparoscopic cholecystectomy in aged patients. [Article in Chinese] Zhongguo Zhen Jiu 2011; 31: 155-7.
Zijlstra FJ et al. Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture. Mediators Inflamm 2003; 12: 59-69.
Zhou Q et al. The effect of electro-acupuncture on the imbalance between monoamine neurotransmitters and GABA in the CNS of rats with chronic emotional stress-induced anxiety. Int J Clin Acupunct 2008; 17: 79-84.
We were told to “Go to work on an egg” until the cholesterol panic scared us into cutting our egg consumption drastically. New research now tells us that eating fried eggs beneficial rather than detrimental for our health.
In a recent article The British Heart Foundation suggests that eating an egg a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. Read more here
Watch Dr David Diamond’s comprehensive video on the subject below.