Clapham Osteopathy and Functional Movement

Will a Low-Carb Diet Shorten Your Life?

Steaks

Last week, a new study was published in The Lancet that claimed to find that both very low-carb and very high-carb diets shorten our lifespan. Predictably, the mainstream media jumped on this finding without doing a shred of due diligence and we were subjected to splashy headlines like this:

  • Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests (BBC News)
  • Low and high carb diets increase risk of early death, study finds (CNN)
  • Low-carb diet may cut years off life, study suggests (Newsweek)
  • Your low-carb diet could be shortening your life (Fast Company)
  • Paleo fail: meat-heavy low-carbohydrate diets can shorten lifespan, researchers say (South China News)

In this article, Chris Kresser breaks down the arguments, and in the process, points out many of the shortcomings of the study.

Read the full article, Will a Low-Carb Diet Shorten Your Life?

The Reliability of Diagnostic Imaging Without Clinical Correlation In Musculoskeletal Medicine: An Evidence-based Review.

X-RayA summary of the evidence on the reliability of scans for musculoskeletal issues, showing that in most cases there are just any many people with structural issues that don’t have pain and dysfunction. It’s not how it looks, but how it works that is important, that’s why at Backs Etc we focus on improving movement patterns.

 

Read the article, The Reliability of Diagnostic Imaging Without Clinical Correlation In Musculoskeletal Medicine: An Evidence-based Review.

Channelling Our Original Strength

OS logoI recently spent a weekend in the Midlands on the floor rocking, rolling and crawling. No, I wasn’t just suffering from too many pints of lager. Rather I was participating in two workshops, Pressing Reset and Becoming Bulletproof run by the folks at Original Strength. OS describe themselves as ‘a human movement education company teaching health and fitness professionals around the world to Press RESET.  By teaching how to help people move the way we were designed to move, we can help them restore reflexive strength and stability.  When we have our reflexive strength, we have a solid foundation enabling us to live life better.’ What this entails is going back to how we originally developed our strength and motor control as babies and young children, teaching our adult minds and bodies how to reset poor motor patterns and allow us to perform physically (and mentally) as we should be able to.

Tim Anderson, one of the founders of OS, is someone whose videos I have watched on YouTube for a couple of years now, so I was pleased that he was running the course. He is a warm, passionate instructor with a gentle southern drawl, and made the weekend extremely enjoyable and informative. He began by introducing the concept of reflexive strength, one of the key components of the system. He describes this as the body’s ability to anticipate and respond to movement before and as it happens and stability and mobility in harmony with one another.

The focus of the first day’s workshop is what Tim refers to as ‘pressing reset’, essentially engaging the original operating system preprogrammed inside every individual’s nervous system. Engaging this can be likened to pressing the reset button on a video game, rebooting (or refreshing) the central nervous system to build new neural connections, restore old ones, and make existing ones more efficient. The result is a healthier brain and nervous system which leads to a healthier body able to utilise the mobility, stability and strength it is designed for.

According to the OS philosophy, there are five big resets:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing
  2. Head Control
  3. Rolling
  4. Rocking
  5. Crawling (or other contralateral, midline crossing movements)

Those of you familiar with the work we do at Backs Etc will know that we already incorporate these into our therapy and training programmes, so this course was a natural fit for me.

Proper breathing is where it all begins as, without a stable core, our brains will not allow our bodies to achieve the stability and mobility they are capable of, so the initial portion of the workshop is focused on developing good nasal diaphragmatic breathing techniques in a variety of positions.

We then moved on to the oh-so-important vestibular system. The OS system focuses on mastering head control to reset and strengthen this, so we did a number of head flexion, extension and rotational exercises, again in a variety of positions, supine, prone and quadruped.

The third big reset, rolling, is a fun one. Rolling is the beginning of the human gait cycle, and helps connecting the opposite shoulders to the opposite hips. There is also a lot of head control involved, bringing the vestibular system into the equation. There are a variety of different rolling patterns, some forward to back, but most moving laterally, driven by either the upper or lower body.

Then it was time to rock out. Rocking on hands and knees is a primal movement pattern that helps children build strength, mobility and posture. By modifying foot position we can also use rocking to improve our ankle mobility, or start on our elbows instead of hands to further mobilise the thoracic spine and build upper body strength.

crawlingThe last big reset, which ultimately ties everything together, is crawling. There are a myriad of variations of crawling, all effective in improving contralateral coordination, developing neural connections and building strength. We started with variations on the classic dying bug and bird dog exercises, progressing to commando crawling, hands and knees crawling, and ultimately leopard crawling (sometimes referred to as bear crawling or beast crawling in other methods). People who haven’t tried crawling may not realise what a tremendous workout it can be. Crawling across the length of the gym floor as slow as we possibly could, for 5 minutes, left every participant in the workshop huffing, puffing and sweating profusely. I routinely train my clients to crawl in a box pattern (forwards, sideways, backward and sideways the other direction) for two minutes, which often feels like an entire workout compressed into a tiny period of time. Good stuff!

The workshop on the second day, Becoming Bulletproof, was designed to take these resets we learned and advance them in ways that make them more fun, more challenging and incorporate various other fitness tools that we may have at our disposal. For instance, lifting one’s knees off the ground whilst rocking really fires up the lower body musculature and provides a great little full body workout.

Variations on crawling including axis crawling, a brilliant exercise one can do in a hotel room, for instance, that requires no space or equipment; crawling sideways with the feet pressed up against a wall is an awesome core burner that again requires no equipment. If you do have access to some gym gear, you can try exercises such as crawling pulling a chain or kettlebell.

We also played around with battling ropes and upside-down kettlebell carries, both tremendous workouts. One of the wackiest exercises we performed involved using a cup to scoop water out of one bucket and use it to fill another, all whilst holding a plank or elevated crawling position, showing that exercise does not need to be boring or mindless. In fact, putting play and fun into fitness was one of the big messages of this course.filling a bucket

And fun it was. Hard, too! I had major DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for days after the weekend, even in places that I don’t normally feel it.

In conclusion, I found the OS training to be a great addition to the toolset we already use here at Backs Etc. We are huge supporters of what we call primal therapy and training in systems such as Original Strength, DNS, Animal Flow and Immaculate Dissection. If you’d like to learn more and/or start channeling your inner baby, get in touch. Let’s work together to help you reclaim your original strength!

 

Jack

Footwear Habits Influence Child and Adolescent Motor Skill Development

child with bare feetNew research finds that children and adolescents who spend most of their time barefoot develop motor skills differently from those who habitually wear shoes. Published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, this is the first study to assess the relevance of growing up shod vs. barefoot on jumping, balancing and sprinting motor performance during different stages of childhood and adolescence. The study shows that habitually barefoot children are noticeably better at jumping and balancing compared to habitually shod children, particularly from 6-10 years of age. While these beneficial barefoot effects diminished in older adolescents, the research nevertheless highlights the importance of barefoot exercise for motor development as children grow and mature.

 

Read the full article, Footwear Habits Influence Child and Adolescent Motor Skill Development.

Fitness vs Movement: Science Shows Quality Training Matters

women doing bird dogsIn gyms all across the world, millions of people are unknowingly settling for sub-par fitness results, no matter how hard they work. It’s true that traditional fitness training delivers many benefits, but according to a recent study, movement-based training offers even better results with fewer negative effects. Movement training also has more “carry-over” when performing outside the gym (e.g. in real life).

So, if you want to move and perform well, in both ordinary and extraordinary situations (e.g. athletics, emergencies, etc.), this article will explain why a movement-based approach to fitness and physical performance is best, based on the findings of a recent study that challenge conventional wisdom.

 

Read the full article, Fitness vs Movement: Science Shows Quality Training Matters.

The Nature of Pain – Part 2

woman with headacheIn a recent blog post, we looked at the nature of pain and how often it is not an indication of damage in your tissues but an indication of the threat level in your nervous system (you can read that post here).  As discussed, treatments that reduce the threat level in the nervous system are most appropriate to relieve pain in the long term, and that a lack of core stability and poor movement patterns are often the factors driving the increased level of threat.

Here we want to explain how poor breathing and movement patterns may lead to pain in the short term,  and in the longer term may result in increased wear and tear on our joints and thus to structural damage. You can compare it to a car that is not serviced regularly. It is likely that the parts will wear out sooner as things move further out of alignment.

Babies and toddlers, assuming there is normal development, learn to breathe, create core stability and move by instinct using patterns that are laid down innately in our nervous systems.  A baby does not need lessons in how to roll, crawl and walk. With the right stimulation, it happens naturally, leading to good abdominal breathing and free and stable joints. As a side note, you don’t want to encourage babies to walk or be upright before they are ready, as that can be the start of dysfunctional movement. Most top athletes actually started to walk later than average.  However from the age of 3 or 4, posture and movement become much more dependent on the environment and models that the child sees, so they will start to copy the way their peers and parents move and hold themselves. There is also a reduction in natural movement from sitting in chairs at home and in schools and often, rather than free play, more repetitive and unnatural movements from participation in organised sport.  This means that by the time we reach adulthood we are not using our bodies in an optimal way, but have created compensation patterns ‘to get the job done’. Depending on our own particular circumstances including load and any injuries we suffer, these compensation patterns may work well for many years before we start to develop stiffness and pains, possibly that grumbling low back, tight hips, or neck.

NKT testingInitially, this pain is likely to be in the nervous system, as we have previously discussed, but if we don’t take notice of these issues then, over time, the tightness in the joints and overuse of certain muscles can lead to wear and tear and structural damage.  For example, tight hips will cause excessive wear on the joints and so in the long term result in a diagnosis of osteoarthritis; or alternatively, the inability to stabilise the spine well can lead to a disc bulge. This is why at Backs Etc we work with our clients to get to the underlying cause, ie the postural and movement pattern problem, and change that to either prevent or at least arrest any structural damage.  This approach can also work in conjunction with orthopaedic surgery if your hip or back has deteriorated to the point that surgical intervention is needed. If you don’t also work to improve the control of the hip or spine then the underlying cause remains and the wear and tear will continue making further surgeries increasingly likely.

Here at Backs Etc, we use methods, particularly NKT and breathing retraining, to ensure that the motor control centre of the brain can access all the muscles of the body and so create good pain-free movement patterns, followed by functional movement training to embed the good patterning. The training is individually tailored to help you achieve your specific health and fitness goals, whether that is running a marathon, playing a sport, losing weight, or just feeling great. Here are some kind words from a previous patient on our approach:

“I initially started seeing Sue for multiple, chronic issues that varying other therapies had not helped progressively. I was rather desperate when I went to see Sue as surgery and injections seemed to be my future. Within 3 sessions I started to see improvements and had significantly less pain. Day to day tasks had become easier and I was sleeping better. It’s been a journey and I have learned a lot, the homework Sue sets is great and gives you a better understanding of what Neurokinetic therapy is. In addition to seeing Sue, I have also started sessions with her husband, Jack. He is helping me rehab and strengthen my body. This reinforces what Sue is working on and allows me to keep progressing further. The team effort that Sue and Jack continue to put into the sessions I have is brilliant. The combination of techniques and knowledge is allowing me to make real progression, I feel stronger each time and understand my body far more than I did a few months ago. I don’t live locally but the travel time is definitely worth it. I can’t recommend both of them highly enough. A great place to start if you are suffering with chronic problems that never seem to get better.”

Jenny – Hertfordshire

 

Hormesis: The Good Stress

Nietzsche famously said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Or was it Conan the Barbarian? Either way, there is certainly some truth to the statement. One such way actually involves stress. Now, with good reason, we are constantly warned about the dangers of stress, both physical and psychological. Stress has been shown to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. However, the intent of this post is not to warn you about the dangers of stress – you are probably already well aware of them. Rather, we’d like to focus on a very particular kind of stress – a good stress – called hormesis.

Whereas the chronic stress from our jobs, lack of sleep, bills, antagonistic relationships, poor diet, etc. will break you down, certain low-level stressors can actually make you physically stronger, boost your immune system, improve your mood, and more. Some of these hormetic stressors are probably already very familiar to you, including such staples as exercise, sunlight, fasting, exposure to extreme heat or cold, and even certain foods. The key to hormetic stress is that it needs to come in small(er) amounts. For example, plunging into arctic water for a long period of time will ultimately probably kill you. But a cold bath or shower can actually stimulate your immune system, making you healthier. Similarly, exposure to extreme heat for a prolonged period can lead to dehydration and other issues, whereas a 20 minute sauna session can produce loads of beneficial effects, physical and mental. For a more detailed and scientific analysis of this, check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s article, Hyperthermic Conditioning’s Role In Increasing Endurance, Muscle Mass, and Neurogenesis.

weightsAnother very familiar example of hormetic stress is exercise, in particular strength training. A challenging weights workout increases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Done in the right amount, ie not over-training, this provides a relatively low and manageable dose of muscle injury. Your body responds to this microtrauma by building new muscle fibres as well as repairing the slightly-damaged ones. Regular exercise improves your body’s ability to rebuild, making you stronger and healthier. But the key to this is not overdoing it, and ensuring proper rest and recovery between workouts. If recovery isn’t adequate, the hormetic stress becomes chronic stress and the body can’t cope with the damage. This is why so many people who insist on training super-hard too frequently often wind up feeling ‘broken.’

Fasting, especially intermittent fasting, is another hormetic stressor. Skipping meals provokes a great hormetic stress response. Additionally, fasting triggers autophagy, a process in which cells clean themselves up, getting rid of damaged or junk cells that could potentially become cancerous. Again, though, this needs to be approached correctly, as calorie deprivation combined with gruelling exercise, sleep deprivation or other chronic stress can do more harm than good. So once again, don’t over do it! Notice a trend? Dr. Jason Fung is one of the world’s foremost experts on fasting. You can check out interviews with him here and here. Even better, buy his book, The Complete Guide to Fasting. We’ve read it, and highly recommend it.

Certain foods also promote hormesis. You’ve almost certainly heard about foods rich in antioxidants. Well, antioxidants are actually hormetic stressors, which is why they are so good for you. Colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as bitter foods, tend to be high in antioxidants, so having a good amount of these types of foods in your diet can be very beneficial. Check out this article on antioxidants for more info. Some of the most popular “superfoods” – blueberries, dark chocolate, turmeric, red wine, green tea, broccoli –  contain hormetic compounds that activate adaptive stress response pathways, improving our health. But of course, moderation is still key. You certainly don’t want to go on an ‘all chocolate and wine’ diet, no matter how appealing that may sound.

Believe it or not, sunlight is even a hormetic stressor. Getting regular, small amounts of sun exposure can help reduce skin cancer and improve vitamin D levels. But again, overdoing it can have the opposite effect, so don’t get sunburnt!

In conclusion, it’s critical to note the difference between chronic stress and hormetic stress. In almost all instances, too much of a good thing can have the opposite of the desired effect. Too often we push ourselves too hard – the ‘just do it!’ and ‘no pain, no gain!’ mentality. Conversely, not having enough hormetic stressors does not enable us to develop as we should. Here at Backs Etc., we believe that balance is the key to health, fitness, and happiness, so do challenge yourself, but do it wisely.

 

The problems of the modern jaw

Are you or your family mouth breathers? Teeth overcrowding and poor dental health are likely related to how we breathe, as well as what we eat. In this article, Stanford’s Paul Erlich discusses how poor breathing and the lack of chewing in our modern near-liquid diet has contributed to reduced jaw sizes in children. Undersized jaws have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, hyperactivity, sleep deprivation and other issues. Make sure your kids breathe through their noses and give them some food that needs chewing.

 

Read the full article, Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich on the problems of the modern jaw.

 

More than half your body is not human

Our bodies (especially our skin and gut) are perfect environments for a vast range of micro-organisms. In fact, human cells make up only 43% of the body’s total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists. Because of bacteria phobia, we destroy these using anti-bacterial cleaning products and antibiotics, often without a second thought to the vast quantity of bacteria beneficial to us that are wiping out. Think of a wildflower meadow – if you covered it in pesticide, it would likely kill off most of the existing plants and that space, without some careful planting and care, would regrow with weeds. This is what happens to the microflora in our guts when we use these products, and this is intensified when we eat a diet of processed foods. Everything you eat is feeding your microflora as much as it feeds you, and we need healthy microbiome to be truly healthy.

 

Read the full article, More than half your body is not human.