Clapham Osteopathy and Functional Movement

Getting up in Asia

Sue and I have recently returned from a 5 week trip in East Asia. The primary focus of the trip was assisting the amazing Immaculate Dissection teaching team in Tokyo and Taipei. For avid travellers such as ourselves, however, flying that vast distance without taking the opportunity to sample more of the region’s wonders would seem like madness. And so we added a week in South Korea, another one (hiking) in Hokkaido and a few days exploring Osaka. I won’t spend any more time on the holiday-making part of the trip as that would require an entire lengthy post to itself, except just to say that we had a fantastic time!

If you are a health, fitness or wellness professional, you should really check out an Immaculate Dissection seminar. These series of 2 day seminars bring gross anatomy to life through unique body painting whilst exploring powerful assessment techniques and corrective exercise. You won’t believe how much knowledge can be packed into 2 days!

In addition to anatomy, palpation and muscle testing, every ID seminar focuses on a few key exercises. The primary exercise ‘dissected’ in ID II: Lower Extremity Concepts is the get-up, both the well-known Turkish get-up and a variation called the Czech get-up that mimics an infant’s developmental progression. Like so many in the health and fitness world, we love these exercises! There’s a good reason why, if only allowed to choose one exercise, many would choose the get-up. In fact, here are 20 reasons:

  1. Promotes total body stability in all 3 planes of motion

  2. Trains the ability to get down to and up from the floor with ease, important for health and often lost in later life

  3. Trains the ability to move the upper body from the core and not the neck

  4. Promotes cross lateralization (getting right brain to work with left side)

  5. Takes your body through all the phases of gait so a great diagnostic, especially for runners

  6. Ties the right arm to the left leg, and left arm to the right leg

  7. Gets the upper and lower extremities working reciprocally

  8. Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities

  9. Stimulates the vestibular system, which contributes to balance

  10. Stimulates the visual system, which contributes to balance

  11. Stimulates the proprioception system, which contributes to balance

  12. Develops a front/back weight shift

  13. Develops upper body strength, trunk strength, and hip strength

  14. Closed and open chain shoulder stability

  15. Thoracic extension and rotation

  16. The ability to perform a good get up on each side should be a prerequisite for bilateral loading exercises such as a deadlift or squat

  17. Stability in two different leg patterns – lunge stance and squat stance

  18. Single leg hip stability during the half kneel and lunge phases

  19. A great warm up and self-assessment tool – try performing a controlled get-up on either side to check how your whole body is feeling before you train

  20. So easy to perform, even your dog can do it

Okay, you’ve probably guessed that number 20 is a big old fib. But, to be honest, I could probably add a few more to this list without being too repetitive. In actuality, get-ups are a little complicated, especially at first. But part of the reason for this is also one of the most significant benefits of the exercise: that it isn’t just one single movement pattern, rather, it’s an impressive combination of sequencing stability and mobility throughout all segments of the body. Each component of the get-up is an exercise in its own right, and the transitions between components are integral and challenges in themselves. Basically, there’s a lot of exercise bang for your buck!

Sue and Jack in phase 1 of the TGUBut with these rewards comes a risk. In this case, it’s the high frequency of points in the routine where faulty movement patterns or lack of core stability can present a real problem. Of course, no exercise should be performed with bad mechanics, but one with as many steps as the get-up comes with that many more chances to do something wrong. This is why it’s so important to break the exercise down and practice each section of it until the full flow can be performed correctly. We often give clients and patients the first phase of the get-up by itself as it’s a great core exercise and, if done well, can help correct many neck and shoulder problems. However, if done badly using the neck or momentum to propel the body upwards, it can make upper body issues worse.

In summary, if you’re not doing this exercise, you should be. And if you don’t know how to, or are feeling a little shaky about your form, we’d be happy to show you. Just book in a session at Backs Etc. and you’ll soon be gettin’ down with the get-up!

Anatomy of Core Stability

An excellent video visualising the anatomy of core stability and how to establish that stability through uniform activation of all the muscles that make up the core. A very relevant video as core work is one of our staples at Backs Etc.

To Your (Gut) Health

Microbiome. Microbiota. Beneficial bacteria. Gut bugs. Call it what you will, you’ve probably read or heard somebody talking about this subject recently. But did you know that gut health is correlated with everything from Parkinson’s disease to cardiovascular health to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, to anxiety, depression and cognitive function?. There is more and more evidence that the vast quantity of microscopic critters in our guts can play a huge role in our physical and mental health, both positive and negative.

This is achieved via another term you may have heard of: the gut-brain connection. Gut microbes influence how we digest and metabolise the precursors of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Then there is a direct line of communication to the brain, through the vagus nerve, which has receptors near the gut lining that allow it to keep a check on our digestion. Microbes in the intestine can therefore release chemical messengers that alter the signalling of the vagus nerve – and, as a consequence, the brain’s activity.

These pathways are not one-way streets, however, as brain activity can also influence the gut flora composition. Stress can increase inflammation, for instance, which can then affect the microbes in our gut. The result can be a feedback loop. Gut, brain, gut, brain, gut.

Humans used to eat a huge quantity of fermented foods as fermentation was one of the few ways to preserve fresh foods for later.  This would have included pickled vegetables, dairy (yoghurt and cheeses) and meat. However, the advent of packaged foods and refrigeration has lead to the reduction and even, sometimes, elimination of this category from our diets.

Over the past 10 years or so, the idea of feeding and maintaining our gut microbiome has become increasingly mainstream. It seems clear that today’s Western lifestyle featuring vast amounts of stress, poor sleep, antibiotics and nutritionally-depleted diets are impacting the type and amount of microbes present in our guts, leading to a variety of health problems. This has led to a booming probiotic supplement industry that aims to help increase the number and variety of microbes. We believe that even though probiotics can be helpful to deal with specific conditions – we always take a supplement to increase resilience when travelling –  it is better to include fermented foods as a mainstay of the diet.  So we regularly eat home-made sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. Of course not everyone has the time and inclination to make all of these from scratch (even though basic fermented veggies are dead easy!) but fortunately some of the commercial products out there get the job done handily and tastily (Okay, not sure if that’s a real word, but if not, it should be.) UK friends, check out the kefir made by our friends at Ki, straight outta Vauxhall!  (Shameless plug alert)

Ki Kefir is a new sustainable & organic company based in South West London, hand delivering traditional and powerful kefir to your door. Frustrated with buying kefir without the powerful kick of life it should have, we decided it was time for Londoners to get their hands on a real kefir, full of probiotic goodness that’s exceptionally powerful and really makes a difference to your gut health. Unlike many shop-bought Kefirs who use a powdered (lab-made) bacteria to make kefir,  at Ki we make it the traditional way with living cultures. This ensures the highest quantity and most diverse range of good bacteria. Our kefir also contains a cocktail of vital vitamins and minerals crucial for good health, including B12, K2, calcium and magnesium. It is made with the finest organic milk from grass-fed cows in Sussex. We are also a minimal waste company, packaging our kefir in glass and offering local deliveries.

To find out more about Ki you can visit
Instagram: @ki.kefir

Movement Matters

Sue McCall testing legMost patients begin their journey at Backs Etc receiving a combination of manual therapy and exercise protocols designed to retrain basic movement patterns. Some may wonder what is actually happening when a patient is being treated on the table, and why we emphasise exercise and movement retraining. Does the hands-on therapy physically lengthen muscles and connective tissue that have become contracted and fibrotic, thus changing their structure? Or is treatment more of an interaction with the nervous system, improving its ability to control the body, thus reducing pain?  (If you’re interested in reading more about pain, see our posts here and here.) Does a muscle feel tight because it is physically shortened, or is it from changes in neurological control? We have always believed it to be the latter, which is why NeuroKinetic Therapy® (NKT) is one of the main tools used at Backs Etc. Sue’s adventures dissecting cadavers at St Andrews medical school have solidified our belief in this.

First off, working on dissections of various body types, it’s clear that there are deep layers of superficial fascia (AKA fat) covering the muscles in even the skinniest of us. What this means is that manual therapy is not directly affecting muscles and joints, especially those deeper inside the body. It is like the pea affecting the princess through the layers of mattresses, not impossible but hard to do. The only thing we can directly affect is the skin.

Furthermore, muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues are so strong that the force a manual therapist can exert is unlikely to change the nature of the tissue. In the four elderly cadavers that we worked with, the muscles looked completely healthy, with no evidence of fibrosis, trigger points or adhesions.  In fact, the only adhesions found were caused by surgery or injury. From their case histories, it was apparent that they likely had aches and pains and restricted joints, but this would be coming from their nervous system and not the physical structures. The experience of pain is primarily due to the overall level of threat that the brain is experiencing, rather than an indication of tissue damage.

Therefore, when opting for manual therapy, understand that it will not necessarily be physically changing your body. What it can do is bring increased blood flow to an area which can improve the body’s ability to heal itself. It may also feel therapeutic and relaxing, which can be extremely important in these stressful times. The interaction with the nervous system using therapies such as NKT allows tight muscles and joints to relax as the brain receives more positive sensory input and so and reduces the threat level. This is why NKT has been so successful for us at Backs Etc. It is designed to correct the fundamental issues stemming from the way the brain and nervous system are interpreting sensations and inputs.

However, this is just the beginning, you need to consolidate these neurological changes by moving and breathing well on a daily basis.  Exercise utilising quality controlled movement patterns and proper breathing technique will improve muscle function, mobilise your joints, and consolidate the changes initiated with the therapy and can positively affect the structure of your tissues much more than passive hands-on therapy.

Jack McCall trainingWe offer functional fitness sessions with Jack, our trainer at Backs Etc, as we believe that poorly executed exercise habits – excessive ‘balls to the wall’ pushing through pain, lack of quality movement, and poor breathing habits, are the root causes behind the majority of pain and injuries.  Taking some time to learn good movement patterns, and then practising them regularly and incorporating all the elements of a balanced exercise program, is the key to avoiding the revolving door of repeated injuries or chronic pain. We strongly believe that your exercise program should enhance your longevity and fitness and not be the cause of pain and injury, and we’re here to help you achieve these goals.


Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?

tub of sunscreen on beachCurrent guidelines for sun exposure are unhealthy and unscientific, controversial new research suggests—and quite possibly even racist. How did we get it so wrong?

In this article, author Rowan Jacobsen discusses how our obsession with protecting ourselves from the sun is contributing to many health issues. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D is not very effective, whereas moderate amounts of sunlight exposure is. But that’s only the start. Sunlight triggers the release of a number of other important compounds in the body, including nitric oxide, serotonin and endorphins. It reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. It improves circadian rhythms. It reduces inflammation and dampens autoimmune responses.


Read the full article, Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?

Scottish Doctors Are Now Issuing Prescriptions to Go Hiking

person hikingBeing active out in nature can have positive benefits for both physical and mental health. And now some doctors in the Shetlands have begun issuing “nature prescriptions” as part of an initiative to address health issues without drugs. We love hiking, so this is one prescription we’d eagerly look forward to having filled and refilled!


Read the full article, Scottish Doctors Are Now Issuing Prescriptions to Go Hiking.

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Coffee

coffee beansCoffee. Love it or hate it, you probably can’t escape it. (We love it, BTW) There have been many stories in the news over the past few years discussing its potential health benefits, and in this article, Chris Kresser details 5 big ones. For balance, he also includes a section on people that probably shouldn’t be drinking the stuff.

So kick back with a cup o’ joe and read the full article, The Top 5 Health Benefits of Coffee.