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Power of Music

I would imagine that we all have certain pieces of music that come to mean things to us – specific events they bring to mind, emotions they bring up or a particular time in our life.  Sometimes we hear the music in a shop or on the radio and the memory is evoked, but sometimes we purposely put on a certain track to suit our mood.  Perhaps a relaxing piece after a stressful day, or the classic post-breakup tear jerkers that somehow help us through difficult times.

Perhaps we should actually start making more use of this phenomenon? The British Association of Music Therapy certainly thinks so.  Not only does music affect us personally, but it is part of identifying with our national heritage and culture making us feel part of a bigger picture.  Music can help lift us, comfort us, relax us – it has even been used to help adolescents and young people cope better when faced with treatment for cancer, and it has been observed to have an effect on elderly people suffering from dementia.

Scans have even been done of peoples’ brains while they are listening to music which show the emotion and reward centres of the brain are stimulated by the process.

While I am not suggesting that sticking on a particular piece of music is going to cure all your ills, perhaps it is worth considering making more use of this gift in future?  I’ve discussed in the past just how important it is to get a good night’s sleep – make a particular, soothing album part of your nightly ritual and you will soon find it easy to drop off to the first few bars as it starts.

Music can calm, de-stress, motivate or lift you.  It has the power to bring back memories of a happy time, get you dancing around the room or soothe you.  Such a powerful tool should not just be left to the province of radio-in-the-background or Muzak in a lift.  Make it part of your daily life in whatever way helps you, and reap the benefits!

Back Pain while Driving

Listening to the travel reports on the radio, it sounds like a lot of you are heading off to various gorgeous locations around the country for your summer holidays.  Of course, that often means you sit in the car for hours at a time, either just to get to your distant destination or in miles and miles of queues.

Not surprisingly, this brings an increase in the number of people who show up at my clinic complaining that their back hurts when they are in the car.  Usually it affects the lower back, though sometimes neck and shoulders can join the pain party as well.  But why does this happen?

Well the first, and I think most important, thing to point out is that the human body is simply not designed to stay in any one place or position for more than about 20 minutes.  Our current lifestyle habits of spending 8 hours a day in the office, or sitting for 3 hours non-stop in the car is never going to be good for your spine.  So before I even start trying to address the problems with seats, pedals and posture in the car I will always strongly point out that even with the perfect set-up in the car, a back that has never given you any trouble for a day in your life and the best core strength in the world, you are simply not going to be able to make the journey from the Midlands to the South Coast non-stop without causing yourself some considerable discomfort.

Regular rest breaks are therefore the way to go.  They don’t have to be long, and involve expensive trips to the service station coffee shop, but getting out of your car at least once an hour (preferably every 30 mins) and walking around it a few times before continuing with your journey will bring in huge rewards as far as pain is concerned.

Despite this, though, pain is often worse after an hour in the car than it would be after an hour sat in the office.  One of the reasons for this is car seats.  They’re awful.  When I bought my car, I decided to try and practice what I preached, and about the only optional extra I elected to pay for was additional lumbar support in the driver’s seat.  And it is useless.  It’s in the wrong place, it’s almost totally impossible to get just the right amount of support and if you leave it active when you get out, you’ll find yourself just sitting further forwards in the seat the next time you get in.  None of the other cars I have ever sat in have been much better – varying degrees of comfort in the seat, but the actual postural correctness they help support is usually around nil.

So, when you get in to your car, here are a few things you can do to help yourself as much as possible.  First, make sure you are sat as far back in the seat as possible, hard up against the back rest.  Also, make sure you are central on the seat – the tendency is to sit slightly over to the door side of the car, meaning you are actually on the angled part of the squab and therefore putting a curve in your spine as your body struggles to remain upright.

A small amount of lumbar support should be added just below waist level – a small hand towel rolled up is more than adequate for this task.  The back rest should be almost vertical; a slight backward lean is acceptable, but it must only be slight!

Finally, make sure your seat is drawn far enough forwards that when you have the clutch pressed fully to the floor you still have a slight bend in your knee.  If your steering wheel is adjustable, it should be close enough that your elbows are almost at 90o with your upper arm angled just slightly in front of your body while your shoulders are drawn back and down against the back rest.

Finally it is worth mentioning things you can’t change, but which will have an effect.  In some cars, particularly those which are designed as left hand drive and then converted for use on our roads, the pedals actually end up off centre.  This means no matter how perfectly you set yourself up, you will be forced into a twisted posture in order to reach the pedals.  As I say, nothing can be done about this, but recognising it can help you appreciate how important posture and rest breaks are!

Back Pain while Standing

Standing.  Even if you have a relatively sedentary office job, you quite often still find yourself standing for long periods.  Whether it is doing the weekly shop at Tesco, watching your kid’s football game or walking around the garden centre at the weekend, it’s not that uncommon to spend hours at a time on your own two feet.

And that can be quite painful for some people.  I frequently here the comment “I’m ok to start with, but gradually my low back starts to ache to the point where I just have to rest for a bit”.  This is also usually followed up with “but then once I’ve even just crouched down for a second, it’s fine again and I can carry on”.  What causes this strange phenomenon?

Unfortunately, it’s the usual culprit.  Posture.

As we stand, gravity is working on us.  If you imagine a great weight pressing down on your head as you stand upright, you can imagine that the gentle front-to-back curves we are supposed to have in our spine become exaggerated.  In your low back, this is particularly noticeable – and problematic.

All the joints in your spine are down the back of the column.  If you are increasing the curve in your lower back, you will be forcing all those joints onto each other.  Ramming the two halves of any joint together is bound to be painful, and it’s no different in your back.

What’s the answer to this problem then? Again, the usual culprit.  Core strength and control.

Seriously, I’m starting to sound like a stuck record, but having good core strength and control, and good posture, is so vitally important that it simply can’t be emphasised enough.

The only way you are going to be able to fight the pull of gravity is by using the tiny supportive muscles around your spine to hold it in the correct curve.  The reason it takes a little time for the pain to start as you are standing up is that even if you have very little core strength, the muscles will have a go at keeping you in place.  But then they fatigue, and simply can’t do it anymore, so you end up collapsing into the curve.

To improve your core strength, exercises such as Yoga, Pilates or the set of exercises I can give you are perfectly good.  You then have to learn how to use that strength.  The best way to combat that nagging stood-too-long pain is by consciously flattening out your lower back.  Women usually find this concept pretty easy – ladies, just tuck your bum underneath you but keep your upper back upright and your knees straight (not locked, just straight).

Men – for some reason you lot struggle with this idea.  So for practice, find a blank space of wall, and stand with your back against, feet a couple of inches away from the wall and about hip-width apart.  Your bum, shoulderblades and the back of your head should all be touching the wall.  Now, without letting anything come off the wall, try to press your low back against the wall.  Once you have the idea of this move, you can start applying it as you stand away from the wall and as you walk around.

So another cause of back pain that can be so easily addressed!

Is 5 a day enough?

There are 3 possible answers to the question of whether 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is enough.  Yes, No and Maybe.  Unfortunately, it looks like the true answer is…all of those.

First let me say that we define a portion of fruit or vegetables as 80g, which is roughly equivalent to a medium size banana, a couple of satsumas, or a handful or peas.  It’s not that much, but it’s thought most people don’t manage to get 5 portions in every day.  So let’s look at whether they should make the effort, and whether they should actually be aiming for more.

No, it’s not enough – aim for more!: well, it’s true that the more fruit and veg you eat the lower your chances are of developing various diseases such as cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer.  Also, it is well established in the research that you need to get as much variety in your selections as possible – eating 5 apples a day, every day, is simply not going to cut it.  Eating 10 a day still isn’t going to work.

Yes, it is enough: For any change in a population’s choices, the target has to be achievable otherwise everyone just gives up without trying.  If you look at 5 portions as being 1 portion for breakfast, 2 for lunch and 2 for dinner, it suddenly doesn’t look quite so hard.  While more portions may give greater benefit, it’s no good publishing advice that no-one will follow, and more-than-currently-eating is better than leaving it all as-is!

Maybe – we just don’t know!: Researchers and scientists generally are good at the “erm…maybe?” answer.  While this is not helpful for advice and guidelines, and certainly doesn’t generate headlines like a definite answer would, more often than not it is the fairest representation of the truth.  These issues are so incredibly complex that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.  Even before we think about the benefits of fruit over vegetables, the relative benefits of different varieties, organic or not organic, how the nutrients from these foods interact with nutrients from other foods we are eating, how they have been grown and stored; before we get around to the fabulously complicated being that is the human body and how it works; before we even try to work out a threshold for between “enough” and “not enough” and whether more is always better, the question of whether 5 portions a day is enough produces the simple counter-question “enough for what?”.  Are we trying to lower heart disease rates? Cancer rates? Dementia? Diabetes? Improve longevity? Improve quality of life?  Or are we trying to claim that there is some magical combination of nutrients that will guarantee a happy, healthy and long life free of all disease indefinitely?

The truth is, pushing any one factor in diet-planning is not a good idea.  Whether that is cutting out carbohydrates, eliminating certain types of fat, pushing for more fruit and veg or saying we should all be living on chia seeds and quinoa, it’s neither achievable or advisable.  Yes, the bulk of your diet should be made up from as wide a variety of fruit and veg as you can possibly manage.  Yes, choosing wholegrain over refined carbohydrates, avoiding sugar and salt, reducing your intake of red meat while boosting your intake of oily fish is always going to be good.  But balance is what it is all about.

Back to the original question: Is 5 portions of fruit a day enough? If you are only eating 3 currently, it’s excellent advice to push your intake up to 5.  If you are happily munching 8-10 portions a day, you certainly shouldn’t cut back to 5.  But there are just too many variables involved to have a definitive “right” number of portions each day.

Calcium and Vitamin D – should we supplement?

Did you know, our bodies are 1.5% calcium, making it the most abundant mineral in our bodies? Obviously, most of this is locked up in our bones, but it has many important functions elsewhere in your body as well.  The level of calcium in your blood is critical, and is closely protected and monitored by your kidneys, which use vitamin D to help them keep on top of things.

In fact, making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet seems more important than having enough calcium when it comes to maintaining strong, healthy bones.  When it comes to hip fractures, for example, countries which have a high calcium intake have no advantage over those with a low calcium intake.  While the benefit of calcium is doubtful when it comes to avoiding breaking a bone when you fall, vitamin D and calcium are thought to reduce your chance of falling in the first place, which is always good!

Vitamin D is available from food sources such as oily fish, meat, egg yolks and some cereals or breads that have been fortified with it.  In the presence of sunlight, our body can also make vitamin D, but in the winter months (or the summer, it sometimes feels like!) our little island simply doesn’t get enough sunlight.  If we don’t get enough vitamin D, our calcium levels are at risk of falling and our bodies will actually resort to stealing the calcium in your bones to make sure that there is enough in your blood.

Having said that, it seems hard to get enough vitamin D from dietary sources if there is insufficient production through sunlight.  So maybe there is an argument for supplementation – take a vitamin D tablet to make sure you have enough?

The trouble is, we don’t know how much is ‘enough’.  We know there is ‘too little’ (diseases such as osteomalacia and rickets are the result) and sadly we know there is ‘too much’ (shortly after World War II they started supplementing baby formula milk with vitamin D, overdosing the babies and leading to several fatalities), but we just don’t know the Goldilocks number of ‘just right’.  In the UK, we are recommended to have around 10 micrograms (micro, not milligrams!) per day, but in Europe and America the figure is much higher.

As is so often the case when it comes to health and nutrition, balance is key.  As long as you make the right food choices across your whole diet, you are giving yourself the best chance possible or avoiding the pitfalls of poor nutrition.  An immeasurably complex issue which can baffle even the highest expert minds has no perfect answer, and it is simply not something you can grapple with while trying to get your weekly shop done, but the basic principles of a high quantity and variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, minimal red and processed meat, plenty of oily fish, low sugar, low salt, low saturated fat and always going for wholegrain options is far more achievable.

8 Ways Gardening is Good for you!

Summer is the perfect time to get out there and enjoy your garden.  Whether you have acres of rolling estate, or a tiny paved courtyard, make the most out of your outdoor space by growing flowers, fruit and vegetables – not only is it a pleasant way to spend your time, there are loads of other health benefits!

  1. Speeds up recovery – gardening can ease the pain associated with serious health conditions and help to restore motor and cognitive skills following accident, injury or illness. Several charities supporting those suffering from debilitating conditions such as cancer or stroke encourage their beneficiaries to get out and garden to aid their recovery.
  2. Can help people live longer – gardeners are an optimistic bunch, always planning ahead and planting things like trees which are likely to survive long after we’ve gone. Not only does this help with a more positive mental attitude, but the increase in light activity promotes longer living and better health.
  3. Protects the heart – we all know that staying active helps protect from heart disease or stroke, but it’s not always easy to persuade yourself to do exercise just for the sake of it. The garden provides an excellent opportunity for getting a light workout, while also giving something back once you are finished for the day!
  4. Reduces stress – mental health is becoming increasingly important and talked-about, which is fantastic news for those who struggle. Gardening can be a great way to help with conditions such as anxiety and stress, which in turn helps lower blood pressure and supports your immune system.
  5. Eases the effects of Dementia – there has been a lot of coverage in the media recently about trying to “Live Well with Dementia”, and gardening can be one way to help with that. Learning new skills, giving sufferers a chance to get outdoors, and the increase in sensory stimulation from birdsong and scents all promote well being in those living with Dementia, not to mention the mental stimulation of trying to remember when plants need pruning, watering or spraying!
  6. Enhances emotional wellbeing – happiness is hard to measure, but it’s usually tied in to positive self-esteem and a sense of satisfaction – both of which can be greatly enhanced by gardening. Completing a specific task, such as weeding or pruning, is very satisfying and provides a sense of control, which can be comforting.  The natural rhythm of the gardening year, an awareness of the seasons, and a recycling of resources can all contribute to a general sense of contentment.
  7. Supports healthier eating – if you grow your own food, you’re likely to eat better which reduces the risk of diabetes and helps lower your BMI. The quantity and quality of the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc that make plant-foods so healthy also start to degrade the minute you harvest the crop, so if it only has to make the trip from garden to table it’s going to be even better for you than the same type of food bought from your supermarket, where it may have been picked and stored for up to a year before making it to your table!
  8. Keeps people mobile – it has been shown that gardeners have significantly better balance and are much less likely to fall than non-gardeners, and it’s also a good way to keep up your vitamin D levels which helps with keeping your bones nice and strong. Of course, over-doing it in the garden can result in suffering the next day, but taking it nice and steady will help rather than hinder! Of course, if you do have a strenuous day and end up suffering for it, your friendly local Chiropractor is always here to help you out!

8 top stress-busting tips!

How often do I hear patients – particularly those with neck and shoulder pain or headaches – blame their problem on the stress they are under in their lives? And it’s true.  When we are stressed, anxious, cold or otherwise tense, our muscles respond by tightening up and this is an extremely common cause of neck pain and headaches.  Our lives these days seem riddled with things specifically designed to keep us worked-up, whether it’s family troubles, money worries or just some irritating person at work.  And there’s no getting away from it – we are increasingly unable to take time out for ourselves, thanks to the presence of technology which will beep, buzz and generally jump up and down in front of us until we answer whatever minutiae it has decided requires our attention.

But there are ways we can help ourselves, and here are just a few:

  1. Stay positive. Easier said than done a lot of the time, but by consciously avoiding thinking negatively about situations and focussing on the good things that have happened in your day, you can often stay a little calmer.
  2. Avoid information overload. You can’t stop a lot of information coming at you, but you can learn to be effective at prioritising what gets most of your attention.  By concentrating on the most important things first, and leaving the little things until later, you often feel more in control of what you are doing.  I also find it’s helpful to have, for example, an hour before I stop for lunch and another at the end of the day for doing all the silly little jobs that will otherwise bug the heck out of you, but will only take a moment each.  So you spend most of your time on the major projects, knowing the errands and small tasks will still get done.
  3. Have a tea break. Not only does this afford you the opportunity to stand up and walk around, but it is also a good moment to take a step back from whatever you are working on, helping you to keep the bigger picture in focus.
  4. Sleep! It’s a vicious cycle – sleep is commonly disrupted by stress, but stress is made worse by lack of sleep. Sleep is vital not only for your psychological well-being, but also your physical well-being.  Different things work for different people, but finding a routine which allows you to wind down at the end of the day and get a good nights’ sleep is vitally important.  It’s starting to sound a little cliché, but it is often as simple as switching off all screens for 30-60mins before you go to bed.
  5. Make time for you. Whether it’s an activity you particularly enjoy, a hobby you haven’t been indulging in much lately or simply planning to do nothing at all for an evening except have some quality family-and-friend time, try to make space in your life for something just for you.  It will not only help your stress levels, but it will also give you something to look forward to and allow you to work more efficiently when you do get back to whatever else you’ve got going on.
  6. Take a different view. A bit like trying to think positively, when something happens that causes you worry and anxiety why not try and see how this could actually work in your favour.  For example, if you are made redundant, try to look at it as a chance to do something new that you might otherwise never have tried.  Or, if money is a bit tight and you can’t take the kids out for a fun trip to the theme park, look for ways to make the most of spending time together by doing something like baking a cake – ingredients can be bought relatively cheaply, the mess and excitement of baking it, plus a delicious treat at the end! Who needs Alton Towers?!
  7. Devote time to helping others. When you feel down, do some good.  Go to a pet rescue centre and take an abandoned dog for a walk (a win-win situation, as being around animals also lowers stress levels) or bag groceries for a food bank near your home.  It can help put things in perspective, as well as taking you away from whatever was stressing you out in the first place.
  8. Enjoy park life. I’ve said it before, I’ll undoubtedly say it again…exercise is priceless when it comes to physical and psychological well-being.  As the owner of a mad Jack Russell, I sometimes find it hard to motivate myself to take her out for a walk.  I know she needs it, I know her irritating behaviours around the house will decrease the minute I do it, but somehow it’s an effort to make myself do it.  But it’s so worth it – there’s always something beautiful to look at, no matter what season or what the weather is like.

Text Neck?

Tablets, laptops, desk tops, smartphones…it seems there is no escape from technology these days.  People walk around town staring avidly at their twitter feed, and it seems that just about everybody is plugged in to their music even while walking the dog or having coffee with friends.

It continues into the work place as well – even in my own clinic, I have taken myself away from paper records and keep everyone’s files on computer.  It drives me nuts most of the time, as I find it much harder to make notes on the computer than I used to when I was working with paper notes, but my decision was driven by a storage issue.  Little known fact: chiropractors are required by law to keep  all patient records for 7 years after a patient’s last appointment.  So you can imagine that the more-than-1500 files I currently have amassed in the last 9 years is only the tip of the iceberg, and that’s a lot of paper to find a safe storage place for!

But that’s not the point of why I bring this subject to your attention.  I am more interested from a professional point of view in how it is affecting us all physically.  There was a fascinating, though woefully brief, point made in The Daily Telegraph a while ago – an image was printed of  an x-ray taken in Australia by a chiropractor, showing how the top of a 7-year-old’s neck has developed a kink in it.  Now, that chiropractor is suggesting that this is due to the child spending so long on his smartphone.  I have no idea if that is truly the case, but it’s a seriously scary thought if it is true.  I mean, if a mere child of 7 has already got actual changes to the structure of his skeleton, what the heck is he going to be like when he’s twenty? Thirty? Sixty?!

In my own practice, I have come across cases of severe neck pain and headaches while people are at work, and it almost invariably links back to the posture that person  is adopting to work.  There are ways to minimise the effect of course; making sure you have a suitable chair and desk to work at, making sure that you take regular breaks and that your computer screen and keyboard are at the right height.  But that doesn’t work for smartphones and tablets – or even laptops, like the one I am typing on at this very moment. More worrying than that are the increasing number of teenage patients I am seeing who are unable to maintain good or correct posture because they spend so long time slumped and slouched while using screens.

I also somewhat facetiously commented to a couple of patients about how having their smartphone in their pocket may be starting to affect how they are walking, but there was a grain of true concern behind my joking.  As phones and tablets become more and more merged, with phones getting bigger and more powerful, we still try and force them into our pockets.  But they don’t flex, and there’s only so far they can move out of the way of your hip movement when you are walking, so surely before too long we are going to see the first case of someone ending up with a problem such as back pain because of the way their smartphone is “forcing” them to walk.

So what’s the answer? Honestly? I have no idea.  It seems the only real way to solve the overall problem is do that highly fashionable yet unpopular move of unplugging.  That’s not always possible, but if you minimise your screentime then you are at least making sure your body can cope better with the occasions when you do have to use it.  Also, think about your posture while you are using your device, trying to make sure you are maintaining as near perfect posture as possible by holding your device at a suitable height and angle.

Longer term though, I am seriously worried.  I can well see us crashing towards a continually ageing population, with posture more and more reminiscent of the old crones pictured in medieval tales; hunched over and barely able to lift their heads from looking at the floor, not to mention totally isolated from each other by our insistence on surrounding ourselves with the latest technology.

Fact or Myth?

There are many commonly-held beliefs around medicine and health, some of which are total rubbish.  But there are a few which hold grains of truth.  Here, I have listed a few popular ones and tried to explain how much truth there is before them.

  1. Vitamin C prevents colds – sadly, false.  The common belief is that if you start to feel a cold coming on, and mainline vitamin C, you can stop it happening.  Either that, or eating plenty of vitamin C will stop you getting one in the first place.  There is a lot of conflicting evidence, but the generally accepted truth is it will at best make the duration of the infection shorter; if nothing else, your body will only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C, and the rest it will simply excrete.  The better defence against infection is to regularly wash your hands.
  2. Antiperspirant causes breast cancer – happily, false.  There is apparently absolutely no evidence that there is any sort of link between antiperspirant and breast cancer, it just seems to be one of those tales that has cropped up from somewhere!
  3. Having a slow metabolism causes obesity – false.  In fact, people who are obese tend to have faster metabolisms.  Individual variations such as how much you fidget can have more of an impact on how many calories you burn during the day, but obesity basically comes down to how much you eat, and how much you exercise.
  4. Sitting at a desk all day is bad for you – TRUE! As if you even need to ask, if you have read my other articles!  Lack of movement, muscle wastage and even bone density decrease to list just a few problems.  Get up, move around – wander around as you talk on the phone, stand up to work if you can and even consider holding meetings where everyone stands (might make them shorter as well!).
  5. Gluten-free is a healthier option – except in a few circumstances, false.  It’s a fad that has really hit the stage recently, but unless you are Coeliac there is no benefit to a gluten-free diet.  Gluten intolerance, in my experience, is also one of the most common self-diagnosed “allergies” as well resulting in many people are making their lives far more inconvenient – and expensive – than they need to.  Unless confirmed by a medical specialist, gluten may not be the spawn of evil it’s believed to be!
  6. Warm milk helps you sleep – false, which was a surprise to me as well as many of you, I’m sure!  It would appear that apart from as part of a calming pre-bedtime routine, it doesn’t actually have a soporific effect at all.  Still tastes nice though.
  7. Running on a soft surface is better for your body – true and false.  If you take up running slowly, the benefits of running on a soft or hard surface are merely different, not good or bad.  Soft surfaces make the muscles work a little harder and improve balance, while hard surfaces put a greater impact on the bones which (if introduced correctly) can actually strengthen the bones.  However, if you go straight into running long distances on a hard surface, or train in a way that is inappropriate for your current fitness level, it may well cause damage such as stress-fractures.  Long term, running on any surface (soft or hard) is also quite hard on the joints.
  8. An apple a day keeps the doctor away – true.  Naturally, we are supposed to eat 8 portions of fruit and veg a day (yes, 8 not 5…don’t get me started on political reasons!), but apples are packed full of beneficial substances such as boron (good for bones), vitamins A, C and E, pectin (lowers glucose levels, cholesterol and maintains healthy digestive system), and antioxidants.
  9. Coffee is bad for you – honestly? Erm – don’t know! Moderate consumption of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological conditions such as Parkinsons. However, a link like this isn’t proof of cause and effect – we can’t actually say coffee gives these benefits, or causes problems.  Other factors may have a much greater influence.
  10. Drinking 2L of water a day is good for you – true.  Sort of.  Men are advised to consume up to 2.5L, women 2L, which makes sense when you consider the adult human is 65% water.  However, this includes the water you get from your food, as well as from all beverages.  In other words, you don’t have to make yourself drink bottles and bottles of water!
  11. Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis – false.  One of my favourites.  How often have people who crack their knuckles been told they’ll end up with arthritis? The fact that they’re usually told this by someone who finds the noise very irritating may have something to do with it!  The actual noise does no harm at all, it’s just gas bubbles moving around.  Having said that the continual over-stressing of the joints required to produce the noise can cause problems such as tendonitis and possibly even arthritis later in life.
  12. Tight underpants cause male infertility – false.  There is no evidence to suggest that if a man has a normal, healthy sperm count, tight underwear will cause problems.  It has been suggested, however, that if the sperm count is low or motility is poor, overheating from tight underwear might not help!

So there you have it.  A few interesting points, a few surprises – and all the fun of being able to correct your mates down the pub if they start discussing one of the myths!

(Article originally written by experts for the Benenden Be Healthy magazine)

Monday Motivation

I fully champion a certain song by the Boomtown Rats.  I love my job, I have a great life, and I’m lucky to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.  But I don’t like Mondays.  I guess there’s always going to be one day that you like less than others, but Mondays just don’t cut it for me. 

So here are a few tips for getting yourself motivated on a Monday – and I’m not referring to the tip I’m giving myself this morning: when carrying the swing sign for the clinic out to its business-hours location out front, don’t crack your shin on the extremely heavy base.  It will hurt.

  1. A great start to the day can really help us be effective and positive as we move through the day.  Work out a few things that help you feel good in the morning, and build those into your early morning ritual.  By having a routine that you follow every morning, you can pre-plan and take the stress out of the day’s start, and by making some of the items enjoyable as opposed to merely necessary it can be a positive experience.
  2. Yoga is something that has so many benefits on so many levels.  Even if you don’t have time for this every morning, perhaps getting up 10 minutes earlier on a Monday would be bearable and allow you to get in a few stretches and meditative breathing exercises, setting you up for a really feel-good week
  3. Find an inspirational quote.  Not necessarily from the same site or app every time, but just something that makes you smile, feel connected or think about it.  Sometimes the search can be as fun as actually connecting with the words themselves.
  4. Set yourself one task for the week to improve your health, your life or your home.  By keeping it to just one, you are almost certainly going to be able to achieve it and it will still get 52 tasks done each year.  It can be something as simple as walking the dog for 20 minutes, or as complex as starting a new building project – whatever you want to be able to look back on at the end of the week and say “I did that!”
  5. Read a book.  I’m a total bookworm, so perhaps I’m biased, but chatting with some of my patients I’ve found that even people who wouldn’t consider themselves “book-y” derive a great deal of pleasure from reading, often surprising themselves with how enjoyable they found it.  Doesn’t have to be long, or complex, or even a “grown-up” book – I keep some of my books from when I was 8 or 9 and if I’ve had a long or difficult week I will pick up one of those.  It may only take me an hour to read, start to finish, but for that hour I am somewhere else, with someone else’s life. Added to which, evidence is increasingly showing that the light emitted by screens (whether from mobile, tablet, PC or TV) negatively affects your sleep patterns, so a book can be the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day.

Hope this helps everyone have a happy, healthy and energised week!