There are so many benefits to our health, lifestyles and well-being.
Of course make sure you get permission from those who want to give a hug.
Hugging reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and if found in large quantities for long periods of time in the body, can be quite destructive.
Most people tend to be living stressful lives, so have high amounts of cortisol in their body. A hug from a loved one for a few minutes can help balance the cortisol to normal levels.
Linked to that, studies have found hugging can reduce high blood pressure.
Another benefit is reducing anxiety. I have seen a trend in members of our local community with ever increasing levels of anxiety. A hypothesis for one of the causes is that nowadays there is more of a taboo with physical touch, and we are losing our sense of touch with one another.
See who you can go and give a loving warm hug too, and let me know in the comments.
If you are unfortunate enough to be suffering with some sort of lower back pain and it just so happens to be at a time with it’s rather difficult to get hold of a health professional, such as on the weekend, during a national holiday, or when abroad in a remote area.
There are a few things you can do in the interim until you are able to get to a health professional. Remember this is not a fix, but just a simple way to potentially help you through the uncomfortable period.
Even if it starts to feel better it’s still worth taking the time to seek professional advice to be fully sure.
The first thing you must do is avoid anything that aggravates the pain. Although some general advice says to keep active, if that particular activity is aggravating your symptoms then stop – this is NOT a no pain, no gain scenario (quite the opposite)
Calm The Fire
Most of the time a lot of pain is due to inflammation. That means it’s hot and red, so we need to cool it with ice. Of course make sure you wrap the ice in a thin towel otherwise you may end up with frost bite on top of all the other problems you already have going on.
WIth an area that is inflamed, it’s “flame-atory” meaning it’s hot, so applying heat can potentially add more fuel to the fire.
If it was just muscle tightness then it may be suitable to apply heat – however the real question then becomes “Why is that muscle tight?”
So if you’re unsure go for the ice. The other advantage is your nerves don’t work very well at low temperatures anyway, so this can help give some comfort and relief by dulling the pain.
If you are suffering with lower back pain when bending there are a number of different structures that we need to be looking at, addressing and potentially be concerned about too.
When we look at a typical spine, it is made up of bones called vertebrae. In the lower back (lumbar spine) there are a total of 5 vertebrae.
The bumps on the back are called spinous processes. These are what you can see or feel when you run you hand down the back. Near these spinous processes are the joints which allow the vertebrae to articulate with each other. These joints are called facets.
In between the vertebrae are the spinal discs. We want these to be nice and spongy to allow for efficient shock absorption from any movements of activity.
When bending the lower back, these discs can get more compressed, which can cause them to bulge if there is already a problem there. This bulge can potentially pinch the nerves as they are exiting the spine.
Pain can also be caused by the stretching of the capsule around the facets if bending forwards. These facet joints can get inflamed, and if they get inflamed to the point where they start pinching on nerves they can also add to pain.
Softer structures in the area such as ligaments and muscles can get stretched when bending. If they are tight due to an injury or poor posture the pain may be an indication of requiring some guided lifestyle changes.
So as you can see there is not an easy fix such as performing a stretch or sitting a certain way to “cure back pain”. As I always say, pain is a symptom indicating that there is a problem. It’s the cause that needs to be addressed to remove it.
If you have ever suffered from constipation you will know how uncomfortable it can be. Especially if it has been there for a long time, it can be very horrible and potentially dangerous for your health too.
Things that can help are to have a high fibre diet or staying hydrated to help move the contents of your bowels more efficiently.
However we have to also consider mechanical challenges too.
Have you noticed that your body might click if you move a certain way, ankles might click, or the wrists might click.
See the body does click in different ways for different reasons. The most common reason for clicking if it’s been from your movement is a tendon flicking over a bone. A tendon is a piece of connective tissue that connects a muscle belly to a bone so that it can control movement of the joint.
If the muscle fibres are tight due to poor posture, poor stretching habits or lifestyle choices, the tendons become more taut. This can lead the the tendon flicks over a bit of bone, creating that clicking sensation.
The most common area I have found this to be, is in the shoulder area. There are a lot of muscles around the shoulder girdle which are prone to become tight and causing such tendons to click or flick.
If it happens for a short while, it is not a problem. However if it continues to happen for a few days, weeks, months or even years doing movements where you keep getting this type of clicks can put increased risk of inflammation of the tendon – tendonitis. This can be quite painful, you may need to stop some of the activities that are aggravating that for some time until it has recovered.
It’s often a relatively easy fix, by reducing the tightness in the muscle. Chiropractors and Osteopaths also check the underlying reason for why that muscle is tightening up in the first place. Without doing that, the muscle is likely to keep tightening.
Another reason for your joints to click is if some joints are stiff, other joints may have to overcompensate by moving more than normal. This may lead to some gas in that joint releasing, creating a popping sound.
This is similar to the sound you hear when having a chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment. The difference however is that when your body does it on its own, it’s more likely the joints that are already working too hard are moving. When a chiropractor or osteopath performs this technique, it is specific to the joints that are stiff and so they require the additional movement to restore balanced functional movement back into the body.
So you have decided that you want to get more fit, more healthy, and get more movement in your body, then you may have considered joining a gym or actually working out at home.
I want to share with you some personal tips that I have used, as I was a gym novice at one point (everyone starts as a beginner, right?)
When I was a teenager, I decided that I needed to make a change, create more movement. Especially coming from an Indian culture where someone who is overweight is described as being “healthy”, I was often described as being “very healthy”.
Initially I was quite scared of going to a gym. Not only because it was very expensive for me at the time, or whether I would even use it enough, but I felt unsure and intimidated by my own limiting beliefs about knowing what to do and where to go.
I was very lucky, at the time I was living with my parents who had bought a treadmill for the family to use, so I had access to that, but I would also go outside for a run, or even a bike ride.
When it came to lifting weights, I was not sure where to start. So I bought a cheap set of weights and start using at home, just on the bedroom floor, every single day. Eventually as my confidence grew, and the weights got heavier, to the point where it was becoming dangerous, I started to consider using a gym so that I could prevent any potential injuries, and take my health and fitness to another level.
I was first worried that I would not fit in in a gym. The image I had in my mind was there would be all these big strong guys in there, and kept on drawing these false comparisons. Actually what I was pleasantly surprised by is no one in the gym cared, it was not like that at all, everyone is actually like you, and they are all too busy focussed on their own workout.
Make sure you choose a gym that you really like. I looked around at a lot of the gyms in my area before deciding on the one I joined. Take advantage of the induction by the gym staff. Ask as many questions as you can, especially about any of the machines that you are not sure of. Even today, if there’s a new piece of equipment in the gym that I am not sure about, I will ask one of the staff who are only too happy to show me how it works. This enables me to make sure I get the best use out of it, and also prevent any injury from incorrect use.
Other members of the gym may be meaning well by offering advice. However in my experience most people have fallen into so many bad habits, it’s best to always seek professional advice from the gym staff.
For whatever reason, there is a stigma regarding women generally avoiding the weights section of the gym (although I am happy to see this is starting to shift in recent years). See combining weightlifting with cardiovascular exercise is important for general wellbeing and health.
As a functional chiropractor and osteopath, I think about the body moving in a realistic way. I believe any workout should be a rehearsal to practice movements that we would do in the real world. With weightlifting that means using free weights rather than machines. I am a very big fan of dumbbells as they allow natural movement patterns.
Once you get used to some basic exercises, start considering using different weights in each hand. See when you are picking up bags, they are never the same weight in both arms. By mimicking that movements in the gym will allow your body to get used to it, so not only will you be more efficient at moving that way, it will also considerably reduce your risk of any injury.
Another great tip is to create balance in your body using weights. When performing a pushing movement, also make sure you perform an equal and opposite pull movement.
A common mistake with weightlifters in the gym is they are performing the movements far too fast. This can increase the friction on the tendons, making it more prone to tendonitis or injury.
Our muscles have two types of fibres – fast twitch and slow twitch. It is important to strengthen both.
When contracting and lifting a weight, aim to perform that in 2 seconds or less.
Hold the weight at maximum contraction for 2 seconds.
Then lower the weight for 4 seconds.
This is the safest and most efficient method I have found to help grow stronger and healthier in the muscular system. It also reduces a stress response in your body, so you have less cortisol hormone produced, which in large amounts can be damaging.
I often get asked if I can help someone suffering with a trapped nerve.
In short – YES!
However, how do we know exactly what the “trapped nerve” is?
A lot of people may experience pain, numbness, tingling, pins and needles, loss of power – all these types of symptoms if it is a trapped nerve.
But the real question is where is it being trapped?
Until you find the exact point where the nerve is being trapped, there is no proper way of resolving it. These types of conditions are biomechanical meaning it’s a physical problem, so no tablet, no cream, no drug is going to change the biomechanical challenge of pinch.
To resolve it, there needs to be a physical movement to that area to untrap or unpinch the affected nerve.
I prefer calling it pinched rather than trapped.
It’s very much like when you have lights in a building, to turn a light on that’s in the ceiling, you need to go to a switch on the wall. The reason that works is because we all know there is a wire that goes from the switch to the light communicating what to do. If that wire was pinched somewhere when you go to turn the light on by pressing the switch on the wall, it won’t turn on.
Other causes could be the light bulb itself may need replacing, or the fuse in the fusebox may have been tripped, or there may be a power outage at the mains for the whole street.
That’s just like what happens with our body.
When you look at the spine, the nervous system that is housed inside, and those nerves that exit the spine supply everything in the body.
The nerves in the lower back (lumbar spine) supply the legs
Those nerves in the mid back (thoracic spine) supply most of your organs.
And the nerves in the neck (cervical spine) supply the head and arms.
If you experience any pain, numbness, tingling, loss of power, pins and needles, it may not be a local problem, i.e. where you are experiencing those symptoms. There may be a link back to somewhere else in the spine where the nerves are coming from. Or it may be higher up in the central nervous system.
So until you find that mechanical challenge your body is experiencing on those nerves, no drugs, no tablets, no cream is going to relieve that pressure. Not even some exercises, because they may aggravate the issue if you haven’t dealt with the root cause.
Although there isn’t an exercise that I can give you to relieve a trapped nerve, what I can say with confidence is that it well worth visiting a local professional who specialises, like a chiropractor or an osteopath, in finding the source of your problem.
It’s really important to find the source of the trapped nerve, because only then can you release the pinching of the nerve, allowing the nerve flow to correctly supply the body again.
We have to also consider how long you have had the pinched nerve. Because the longer the nerve has been pinched, the more potential weakness you can get, with regards to the signals into those areas.
Before I treat any patient, or even examine them, we go through a full case history. This helps me find out more information about their symptoms, their health history, their lifestyle goals.
I then will also carefully examine the patient. You can often see in my videos where I treat my patients, that I check which specific level in the spine needs the adjustment, which releases the tension in the joints, the pressure on the nerves, restoring normal nerve function back in the body.
Research has also found that by adjusting a level in the spine that is affecting a nerve supplying a part of the body, that the body then sends messages back to the nervous system, further strengthening the connections – it’s like a complete electrical circuit.
Very similar to your broadband. Although your internet service provider sends the bulk of the data to your building, your modem will fire back little messages letting the ISP know it’s there. So our body is like the building, and the ISP is our nervous system, which are sending messages back and forth to each other.
Like most things, once things are working well, there is always a risk that the pinching may return, or a new injury may occur. Regular check ups reduce the risk of recurrence.
For longer term relief we need to also consider lifestyle choices along side regular maintenance where appropriate.
Yep that’s right… today I’m going to tell you how to stand because you’ve probably been doing it wrong all your life.
The number of people I have seen over the years that I have helped to correct their standing posture is phenomenal.
I need to add some value here for our community.
The problem is most people when standing have their feet parallel. This creates a vulnerability through the lower back and pelvis area creating increased risk with injury.
Put one foot in front of the other, then bring one of them across so that both feet are approximately hip distance apart.
Slightly Bend Your Knees
Avoid locking out your knees so that you have enough flexibility through them, which reduces any impact through the lower back. You almost end up in a very slightly relaxed seated position.
Shift Body Weight
After doing the first two steps, you can now shift your weight from your front to your back leg (and vice versa) spreading the tension in your body.
As children we are told not to fidget. However fidgeting is one of the best things you can do for your health because we need to move. We are not designed to sit still and be quiet, but to move, be active and do things.
By positioning your body this way and shifting your weight it gives parts of your body a bit of a break.
If you work in an environment where you have a counter or a standing desk, this is a great position as you can move, twist and carry out your tasks very comfortably rather than being very rigid and needing to bend forwards, creating more tension through the whole body.
This also works very well when you are commuting on a bus or train (if you get the space). Any sudden jerks in movement by the bus or train get absorbed by your legs and reduce your risk of injuring your back considerably.
It’s worth retraining your body and reminding yourself in this way to be able to carry out all the things you want to achieve.
Ever wonder how you can tell how healthy you are? Of course we all want to be healthier versions of ourselves. Some of us may compare what our health is like with our loved ones to see who is healthier than who. But how can you really be sure?
It’s so much more complex than simply checking to see how far you can bend to reach your toes, being able to move without any discomfort or run a 100m sprint in a certain time.
Are these even the correct factors to be looking for when measuring health?
I have always strived to be as objective with my measurements as much as possible with my patients. Over the years I have consistently asked myself how I can measure how healthy my patients are. What I have found is it all comes down to adaptability – homeostasis.
I came to this conclusion by taking this idea to the extreme (it’s a strategy I commonly adopt to figure out most things). So I thought to myself “who is considered to be super healthy?” The best examples I came across were superheroes.
So let’s use Superman in this example. Superman could be in a really cold, freezing environment and he wouldn’t need to worry about whether he would freeze to death as his body is able to warm itself up enough avoiding any denaturing of his enzymes to allow the biochemical reactions to continue to take place.
At the same time Superman could also go into an extremely hot environment and be able to cool his body down, for the same reasons.
If you can adapt to your environment, whether you are in a hot or cold environment, the more adaptability you have, the more flexibility you have within your own system, which means you will be more healthy as you able to be in different environments safely.
This is the test I used to find the healthiest bed, the healthiest pillow, the healthiest chair, the healthiest diet, the healthiest anything.
It always comes down to this one thing… how much can you adapt?
Another example is if you haven’t drunk any water for some time, those who can go without water for longer as more healthy than those who cannot. Of course I am not talking about thriving here, this is pure survival in this water example as we take this concept to the extreme in order to understand what health is.
My advice is to ensure you are drinking enough water of course, as I want you to be living optimally.
I also would never compare my health to someone else’s, but I would compare my health in comparison to me. Going back to the example of being in a hot climate, if I don’t do well in those environments, I can take some time to gradually train myself to get used to the heat. Eventually I will be fine, as long as I have the ability to adapt, i.e. if I am healthy enough to. This means my body will need to learn to sweat more efficiently in order to cool it down and keep my core at the temperature for my enzymes to work at their optimum.
As an entrepreneur I may have to increase the hours I sit in meeting from 3 hours to 7 hours. By taking the measures that allow me to learn to be able to sit for longer, without causing any problems (not just pain), be able to adapt to my environment better, that will be a good indication of how healthy I am.
So check what you are doing, and see where you can make changes to make yourself a healthier version of you.