The Month of Love – The Importance of Self Care

Female hiker in the mountains, living her best life thanks to Pro Chiro surrey chirorpactor.

The Importance of Self Care

Self Care Habits

February is the month of love, and what better way to show that this month by spending the time to love yourself. Not enough people spend time engaging in self care habits. Self care habits are helpful because actively engaging in your own personal health, both physical and mental, gives you an immense sense of wellbeing. Not only this but it also gives you confidence and a sense of appreciation for yourself. This blog post will outline some of my favourite self care habits that I often share with patients visiting us at our Chiropractic Clinic in Surrey.

A woman sleeping

1. Sleep Hygiene

We all fall asleep, but some of us sleep a lot more soundly than others. There are certain habits that will lead to your sleep being restful or restless:

Regular Habits

Our body and our brain like routines. If we have a regular repetitive bedtime routine our brain will learn that it is time for bed and you will therefore be able to get to sleep much faster.

Blue Light

The increase in electronic technology has unfortunately led to a decline in the quality of our sleep. Electronic devices emit a blue form of light. This blue form of light stops our body producing melatonin which is a sleep hormone. Without enough melatonin in our body we will struggle to fall asleep.

To counteract this, we need to limit the usage of electronic devices in the evening, particularly for the hour before bedtime. Other ways to help are to download red / yellow light filters onto your smartphone. These will automatically shift the tone of light emitted from your phone to a yellowish / reddish hue in the evening, which will help your body to produce melatonin and you will sleep much better as a result. 

Avoid Stimulants

This one is perhaps a little more obvious, but you really need to try eliminating stimulants from your diet altogether, or at least after midday. Stimulants include things like caffeine which is prevalent in coffee and tea but also in energy drinks and dark chocolate. You also need to avoid nicotine if possible. 

 

A man taking a breath

 

2. Relaxing Breathing

If I said to you that breathing was important, I doubt you would be very surprised. However, the importance of breathing often gets misunderstood, and not all breaths are equal. Our body has developed two main types of breathing – Fight or Flight breathing, or Rest and Digest breathing. 

Fight or Flight Breathing

Fight of flight breathing developed because in the prehistoric times, when we were chasing prey or being chased by predators, we needed a way to pump our muscles full of oxygen. This allowed us short term increases in strength and speed. This type of breathing involves short, shallow breaths, an increased heart rate as well as the release of adrenaline through our body. This is a very stressed state and very hard for the body to maintain for a long time. 

Rest and Digest Breathing

Rest or digest breathing on the other hand developed to allow us to feed our organs with all the oxygen they need. This type of breathing is very relaxing and involves long, deep, quiet breaths and a reduced heart rate. 

Micro Stresses

In the 21st century we don’t have as many life or death stressors but we have lots of micro-stresses that we experience on a daily basis. This includes urgent calls or emails, tight deadlines and anxiety in the workplace. This build up of micro-stresses causes us to become stuck in a Fight or Flight mode. This means our breathing is also stuck in a Fight or Flight mode, resulting in our bodies to get overly stressed and fatigued. When this happens, our muscles and joints start becoming more sensitive. It is at this point where we are more likely to experience chronic pain problems. 

The Solution

To counteract our stuck state in Fight or Flight mode, we need to have a way to change our breathing to a Rest or Digest mode. 

To achieve this, we need to practice breathing every day as follows:

  1. Breath in and out through your nose only (breathing through the nose helps to warm the air which then relaxes the airways)
  2. Breath as slowly and as quietly as you can
  3. Rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your top set of teeth. 
  4. Have your lips together but your teeth slightly apart. 

Applying all these points at once will allow you to switch from a stressed breathing state to a relaxed breathing state. This will help you to recover from pain and injuries but also help you to deal with mental stress that might build up. It will also allow you to achieve a deeper, sounder sleep. 

 

Journal book

 

3. Journaling

If you’re anything like me, you often go through phases of great organisation and then phases of sloppy organisation. For me, journaling is a great way to stay on top of this and to keep my organisation as good as it should be. 

I don’t do anything crazy for my journaling. Most evenings I’ll spend some time reflecting on the day just gone, and spend time planning the next day. Once youve done this for a few weeks in a row you will have a much greater sense of what you have achieved. On top of this you will find it easier to plan your tasks for the day and the week ahead. 

You could also spend the time writing gratuities and things you are thankful and grateful for. Whenever I spend time doing this it always improves my mood and allows me to think of positive things before bedtime, rather than obsessing over minor negative things that may have happened that day. 

Conclusion

There are so many other things I could write down in this blog post about self care habits. The habits mentioned above are probably the best “bang for your buck” self care habits to opt for. None of them require much of a change but you will notice a huge change if you start applying them into your life. Out of all of them, sleep hygiene is probably the most key. If you can get that right, you are 75% of the way there!

If you have found this post useful, feel free to follow us on Facebook or Instagram where we regularly post other healthcare tips or exercise videos. Have a great day!

What is an Adjustment?

Josh French adjusting the low back to improve low back pain.

What is an Adjustment?

In general practice one of the questions I get asked the most is “What is an Adjustment?” It is probably the treatment technique we use in the clinic that is the least well understood by patients. This misunderstanding of what an adjustment is can also create fear. The purpose of this blog post is to answer some questions as to what an adjustment actually is.

So, What Actually Is An Adjustment?

An adjustment is a treatment technique that chiropractors, osteopaths and some physiotherapists use to improve movement in stiff joints. You may also hear the term manipulation which means the same thing. Adjustments are primarily used in the back but we also use adjustments in extremity joints of the body, such as the foot, ankle, knee, shoulder and elbow. 

What Is The Cracking Noise?

During an adjustment, there may or may not be a cracking noise produced by the joint we are adjusting. This cracking noise sounds very dramatic and important, but is in no way linked to the beneficial effects of the adjustment. 

The cracking noise is produced by a bubble of gas inside the joint that gets released during the adjustment. During the adjustment this bubble of gas forms, and then very quickly the bubble “implodes” and pops. The cracking noise is just this gas bubble imploding. Its the same noise as when you click and crack your knuckles. 

Josh French, Surrey chiropractor and clinical director of Pro Chiro spine and Sports Chiropractic, performing a spinal adjustment on a patient with low back pain.

A photo of our sports Chiropractor Josh French performing a Lumbar spine adjustment. 

A video of our sports chiropractor Josh French explaining more about what adjustments are.

How Do Adjustments Work?

The way adjustments work isn’t fully understood yet, but we have a pretty good guess. People used to believe adjustments literally pushed a bone or joint back into place, but we know now with all the medical imaging we have available that this isn’t the case.

The main theories for how adjustments work suggest two different mechanisms.

  1. Firstly, adjustments help to reduce muscle tension in the area surrounding the adjustment. This is thought to occur because during an adjustment the brain receives lots of signals from the affected area. The brain then sends signals back down to the area telling the muscles to relax.
  2. Secondly, adjustments help to reduce pain but improve movement from the affected area. For example, for someone with low back pain, the muscles and joints in their back will be sending lots of signals to the brain that the brain perceives as painful. During the adjustment the brain then receives new signals regarding the movement from the joint. The new signals effectively override the old signals that the brain interpreted as painful. Due to this, the brain stops perceiving the other signals as painful. The effect of this is decreased pain and improved movement. 

Are Adjustments Safe?

On the whole, adjustments are a very safe form of treatment. For the average person with low back pain, the risks associated with taking ibuprofen would be higher than the risks associated with a low back adjustment. Adjustments might seem scary and painful, but there is normally no pain linked with an adjustment. In fact, in most cases pain levels are instantly reduced following an adjustment.  

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How can chiropractors help sciatica?

Cartoon of a man with low back and sciatica pain

How can chiropractors help with sciatica?

I often get asked whether chiropractors can help with sciatica. When you think of which problems chiropractor’s help, you probably think of back pain. While this is the most common thing we treat, we also treat other conditions such as sciatica. Sciatica can be a fairly mystifying condition and there is a lot of misinformation out there that can potentially be misguiding. The aim of this blog post is to answer some common questions that people with sciatica have, and reassure you that if you have sciatica, there is a lot that can be done to help you!

What is sciatica?

Firstly, what do we mean by sciatica? Well, sciatica simply means irritation of the sciatic nerve. This often causes symptoms such as low back or buttock pain that radiates down the back of the legs, sometimes all the way to the foot but often just to the hamstring or calf areas. The pain can often be accompanied by pins and needles down the leg, or sometimes even numbness and weakness.

Normally sciatica improves within a 4-6 week timeframe, however it can sometimes be a lot longer than this.

Cartoon of a man with low back and sciatica pain

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica produces pain and other symptoms due to something pressing or rubbing on the sciatic nerve. This pressing or rubbing can be related to a specific injury, but sciatica can also develop over a longer time frame without a pre-existing injury. This can often be very confusing and worrying but shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Things that can cause sciatica include:

  • Injuries to the discs between the vertebra in our spine
  • Spinal stenosis – an age related process whereby the part of the spine where nerves pass through becomes narrowed
  • A build up of muscular tension in the buttock which then irritates the sciatic nerve
  • Other back injuries

Whatever the cause of your sciatica, there is a lot that can be done to help reduce the irritation on the nerve and reduce your pain levels and other symptoms.

Is sciatica helped by chiropractic care?

Yes! Chiropractor’s can help sciatica! An important step in working out how to help patients with sciatica is trying to understand what the underlying cause of the sciatica might be. This allows us to target the treatment at the true cause, allowing long term improvement and injury prevention to occur, rather than just masking the symptoms. Therefore, the exact treatment you might experience for your sciatica will differ to someone else’s. Seeing as chiropractors are expertly trained to assess and treat problems related to the musculoskeletal system, we can help with all of the causes of sciatica mentioned above.

Chiropractic care doesn’t describe one specific treatment but includes the whole package of care. At Pro Chiro, we often treat our sciatica patients with a combination of joint manipulation, soft tissue release and massage, as well as corrective exercises. This combination not only helps to reduce pain in the short term but also helps to get rid of the problem for good.

Exercises for Sciatica

The following video shows our Sports Chiropractor Josh demonstrating some exercises that can help improve pain due to sciatica or sciatic nerve irritation.

What can I do for Sciatica?

As well as performing the above exercises, it is important for your recovery that you also try to carry on with your normal activities as much as possible. Try not to sit or lie down for long periods – even if moving hurts, it’s not harmful and can help get you better faster. Other things that may help include general exercise and gentle back stretches, as well as asking your pharmacist about painkillers that may help – even if they just temporarily mask the pain, they will help you move more which will help your overall recovery.

Can it be a serious problem?

Sciatica can be very painful but is normally nothing to worry about. However, there are several symptoms that could indicate the problem is something much more serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should phone 999 or go to A and E:

  • Sciatica on both sides
  • Weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe and getting worse
  • Numbness under or around your genitals or anus
  • Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine, or lack of control when you pee
  • Not noticing when you need to poo or not being able to control when you poo

These could be symptoms of a serious back problem that needs to be treated in hospital as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage occurring. This would be very rare, but it is worth being safe than sorry when it comes to your health!

Conclusion

In summary, sciatica and sciatic nerve irritation is a very common condition that affects many different demographics of people. While it can be very uncomfortable, sciatica can be helped by chiropractic care. The timeline for recovery may be longer than for muscular or joint issues. There are some exercises that can help to reduce the pain from sciatica.

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What’s the Difference Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths?

Josh French, sports chiropractor, performing chiropractic adjustment of the upper back.

What's the Difference Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths?

At our clinic, one of the most common questions we get asked is “Whats the difference between chiropractors and osteopaths?” This is a topic that can be very confusing, because truth be told, there are as many similarities as differences! Hopefully this blog post will help you to understand what some of the differences may be. 

The Short Answer

The short answer is that due to the wide variance within each profession, there might actually be more similarities between a chiropractor and an osteopath than two different chiropractors or two osteopaths. Both professions help patients suffering from pain or injuries to muscles, joints or nerves. Both professions use a variety of hands on techniques to treat their patients, and may or may not incorporate home exercises as part of this approach. At Pro Chiro we are definitely on the side of using rehabilitative exercises in our treatment approach!

The reason there may not be many differences between chiropractors and osteopaths is that in the last ten to twenty years, there has been an abundance of research produced on the effectiveness of different chiropractic and osteopathic treatment techniques. At the highest level of each profession, practitioners over the last decade have “borrowed” techniques from the other profession or otherwise changed the way they practice in line with what the research shows is most effective. Therefore, there has been a convergence between the two professions where chiropractors may use some osteopathic techniques and osteopaths may use some chiropractic techniques. 

Special Interest

On top of the similarity found between general practitioners of each profession, those with shared special interests will be veen more similar. For example, an osteopath with an interest in sports injuries will practice in a very similar way to our sports chiropractor Josh. Additionally, this osteopath interested in sports may practice in an entirely different way to an osteopath specialised in working with children. 

Historically

The two professions have actually always been fairly closely linked. Osteopathy was founded in approx. 1874, and Chiropractic in 1895. The two professions even started in the same state in America. Luckily for our patients, both professions have evolved with the times and the available evidence, just like general medicine has. 

Differences

So we’ve spoken a lot so far about what the similarities may be, but are there any differences? Traditionally there have been a few differences between the two professions. 

In terms of the spinal manipulations / adjustments performed by each profession there are some subtle differences. Chiropractors generally use short lever adjustments, whereas osteopaths utilise long lever adjustments. However, as we spoke before these days members of each profession may borrow techniques from the other profession. 

In terms of topics covered during the degree programmes, chiropractors are trained in how to take and read x rays, whereas osteopaths may only be trained in reading x rays. This may have been a bigger difference in years gone by, but these days taking x rays is understood to be of very low importance.

Here’s a video of our Sports Chiropractor Josh French explaining some of the similarities and differences between chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists. 

Conclusion

To sum up, nowadays the difference between osteopaths and chiropractors may be negligible. There may be more differences between two chiropractors than a chiropractor and an osteopath, particularly if the chiropractor and osteopath are interested in sports injuries. 

With that being said, it’s important that when choosing a chiropractor or osteopath to trust with your care, you find one that stays up to date with modern, evidence based healthcare, and truly puts their patients first with patient-centred care. 

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