General Health

Standing Firm - Why it sometimes hurts to stand from sitting?

The sit-to-stand (STS) is a test used to measure lower-limb strength in older people or those with significant weakness (1). 

It is considered an easy, quick and fairly valid measure, which involves measuring the time taken to stand from a seated position a certain number of times, or recording the number of repetitions you can do in a given period (2).

The findings of recent studies suggest performance in this test is influenced not just by factors associated with strength, but also balance and mobility, and a vast array of psychological factors (1).

But what about when sit-to-stand hurts?

Low back pain can reduce spine, hip and pelvic floor motion due to conscious or unconscious guarding associated with pain (3). 

Multiple studies have shown there are changes in how energy is transferred between bone and soft tissue in the spine, pelvis, and legs associated with pain (4).  And that inefficient energy flow or transfer then places more demand from everything.  A cycle of back pain-altered biomechanics can start, creating more back pain. With all the changes in energy transfer and muscle power, everyday activities such as standing up from a sitting position can become difficult.  

Muscle coordination, balance and mobility are affected, and psychological factors start to play in and effect our beliefs and so the cycle continues (1).

Stopping the cycle can be easy. 

You just bypass your traditional route to standing and try something different altogether. 

Try these simple tips.  You may not need all of them:

RELAX before you start

WIDER STANCE - think SUMO wrestler

SLOW DOWN (TIMING) - move more slowly

HANDS ON KNEES

BREATHE OUT - this is a big one.  The less compression in the container of the torso the better. 


Many people are surprised they can suddenly sit-to-stand with no pain after weeks or months experiencing twinges and outright muscle spasms when trying to stand after sitting.  


After a few days of pain free sit-to-stand, you can try heading back to your old ways as there is rarely a “right” way to do something.  You can get up and down any way you choose, each one of them equally valid. 


As a lot of research shows, the way you do something does start to matter. If you always get up and down via your arm on the desk, leaning forward to create momentum, it means the strengths necessary to do it another way are waning. 

Can this help if I have pain elsewhere?


This can also break the cycle if you experience pain in hips, knees and feet.


references


1. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Aug;57(8):M539-43. Sit-to-stand performance depends on sensation, speed, balance, and psychological status in addition to strength in older people. Lord SR1, Murray SM, Chapman K, Munro B, Tiedemann A.


2. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Oct 2;112:38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.08.006. Epub 2018 Sep 1. The sit-to-stand muscle power test: An easy, inexpensive and portable procedure to assess muscle power in older people. Alcazar J1, Losa-Reyna J2, Rodriguez-Lopez C1, Alfaro-Acha A3, Rodriguez-Mañas L4, Ara I1, García-García FJ5, Alegre LM6. 

3. Explain Pain Supercharged G. Lorimer Moseley and David S.
Butler. Adelaide City West: NOI Group Publishers, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-6480227-0-1

4. Gary L. Shum, PhD, et al. Energy Transfer Across the Lumbosacral and Lower-Extremity Joints in Patients with Low Back Pain During Sit-to-Stand. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. January 2009. Vol. 90. No. 1. Pp. 127-135.

Morning, I'm Broken!

We all know we feel better physically, emotionally and psychologically if we’ve taken the time to exercise in the morning but how do we reduce the general ache and stiffness that many of us feel before we even get out of bed?

The main thing people consult an osteopath for is pain.  Pain in their low back, between their shoulder blades and in their neck.

But a frequent complaint in practice is people reporting a general feeling of stiffness or ache in all sorts of places when they try to leave their beds of a morning. So while the good news is you aren’t woken with pain in the night, the moans and groans start when you haul yourself out of bed. And it can be enough to wake your partner, or the dog.

Is there any research on this?

There was nothing focused in the literature about whether stiffness improves with exercise, and certainly nothing as specific as morning stiffness. Although this may be because no one asked the question in an original study (i.e. it wasn’t set as a specific outcome for the population being studied).      

An educated guess…

Waking with stiffness would be due mostly to your body trying to adapt to new behaviours or resting postures you’d get out of given the chance if you were awake.

Examples of the types of things that might cause stiffness in your neck:

Stomach sleeping

Bingeing on Netflix in bed with a laptop

Long long hours at a computer

Long drives on straight roads

 

Examples of the types of things that might cause stiffness in your low back:

See above

 

Examples of the types of things that might cause stiffness in your feet and achilles:

Standing for long periods (cooking, ironing, gallery walking)

New exercises or an increase to new exercises (skipping, golfing, new shoes)

Or just good old DOMS the day or two after a workout at the gym

What exactly will you be mobilising? 

There is no exactly about it….you’ll be mobilising nerves, muscles, tubes, connective tissue, all manner of fluids including sparking up your brain juices.

A word of caution in the mornings.

Your nervous system is a bit protective of itself when we first wake up, as anyone who has ever done yoga before 6am will attest. That burning tightness behind your knees is not your hamstrings it’s actually your sciatic nerve letting you know it does not appreciate being pulled quite so aggressively before the sun has even risen.

Give it a fortnight.

It might take a while to tell if your body is going to love a new regime but in the meantime you can reward your mornings with these mobilisations:

 

ACHILLES and FEET stiff when you stand on them in the mornings? 

Prancing with straight legs

Heel to toe

Holding onto the door frame squat

 

If your low back stiff in the mornings?

Try this series of movements: 

LB twist 

 

Knees to chest

 

Cat/Camel

Child Pose with Lateral Flexion 

 

 

UPPER BACK and NECK stiffness in the mornings?

Sidelying bow and arrow

Neck slider/shoulder shrugs

 

 

 

All our mobilisations will be available on our BLOG this month. 

So make yourself a morning routine that suits you.

Share these tips and tricks to put some spring in someone else’s step this August.  

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Get Your Body Moving - 30 mobilisations for everybody

 

Let’s be honest people. We can’t always be as active as we want.

We find it inconvenient and at times impossible to answer the call for natural movement*. It’s hard to run across the grassy plains when we’ve only got a concrete path or it takes a two-hour train ride to get to a wilderness trek up the side of a mountain. And we have to be dedicated in searching out opportunities to squat, throw something, wrestle, dance, run, leap, climb or hang upside down off a branch.  

We need to do these things, but when we can’t, you can offer something else to your beautiful body. Something to nourish, so it can flourish! And so comes the concept of 30 ideas to mobilise your body.

WHAT THE HECK ARE MOBILISATIONS?

Mobilisations are like dynamic stretching.  They sit somewhere in between rehab and lifting weights. It’s difficult to get any specific research to support this kind of movement but we can draw some conclusions based on evidence supporting early movement after surgery for hip and knee replacement (1) daily movement for acute low back pain rather than bed rest (2) safe movement following a car accident instead of a neck brace (3) and a long history of committed movement in multiple cultures (tai chi, qi gong, ceremonial dancing, prayer and worship).

We might even want to throw it out there that mobilisations might be useful for:

  • pain relief
  • early healing
  • micro breaks
  • preventing pain
  • preventing injury (I said maybe!!)

 

the dip in the couch

We can get attached to not moving. You know the feeling when you’ve succumbed to the dip in the couch or you’ve shaped your body to the back of your ‘ergonomic’ chair. Our bodies sometimes try to get us to move out of desperation before the thinking part of our brain even gets a say.  We crack our neck, stretch our back over the back of the chair or twist forcefully to one side. Take charge of your runaway body and acknowledge that alarm bell for what it is. 

Convert that animal instinct into something to nourish your cells in all your tissues, including your brain. Pump and stretch those clumping cells and provide them with the nutrition they need via blood supply using the mechanics of your own body.  Help juice up your joints, tendons, skin, brain cells, muscles, nerves, ligaments, organs and move those tubes that string them all together.

 

we've put together 30 great ideas to inspire the modern human to combat physical stagnation.

The rules to follow:

  • easy and painless
  • lots of repetitions (i can do it i can do it i can do a little bit more) 25-75 repetitions (1-3) sets/day
  • joyful, fun, no protocol, no commitment beyond maybe a few days
  • if you’ve tried to make it easier and it still feels bad (or pointless) then STOP

INSTA VIDEO SERIES

SEATED ROTATIONS

hip and back tightness/pain, neck stiffness, excessive sitting

STIR THE POT

neck stiffness/pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain

FOREARM MOBILISATIONS

arm and shoulder tightness and pain, desk worker

SIDE RAINBOW

side stiffness, hip and back tightness, shoulder pain

HIP RELEASE - KATY BOWMAN STYLE

hip and buttock tightness/pain

STANDING ROTATIONS

stiffness everywhere, excessive sitting

SEATED GLUTE STRETCH

hip pain , low back pain , improve hip mobility 

CHEST OPENING AND CLOSING

upper back, chest and shoulder tension

ALPHABET EXERCISE  - ARM SWINGS 

thoracic and shoulder tension, low back too

BEAR HUGS

more dynamic than chest openings, more arm wrap around, good for shoulder and upper back tension

ASSISTED SQUATS

low back, hips, knees and ankles

ANKLE TWIRLS

stiff ankles, fluid congestion, motion is lotion

CAT AND CAMEL

good for spinal mobility, ask practitioner if this is right for you

THREAD THE NEEDLE

thoracic and shoulder mobility, low back stiffness

THREAD THE NEEDLE (V.2)

thoracic and shoulder tightness, standing at the desk version 

CATH A BUTTERFLY

shoulder, hand, forearm and elbow

HIP DROPS

low back hips and pelvis

LOWER LIMB AND GLUTES

glutes, hips, hamstrings and calf

WAG THE DOG

lower back, hips and pelvis

LEG SWINGS

hip stiffness, low back, balance, positional awareness

DO THE SWIM

shoulders, upper back and neck

LEG SWING V.2

hips and low back 

THE LAWNMOWER

Upper back, lower back and shoulders

NECK MOBILISATION

write out no. 1-10 with your nose, for general neck stiffness

SHOULDER SWINGS

good for stiff shoulders - who would have thought!?

BOW AND ARROW STANDING 

shoulders, upper back and chest

FOOT AND ANKLE MOBILISATION

foot and ankle mobility

CHEST OPENINGS

chest, shoulders and upper back 

THE SHOVEL

general back and shoulder  - better without a real shovel!

DISCO TIME 

looking good ladies - dance your way to better movement!

THAT'S 30! PHEW!

References

(1) Guerra, Mark L., Parminder J. Singh, and Nicholas F. Taylor. "Early mobilization of patients who have had a hip or knee joint replacement reduces length of stay in hospital: a systematic review." Clinical rehabilitation 29.9 (2015): 844-854.

(2) Hagen, Kåre B., et al. "The Cochrane review of bed rest for acute low back pain and sciatica." Spine 25.22 (2000): 2932-2939.

(3) Teasell, Robert W., et al. "A research synthesis of therapeutic interventions for whiplash-associated disorder (WAD): Part 2–interventions for acute WAD." Pain Research and Management 15.5 (2010): 295-304.

(4) Chan, Roxane Raffin, and Janet L. Larson. "Meditation interventions for chronic disease populations: a systematic review." Journal of Holistic Nursing 33.4 (2015): 351-365.

 

thank you for your inspiration:

How to do Joint mobility drills - Todd Hargrove

Mobilize! Dynamic joint mobility drills are an alternative to stretching - Paul Ingraham

Therapeutic Stretching - Eyal Lederman

Nutritious Movement - Katy Bowman

Daniel Wolpert - TED talk

 

 

There are devoted proponents for natural movement who have wonderful websites. Check them out: 

Mark Sisson, Katy Bowman, Phillip Beach

Jaws 42 - The Curse of TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

 All credit of this image go to Steven Spielberg and novelist Peter Benchley. Also to Zanuck/Brown Productions and Universal Pictures.

All credit of this image go to Steven Spielberg and novelist Peter Benchley. Also to Zanuck/Brown Productions and Universal Pictures.

It has been nearly 42 years since the legendary movie "Jaws" was released. It was a cinema masterpiece of its time with bucket loads of suspense and horror that managed to scare everyone from swimming in the ocean for years afterward. Well, so I'm told. With the clever use of animatronics, images of bloody big dorsal fins and spooky music it left movie goers nursing tense and sore jaws from clenching their teeth through anxiety and fear. Segue complete. See that? Jaws and jaw pain? 

Jaw pain is a pretty common issue affecting 33% of the general population at some time in life (1). Of that population there seems to be more significant spike in the age range of 20-40 year olds, with a significant portion of that number needing to seek treatment from a health professional. Anxiety is a key contributor to jaw pain but it is not the only reason people experience pain in/around the jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). We commonly refer to pain around the TMJ as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMD. It is actually not one single disorder but representative of multiple sub groups of issues. They are typically categorised as muscle problems or joint problems.

WHAT CAN YOUR OSTEOPATH DO?

At Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic we take into account the whole person when dealing with the treatment of TMD. In other words we need to understand the underlying causal factors, which may range from mechanical joint factors, emotional stress or functional overuse issues (think Australian gum-chewing cricketer). There are also direct links between neck pain and TMD and any assessment will recognise the connection. There is plenty of evidence both clinically and through peer reviewed research to suggest that the neck and jaw are pretty tight in their relationship with one another (pardon the pun). One paper suggesting that 70% of TMD sufferers also experience neck pain (2). 

A worthy TMD assessment will always encompass an actual physical assessment of the muscles around the jaw and the joint movement itself. This will guide treatment options. As osteopaths we use lots of direct and indirect techniques to modulate pain, but without addressing underlying causal factors that impact the jaw then relief may not last for long. These irritating causal factors might include chewing gum, chewing meals on one side of the mouth, specific dental issues, night time bruxism or teeth grinding and habitual jaw clenching (a lot of people don't realise they clench until they actively relax their jaw muscles). There are simple relaxation exercises for the jaw that are easy to practice and master. Head down to the end of the BLOG for some ideas.

SELF MANAGEMENT 

Self management strategies are essential in dealing with any long term TMD. A large study published in November 2016 attempted to collate as much data on self management strategies and form a best practice management strategy for longterm TMD. These strategies include:

1. Education - a bit of positivity is a good start as pain is usually self-limiting. Understanding the anatomy and usual function of the TMJ complex and associated musculature can be helpful too. Other ideas include improved sleep hygiene (don't watch Jaws before bed), sensible and time-limited use of analgesia, avoidance of OTC splints bought without consultation with a dentist, limit caffeine usage, ‘doctor shopping’ won't help.

2. Self exercise therapy - gentle stretches for the jaw muscles and relaxation exercises, which are best explained by your osteopath.

3. Heat treatment - usually heat for sore jaw muscles is best. Ice treatment is best avoided due to the sensitivity of the nerves that innervate the area (remember ice-cream headaches)

4. Self massage therapy - there are very simple self massage techniques for the main jaw muscles and upper neck muscles. Again these are best explained in person as a little goes a long way.

5. Diet and Nutrition  - it's important to establish a pain-free diet for at least three weeks. That means avoiding excessive chewing or hard-to-chew foods. In other words TMD sufferers may need to establish a "soft diet" until sensitivity decreases.

6. Parafunctional behaviour - this is the tricky one. There are often habits that irritate the jaw that we seem to not have as much control over e.g. grinding teeth or jaw clenching during sleep, which is called nocturnal bruxism. This may require some other modalities of therapy or medication to help. Reflecting on coping strategies for stress and anxiety may be pivotal to changing some of these nocturnal habits (3).

EASY EXERCISE

Stand in front of a mirror.

Hold your palms gently on the side of your face - covering your cheeks.

Let your lower jaw fall into your hands. In other words relax it and let it go all loose.

Now practice that again without using yours hands on your face. Make as long a face as possible. 

If you are having trouble mouth the sound "Bah". It lets your lower jaw fall open. Repeat that until you get a sense of your jaw relaxing.

If you practice this in the mirror then when you are at work throughout the day you can put your hands on your face and use that as a trigger for your face and jaw to relax. You are creating awareness around the difference between tension and ease. 

Good luck and don't hesitate to make a booking to see us if things are a bit out of control.

 

References

1. Wright, Edward F., and Sarah L. North. "Management and treatment of temporomandibular disorders: a clinical perspective." Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy 17.4 (2009): 247-254.

2. Silveira, A., et al. "Jaw dysfunction is associated with neck disability and muscle tenderness in subjects with and without chronic temporomandibular disorders." BioMed research international 2015 (2015).

3. Durham, Justin, et al. "Self‐management programmes in temporomandibular disorders: results from an international Delphi process." Journal of Oral Rehabilitation 43.12 (2016): 929-936.

 

 

 

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Bridging the Gap on Men's Health

If you hadn't noticed it's Movember and Men's Health is in the spotlight. In particular Mental Health, Prostate Cancer and Testicular Cancer. Three aspects of Men's Health that contribute significantly to men's mortality. The saddest part of this statistic is that they are, to a great extent, preventable causes of death with early intervention.

In the course of my career I have taken many a phone call from the wife or partner of a man to make a booking on their behalf. Often unbeknownst to the man! This gives a small insight into men's health behaviour that is quite curious. Men will often avoid seeking attention for health related issues. 

Why don't men ask for health help?

A study from the International Journal of Consumer Behaviours (1) found some interesting reasons why men do not seek health care assistance when they clearly should. These were broken down into broad themes that included:

1. Health-seeking behaviour was seen as a more female trait and not one associated with male self-reliance (I think this might be code for "I'm too scared to find out what's wrong with me")

2. Expressions of underlying fear and fatalism (at least they're being honest!)

3. Feelings of disconnection from health providers (talking about how I feel with a stranger is just not cool)

There is no good age to be a man

At the pointy end, the life expectancy of a man is on average 4.5 years less than a woman. 

Perhaps more alarming, across the lifespan, just being a man means you're more likely to die than a woman.  And that's in all major age groups!  This is in part due to men being biologically driven to partake in more risky behaviour (with sometimes devastating consequences). However the stark difference across the lifespan points more directly at men's lack of attention to detail in maintaining their own health and well-being (2).

Health behaviour change and the time it takes

One of the major benefits of seeing an osteopath at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic is the time we take with our patients. An initial consultation is usually around one hour and all subsequent consults are around 30mins. There is always opportunity to get to know the patient in front of us. Of course we'll take a detailed medical history and perform the appropriate physical examination. But more than that it is chatting to the patient about their life, family, work, hobbies, exercise routine, friendships - all the stuff that makes them who they are. Obviously this doesn't all happen in one consultation, it will often take a while to build a therapeutic relationship with a patient and trust is not something that can be afforded lightly.  Often this chat can reveal something about them that needs a little more attention. This might work a little better with men who are more reserved about revealing too much about their health history. 

So a shout out to the men out there. Don't put that appointment off  with the osteopath because you think that it's not "manly" to see someone about your aches and pains. This goes double for those things that you should see the GP about e.g. a spot that has changed on your skin, a lump that has developed somewhere it shouldn't, or you just aren't feeling your "manly" self. 

Taking ownership of your health

Influencing health behaviour's is usually a pretty subtle science, even as a health professional. In recent times initiatives like Movember have done terrific work in highlighting the need for men to take ownership of their health. Likewise the RUOK group have done great work in clearing the lines of communication to help men (and women) open up about struggles with mental health. Always keep in mind that your health professional is a confidential source for anyone to talk about their health problems. As osteopaths we always are aware of our professional boundaries and scope of practice and will refer you on as necessary.

(1) Buckley, Joan, and Seamus Ó Tuama. "‘I send the wife to the doctor’–Men's behaviour as health consumers." International Journal of Consumer Studies34.5 (2010): 587-595.

(2)http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/LookupAttach/4102.0Publication30.06.104/$File/41020_MensHealth.pdf

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Slow and steady wins the race

The simple solution for the complex problem

When pain hangs around for longer than expected this can be immensely frustrating for patients.  But when problems are complex and recalcitrant they can also be frustrating for practitioners.

A complex problem requires patience from both parties.  If a patient has a story of brokenness, then it takes the right information, at the right time provided in the right way for that person to help turn that story into one of hope.  

So many of us are pressed for time and aren't we all searching for the simple, immediate solution to any problem?   

Often a simple and effective solution can be manual therapy.  Good practitioners can be really good at providing an immediate relief for pain.  Whether it lasts is another story and the transient relief for patients can be at once addictive and ultimately frustrating.  

A good practitioner will combine manual therapy and education. Education comes in multiple forms, knowledge about why it hurts, and information about pain can help redirect the assumption of brokenness.

Education can also be advice about unhelpful behaviours, thoughts or beliefs.  And it most certainly should involve having a discussion about the true 

 

A good clinician will help find your baseline for activities and armed with good knowledge, your brain and body will know you're safe even if you experience some discomfort.

A fair amount of frustration exists around trying to increase physical activity, which as we know from the literature (and the media) is a magic bullet (1). But many people have the experience that simply increasing the amount they move increases their pain. Often, they'll take the weekend warrior approach.  They join a gym and do a body balance class and end up crawling in for pain relief as their low back and neck are screaming at them. If the alarm bells are ringing and you're getting negative feedback from every part of you it's hard to make the connection that it's a) good for you, and b) we need to do more of it and finally c) do it forever.  

A good clinician will help find your baseline for activities and armed with good knowledge, your brain and body will know you're safe even if you experience some discomfort.

 

I listened recently to a great podcast with Neil Pearson, who is a physical therapist in Canada, who uses graded exposure to therapeutic yoga to help people with complex pain problems.  But it doesn't have to be yoga that gets you there.  The simple and free option is walking.  

What is graded exposure?

Graded exposure is a fancy way of saying that you need to start with a small amount of something that threatens you and as your brain and body tolerate it, add in a bit more the next day until you can participate in an activity you enjoy without a backlash. 

So what does a graded exposure program to walking look like?   

Start with a baseline of 10 minutes per day at around 65% of your maximum heart rate.  In the range of comfortably carrying on a conversation.  Up the benefits and go with a friend.

You need to assess how you feel afterward.  If you have any adverse effects, ask yourself, do they last five minutes, five hours or five days?  Depending on the answer, you need to increase or decrease the amount of time and effort you are making with walking.  As a guide, anything more than a three hour increase in discomfort means you're overdoing it.  Remember though to pay attention to your response AFTER your walk, not during, as this is a better indicator of how irritable your body and brain is.

If you don't overdo it, you'll improve so rapidly that after only a week you'll want to start increasing the amount of time, slowly now, to get to the point where you can walk for 45-60 minutes.  It might take eight weeks or it might take six months, depending on how your body responds.

When you reach the 60 minute range, you'll be improving brain health, fighting Alzheimers, etc, you'll definitely be burning fat, if that's your extra goal achieved.

When you can comfortably walk in this time range with no negative repercussions, you can add in some moderate intensity exercise, like a 30 second jog, and then another 30 second jog later in the walk around 75% of your maximum heart rate.  Once you've worked up to 6 x one minute jogs, then you're ready to add in some additional activities that take your fancy.

Strength work, flexibility and high intensity exercise come after all this preparation. You'll be so much more connected to what your body might want to achieve and what you might enjoy.  If you enjoy being out in the sunshine, then there are myriad options at your disposal.  Do something you like, do it with a friend and do it for your mental health, as well as to improve your pain.

 

1. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/exercise-could-be-the-answer-to-solving-one-of-australias-biggest-health-burdens-20160809-gqo8bi.html

 

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HOW LONG UNTIL THIS STOPS HURTING?

Not all pain is caused by tissue damage but there are many occasions when an ‘event' has caused someone to present with pain.  Pulling off a tight and sweaty crop top, lifting a heavy pot plant on a weekend clean-out, twisting an ankle during a netball match or landing awkwardly while trying to double bounce your kids on the trampoline.

Four weeks ago, a lovely mid-50s patient kicked a heavy box (that wasn't there before) on a night time bathroom break.  She had an x-ray the next day and there was no indication of a fracture and now she is presenting with pain in her toe joint one month later.  She is worried the toe may be fractured and the x-ray missed it and now her pain seems to expanding into other areas of her foot.    

As students we all learn about how long a tissue injury may take to heal.  But this information is infrequently passed on to the patients and I don't think we should underestimate the benefit in learning how long something might take to feel better. It is one of the active ingredients in therapeutic care that we can provide to patients with pain, along with reassurance.  Sometimes people don't want to hear that healing and resolution will take 'time' but I'm afraid that's one of the first things we need to accept.  

 

As an absolute minimum these are some common timelines for Tissue Healing:

 

Muscle Tear: between 2-12 weeks depending on the severity

Acute Tendinopathy: 4+ weeks

Degenerative Tendinopathy: 8+ weeks

Ligament: Between 2-12 weeks depending on the severity (and 12+ weeks if you've had surgical repair)

Internal Disc Derangement: 8+ weeks depending on severity and location

Bone fracture: 8+ weeks (depending on severity)

Bone bruising: 8+ weeks

Most Cartilage injuries: 4+ weeks

Bursa: 2-6 weeks (or on and on and on) depending on severity

Things that will impact tissue healing times (for better or for worse):

  • Underlying bony change (age related or previous injury) 
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Progressing exercise too fast
  • No exercise
  • Sitting on your butt 9 hours per day
  • Eating great or crap food
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking caffeine
  • Drinking sugary drinks
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Values (have you got a big game to play?)
  • Beliefs (your father thinks you're weak)
  • Sleep or lack of...
  • Stress

Keep in mind we are talking about tissue healing times here and this is something completely different from whether you are experiencing pain or whether you have terrific or terrible function (read this entry here for more on the complexity of pain).

Back to our lovely mid-50s lady with sore toe. Potentially, when she kicked her toe into the heavy box, she didn't fracture the long bone but compressed the ends of two bones into each other essentially bruising the bone.  This bruised bone takes a lot longer to heal than a bruise to the skin and the soft tissue just below it and this means it may also hurt for longer.

Finally, walking around with that sore toe can mean you may start to move through your foot differently avoiding the sore joint. You might weight bear more on the foot that doesn't hurt. Your whole body is invested in reducing the pain in your foot and so adapts to give your poor old toe the time and space to heal and recover.  Learning about this can help your anxiety around your sore toe and even reduce pain levels.  And of course manual and physical therapy provided by the Osteopaths at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic can certainly diagnose, treat and provide education and advice to help reduce your pain and your anxiety about 'how long until this stops hurting'.

To make an appointment book online or call 9489 0981

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Sitting at the desk can be a real pain in the %$*&

It's one of the most common questions we get in the clinic - what is the best sitting posture?

To be honest, it would be ideal if we didn't sit as much of the day as we do, but given the society we live in it's going to be a while before we all get to go primal.  

We have all had a think about it and the overwhelming advice we give revolves around optimal sitting postures and reducing the amount of time you sit altogether.

So what can you do?

We all need to become big softies. Softening your neck, shoulders and upper back will go a long way to reducing pain and dysfunction around that area. 

Start by dropping those shoulders. 

Whether you sit, stand or kneel you're still going to get a sore neck and shoulders if those upper back, neck and shoulder muscles are working hard for hours on end. They have to work hard any time you have your arms out in front of you for long periods of time. For instance, when you are tapping at the keyboard, driving the car, crocheting, and then throw in the added tension that stress creates. A neat trick that seems to help is to tuck your elbows to your sides, this lets the shoulders relax a little more and keeps you mindful. Always try and rest the weight of your forearms on the desk or chair if you are sitting. 

Some other good ideas to help you soften through your upper back neck and shoulders include:

1) Breathe and Release - most people find it easier to drop the shoulders, soften and release on an exhale.

2) Driving - hold the wheel on the two lower quarters and let your shoulders rest when you are in a more relaxed stage of a drive. 

3) A Trigger - find a trigger during the work day to consciously soften through the trapezius and drop the shoulders, e.g. hanging up a phone call, sending an email, etc. 

I'm sure you've noticed the recurring theme is 'letting the shoulders drop'. 

If you are quite conscious of this over a period of three weeks, there is a sense of 'retraining' your brain to release your shoulders and neck tension automatically.

There are definitely more optimal sitting posture than others.

We have included some photos of the good, the bad and the plain ugly. Some sitting positions are extremely sloth-like but extremely comfortable, and that's ok. But always remember the more comfortable you are in the position the longer you can hold it - and that can be the problem. 

The thing about maintaining good "posture" or sitting more upright is that the "better" your posture the more energy intensive and the harder it is to hold so then you move away from that position - therefore it’s better for you. Moving more is better for you - it is that simple.

Other simple tricks for the desk jockey:

1. Stand to talk on the phone wherever possible

2. Look out the window at something small and distant (like a bird in the tree) - this is good for your eyes.

3. Have walking meetings outside wherever possible. Who said a meeting had to be sitting down?

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Blocked Drains?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is an interesting example of a specific massage technique.  It is purported to reduce swelling and is used to treat patients suffering from lymphoedema, or swelling of one or more limbs.  

Lymphoedema can occur due to compromise or partial failure of the lymphatic system.  

WHAT IS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM?

The lymphatic system is a complex network of tiny channels throughout the entire body.  It’s primary function is drainage, circulation and filtration of fluid throughout the body and it also plays a significant role in immune response. In general, movement of the body creates the “pumping action” required to propel lymphatic fluid through this system.  

Occasionally, underlying factors reduce the ability of the body to remove fluid. Factors including medication, disease, pregnancy, excessive weight or trauma.  It is also frequently seen as a complication of mastectomy after lymph node removal or other surgical procedures. 

WHAT HAPPENS IN AN MLD TREATMENT

MLD is a specialised technique in some practitioners’ tool belts. It is a fairly technical process and practiced by no more than a few hundred therapists in Australia.  Petra Miliankos, the Myotherapist at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic, outlines her approach to MLD:

“When the body gets into the position of not being able to clear fluid on it’s own, an external force (in this case a qualified human) can help remove the barriers to fluid removal.  

When you learn MLD you study the movement of fluid along the channels from the tips of the toes and fingers in toward the main ducts in the pelvis and torso.  By applying precise, gentle, rhythmic strokes along lymphatic pathways you can help move fluid through the channels.”  

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?

STUDY OF FOUR WEEKS OF MLD TREATMENT

One study (1) followed short-term MLD (over four weeks) and showed it can ameliorate chronic venous insufficiency severity, oedema, symptoms (fatigue and heaviness), pain and quality of life. Interestingly, the changes you might normally measure like range of motion, leg volume and strength showed no improvement. Quality of life measurements are extremely important, especially for the patient, and are often overlooked in studies.  

But wait - doesn’t everyone feels better for a short time after a hands on treatment? True, however the patients in this study reported continued improvement four weeks after the last treatment.  Petra said this confirms her experience:

“Anecdotally, clients report feeling better despite not meeting a drastic reduction in limb size. But this perceptual shift can be an important step towards self-management.  A recent example is after only three treatments one of my clients felt significantly more mobile and confident enough to pursue an increase in exercise.  She is now swimming twice a week at Northcote Pool. I’d say that’s a very positive outcome.”

FURTHER RESEARCH?

A 2015 literature review (2) confirmed the mixed outcomes in the evidence for MLD. There remains no gold standard protocols for the treatment of lymphoedema, so an individualised and clinically reasoned approach, like MLD, remains a valid option.   
If you would like to speak to Petra to discuss whether MLD might benefit you, please call the clinic on 03 9489 0981 or book online.


(1) Dos Santos Crisotomo, R.S., Costa, D.S.A., de Luz Belo Martins, C., Fernandes, T.I.R., Armada-da-Silva, P.A. (2015). Influence of Manual Lymphatic Drainage on Health-Related Quality of Life and Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96(2); 283-291

(2) Finnane, A., Janda, M., & Hayes, S.C. (2015). Review of the evidence of lymphedema treatment effect. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 94(6): 483-498

Blurred Lines of Health Care

Multiple x-ray.jpg

I felt the need to share the case of a patient I had recently.  The issue is not with the patient themselves but with the care they received from another practitioner.  

The mature gentleman in question had presented to me with a long history of knee pain. Due to that long history he had also developed some compensatory pain in the hip and low back as his overall function had diminished. Some treatment helped with the presenting complaint but the knee was still pretty bad. A quick consultation with the GP and it was agreed a specialist referral would be necessary. Turns out the knee was severely degenerated and he was a strong candidate for  knee replacement surgery.

The patient was not keen on surgery, which is fair enough. The recommendation is always to hold out for replacement surgery as long as possible and I support that wherever possible. He decided to get a second opinion from another manual therapist, a Chiropractor, that had been strongly recommended by a friend of his. This opinion was meant to see if any more could be done to prevent surgery. I would always encourage a client to seek further advice if they have any doubts at all.

A COUPLE OF WEEKS LATER....

The patient returned to my practice a couple of weeks later with a full spinal X-ray series - from head to bum basically. They wanted my opinion on this series of X-rays that the Chiropractor had ordered. The patient was particularly interested in my opinion of their neck X-ray. There was a little bit going on in the neck but nothing too sinister at all. I asked whether they currently had neck pain. The answer was a resounding "No". Turns out they hadn't had any neck pain at the time of the X-rays either. However the Chiropractor had pointed out a lot of areas of 'concern' that would need to be addressed in a series of treatments over the next YEAR! 

I'm sorry, but there was no pain and no clinical indication to X-ray anything above the knee in the first place. The Chiropractor may have valid reasoning in their own mind for pursuing a course of treatment on an asymptomatic neck but it's not good health care. 

THE BUSINESS OF HEALTH CARE

A big problem with private practice health care is that it is about the practitioner's livelihood. There are mortgages, living costs and often large educational debts to pay for, as well as their own health care needs, and the list goes on. Many get into health care professions with the most noble of intentions only to find it is not that easy to make a living - not as easy or lucrative as many would think. There are numerous health care business coaches out there who wax lyrical about the money that can be made in private practice. Unfortunately, it is completely driven by increasing treatment for patients and this means they aren't always selling good health care in order to build those numbers. They are selling over treatment and dis-empowerment of the patient and that's not an equation we like too much.

A multitude of practitioners sign people onto treatments they don't need.  In fact Four Corners did an hour long expose of the billions wasted in unnecessary investigations and treatments within the medical system.  

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/09/28/4318883.htm

Instead of the public purse paying for treatments it is the patient's personal income that pays for unnecessary treatments and for what end?

Practitioners may unknowingly prescribe snake oil.  They have invested a lot in their careers and they may be dissatisfied with their earning potential or they may have chosen to ignore the evidence to everyone's peril.

HCF PROFILE

HCF is a private health fund that sends us the data comparing the number of treatments we provide to their members compared to other Osteopaths in the area.  Providers at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic provide 30% less treatment per person. I don't think it's limited to clients who are members of HCF!

And don't get me wrong, I don't think it's because we're more talented. I think it's because we take time to explain the complexities of pain, encourage clients to be insightful about their condition, and encourage an active care approach and more than anything empower our patients with the confidence and knowledge to help themselves on a daily basis.

Another thing we do is to ask what your goal is?  Most of the time it's simple things; to get a better sleep, to be able to run with no pain, etc. Not many people are aiming for one hundred percent.  There is no finish line or silver bullet.  Reducing pain and improving function is maddeningly provisional and a lot of the time we are just there to give you a better chance of doing it better the next day.

This is not something that works for every patient. Some people benefit hugely from therapeutic touch for lots of different reasons and they seek hands-on treatment much more often than others. As long as patient and practitioner have a clear understanding of the care plan going forward then that is entirely appropriate.

OUTCOMES NOT OUTPUTS

All practitioners at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic look at the outcomes for our patients, not at the outputs on the books.  It's a terrible business model of course.  So please, unless it's an exercise program, don't sign on for anything that's going to take twelve months.

* For interest of privacy many details have been changed.

 

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The "cost" of bulk billing?

This might be controversial but I think it needs to be discussed. I have been prompted to write about the cost of health care services due to a recent increase in referrals from other health practitioners. This is great and we always welcome new referrals but it has presented a dilemma or two.

Many of the the new referrals come to us through the Chronic Disease Management Program (subsidised by Medicare) and the presenting patients are often surprised that we don't bulk bill our services. I think this is because most come from Bulk Billing GP practices and are used to not paying much (if anything) for medical services. Also, we have recently had a lot of people walk in off the street or ring on the phone to seek advice for their presenting complaint without actually making an appointment. As most will appreciate the latter is difficult to manage as we definitely do not like to consult on the phone or diagnose and treat in the waiting room.

There are many financial reasons we don't bulk bill but fundamentally we don't do it as it devalues the therapeutic relationship. Everyone should be entitled to health services and we offer concessions where possible but getting something for nothing seems to be an increasingly popular mentality when it comes to health.

There is a very big elephant in the room when it comes to bulk billing for service. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald noted the trend for poorer quality health care as the cost to the patient reduces. This is due to GP time management as it does not become cost effective to see patients for more time when they are being bulk billed. At Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic we will not sacrifice time with patients. Hence, we will not bulk bill. 

There have been suggestions regarding modifying Medicare payment processes and this may have been what the failed Federal Coalition Government Medicare Co-payment plan tried to address. The bottom line is those practitioners that choose to provide longer consults and spend more time gathering history and performing examinations/treatment should not be penalised.

We will always try and keep the cost of our consultations competitive for the business we are in. This is always a delicate balancing act.  Osteopathy Australia our national association continue to lobby for more provisions through Medicare for Osteopathic services so that we can provide that care to more patients patients from broader socio-economic backgrounds.

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The Massage "Affect" on Anxiety and Depression

JUST GET A MASSAGE

I know many people feel that booking in for a massage is an indulgence.  They wait for a gift voucher from a loved one, or save up once a year for their birthday. 

Many benefits of massage are still disconcertingly uncertain but while everyone is discussing those, a somewhat proven benefit is its positive effects on mood (1).

Massage has been shown to:

    1.    reduce depression

    2.     reduce anxiety

ANXIETY AND PAIN

How often have you noticed your neck pain is at it's worst when you're under a lot of stress?  It will build up and up until you finally lean over to pick up your toothbrush and 'bam' you can't move your neck.  

Anxiety is a potent factor in all types of pain.  And in the case of lower grade anxiety and depression, the kind we all seem to be living with every day, massage can make a valuable contribution to your well being.

MASSAGE TO INTERRUPT THE CYCLE OF PAIN AND IT'S EFFECT ON MOOD

Although the neurophysiological effects are complex, the simple negative cycle that emerges when people are depressed or anxious, is that it's hard for them to do anything when they feel miserable.  As you continue to feel miserable, this leads to doing less, which in turn, leads to feeling worse.  

There is a boatload of evidence to support enjoyable movement and exercise to improve mood but how about not getting to the point of feeling miserable or trying to find someone to help you crawl out of that hole?

Most massage therapists are pretty nurturing types of humans.  They can provide a therapeutic support role through 'recovery' and encourage paced activity to incorporate self-management.

IS MORE MASSAGE BETTER?

A leading researcher in this field is Christopher Moyer PhD who is a behavioural scientist primarily interested in the role of massage therapy on anxiety and depression or the human affect. 

I'll let him speak about the research he has accumulated on the subject about whether more massage is better:

"We made an interesting discovery concerning the effect of the treatment on the state of anxiety. When a series of massage therapy sessions was administered, the first session in the series provided significant reductions in anxiety, but the last session in the same series provided reductions that were almost twice as large. This pattern was consistent across every study we were able to examine, which strongly suggests that experience with massage therapy is an important predictor of its success, at least where anxiety is concerned. To put it another way, it is possible that the greatest benefits come about only when a person has learned how to receive massage therapy." (2)

SO STOP FEELING GUILTY

You can all stop feeling guilty.  If you enjoy getting a massage then book one now and do something good for your mental health. Give yourself a pat on the back for being proactive about your wellbeing. Well done you!

(1) Christopher A. Moyer, PhD, Research Section Editor, IJTMB, Assistant Professor, Int Journal Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. 2008; 1(2): 3–5. Published online 2008 Dec 15.

(2) Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull. 2004;130(1):3–18.

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Five tips for a better night's sleep.

Sleep is a tricky topic.  How many hours should we get? Seven, eight or nine?  What has been the impact of television/screens/ipads?  Should we sleep more like our ancestors in two big chunks (Bi-modal sleep)?  

The overwhelming response from most people would be that they'd really just like a bit more of it.  

Here's my top five tips to get a better night's sleep:

1. Stop unhealthy habits before bed

Finish eating or drinking at least two hours before you try to lie down.

Get off that computer or off the couch at least one hour before bed - seriously.

Check any nighttime medications* don't have caffeine in them.

2.  Clear your bedroom of unhelpful items (make a checklist) 

Get a blackout curtain if a street light shines in (it's not just for toddlers).

Is your room too warm or too cold?

Get rid of your shining alarm clock.  No one needs to see the time in neon.

Turn off your mobile phone.  I mean it.

Children and pets are warm, nurturing creatures but they don't always need to share the bed with you.  We often get shoved into a cold corner of the bed to accommodate them.  Restore your boundaries.

Is your mattress more than 8-10 years old?  It might be time for an upgrade.

Do you love your pillow? (see my post on pillows)

Covers too heavy or restrictive?

Spouse or partner that is restless, noisy, or generates too much heat - um, acceptance?

Some medical conditions❡ interfere with sleep.

3.  Do you love a daytime nap?

Do not daytime nap for more than 45 minutes

No napping after 3 pm

4. Exercise

A few surprises.  A 2010 (1) study found people with no previous sleep difficulties slept better the night following exercise.  But for people who had been diagnosed with insomnia, a fairly comprehensive study from 2013 (2) found people had to exercise daily and consistently for up to four months before there was a measurable benefit.

Put simply:

Consistently do a bit more physical activity during the day.

Expose yourself to bright light on waking – tell your body it's daytime.

Expose yourself to bright light in the afternoon to keep your body awake longer.

5.  Consistency of sleep habits 

Wake up at the same time every day - almost the hardest one to implement for anyone, especially an insomniac.

Develop a flexible before bed routine.  It might include a warm shower or bath, meditation or a calming book.

In-bed routines - breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxations (that's a whole other BLOG)

Reduce fluid consumption in the evening to avoid the need to wee all night.

 

(1) Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med. Oct 2010; 11 (9): 934-940. Kathryn J. Reid, PhD, Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, Brandon Lu, MD, Erik Naylor, PhD, Lisa Wolfe, MD, and Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD

(2) J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Aug 15;9(8):819-24.  Exercise to improve sleep in insomnia: exploration of the bidirectional effects.  Baron KG1, Reid KJ, Zee PC.

 

* Some medications that can interfere with sleep:

  • Antihistamines: Benadryl (daytime drowsiness)
  • Sympathomimetic Amines: bronchodilators and decongestants
  • Antihypertensives and Beta blockers: Clonidine, Aldomet, Reserpine (daytime drowsiness)
  • Steroids: Prednisone, dexamethasone
  • Thyroid medications:
  • Anti-epileptics and antipsychotics (daytime drowsiness)
  • Parkinson medications: (daytime drowsiness)
  • Stimulants for ADHD
  • Anticholinesterase drugs for Alzheimer's
  • Antidepressants: Prozac, Fluoxetine
  • Analgesics: opiates, Tramadol, Ultram
  • Chemotherapeutics: (nausea and vomiting)
  • Diuretics: (frequency at night)

 

❡ Some medical conditions that can interfere with sleep:

  • Respiratory disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction (Book Online)
  • Diabetes
  • Renal disorders
  • Prostate problems and small bladder causing urinary frequency
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Dental disorders
  • Restless leg syndrome or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
  • Fibromyalgia (alpha wave intrusion)

NOTE: People who do shift work have special challenges as they consistently interrupt their diurnal rhythms.  It is outside the scope of this post.

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What is Osteopathy?

The word Osteopathy, along with the concept, was developed well over a hundred years ago. "Osteo" is clearly a derivation relating to "bone", but an Osteopath is much more than just treating bones.  I'm pretty sure if it was developed now, a whole team of branding and marketing specialists might come up with a better name.  It does have a fair bit to do with bones (as part of the overall musculo-skeletal system), but I don’t think there are many Osteopaths still out there who think we can use joint manipulation to cure serious disease.  So whilst many theories have been culled from the original concept, the manual side of Osteopathy has evolved to help people with pain and provide professional advice in their recovery from injury or surgery. 

A foundational principle, or perhaps the philosophy of Osteopathy, remains sound.  Historically, Osteopaths were trained to treat the body, mind and spirit.  In today’s speak, Osteopaths are trained to take a bio-psycho-social approach.  Bio (body) pscyhological (mind) social (spirit) is at the very foundation of how Osteopaths think.

BIOLOGY (BODY)

We work with the body because we are manual therapists.  This means we use our hands, our eyes and our brain to assess your body and use a broad range of hands-on techniques and movement therapies in order to modulate your pain and help you move better.  Modulate in this context means to modify, hopefully in a positive direction, with the result being, you have less pain and movement is easier.

PSYCHOLOGICAL (MIND)

But where would we be without your brain, or ours for that matter.  Our brain works with your brain. This doesn't mean we’re psychologists but it does mean we’re good listeners and we recognise the person standing in our room has a brain, a mind, a long history of lived experience; possibly trauma, happiness, an education.  We work together with your brain, in countless ways, listening, discussing, educating and providing advice.  We might challenge your default or resting postures, and significantly, we will educate you about pain and this might challenge the way you think about your pain.

SOCIAL (SPIRIT)

Osteopaths have historically also worked with your ‘spirit’.  This is the part that can make people feel we’re a bit ‘out there’, a bit ‘crystal healing’, a bit ‘woo’.  Once again, this aspect has an historical context. Osteopathy was developed when Science and Medicine didn't have answers for many horrible afflictions.  Using leeches and ‘bleeding’ people was common practice. 

Like medicine and the manual and physical therapy realm, Osteopathy has benefited from great leaps of understandings in Science over the last 100 years and especially research into neuroscience in the last 20 years.  

Most people’s experience of pain improves when you are provided with nurturing environments, good education about pain and why it’s there, empowering explanations, and the knowledge of how to change their pain.  This isn't pandering to the concept of a ‘spirit’ but it does recognise that people are complex creatures and appreciate being treated as humans.

TODAY

Many practitioners, whether medical or manual, still practice within a biomedical model in which they tend to treat just the anatomical aspects of a problem.  “Here take some ibuprofen”, “You need to see me forever every four weeks to be truly healthy”, “Let’s strengthen your core to really solve the problem”, “Stand up straight”.  They often ignore the other human aspects that might be contributing to the problem, including the most important part that runs every single aspect of our mind and body, our brain. 

And we don’t forget the basics either.  We are very qualified to rehabilitate post-surgical or post-injury movement dilemmas. That's our bread and butter.

At Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic, our Osteopaths meet with you for up to an hour the first time you come in, in order to grasp the whole picture. 

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Pillow, pillow on the bed, which is the best one for my head?

 Which pillow shall be crowned in glory?

Which pillow shall be crowned in glory?

I am frequently asked about pillows.  Most people who ask me ‘Should I get a new pillow?’ have arrived seeking treatment for a sore neck, insomnia or morning headaches.  They don’t like their current pillow and have at some point flung it across the room in frustration.  They may have paid a lot of money for one or many different kinds of pillows.

What is the perfect pillow?

I’m sorry, but I’m here to disappoint you, there is no perfect pillow.  On a good day or given enough time, you can adapt to nearly anything.  Over the last hundred years or so humans used rocks, horse hair and straw to help us sleep comfortably through the night.  Before that we slept mostly on the ground, bereft of any pillow.  

If we tried that now, out of the blue, then you’d be much like my twenty-four year old osteopathic colleague, Whitney, who recently went camping in Ballarat and slept on the cold hard ground, with only a thin, inadequate mat between her and the dirt.  She was complaining this morning of sore shoulders, sore hips and an aching low back.  Her whole body was yelling at her to march herself right back home to sleep on her $2000 mattress and contoured feather pillow.  Unbelievably, she hadn’t spent any time at all progressively sleeping on less comfortable surfaces over the preceding weeks to get her body prepared for her camping experience.  And really who would do that? 

Our bodies and the bones, ligaments and muscles that make them up, respond to the activities that we ask of them.  If we ask them to sleep on an extremely comfortable, forgiving surface every night then they’re just going to find it a bit of a struggle adjusting to a hard, cold, dirt floor.  Your discomfort is not in your imagination.

So back to the person asking me about the perfect pillow.  The one who has a sore, tight neck and shoulders and is struggling to adapt to anything.  What do I tell them? 

Your pillow is a support device.

Your pillow is there to provide support - it’s an orthotic for your head and neck. 

A pillow that is unforgiving and asks you to adapt should be pushed to the side.  It is meant to provide comfort and adapt to what you need, not the other way around. 

This is not a sales pitch but we do sell a pillow at the clinic and it is the one I recommend to people if they’re genuinely in the market for a new pillow. It has a contoured cotton cover stuffed with polyester fill. The reason I like it is simple.  It’s adaptable.  It has a zip on one end that you can pull out stuffing or put more in as the polyester filling loses it’s ‘lift’.  At night, you you can move the stuffing around if you punch it, or shove it into the headboard to make it higher when you roll from your back to your side. And in a couple of years when the filling bunches up and is full of saliva, dead skin and microscopic creatures, you can pull out the stuffing, wash the cover, stuff some new stuffing in and start again.  

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Referrals from Dr Google

Why Dr Google isn’t always enough.

A colleague of mine in Canberra recently saw a teenage girl whose mother had noticed a curve in her spine.  Her mother was worried and took her daughter to her GP.  She was diagnosed with a Scoliosis and referred for X-rays.  The X-rays suggested the curve was so pronounced she was a candidate for bracing and/or surgery and the GP referred her to Canberra Hospital. Due to the nature of a regional hospital, Canberra didn’t have anyone appropriate to help the girl and sent her away. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide any further referral advice.

As the mother was a client of my colleagues, she asked if she could review her daughter’s situation.  My colleague assessed her, read the report, looked at the X-rays and agreed with the findings.  Your garden variety Scoliosis* is rarely anything to be concerned about but this girl’s Scoliosis was very pronounced and due to her age, was at risk of progressing with potentially serious side effects.  My colleague knew, in this case, her place wasn’t in providing hands-on therapy or exercise advice.  The young girl didn’t have any pain. She reassured both the parent and young patient she would look into what the protocol was from this point.  

The Mishits

My colleague completed a Google search of her own.  The initial hits were private clinics offering exercise therapy from physiotherapists and spinal alignment from chiropractors. Either of these methods, even with the fanciest websites, and expensive treatment programs weren’t offering much for a spinal curve that could impact the long-term health of this young girl.  As an Osteopath interested in the evidence behind making decisions in clinic she dug a little deeper and started to search journal articles and systematic reviews about Scoliosis.  

Good advice, and therefore opinion, should change as new research enters the fold; exercise, bracing and surgery were all still in the offing but they were used for different grades of Scoliosis.  And she was no closer to finding an expert who could help this young girl with her choices.  

The Resolution

Many health professionals, especially Osteopaths, often work in isolation.  For a whole lot of reasons it can be hard to communicate with other health professionals.  It’s called cross-referral. 

My colleague rang me to discuss the situation.  I followed up her phone call by speaking to a friend who is a paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.  She suggested sending her to a big centre in Sydney to see a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon for assessment and advice.  Her advice emphasised consulting a bigger centre as even bona fide specialists are prone to working in isolation. They might have forgotten to keep up with the evidence and then you can be right back where you started.

There are also particular ways to take an X-ray of a Scoliosis that give a more accurate measure of the curve.  A big centre will organise this and it may mean this girl is not in as dire situation as her report suggests.  That’s worth knowing.

Occasionally, especially when it comes to making decisions about our health, we find ourselves at a loss, and we turn to Google for advice.  As magical as Google is, it doesn’t always cough up the best evidence-based advice.  There are a lot of people with something to sell, trying to make their living on the WWW.  

There are also some amazing people, who have studied a long time and continue to gather the evidence, and question the current dogma in support of what they do.  They may not have as much time to construct websites and complete digital marketing strategies that mean they’re ‘top of the pops’ on a Google search.  What they do have is more than an opinion.  In the case of this young girl, she was best off to navigate the fragile behemoth that is our amazing public health system.  My colleague, an Osteopath, has the skills, contacts and strategy to help her navigate the system, interpret the advice and provide reassurance.  She will also be there to help rehabilitate her after intervention with movement advice or provide pain relief - should she need it.  

My take home point

The health professional you visit, whether it’s your GP, Osteopath, Maternal and Child Health Nurse, Naturopath or Dentist, should be interested in providing advice and treatment based on current best practice, science and research.  

Times have changed and will continue to do so.  The healthcare/medical sphere is continuing to evolve.  As a consumer, it is in your best interest to seek out the professionals that are interested in treating you in this manner because then your healthcare complaint will be managed with the most current information available - NOT ‘this is how we’ve always done it’.  

The Osteopaths at Fairfield Osteopathic Clinic are all university trained in their area of expertise.  They know their limitations. They have the skills to navigate the healthcare system and will better equip you in your journey.  As Osteopaths we also have more time to provide this extra support you require ….. GP’s are VERY busy people.


(1) Epidemiology of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.  Markus Rafael Konieczny, corresponding author Hüsseyin Senyurt, and Rüdiger Krauspe. J Child Orthop. Feb 2013; 7(1): 3–9.

* Very few humans on this planet have ‘perfect’ alignment.  Millions of people have Scoliosis (1) - a sideways curvature of the spine - with no undue stress or strain placed on any part of our bony structure, or the muscles and ligaments that attach to it.

Extra information

The Internet is an amazing resource, full of information and misinformation. This is a great link that questions the value of opinion:   http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978