Shoulder Problems

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Shoulder problems are extremely common. In fact, following back complaints, shoulder problems seem to be the next most common area of pain and discomfort. This is possibly due to the shoulder being a very complex joint that relies heavily on the surrounding muscles for support. A multitude of problems can occur in and around the shoulder joint. Because of this, it can be difficult to fully understand what might be causing your pain and what is the best course of action. Below is a brief description of the shoulder joint and some common complaints regularly seen in the clinic. 

The Shoulder Joint is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). Just like the hip, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint, though unlike the hip, which has a deep socket, the shoulder joint has a very shallow socket.

This shallow socket does make the joint somewhat unstable, however, it also allows the shoulder joint to have a vast range of movement. The down-side to this configuration is that the shoulder joint then depends heavily on the surrounding muscles for strength and stability.

There are several ligaments within the shoulder joint attaching the bony parts together. The joint is made a little deeper where the ball and socket meet, by ring of fibrous tissue called the ‘glenoid Labrum’. A membrane then covers the whole joint to provide further stability, as well as secreting synovial fluid which lubricates the joint. Enclosing all these structures are four deep stabilising muscles collectively known as the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff muscles, along with the deltoid, latissimus-dorsi and pectoralis muscles, provide additional stability, protection and of course, movement. There are no less than eighteen muscles that directly or indirectly affect the shoulder.

Common Problems:
One of the most common shoulder problems seen in the clinic is an impingement. This often occurs when a particular rotator cuff muscle gets pinched between the head of the humerus and the acromion process. Pain usually presents when the arm is raised sideways or twisted, resulting in weakness, restriction of movement and referred pain into the upper arm.

Impingements can happen for several reasons, such as a falling over, arthritis, or even a bony spur pushing into the muscle tendon from above. Treatment can often be quick and simple along with some postural advice, or occasionally it may require keyhole surgery.

Impingements can also be caused by a muscular imbalances and poor posture. Further to this, sports such as swimming, tennis, badminton and gymnastics can all contribute to an impingement injury. Occupations such as painters, decorators and plasterers also provide their fair share of impingement problems due to the position of the shoulder when working.

Frozen shoulder: Medically referred to as ‘adhesive capsulitis’, frozen shoulder is a disorder in which the capsule surrounding the joint becomes painful and greatly restricted. This condition typically affects people between 40-60 years of age and generally lasts between 18-24 months. Frozen shoulder seems to be more common in females, often occurs after an injury and seems more prevalent in certain conditions such as diabetes, overactive thyroid and Parkinson’s disease.

Recovery is often slow and frustrating, but over time, progress can be made. It is important to keep exercising the shoulder as much as possible as this may affect the overall outcome in terms of mobility. 

The Acromio-Clavicular (AC) Joint: The (AC) Joint is found where your collar bone (clavicle) meets the shoulder at the acromion. This joint is often problematic following a fall or trauma such as a traffic accident where the seatbelt forces the clavicle backwards. Excessive loads, such as bench pressing in the gym, or repetitive pushing movements can also irritate this joint. Pain can often be resolved quickly with minimal treatment and rest, although occasionally an operation is needed if the joint completely dislocates. 

Other causes of shoulder pain include: dislocation, muscular strain, ligament sprain, bursitis, arthritis, fracture, labral tear or referred pain from the neck. Non-mechanical pain includes: polymyalgia, infection, cancer and referred pain from the heart, liver, gall bladder, stomach or pancreas.

Stay Injury Free: Exercise is important to keep the ‘tone’ of the muscles. Without good support from the muscles the shoulder can become unstable and vulnerable to dysfunction. If you weight train regularly, it is very important to balance your workouts properly and be aware of your posture! Avoid slouching wherever possible, both at work and at home when sat at the table or watching T.V. Sportspeople who are involved in activities that require large shoulder movements such as golf or tennis, should also have their technique checked occasionally to help avoid injury and optimize performance.

How an Osteopath can help:
An osteopath should be able to examine your shoulder and identify the root cause of the pain or discomfort. Osteopaths can often help relieve pain through manipulation and other treatments modes such as TENS or acupuncture. Further to this, osteopaths should also advise on exercise, posture or other issues which could improve your condition; or refer to your GP if necessary. 

“Take care of your body; it’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Robin

For more information visit: www.jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or contact Jason at: info@jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or Tel: 01603 291925. M: 07736 449603. Thank you for reading.

Food for Thought

With so much information out there today about healthy foods, damaging foods and superfoods etc, it is difficult to know where to start if you are looking to make some changes to your diet. Below is some information about the benefits of  certain foods to help encourage you to start making some of those changes today.

Watermelon: This is one of the world’s healthiest foods. Some facts about watermelon include: 1: It has a high water content, which means it has bulk without the calories. This makes it ideal for hydration and weight loss. 2: It contains high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which has an important role in eye function, immune function, cell growth and reproduction. 3: It is high in lycopene. 

Lycopene is a naturally occurring compound which acts as an antioxidant and gives certain fruits and vegetables their red colour. Studies have indicated that lycopene may help prevent certain cancers, such as prostate, intestinal and lung cancer, as well as having cardiovascular benefits.

Broccoli: It would be difficult to make a list of healthy foods without mentioning broccoli. Often classed as a ‘superfood’, broccoli has been recommended by the American Cancer Society as one of the best foods to help prevent certain cancers. This includes breast and cervical cancer as well as lung and esophageal cancer. Broccoli also contains compounds such lutein and zeaxanthin which are currently being researched for their ability to reduce or prevent macular degeneration. Further to these benefits, broccoli contains an abundance of antioxidant properties along with protein, fibre, potassium, calcium, vitamins A & C, magnesium and more! This makes Broccoli a real powerhouse when it comes to health and it should definitely be at the top of anyone’s list of ‘foods to eat’.

Nutrition

Wild Salmon: Wild salmon is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. The reason for this claim is because it is packed full of omega-3 oils. Omega-3 oils are a type of fatty acid that is thought to have substantial health benefits for your heart and brain. They are also thought to aid circulation and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore omega-3 oils raise your good cholesterol (HDL’s); whilst reducing bad cholesterol (LDL’s). Omega-3 fats also reduce inflammation within the body and even help to control blood sugar levels. Salmon also has a high protein content as well as containing potassium, selenium and vitamin B12.

In contrast, farm-raised salmon are bred very differently. Due to the way they are kept, they are susceptible to infection and disease; and because of this, are fed substantial amounts of antibiotics. In the wild, salmon eat mackerel, sardines and krill – they are carnivores, while in farms they are grain fed. In short, this leads to farm-raised salmon containing inflammatory fats, less omega-3’s and possibly an unwanted course of antibiotics! We are what we eat…… so are salmon!

Oatmeal: This is another food that should be on everyone’s list of ‘foods to eat’, although avoid the sweetened instant packs as they contain far too much added sugar. Choose the least processed oats such as Swedish cereal oats, Irish, Scottish or rolled oats. As well as containing soluble and insoluble fibre, oats also contain ‘Beta-Glucans’, which is a type of starch that boosts the immune system. Beta-glucans are also under the microscope at the moment as they may contain cancer-fighting properties. One more benefit to mention is that the complex sugars within oatmeal have a favourable effect on blood glucose levels; which is very important for diabetics.

The main down-side to oats is that they should be avoided if you are gluten sensitive, have coeliac disease or if you suffer with kidney stones or gout. Oats contain purines which unfortunately break down into uric acid in the body, which in turn can irritate the joints in certain people.

Water: We are told time and time again to drink more water, so I will spend only a short time reminding you why it’s good for you. Your body is about 80% water, your muscles are 75% water, your brain is 74% water and your bones are 22% water. Every metabolic process in your body requires water. The ligaments and cartilage around your joints also contain water, and that includes the shock absorbing meniscus in your knees. Keeping well hydrated also helps keep the plasma and viscosity of your blood thinner; making the job of pumping it around your body easier on the heart and artery walls.

Our body is made primarily of water. We use for a multitude of tasks, and we need it more than any other nutrient. So perhaps we should be drinking a little more water in our day to day lives?

Pomegranate Juice: This little beauty has been hiding under the radar for a while, until recently. Researchers have discovered that pomegranate juice contains very high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial substances called ‘flavonoids’. Flavonoids are thought to improve the immune system, reduce free radical damage and contain cancer fighting properties. Studies have also shown that pomegranate juice may help to protect the prostate gland, improve cardiovascular health, reduce bad cholesterol and possibly be a natural Viagra! This so-called newcomer on the block is well worth reading about and including in your diet.

Vegetables: To finish, let me make one thing clear; there are no bad vegetables! Anything that has a leaf and crunches when you bite into it is a good thing. Vegetables are low in fat and contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Green, yellow and orange vegetables are also rich sources of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and beta-carotene. These compounds along with antioxidants, protect the body from oxidative stress and certain cancers. Additionally, vegetables are packed with soluble and insoluble fibre, which promotes gut health and help protect against conditions such as constipation, diverticulitis and colon cancer.

A quick note on organic food: organic food is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods; which are strictly regulated. Organic food generally tastes better, contains more nutrients, is free of pesticides and hormones, and is more humane for animals. Organic farming methods also nourish and preserve the soil in which the food is grown. It may take a little discipline and be a bit more costly, but buying organic is healthier for us, and the environment.

“Let food be thy medicine, let medicine be thy food”…..Hippocrates

 

For more information please contact Jason at: info@jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or visit: http://www.jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk Tel: 01603 291925. M: 07736 449603.

Thank you for reading.

Knee Problems

Knee Problems

The knee is the most frequently injured joint in athletes. Most injuries occur due to the extreme stress during twisting activities such as football, skiing, squash and any other sport that requires a large amount of body movement. Fortunately, the muscles surrounding the knee generally do a very good job of protecting the joint and most injuries are not too serious. However, as there are a multitude of things that can go wrong with the knee joint, any prolonged or acute pain,along with restricted movement should be checked out. 

The Knee Joint:
The Knee Joint is made up of four bones: the thigh bone or femur, the two long bones of the lower leg: tibia and fibula, and patella, or knee-cap. The knee joint is a hinge joint, and although it may look like quite simple, it is one of the most complex joints in the body. It is also the largest joint in the body and more likely to be injured than any other. 

As well as flexing and extending, the knee also has a small degree of rotation. This is perhaps one of the reasons why there are so many injuries to the knee. It is also one of the main joints to be affected by arthritis as we age. Taking care of our knees in the younger years may possibly help prevent future complications in our more mature years.

Common Problems:
The Menisci (meniscus) are you shock absorbers. They sit between the femur and tibia to provide cushioning, lubrication, stability and load transmission. A meniscal tear can often occur whilst twisting the knee, leading to pain, swelling, locking or giving way. Operations are often performed to remove, or partially remove the damaged area of these structures. Surgeons often try to removal as little as possible as removing a complete meniscus can significantly reduce the shock absorbing ability of the knee.

The Cruciate Ligaments are found in the centre of the knee and are the major stabilising ligaments of the joint. You may have heard of these ligaments: the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). These ligaments prevent the femur and tibia sliding in opposite directions against each other. ACL tears are usually dramatic with immediate symptoms, whilst PCL tears are often less dramatic, but still result in problems.

A rupture of one of these ligaments often leads to significant swelling and instability, along with pain, discomfort and other complications. Surgery is often be performed to repair theses ligaments, but is not needed in every case. Suitable and persistent rehabilitation can have very beneficial effects in regaining stability and mobility over time.

There are four main ligaments that stabilise the knee joint; the cruciate ligaments, which we have spoken about, and the two collateral ligaments, which sit either side of the knee joint. The collateral ligaments stabilise the knee in a sideways direction, and you can probably guess, a sideways force is often the mechanism of injury. Most injuries occur to the inside (medial) ligament through direct trauma and include pain to the touch and stiffness. Fortunately, the majority of injuries to this ligament are not serious and heal quickly.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease that causes the hyaline cartilage within a joint to break down; and the surrounding bone to thicken and restrict movement. OA commonly affects the hips, lower back, neck and knee joints. OA in the knee affects over 70,000 people each year in the UK; and most physicians believe a combination of factors including muscle weakness, obesity, injury and aging are responsible. Symptoms of OA include pain, stiffness and thickening around the joint, as well as reduced range of motion. Pain is commonly worse in the morning and during weight bearing activity.

Other problems which cause knee pain include: OA under the kneecap (patella), rheumatoid arthritis, muscle strains, bursitis, tendonitis, Osgood Schlatter’s disease, thrombosis, fracture and dislocation. Other areas that can refer pain to the knee include: OA of the hip joint and lower back, along with problems around the foot or ankle, such as overpronation (flat footed).

Stay Injury Free:
As the knee joint sits between two long levers, the upper and lower leg, it is extremely reliant upon the surrounding muscles and ligaments. The muscles at the front of the knee are the quadriceps and the muscles behind are the hamstrings. As well as aiding smooth movement, these muscles also help to support and protect the knee from damage. Therefore, exercise will help maintain the strength and condition of these muscles, whilst movement will lubricate the joint and the structures within it. Overall, regular exercise which will help maintain the integrity and longevity of the joint and hopefully minimise problems later on. Be kind to your knees.

How an Osteopath can help:
Osteopaths can often identify the cause of knee pain or discomfort and can help to reduce this discomfort. Your osteopath should also provide information on exercises to help with your condition, or possibly activities to avoid. Osteopathy is predominantly a ‘hands on’ treatment, although it may also involve ultrasound, acupuncture or TENS therapy. Should your condition require further investigation, an osteopath can write to your GP asking for further investigation.

“The weight of the world may be on your shoulders; but think what that’s doing to your knees!” JH.

For more information please contact Jason at: info@jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or visit: www.jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk Tel: 01603 291925. M: 07736 449603. Thank you for reading. 

Headaches

Headaches are a very common problem amongst both men and women. Headaches affect our ability to work, they can affect our sleep and of course cause us to worry. Although headaches can often be distressing and painful, they rarely indicate a serious condition.

Most headaches are benign and are classed as ‘primary headaches’. These include tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches. Headaches also stem from other sources which can be more serious, and these are classed as ‘secondary headaches’. Secondary headaches are often related to hypertension (high blood pressure) and of course to brain tumours. For these reasons, prolonged or severe headaches should always be checked, and the probable cause identified. Below is a little more information about each type of headache, and how you might be able to identify the type you may be suffering with. 

Tension Headaches: These are the most common type of headache and are often mild to moderate in severity. Tension headaches often present as a ‘band-like’ pain around the head and are related to several factors. These include stress, tiredness, poor posture, dehydration, persistent noise and squinting.

Tension headaches generally last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. They can affect anyone, although they do appear to affect women more than men. It’s estimated that 50% of adults in the UK experience this type of headache each month, and a small percentage experience them fifteen times or more each month. Treatment usually involves rest, relaxation, sleep or other de-stressing activities. Improved diet and keeping well hydrated can also have a positive effect, although people do still rely heavily on medication such as aspirin, paracetamol or anti-inflammatories.

Migraines: Often described as throbbing, frontal or one sided, migraines are common and cause a lot of people great concern. Migraines are usually moderate to severe, and can be made worse by physical activity, light or certain smells. Migraines also produce nausea, vomiting, auras, mood changes, visual disturbances, tingling sensations and loss of balance. They are three times more common in females than males. They occur at any age, though usually begin between the ages of 10 and 40, but become less common from the age of 50 to 60.

The cause of migraines is not fully understood, though it is thought to be associated with the arteries within the brain. As these arteries constrict (narrow) and dilate (widen), they could somehow affect nearby pain receptors. However, this theory doesn’t fully explain migraines and research is ongoing. Other causes being studied are genetic components and hormone association such as oestrogen.

Treatment for migraines involve a variety of standard medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, although other medication such as beta blockers, anti-emetics and triptans (which target blood vessels), are also available. There are more ‘natural ways’ to treat migraines, such as avoiding known triggers, of which: caffeine, chocolate, MSG, red wine and sweeteners, are but a few. Other non-medication ways which may be effective are: regular exercising, regulating meal times and the use of relaxation techniques.

Brain Tumours: Tumours are possibly our biggest fear with headaches, though rest assured, because brain tumours are rare. Tumours occur equally in both sexes, though different types can be more associated between men and women. They can appear in any area of the brain, causing symptoms to vary. However, the most common symptoms include increasingly bad headaches, morning headaches, nausea and morning sickness.  . 

Seizures are also a common symptom of brain tumours and can be very frightening. Seizures may present as just a twitching in an arm or leg or can involve the whole body. Despite these symptoms, it is important to remember that brain tumours are rare, and all these symptoms can occur for less serious reasons.

Cluster Headaches: These headaches tend to produce very severe pain around the eye or temple. They also tend to be more one-sided, last 4 hours or less and occur in 6 – 8 week periods. They are less common than migraines, occurring in about 1/1000 people and affect mainly males over 30. Cluster headaches are often accompanied with nasal congestion, tearing of the eye and can be extremely painful. It is not uncommon for sufferers even to have suicidal thoughts!

Treatment: Nicotine and alcohol are thought to be potential triggers so one line of treatment is to reduce these two substances where possible. Following this, most treatments include medications such as nasal sprays, sumatriptan injections, ibuprofen or even oxygen therapy. Finding the right treatment can be difficult and research is ongoing to establish what causes these headaches.

How an osteopath can help: Osteopaths treat a variety of conditions and headaches are commonly seen in most practices. If your headache is due to tension, stress, poor posture or possibly poor mobility from arthritis, then an osteopath can often be a great help. Problems further down the back or around the shoulders may also be  contributing factor to your headache, and an osteopath should be able to identify these issues and treat or advise accordingly. 

In addition to this, most osteopaths will ask about your lifestyle. This could include your diet, exercise regime, work stress, alcohol consumption and smoking habits. These are all areas that could potentially be causing headaches or exacerbating the problem. If your osteopath suspects anything unusual or possibly more serious, he or she can then write to your GP to ask for further investigation.

 

 

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

…. Ann Wigmore

For more information please contact Jason at: info@jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or visit: www.jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk Tel: 01603 291925. M: 07736 449603.

Thank you for reading.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain affects 80% of us at some point during our lives. There is no specific category of people who suffer back pain more frequently than others; men are affected as often as women and physical workers as much as sedentary workers. However, there are several factors that could be working against you, which do increase your chances of developing back pain. Below is a brief description of the spine and some of the more common causes of back pain that you may be able to avoid. 

The spine is a fascinating and complex structure containing muscles, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, bones and of course the spinal cord. All these structures are basically stacked on top of each other in a way that protects the spinal cord, yet allows it to connect the brain to the body. The vertebrae are placed above one another and separated by the discs, while the joints between them allow for movement. The spinal cord sits in the spinal canal and sends out branches which connect to every muscle, every organ and every blood vessel. This connection allows constant two-way communication to and from the brain.This intricate system is not without its flaws and a multitude of problems can occur. Some of these problems are beyond our control, but some are well within it.

Muscle strain: By far the most common back complaint is a muscle strain. Muscle strains can be mild, or they can be extremely painful and literally bring people to their knees. They can occur from the simplest of movements, such as bending forward when cleaning your teeth, or from the more obvious causes like lifting a heavy object. Weakness of the lower back muscles also increases their susceptibility to a strain and often leads to poor posture over extended periods of time.

It is important to keep the back muscles strong and flexible, and the best way to achieve this is with regular exercise. A variety of exercises would be the ideal, but at the very least, regular walking will have a significant benefit. Strong core muscles around the trunk, will also help protect the spinal joints and discs, as well as creating a stronger and more appealing posture. This in turn will help prevent that hunched shoulder stance and reduce the chances of spraining other structures in the spine, such as the ligaments.

Slipped disc: Another very common source of back pain is a ‘slipped’ or ‘prolapsed’ disc. Your discs are the shock absorbers between each vertebra within the spine; they have a tough outer layer with a fluid centre. A prolapsed disc is common between the ages of 20-40, although it can happen far beyond that age group. A prolapsed disc occurs when the thick viscous fluid (nucleus pulposus) deep inside the disc, bulges through the outer layers of the disc (annulus fibrosus). This fluid then pushes onto the closest nerve resulting in back pain and often ‘Sciatica’ (pain radiating into the gluteal, hamstring and lower leg).

Prolapsed discs often resolve over time and the vast majority won’t need an operation. However, be cautious as disc problems can be made worse by constant bending forward, lifting heavy objects or slouching for hours at a time at work or on the sofa. Exercises such as walking, swimming, Pilates and core stability training can aid healing, though recovery speed is often dependent on how bad the disc has ruptured.

Osteoarthritis: Firstly, let me start by stating that osteoarthritis (OA) is very different to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Rheumatoid arthritis is an ‘auto-immune’ disease, which means the body’s immune system is attacking a variety of joints, causing damage and pain. Whereas osteoarthritis is a condition often referred to as ‘wear and tear’ of the joints, and as so, tends to commonly affect the weight bearing joints such as the lower neck, lower back, hips, knees, ankles and fingers.

Osteoarthritis produces small cracks within the cartilage at the end of the bones. These cracks tend to worsen over time resulting in the underlying bone being exposed and damaged. The joint will then often swell, thicken, stiffen and become painful, especially during weight bearing activity. As time goes by the joints can become less painful but remain stiff.

Certain types of exercise can often help as joint movement produces synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. Exercise also helps to keep the muscles strong, which in turn helps to support the joints. However, be cautious as exercises which involve leaning backwards could potentially aggravate the lower back joints. It’s often a case of trial and error to see what your back is comfortable with, and for how long you can continue. Painkillers will also have their place in treating back pain, but other options such as heat packs and gels give relief too.

Helpful foods: Another option available to improve osteoarthritis is through your diet. Foods such as tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers and eggplant are members of the ‘Nightshade’ family and are thought to promote inflammation in the body, leading to joint pain. Sugary foods are also thought to promote an inflammatory response in the body. This doesn’t mean people with OA should completely cut these foods from their diet, but perhaps reduce them to see if it does make a difference. There are also plenty of anti-inflammatory foods out there such as omega-3 oils, salmon, avocados, broccoli, green tea and many more.

There are of course plenty of other causes of back pain including infection, ligament sprain, fractures, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. Fortunately, most back problems are mechanical and improve over time; sometimes with treatment, sometimes without. But, if you are in pain and concerned, you should consult your GP or a qualified therapist.

Osteopathy

How an Osteopath can help: your osteopath will have studied the spine in detail and Lower back pain will be aware of the many factors that can cause pain. Osteopaths should be able to test and diagnose the likely cause of pain, followed by treatment and advice to help improve the situation. Should further investigation be required, your osteopath can liaise with your GP to discuss the best way forward for you. Osteopathy is primarily a ‘hands-on’ treatment although often includes acupuncture, ultrasound or TENS therapy.

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory” – Albert Schweitzer

For more information, visit www.jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or contact Jason at: info@jhoughtonosteopath.co.uk or T: 01603 291925. M: 07736 449603. Thanks for reading.