Category Archives: Health

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

5 ways to reduce risk of lower back pain and improve spinal health

elbow-knee-leverage-save-lower-back

Lower back pain is terrible and best avoided. With some careful techniques and correct lifting a lot off back pain can be avoided.  I’ve put together a short presentation video on how to better look after your back and some techniques and tips on avoiding lower back strain and damage to spinal discs

For video tutorial Click here 

Lifting something of the ground using the legs to squat down

Using the knee and elbow to divert load from lower back

Golfers pick up

Lunging

Splits (abducting legs to alter task height)

I have also included a better way of straightening up from a bent over slouched back.

The key feature in all these techniques is to keep the spine in a neutral / stable position and let all the limbs do the awkward work.

Video link
http://www.painreliefwellness.com.au/video/5-ways-to-reduce-lower-back-pain-and-improve-spinal-health/

Alternate link
https://youtu.be/5l5-7IlcSyg

Treat your back with love and it will love you back

Monday, August 28, 2017

The importance of the gluteal muscle (buttock)

gluteal-muscle-and-ITB

 

Your gluteal muscles have some important features:

• are the main muscles used for walking, when moving legs from hips
• essential for the stability of the hips when walking. Without them you would topple over to one side.
• allow you to extend your back
• allow you to stand from a sitting position
• Gluteus maximus supports the extended (straight) knee. It does this via the iliotibial tract (ITB). This is the fibrous band of connective tissue that runs down the outer side of the thigh.

Gluteal dysfunction and weakness can have quite a large effect on the functional physiology of the body. Glute weakness can cause some of the following:

• lower back pain – over-using lumbar muscles to compensate
• hamstring over-use (tightness and pain) –> can also then lead to pelvis rotation –> pressure and pain in lower back
• knee pain from reduced stability
• tight hip flexor
• ankle problems
• plantar faciitis

As humans, we tend to find the easiest and laziest way to do things. Perhaps this is energy conservation. For example, when picking something up from the ground we tend to lean over with a flexed back instead of bending the knees and squatting down. The gluteal muscles can simply just get deconditioned and weak through lack of use. The simple solution is to wake them up again and do a few exercises. Even doing something as simple as squeezing your butt cheeks together while waiting for the bus can help (try 3 sets of 10 reps) or whenever you remember during the day, for example whilst waiting for the jug to boil. Something this simple can help the brain and glutes make a better neurological connection and “switch on” better for movement patterns.

Pain can also be a limiting factor. There could be any number of pathologies in the hips and back creating a painful situation that limits movement. Pain is remarkable in that it causes an inhibitory effect on muscles in the affected area. Hence, once the pain has subsided the muscles can still be inhibited or have decreased motor response (“switched off”). Again, doing a few floor-based gluteal exercises can help to retrain the connection with the brain and the bum muscles.

For example, the correct firing order for leg extension (lying on tummy and raising leg up towards ceiling) is:

Glute -> Hamstring – > quatratus lumborum and lumbar muscles.

However, with a dysfunctional glute it can become:

Hamstring + lumbar muscles.
Hence, much more strain is placed on the surrounding structures.

Anatomy:
Gluteus maximus – the largest muscle in the body – forms the buttock cheeks.

glute-maximus

Gluteus medius and minimus – lateral stabilisers. These muscles are located on the sides of the hips. They wrap around the bony part of the thigh bone (trochanter of the femur).

glute-medius

glute-medius

Gluteus minimus

gluteus_minimus_muscle

Training the glutes

Strong, healthy glutes are important for proper movement and health maintenance. However, there can be other problems that are present in the pelvic/lumbar region that need to be addressed before any rehab training and exercise should be performed. Muscular fatigue (“feel the burn”) is ok but acute and neuralgic pain is telling you some damage is going on. Please always train being mindful and respectful of your body’s abilities.

Below are a few glutes floor-based exercises to get you started.
Lying on the side, back should be straight (neutral spine), and all the movement should be occurring in the leg that is facing the ceiling. You can support your head and neck with one arm, and have something soft to lie on. You can use a yoga mat or towels. Please note it should not be painful to do these exercises. After a while you should feel muscular fatigue. However, if you experience any acute pain or nerve pain please stop and get assessed by a health professional.
Do each exercise 10 times then roll over to other side and complete 10 times on other leg. Repeat this for each exercise. Once you have done them all, go back to the top and re-do them. Try doing 10 minutes in total first. Then as you progress you can extend the time to 20 mins. Aim to do the exercises daily or every second day.

Clam : Open your legs just like a clam would open its shell
glute-exercise-clam-1
glute-exercise-clam-2

Side lift : Point your toes towards the ground. It helps activate more of the glute muscle. Then move your straight up as high towards the ceiling as you can. Then move it down again. Repeat.
glute-exercise-leg-raise-1
glute-exercise-leg-raise-2

Toe taps: Point your toes towards the ground. It helps activate more of the glute muscle. Tap your big toe in front of you and then swing your straight leg back and tap behind you. Repeat.
glute-exercise-toe-tap-2
glute-exercise-toe-tap-1

Kick: Just like kicking a football with a straight leg.
glute-exercise-kick-1
glute-exercise-kick-2

Bike circles: Like peddling on a bicycle. Move your leg in a circular fashion as you would when riding a bike. Go forwards 10 rotations then backwards 10 rotations.
glute-exercise-bike-pedal-1
glute-exercise-bike-pedal-2

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How many acupuncture sessions do I need ?

How many acupuncture sessions do I need ?

This is a fair and often-asked question.   If you have a problem, you will want to fix it.  Generally, you will want to know how long it’s going to take or how many sessions of treatment are needed before a solution is reached or the problem is rectified.   To be frank,  this question is not an easy one to answer.  It would be nice to be able to say:  headache, that is 2 treatments; tired muscles from exercise = 1 treatment; lower back pain for 2 months = 7 treatments.

Unfortunately,  it’s not possible to be that exact.

The body is a constantly changing and adapting organism.  Some patients respond quickly and need only 2 treatments.  Others are very different and may need 6 sessions for the same problem.

However, it can be exasperating to hear “it depends” or “how long is a piece of string” in regards to how many treatments you need, so I’ll try and summarise some general factors that indictate a rough estimate of how many sessions.

Acute problems = 1 – 4 acupuncture treatments

If the problem is acute (1 week) or short term (less than a month), then the body should respond to a certain degree after the first session.  This change may occur immediately or more usually a day or two later as the acupuncture effect is a bit like exercise – it takes a little while for the stimulus to be absorbed and take effect.

In this case, the treatment range would be between 1 – 4 treatments.  After 4 acupuncture treatments, I would expect there to be a significant beneficial effect to alleviate the problem.  If not, then perhaps acupuncture is not the right treatment course in this situation.


Chronic problems = 4 – 10 acupuncture treatments

If the problem has been present for 2 or more months, then it will require a series of up to 4 treatments to gauge the response.  At the end of the 4 sessions, progress will be assessed and if indicated, another 4 to 6 treatments will be recommended.  This would allow acupuncture an appropriate chance to address the problem.

You could also view the treatments as occurring in different stages:

Corrective stage – Treatments to bring the body back to homeostasis (balance)

Maintenance stage – top up treatments to keep the problem in check

Frequency

In my experience,  acupuncture is needed at least once a week in the corrective stage. This keeps the momentum going forward as the sessions build on each other.  To speed things up, you can come multiple times a week.  This can be a beneficial way to make a stronger impact on the problem at the start of treatment course.

Maintenance phase – this can be done every 1 to 3 months to keep the body from slipping back into the previous negative habits and to pre-empt a return of the problem.

Response to acupuncture treatment is also dependent on many factors, but here are just a few:

Age
General health
Fitness level
Diet
Work type/amount/intensity
Attitude to recovery

Patients will heal at different rates even if it is for similar problems.  Having said that, I hope the above summary gives a rough indication of how many treatments may be required to alleviate or remedy a health problem.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How Fascia works in the human body

Fаѕсіа is thе body’s connective tіѕѕuе.  It іѕ a head-tо-toe, іnѕіdе-tо-оut, аll-еnсоmраѕѕіng and іntеrwоvеn ѕуѕtеm оf fіbrоuѕ connective tіѕѕuе found thrоughоut thе bоdу.  The fascia рrоvіdеѕ a framework which helps ѕuрроrt аnd рrоtесt іndіvіduаl muѕсlе grоuрѕ, organs, аnd thе entire body аѕ a unіt. Fascia consists primarily of collagen, which is a structural protein.  It looks a bit like plastic cling wrap.  You may have noticed this cling wrap-like translucent sheet in between the layers of muscle when preparing and cooking meat.

thoracolumbar fascia

 

HOW DOES FASCIA AFFECT ME?

 

Fascia provides thе рrоtесtіvе ѕhеаth around our entire body аѕ a whоlе аnd аlѕо surrounds each organ and muѕсlе for рrоtесtіоn from outside trаumа.  Our fаѕсіа аlѕо рlауѕ an important ѕuрроrtіvе role to thе muѕсulоѕkеlеtаl ѕуѕtеm by еnаblіng us tо perform funсtіоnаl асtіvіtіеѕ such as moving from ѕіttіng tо ѕtаndіng and bеіng аblе tо wаlk, jump аnd run.  Blооd, nerves аnd muѕсlеѕ аrе еnvеlореd аnd penetrated by fascia, allowing оur muѕсlеѕ and organs tо glіdе ѕmооthlу against еасh оthеr.  Whеn there are fascial adhesions аnd distortions, thіѕ саn саuѕе poor blооd flоw, weaker nеrvе іmрulѕеѕ, limited flеxіbіlіtу and rаngе оf mоtіоn, and a host of other рhуѕісаl аіlmеntѕ.

back muscles and fascia

PAIN AND FASCIA

 

Distorted fascia can cause раіn, tіghtnеѕѕ, and much dіѕсоmfоrt as well as pulling, torquing and compressing the body into mаl-аlіgnmеnt.  Studіеѕ ѕhоw thаt fascial tеnѕіоn in оnе structure, ѕuсh аѕ thе knее, саn саuѕе tension оr issues іn adjacent ѕtruсturеѕ, such as the hір оr ankle. Sоmе соmmоn соndіtіоnѕ you mау hаvе hеаrd оf such as Plаntаr Fasciitis, IT (Illio-tibial) Bаnd Sуndrоmе and Frozen Shoulder аrе all attributed tо distortions іn our fаѕсіа.

fasciaplantar-lateral

NERVES AND FASCIA

When thе fаѕсіа is tіght, it саn соnѕtrісt the nеrvеѕ and асtuаllу blосk off thе nеrvе signal. Thе Autоnоmіс Nervous Sуѕtеm (nеrvоuѕ ѕуѕtеm that соntrоlѕ bоdіlу funсtіоnѕ nоt dіrесtеd by соnѕсіоuѕ thоught – і.е. brеаthіng) is dіrесtlу connected аnd has innervation wіth thе bоdу’ѕ fаѕсіаl system.

SKIN AND FASCIA

Thе condition of our ѕkіn саn bе аffесtеd bу thе state of our fаѕсіа. Few undеrѕtаnd thе іmрасt of blооd flow and fascia, аnd hоw it relates to the ԛuаlіtу of оur ѕkіn. Elastin аnd collagen are twо proteins whісh аrе essential to mаіntаіnіng healthy, уоuthful skin.  Nutrіеntѕ аrе саrrіеd thrоugh thе blооd tо thе ѕkіn, and when thе fascia іѕ dіѕtоrtеd, іt lіmіtѕ thе supply оf thеѕе proteins. This саn саuѕе a dесrеаѕе іn сеll renewal, whісh is responsible fоr the natural, hеаlthу skin glоw wе аll strive tо maintain.

When fаѕсіа іѕ dаmаgеd оr traumatized it can become tоо tіght and cause a numbеr оf рrоblеmѕ such аѕ:

-Hеаdасhеѕ

-Muscle pain аnd ѕраѕmѕ

-Chronic bасk аnd neck раіn

-Rесurrіng injuries

-Sсіаtіса

-Brеаthіng difficulties

-Sensations ѕuсh аѕ numbnеѕѕ аnd pins аnd nееdlеѕ

-Poor posture and rеduсеd flexibility

The following are risk factors that may reduce the flexibility of facsia:   

-Inflаmmаtіоn

-Traumas, ѕuсh аѕ a fаll or саr/bike accident

-Wоrk іnjurіеѕ

-Pооr posture

-Lасk оf ѕtrеtсhіng due to рrоlоngеd sitting or standing

-Emоtіоnаl/рѕусhоlоgісаl stress

-Rереtіtіvе mоtіоnѕ, such аѕ factory work, kеуbоаrdіng or prolonged computer mouse use

 

Mуоfаѕсіаl Release Therapy is a treatment thаt can be helpful.  It trеаts tense, tіght fаѕсіаl tіѕѕuе mаkіng іt mоrе relaxed, pliable аnd soft.

Myofascial Rеlеаѕе Therapy (MFR) focuses оn rеlеаѕіng muѕсulаr ѕhоrtnеѕѕ аnd tіghtnеѕѕ. Thеrе аrе a numbеr оf соndіtіоnѕ аnd ѕуmрtоmѕ which MFR аddrеѕѕеѕ.  Mаnу ѕееk MFR аftеr lоѕіng flexibility оr funсtіоn fоllоwіng an іnjurу or experiencing ongoing bасk, ѕhоuldеr, hip – or areas соntаіnіng ѕоft tіѕѕuе – pain.

MFR is a massage and manipulative technique.  It is a slow, relatively gentle traction and stretching of the muscle.  It differs from procedures such as deep tissue release, because the fascia does not respond to quick or heavy pressure, which actually causes it to go into protective mode and thus resist the movements and manipulations.

Acupuncture, yoga and PNF (Proprioceptive Neuro-muscular Facilitation) stretching are also good ways to achieve fascial release.  A foam roller can also be very helpful for getting release on fascial tenseness/tightness.  It is also something you can do on your own in the comfort of your home.

Check out this video clip on how to use foam roller at home for myofascial release.

 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Does alcohol turn into sugar? Well, not really. But there are calories. Metabolic pathway explained.

2-beer-bottles
The Christmas party/New Year festivities and the silly season is here, and it usually involves a few drinks.  You might find it interesting to know how your body processes alcohol, and why it might pack on a few extra kilos.

– Alcohol (ethanol) is a toxin and is given metabolic preference by the body, to be broken down before other foods and drinks.  The liver can break down, on average, a standard drink an hour.  Any more than this, we get a little tipsy, and then drunk.  This is because the liver can’t keep up with the intake, and the alcohol starts making its way through our body.–

– Food eaten with booze takes second place. The body will break down the alcohol first and then the food.

– If there is a lot of booze consumed with food, the body will breakdown the food you have eaten into fat and store it in your body – common storage areas are tummy and hips!

– That “beer belly” is not really beer causing the bulge.  It’s the food that the body hasn’t needed to use for immediate energy, as it was too busy breaking down the alcohol.

 

wine-glass

Alcohol, at no stage of being broken down, turns into sugar!
This is in reference to pure alcohol.  Wine and beer do contain small amounts of sugar from the fermentation process of the raw ingredients used to make it. I.e, wine is made with grapes that contain fruit sugars.

Keep in mind too, that soft-drinks added to liquors for long drinks, do contain high levels of sugar, as well as undesirable chemicals.

 

Below is the main chemical pathway for breaking down alcohol.

Ethanol (alcohol)  -> Acetaldehyde  -> Acetate  -> water and CO2

  • Acetaldehyde is a toxic by-product and known carcinogen. Thankfully this by-product is short lived
diagram-of-alcohol-metabolism

image source : http://hams.cc/metabolism/

At each stage of the reaction, bonds are broken and energy released.  Alcohol does provide calories, which is probably why it dulls the appetite.  For example you may have come home starving for dinner, had a beer and then not felt it was so urgent about eating after that.

Energy value of:

Alcohol (ethanol):            29 kilojoules/gram

Fats / Lipids:                    37 kilojoules/gram

Carbohydrates:                 17 kilojoules/gram

Protein:                             17 kilojoules/gram

 

Alcohol is often referred to as “empty calories”.  Meaning, it has no micro-nutrients in it.  Micro- nutrients are things like vitamins and essential amino acids.  Alcohol does provide energy, however, on its own it is not enough to sustain life for any length of time.  Too much alcohol will damage the body in a number of ways, as well as not providing the basic nutritional needs.

Everything in moderation.  Good food and good drink.  Just not too much.
Except fun and laughter; it’s priceless and calorie-free!

 

“One martini is just right; two is too many, three is not enough.”    James Thurber

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reference: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA72/AA72.htm

Friday, October 7, 2016

So, what conditions does the World Health Organization (WHO) think acupuncture has benefit?

WHO

The World Health Organization showed an impressive list of conditions it felt acupuncture would have therapeutic effect. The was review entitled “ Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of reports on Controlled Clinical Trials” (http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf)

It was a 81 pages document looking at clinical acupuncture trial data and results. It is worth noting that constructing effective clinical trials for acupuncture is difficult and some of the conclusions of the results have limitations.

“It must be emphasized that the list of diseases, symptoms or conditions covered here is based on collected reports of clinical trials, using the descriptions given in those reports. Only national health authorities can determine the diseases, symptoms and conditions for which acupuncture treatment can be recommended. “

Dr Xiaorui Zhang: Acting Coordinator Traditional Medicine (TRM) Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy (EDM) World Health Organization

 

Conditions to which acupuncture has been proved through controlled trials to be an effective treatment:

 

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy

Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)

Biliary colic

Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)

Dysentery, acute bacillary

Dysmenorrhoea, primary

Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)

Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)

Headache

Hypertension, essential

Hypotension, primary

Induction of labour

Knee pain

Leukopenia

Low back pain

Malposition of fetus, correction of

Morning sickness

Nausea and vomiting

Neck pain

Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)

Periarthritis of shoulder

Postoperative pain

Renal colic

Sciatica

Sprain

Stroke

Tennis elbow

 

Conditions for which acupuncture has shown a therapeutic effect but further proof needed

 

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)

Acne vulgaris

Alcohol dependence and detoxification

Bell’s palsy

Bronchial asthma

Cancer pain

Cardiac neurosis

Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation

Cholelithiasis

Competition stress syndrome

Craniocerebral injury, closed

Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent

Earache

Epidemic haemorrhagic fever

Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)

Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection

Female infertility

Facial spasm

Female urethral syndrome

Fibromyalgia and fasciitis

Gastrokinetic disturbance

Gouty arthritis

Hepatitis B virus carrier status

Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)

Hyperlipaemia

Hypo-ovarianism

Insomnia

Labour pain

Lactation, deficiency

Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic

Ménière disease

Neuralgia, post-herpetic

Neurodermatitis

Obesity

Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence

Osteoarthritis

Pain due to endoscopic examination

Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans

Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein–Leventhal syndrome)

Postextubation in children

Postoperative convalescence

Premenstrual syndrome

Prostatitis, chronic

Pruritus

Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome

Raynaud syndrome, primary

Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy

Retention of urine, traumatic

Schizophrenia

Sialism, drug-induced

Sjögren syndrome

Sore throat (including tonsillitis)

Spine pain, acute

Stiff neck

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Tietze syndrome

Tobacco dependence

Tourette syndrome

Ulcerative colitis, chronic

Urolithiasis

Vascular dementia

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Green tea cognitive dysfunction

maxresdefault

A small study didn’t find any signification change in cognitive function at the end of a 12 month trial. However, it did show the reduction of oxidative stress in the elderly.

If you need an anti-oxidant and you like tea, go green.

http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-016-0168-7

Monday, April 18, 2016

Heart and mind – a closer link than you think

Aorta and the heart

brain

 

Dementia is a disease of the brain.  It’s the slow decline of the brain’s ability to remember and process complex tasks.  When severe, cognitive impairment limits memory and language to a point where daily living tasks can no longer be performed.

Research has found that the heart has some influence over this.  The aorta, the biggest artery in the human body, is found to be a buffer from the pulse of the heart as it sends blood up to the brain. This protects the small and intricate blood vessels of the brain.  Damage to the blood vessels will reduce the oxygen and nutrients from reaching the vital parts of our white and grey matter.

For most of us the aorta functions beautifully through our lifetime.  It has a fantastic elastic quality that swells about 15% with each heartbeat.  In the cases where the blood vessels are damaged by plaque and other wear and tear, the aorta loses some of this elastic quality.  The pulse from the heart then travels more directly to the brain and can cause slow damage to the small blood vessels. It makes sense that dementia affects the older population more than the younger.  Our vital structures gradually wear and become less efficient over a lifetime.  The more you invest in your health now, the more it pays off later in life.

So look after your heart.  Eat unprocessed foods, rich in vitamins and fibre, avoid smoking, and exercise regularly.   A few alcoholic drinks are ok, but remember that large amounts can cause necrotic damage to the heart tissue.  Enjoy everything in moderation.

Look after your heart and look after your brain.

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1445-5994.2011.02645.x/full

Sydney Alumni Magazine: issue 03 – semester one 2016. P.26

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bread can be ok

bread

*Gluten doesn’t necessarily need to be the bad guy. Fructans in wheat and other carbohydrate products seem to be more of an agitator the gut.

*Modern bread making is accelerated and with lots of additives thrown in.

*A large number of people avoid gluten that don’t necessarily have an intolerance or celiac disease (auto-immune condition resulting in inflammation of gut)

*Traditional long sour dough bread making lets the fermentation process happen in the way it was traditionally done for centuries. A large part of the population can tolerate this.

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/going-against-the-grain-why-breaddenial-is-bad-20160411-go3f6c.html

 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dried fruit and nuts are great

“Trail Mix” (dried fruit and nuts) is very good for you. Research is suggesting cadiometabolic benefits, reduce cardiac risk factors and improved glycemic control. Dried fruit and nuts have a long shelf life and very portable. Next time you need a snack – reach for the bag of almonds and sultanas and not the chocolate bar.

http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-016-0142-4

 

 

trail mix