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.
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.
Hooray we made it! It’s the end of the year (or decade) and it’s finally time to celebrate with all the wonderful things you want to do to mark the end of this year.
We may be out celebrating with our loved ones having a great time.
However I am also aware that there are some of those who may not be in the same celebrating state of mind.
They may be lonely, either by choice or by circumstance.
So this New Year’s Eve, way before the countdown begins, lets all get our phones out and message at least 5 people that you haven’t spoken with for a while saying:
“hey, I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing”
You don’t need to message about New Years just yet as that will most likely get lost in all the other New Years messages they’re probably receiving.
But this special message checking in with them is likely to stand out and make them feel appreciated that you care.
What if that was the one person who needed that one message from you to let them know someone cares, well I think that would just make their day, year, decade!
Or another way you can do this is pop round to some of your neighbours that you may know are going to be spending today alone, check in on them, and perhaps even arrange a date in the first 5-10 days of 2020 where you will catch up.
This is how I’m starting my New Year and I hope you do too because I think there are people out there who need our help, so let’s go help them.
If you get into trouble and have treatment which feels good, but then don’t look to prevent it from coming back so end up going back to your bad habits, only for the condition to return.
The reason for that is biology, bad habits and common sense.
Once my patients have gone through their main course of care I often advise on how to maintain or further improve their condition beyond just pain relief or avoiding symptoms.
It’s much like when a building is on fire. Putting the fire out is like dealing with the symptoms only. However, to ensure that the fire doesn’t come you need to correct the original problem and check regularly to make sure it doesn’t come back. That’s much like what our body is like.
It’s also going to give you a better chance of correcting a problem before it becomes too big, therefore improving the outcome even more.
There are several studies showing this to be the case with musculoskeletal conditions. Which makes sense. If you stop taking care of your body, get out of good habits of doing certain exercises or movements, having regular checkups to catch conditions and prevent injury then there’s a higher risk of poor health and less than optimal function.
For those that get into these bad habits tend to call us back in around 5 months time as it takes around this much time for them to start noticing a few symptoms creep back into and affect their lifestyle.
Let’s take the example of a professional athlete who is on a maintenance program, but is preparing for an event. I may find by them coming to see me more frequently in the build up to that event to be beneficial and ensure they are at their optimum.
The same applies for those who have hobbies and want to continue to enjoy those hobbies.
I also see a lot of ambitious patients who want career progression or entrepreneurs who need to function at their peak in order to serve the needs of their business. Our body is still the instrument that we require in order to perform those activities. So these examples may require for someone to be sitting in an office for several hours, or sitting twisted in a boardroom meeting. If they are not able to sit in that way their work is likely to be affected and therefore they are not going to be able to get what they need done.
With chiropractic and osteopathy it’s just like when you regularly see your dentist, have your car serviced, get your heating boiler checked annually.
You have probably come across this famous “condition” SCIATICA.
It can be a very debilitating condition.
If you a professional ever diagnoses you with sciatica I would implore to ask them what is the cause.
You see, the definition of sciatica is:
Pain in the distribution of the sciatic nerve
This means that sciatica only tells you where the pain is, not the cause. For me that is not a complete diagnosis as you don’t yet know what the problem is.
Your sciatic nerve is the thickest nerve in your body (it’s as thick as your thumb!). It’s made up of a number of different branches of nerves that originate in your lumbar spine (low back). These converge, just how the exit on a motorway would converge into a spaghetti junction, out of which you have individual peripheral nerves, one of which is the sciatic nerve.
There are other peripheral nerves that also supply the the leg.
Just as you may meet traffic whilst driving, you experience the “pain” of the vehicle in front of you. However, that line of traffic could be due to a number of different reasons, such as roadworks, an accident or dysfunctional traffic lights.
Similarly sciatica can be due to a pinching of the nerve roots from the spine, from tight muscles in the buttock area, a disc bulge, etc… So it’s important to resolve the source of the problem to allow correct nerve flow, rather than making a vague and incomplete diagnosis of sciatica.
Did you know there’s a relationship between blood pressure and your posture?
See, the pressure in your body, in your blood vessels can actually change depending on what you are doing, in terms of activity and physical demand. But it can also be affected by your physical posture – how you are holding yourself.
Now excuse my drawings in this video (I’m a better chiropractor & osteopath than an artist).
In your abdomen there are two main compartments. These two compartments are separated by your abdominal diaphragm (the main muscle you use to breathe). Above the diaphragm is your heart, which has a small attachment to the diaphragm.
When you have a nice relaxed and balanced posture, your abdominal cavities will have less pressure. Whereas if you compress through those same cavities by rounding your shoulders and increasing pressure you can see how it can compress those organs, one of those organs being your stomach.
Let’s think about your heart for a moment being like a water balloon with pipes coming out of it. If you squeeze that water balloon, it will then increase the pressure in that whole system. That’s one of the causes of your high blood pressure.
To help relieve it you can think about straightening your posture, bringing your shoulders back, which will reduced the pressure on the cavities and the organs within, thereby reducing your blood pressure.
The other thing you can do is use your abdominal diaphragm more effectively. So when you breathe and contract your diaphragm, your tummy will stick out a bit as the air fills your lungs. This allows that attachment of your diaphragm to your heart to stretch the heart a little more, there by also reducing the pressure in the heart and cardiovascular system.
Many studies have shown during quiet breathing, when using deep diaphragmatic breaths, it gets you into a relaxed state.
So if you are suffering with high blood pressure or get stressed think about these simple tips. Of course if you are under professional care, please seek professional advice to ensure you get the best outcome for you.