Clapham Osteopathy and Functional Movement

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.

Joint Noises, Popping & Clicking: Should You Worry?

man cracking knucklesThis article, from the talented folks at GMB, offers a good explanation of joint pops and clicks. As they say, you don’t need to get too concerned if there isn’t any pain. However, pops or clicks may indicate poor motor control in the joint which can lead to problems down the line. At Backs Etc, we utilise NKT, breathing and exercise to get your joints working the way they are supposed to.

Read the full article, Joint Noises, Popping & Clicking: Should You Worry?

To Stretch or Not to Stretch

Woman stretching

Must. Stretch. More. This seems to be a mantra for so many of us, and it’s no surprise why. From a young age, we’ve had the message drilled into us that we must always stretch before and after exercise, when we wake up, when something feels tight, etc. Stretch, stretch, stretch. Of course, there absolutely is a time and place for stretching, but it shouldn’t necessarily be done willy nilly. Many of our patients and clients have developed habits of endlessly stretching and rolling tight muscles as a form of self-therapy and treatment, a habit that is encouraged by many trainers and other professionals. We would like to highlight two reasons why this may not be helpful.

  1. The tightness and tension we feel is just a sign that a muscle is dysfunctional.  It’s a Goldilocks problem in that it can be held overly shortened, or overstretched.  Both states will feel tight, but the overstretched ones will not respond well to more stretching. For example, many people complain about tight hamstrings, yet are able to touch their hands to the floor in a forward bend. Here the hamstrings are overstretched and the tightness is a message from your nervous system asking you to stop stretching out and possibly tearing the muscle.  In this case, an activation exercise to shorten the muscle is going to be a much more effective strategy.

  2. If a muscle is short and tight, it is due to the body creating tension to help maintain postural stability.  The first priority of your nervous system is to keep you safe and stable, and it sometimes shortens muscles to do this, creating a scaffolding of support. This is especially true when you are not breathing well and unable to generate good core stability. This can lead to tight hip, mid back, neck and/ or jaw muscles.  Attempting to loosen these patterns without getting to the root of the problem is futile, as you are trying to defeat your nervous system’s prime role in movement control.

In both cases, we often hear patients describing that foam rolling or massage feels good for a few hours or even a day, but then the symptoms return because the underlying cause has not been addressed. So your brain recreates the stability strategy it has got used to even if it is not optimal.

At Backs Etc we use NeuroKinetic Therapy to assess the strategy your brain is using to keep you safe and stable, and then design a treatment plan incorporating both stretches and activations that work with your nervous system.  This leads to normalisation of the tensions and tightness in the muscles so that you don’t feel the need to constantly stretch, roll or massage them.

 

The Dangers of Acetaminophen

bottle of pillsAcetaminophen, most commonly known as Tylenol, is one of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers. Most people don’t think twice about taking it for the occasional ache or pain. Yet acetaminophen may be one of the most dangerous medicines in the drugstore. In this article, functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser discusses the potential liver toxicity of the drug, as well as its negative effects on cardiovascular health, kidney disease, and even cancer.

Read the full article, The Dangers of Acetaminophen.

The Great Con-ola

bottle of oilThis article from The Weston A. Price Foundation takes aim at one of our most popular cooking oils, canola. The food industry has been lauding the benefits of canola oil since its arrival on the scene in the mid-1980s, calling it ‘heart healthy’, ‘high in Omega 3s’ and ‘widely recognized as the healthiest salad and cooking oil available to consumers.’ However, there is a dark side to canola oil, as studies have shown it to actually be potentially dangerous to humans. This article details the history of the oil and documents the health risks associated with canola and other industrial seed oils.

Read the full article, The Great Con-ola.