Extensive research has been done to classify and treat all types of headache and migraine. Current understanding and consensus is that migraine is a neurological disorder influenced by genetics and the environment. The underlying causes of which include chronic inflammation, emotional stressing, changes in brain chemical levels (neurotransmitters) and posture.
Migraines in particular can build gradually over several hours, for many people they include varied physical symptoms of the nervous system; numbness and weakness in the face and body, head pain and aura (seeing colours and shapes). Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light are all brainstem symptoms. The brainstem forms the connection between the brain and spinal cord, it controls many of our vital functions and when under stress (physical and chemical) can produce the symptoms above.
Functional brain imaging is one of the incredible investigative techniques been used to visualise a 'roadmap' of a migraine attack as it happens. This 'roadmap' points to the brainstem, meninges (coverings of the brain and spinal cord) and the cranial nerve that supplies sensation and movement of facial muscles; known as the trigeminal durovascular nerve pathway (trigeminal = a cranial nerve responsible for sensation and muscles in the face, duro = a layer of the meninges/coverings of the brain and spinal cord, durovascular = blood vessels of the meninges).
This is really exciting to us ABC practitioners because our ground work for fixing people's bodies is releasing tension on the meninges and thus the brainstem. I've had many clients in practice report immediate headache pain relief even before I have finished their treatment.
If you haven't seen it yet watch Dr Jeff Aberle's film explaining how meningeal adhesions alter body function.
poor posture causes headaches
Ideal posture is where your head is in perfect balance over your neck, the center of your ear is directly over the center of your shoulder. This requires minimal effort from neck muscles. Forward head posture, also known as anterior head carriage - when someone's head is stuck forwards of their shoulders - requires constant neck muscle effort (like taut guy wires of a leaning tent) to keep the head upright. No wonder tension headaches are the most common type of headache disorder (according to the World Health Organisation). Tension headaches are those many people describe as their 'usual headaches' and say the frequency of them is 'no more than anyone else gets'. They become part of that person's life they happen so often!
This absolutely doesn't have to be the case.
The key is to start to make healthy changes in your lifestyle that will affect the 'roadmap' of head pain that the researchers found. The biggest things I have learned from clients with migraines and headaches, including myself, is the importance of posture, nutrition, water intake and emotional and hormonal stress. You have to put in the time and effort to break some habits and make new ones and the reward will potentially be drug free and you can get on with your life.
I help people with the physical stress of headaches, for people who need nutritional advice and testing I recommend speaking to Jane Collison and for emotional stress, Ben Oakley. Click their names for a links to their websites.
I'd love to hear what's worked for your migraines and headaches, please share your experience here or send me an email if you would like me to treat your head pain.
A friend texted me last week because he was suffering with back ache and radiating leg pain - sciatica. Being miles away my initial advice was to make sure his sitting posture wasn't aggravating the problem.
I replied with...
"Sitting is one of the worst things for your nerves and discs in your back, you've got to perch rather than sit. Especially no sitting on the sofa or anything that tilts backwards - this flares the discs open at the back, aggravates the heck out of it and stretches the nerves."
You can appreciate how allowing your spine to slump into a C-shape will stretch the intervertebral discs, ligaments of the spine and spinal cord running though the vertebral canal. Years of this physically stressful posture can eventually lead to back ache, leg pain and sciatica.
I notice our local Post Office have an ideal set up for their team with sit/stand desks. Unfortunately one of the ladies there her set up was obviously causing her discomfort as she cursed the chair for her low back ache. She was on a regular chair designed for a low desk with her feet half resting on a bin which meant she had to lean forwards to use the computer which would have been putting undue stress on her whole spine.
If you're lucky enough to have mindful employers who have equip you with a standing desk it is vital that you have it set up correctly. I will describe how.
3 desk postures that can cause back pain
Sound familiar? These postures are easy to put right...
Change your office set up - stop back ache.
Try all of these initial suggestions, if you're still getting back ache and/or sciatica get in touch here.
Curcumin is a polyphenolic phytochemical found in the yellow dietary spice turmeric.
Clinical trial studies over the last two to three decades have been done to evaluate it's effectiveness in preventing cancer or the mouth, colon and breast.
Anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric have been known for centuries, used in South East Asia and India to treat inflammation and skin wounds. Chronic inflammation underpins many health problems and disease states, this explains why curcumin demonstrates positive therapeutic effects on various diseases in various human based studies.
Due to the lack of side effects of eating turmeric, I suggested one of my clients try taking it for the arthritic pain in her knees. She shared with me this week that since taking Turmeric capsules every day for 2-3 weeks her knees haven't bothered her! Fantastic! She's not having to take painkillers anymore. This outcome for her perfectly reflects the findings found by researcher Chin in 2016 'Patients with osteoarthritis showed improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin. They also reported reduced concomitant usage of analgesics and side effects during treatment'.
As when looking at any food and wondering how good it is for us, you can ask the simple question
'How many processes has this food been through to get to my plate?'
This includes how you have cooked or preserved it. If the answer is many then the likelihood that it's not going to be so great is high. The same is true for Turmeric.
I hadn't seen the raw turmeric root until finding it at our local market this year, many of us know it as the bright yellow powder that you add to make curries. Unfortunately the process of making it into a powder does mean that the natural oil is lost and the key active ingredient curcumin is significantly reduced too. Therefore raw turmeric is what you want to be eating. The easiest way is to roast it with other root vegetables with coconut oil and fresh herbs. Dr Axe also has a Turmeric Tea recipe to try here.
If you have had a success story for using Turmeric do share it here.
At Chiropractic College we were taught to adjust (correct alignment and restore normal movement of joints) babies using tiny fingertip pressure adjustments. We practiced on one another before we started working in the college clinic but it was nothing like actually adjusting a real baby so I will always remember the first baby girl that was brought to see me because she was having trouble feeding. She couldn't latch onto her mother's breast very well and was crying like it caused her discomfort and frustration.
I was so nervous, I thought to myself 'Oh no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with you!' 'You're tiny, my hands are massive in comparison! With the tutor's encouragement I decided to trust myself and worked gently on the muscles and joints of her jaw and neck. All the while, I was relieved to see, she was very happy and let me work on her without a peep. I hardly felt like I had done anything to her yet when her parents brought her in for her second appointment they were delighted to tell me that she was feeding perfectly and had stopped crying! I was amazed, relieved and very excited, babies are so much fun to help.
Does your baby need adjusting?
Since then I've seen a lot of babies in practice. The most rewarding thing for me is to look after a lady before, during and after her pregnancy (look out for my next blog on how I help aches and pains during pregnancy) and to have the honour of checking her new born baby when they arrive.
All you have to do is notice whether your baby seems uncomfortable in certain positions. Notice if your baby has any asymmetry in their face and skull. I look at how even their eyes are, if one is larger than the other or if they have a tendency to hold one eye more closed than the other. If they prefer to turn their head in one direction only, particularly if it looks uncomfortable for them to turn one way can be an indicator that something is preventing normal movement in their neck and back.
Common things parents tell me is that they're very fidgety and wriggly, they have difficulty latching on and feeding, difficulty sleeping. Often babies will squirm and cry in specific positions, you will get a feeling that there is something that's bothering them, often it is their spine.
A Baby's Body Changes More in One Day Than an Adult's Can In One Month.
Baby's are fascinating, when we make a correction to a bone in their spine that has gone forwards and cannot correct itself (because there are no muscles or combination of muscles to pull it back again) that segment can function and move normally again. The irritation in the muscles and joints often disappears immediately and typically you will notice them being able to lye peacefully on their backs for a nappy change or in your arms for a cuddle.
My husband, Ady and I went to visit friends with their 12 week old baby boy in Dartmoor last weekend. I was holding baby Walter in front of me and although he was happy, every now and again he would keep arching his back and bumping his head on my chest. I felt his spine and noticed an obvious point at which light pressure caused him discomfort. With his parents permission, of course, I adjusted his one vertebrae and he immediately stopped arching and twitching about in my arms.
I always think how significant fixing that one little bone is in a person that is only 12 weeks old. His body couldn't realign it so without being corrected (like so many in your and my body at that age) that distortion would stay with him as he grows. It certainly makes me appreciate how long it takes to get an adult's spine better if they had an injury as a growing child. I talk more about this in the Childhood Injuries blog post.
A baby's body will change more in one day than ours ever can in one month, that's why babies (the majority of them) are so easy to fix.
Not all individuals are quite so straight forward. Babies are more complicated if they have had a traumatic pregnancy and/or birth, I will discuss birth trauma in a future blog post.
The best thing to do if you're not sure whether your baby has something I can help them with or not is to give me a call and we will chat about it.
The majority of people who have joint replacements have a knee that has developed a significant amount of wear and tear to the point where walking is excruciating. The cartilage (meniscus) of the knee has all but disintegrated or torn apart and they’re walking around with bone on bone.
In 2015 103,331 people in England & Wales had knee procedures according to the National Joint Registry. Thankfully knee degeneration is not an inevitable factor of aging, otherwise every single person would need new knees at a specific age, which is clearly not the case.
So what determines whether you will need new knees in the future and is there anything you can do to possibly avoid it?! This is something I have given a lot of thought to, particularly since learning about ABC. A few years back my good Chiropractor friend, Amy and I would have light-hearted joking conversations saying ‘I ought to book myself in for a new right knee now!’ whilst having a moan about the aches and twinges in our joints. In the back of my mind I was starting to believe it, but not now-a-days.
My Dad (Poor chap, I’ve been using him in many of my examples), in his early 60’s, had two state-of–the-art replacement knees, specifically modelled for him and made in America. Like so many people he puts the degeneration down to years of playing squash and his active lifestyle. I’m sure he’s right however what ABC and the research done on Adult Tethered Cord Syndrome has taught us is that there’s more to it than just the hard work they’ve done.
His first replacement didn’t give him the immediate relief he was hoping for and has taken a good two years to feel better. The other knee felt great within a couple of weeks.
Why do you think they felt so different?
Around 6 months later he had a very bad episode of low back pain and sciatica. He was sent for an MRI scan which showed significant degenerative joint & disc disease in his lumbar spine. I thought it appropriate to mention this because so many people think that it’s just the knee(s) that have worn out and nothing else because nothing else hurts. This is so far from the truth. Osteoarthritis (aka wear and tear) of the lower limb joints will almost always be secondary to abnormal biomechanics in the spine and where there’s abnormal movement there ensues wear and tear.
Can you tell whether you will need new knees in the future? Based on my clinic experience of treating people who…a) have already had new knees fitted, b) those that about to have the surgery, c) those that describe moderate knee symptoms and fully expect to have to have surgery and d) young people whom do not currently have knee pain but show signs of musculo-skeletal dysfunction…
My answer is yes, here are 5 predictors…
If you have or have had…
So the next time you hear someone say
‘Oh it’s just my knee, it’s nothing to do with my back’
You’ll know that it’s everything to do with their back and you know someone who can help… that’s me by the way!
If you know anyone who is suffering with their knees do refer them to me, I do love the challenge of potentially helping someone to avoid going under the knife.
Many of us will have our first episode of low back pain between the ages of 30-50 years. This is great testament to how adaptive and resilient the human body is.
To understand why someone has pain I look back with them through their childhood injuries, even birth, particularly if it involved forceps or vontoux.
Think back to when you were 0-10 years old and count up the physical incidents that happened to you. The likelihood is that if you're spine and posture has deteriorated over the years, old injuries are partly to blame.
Which injuries are most significant for later?
Our skull, face and spine are the most important bones because they protect our brain and brain stem. For the brain to 'run the show' perfectly our skull and face ought to be properly formed and symmetrical with the spine and pelvis well aligned and in perfect balance. So it stands to reason that any physical injury that disturbs the balance in such a way that the body cannot self-correct will cause a problem.
Bangs on the head and face, a fall from a height (trees, horses etc) onto the back or coccyx (tailbone). Whiplash injuries, collisions with other children playing games. Incidentally my Dad has a noticeable crinkle on his cheek bone, I know it as a familiar feature of his face. He recently told me that it happened when he collided with another boy's head when he was 12 years old. Luckily it wasn't fractured but if you look at him even now that whole part of his upper face is lower on that side. You could say it's a coincidence, however the more people you talk to about the knocks they've had the more it adds up with the deviation they have in their facial symmetry. No one's face is straight by the way!
Children tend to bounce back from tumbles.
Youngsters take tumbles and clonk themselves daily, you hold your breath waiting for them to scream only to be surprised when they get up and run off again! We take it for granted that they seem to 'bounce' without hurting themselves. If an adult fell in the same way I wonder what pain they would be in, or if an elderly person with stiff joints fell, they would probably break some bones!
Bodies become twisted up with a lifetime's accumulation of old injuries, this means that muscles will be pulling on the twisted bones and joints. When a bone is knocked out of place in a direction that the body cannot self-correct other bones of the skeleton have to compensate throughout the entire body for the abnormal biomechanics. This compensation happens very quickly and the process goes on for years before you become aware something is wrong.
It's something we are totally unaware of in the beginning. It is only when the body has used up it's ability to twist and adapt that you start to notice it as discomfort, pain or another symptom. Hence the 30 year old with their first episode of insidious (no specific cause) back pain. Joints eventually become painful and stiff and develop arthritis.
Can you spot it before the pain comes on?
Yes absolutely you can!
Even without having a consultation with an ABC (Advanced Biostructural Correction) practitioner you can do a simple check yourself.
Take a look at your posture for the following in a full length mirror...
Our joints were designed to line up in a specific way and take the weight of the body evenly left and right. It stands to reason that alteration in this arrangement will cause some joints to wear out more quickly than others. A good example is if you know anyone who has had a knee or hip replacement? One side is usually in a worse state than the other, yet they're the same age...aren't they?
What old injuries have forced your body to go 'wonky', do your joints have a good range of movement? Do they line up differently? Is your breathing shallow or restricted and feel like you ought to be able to get more air in? All of these observations about your posture tell me that you can greatly benefit from what I have to offer.
If you would like to find out more get in touch, and we will discuss how well I can help you.
My first introduction to what I now call ‘real’ nutrition was at a seminar after I graduated by Dr James L. Chestnut B.Ed., M.Sc., D.C., C.C.W.P. Both he and my step Mum, Helen (who is the most amazing cook and over the years has treated me to French classic cooking courses at Bertinet’s Kitchen- you have to go there it's awesome!) sparked my keen interest and enthusiasm for cooking from scratch and eating well.
There is so much information available to us online. I don't know about you but I've been overwhelmed at times by conflicting advice. A few years ago I read a book on the Acid Vs Alkaline diet, according to them I was eating all the wrong things, killing off all my good bacteria, plus I'd surely get pretty ill if I didn't change my ways immediately!! I decided I wasn't ready for this level of pureness and promised myself I would burn it. Fortunately someone ‘borrowed’ this book from clinic and I haven't seen it since!
I did decide however, that I could make slow, manageable healthy changes to my eating habits and each year I can definitely say that I'm a lot healthier than the one before. It’s possible to look fantastic and feel fit and strong if you have a good plan so I've ‘chunked-it-up’ this vital information. I have made it understandable and easy to implement.
As far as improving dietary habits are concerned, stages are the key. I use Chestnut’s approach, recommending that everyone add 3 things (filtered water, probiotics and omega 3 fish oil) to their diet before they remove anything.
Probiotics occur in fermented foods and drinks, raw yoghurts, sauerkraut and supplements. There are so many different varieties or species and ideally you want all of them. How do you tell which ones you have or need?! If you're interested in fine tuning your body you can enlist the help of someone who is specifically trained to test which specific bacteria (vitamins and minerals) you need to fully support your body (I have included some useful contacts whom I highly recommend speaking to at the end). If you're starting from scratch, buying a good quality probiotic capsule supplement will start you off well (and remember to take them everyday – note to self - they're no good sitting in the cupboard!!!).
10 Benefits of Probiotics
1. Weight loss and better looking skin
2. Reduced risk of disease
3. They manufacture vitamins including vitamin k and bs.
4. Help the integrity of the gut wall preventing unwanted substances 'leaking' into the body and provoking an immune response.
5. Help get rid of Helicobacter.pylori (one of the main reasons for gastric ulcers)
6. Nullify phytic acid
7. Act as our second brain through their affect on mood, food choices and even cravings!
8. Positive impact on IBS, constipation bloating and diarrhoea
9. Affect our mood, food choices and cravings
10. Affect our immune system, inflammatory and autoimmune conditions
How to replenish them.
Take a good quality probiotic supplement in the morning (or as recommended), I have been taking Solar and Udo's Choice. You can buy them from Natural Life here.
How to keep them alive
Avoid antibiotics where possible
Avoid taking painkillers, anti inflammatory and antacid medication.
Avoid the oral contraceptive pill
Cut down and cut out refined sugars and carbohydrates
Avoid wheat gluten
Avoid seed oils.
The benefits of restoring balance to our intestinal flora is positively endless. By balance I'm talking about good v’s bad. I advised one of my 85 year old clients to start taking them after he had had to take a course of antibiotics for a chest infection. After just one month he told me his digestion and overall well-feeling was so much better than before he'd caught the infection. It just goes to show it's never to late to start making a difference!
Shifting the balance doesn't just mean eating them, but making sure we don't kill them either.
An unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer and even Alzheimer's and depression.
Without specific testing you won't necessarily know whether you have a good balance, however it's pretty safe to say that if your health is suffering (be it aches and pains, mental health or digestive workings) it's not looking great!
When setting out to improve your health, it's crucial to remember that making a change in one area like taking probiotics, may alone not make you feel any different however you're another step closer to that goal of feeling and looking better. You may only really notice the significant shift in your health after a year or five like me when you look back in retrospect.
Are you already taking probiotics? What difference have you noticed? Please share your experience in the comments below.
If you're interested in getting tested for food intolerances etc I highly recommend Rosie Dowbekin A.S.K., T.A.S.K and Jane Collison.
Many of you reading this will have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, my Dad included. Like you he doesn't like taking medication and understands that being on it long term will be harmful to his body.
Knowing what you can do to start coming off them is essential so in this blog I will share with you...
POOR POSTURE COMPRESSES YOUR HEART
The heart and lungs require a supple ribcage and adequate room for optimal function. The shape depends on the alignment of the spine which can alter over an lifetime. This is mainly due to injury, slumped sitting and habitual forward bending postures. A classic stooped posture often seen with advancing age hinders how well the lungs and heart can work, so it's no wonder that are organs develop problems as we age.
There is no need for your body to follow this common trend if you start to make small changes with Chiropractic adjustments and lifestyle changes.
The main thing apart from pain relief that people notice during a course of treatment is that they are more upright and open though the chest and that it's easier to breathe. Would you agree that the heart will also function better?
PRE-DIABETES: A CAUSE OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.
Poor blood sugar regulation (pre-diabetes and diabetes) and high blood pressure are two problems that go hand in hand. Over the years I have spent working with people there have been several whom I've been really concerned about regarding type 2 diabetes.
In a nutshell it is the condition of your body where your cells no longer responds well to insulin. Blood sugar and insulin levels increase, this is most commonly the result of a high grain and/or sugar diet, especially when coupled with inadequate exercise.
1 in 16 people (3.9 million of us!) in the UK have diabetes, 90% of which have type 2.
Pre-diabetes first starts to show up as weight gain, especially around the abdomen, poor energy levels and chronic digestive issues, often a result of poor food choices. Later the classic thirst and frequent urination symptoms occur.
How does this relate to high blood pressure?
It is all to do with the effects of elevated insulin in the blood stream. Elevation of insulin means that your body cannot store adequate Magnesium (an essential mineral for relaxing muscles including those surrounding blood vessels) therefore blood vessels constrict which raises blood pressure and leads to fatigue/tiredness.
Interestingly insulin’s other role is to retain Sodium, abnormally high levels therefore cause water retention, classically showing up as swollen, puffy feet and legs. Does this sound familiar?
(For more information on these minerals and how they affect the body go to my pinterest page )
HOW HEART DRUGS WORK
Heart drugs lower blood pressure so that the reading is within a normal range however blood pressure went up to meet the body’s requirements, now all of a sudden under the influence of the medication, the oxygen demands of the body are not being met. In the short term this leads to decreased circulation and fatigue and in the long term heart muscle degenerates, organs not receiving adequate oxygen degenerate.
5 PROACTIVE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
The 5 key points below each have small steps themselves. I support you by making this a manageable and gradual process starting by addressing your posture.
If you have managed to lower your blood pressure naturally I would love to hear from you. Please share what has worked for you.
IT'S ALL ABOUT POSTURE
Try this little exercise... Stand up now and notice where the pressure is in both of your feet. Is it equal? Is it more towards the balls of your feet or the heels? The outsides or the insides? Now gradually lean forwards without having to take a step, what do you notice about your toes and the muscles in the arches of your feet? They grip the ground and your arches go tight right?
Here's another one to try, whilst you're standing notice how your arches in your feet change when you twist your whole body to the right; your right hip rotates outwards and the right arch increases, on the left your hip rotates inwards and your arch flattens. This is a great demonstration of how if the ball and socket joints of your hips are twisting even very slightly at rest the arches in your feet will adapt to compensate and could be the very reason you have one arch that's 'better' than the other.
Unfortunately no one's spine is perfectly aligned, we've all had falls as toddlers, sporting injuries or occupational/hobby related postural strains which can cause bones to go out of place in a direction that our bodies cannot fix. If your skeleton is not perfectly balanced and aligned your center of gravity will not be in the optimum position. In most people their weight shifts forwards with a slump-like posture. This forces the body to compensate by twisting the hips, knees and feet and by using muscles (usually down the back of your neck, mid and low back, hamstrings, calves and achilles) to pull tight, just like the guy wires of a tent. The achilles tendons which attach in to the heel bone and blend into the plantar fascia on the soles of our feet become over-worked and tight.
Can you see where I'm going with this...? Yup... over time (sometimes years) this altered foot posture and function will lead to pain eventually. That includes achilles tendinitis, plantar fascitis and heel pain etc.
Ideally what you want to do is fix the body so that the arch in the foot returns to normal.
3 WAYS TO STOP THE PAIN
1. Firstly look at your posture when you're standing and sitting. When I talk about posture I mean the position your body is in when youre relaxed and are not actively holding your shoulders and head up. Posture is passive, we shouldn't have to work like heck to hold ourselves upright.
If you know your posture has altered over the years it will be worth getting in touch with me to discuss how well ABCTM Chiropractic care can help you.
2. Do you sit on a soft sofa or chair to relax? read or use a laptop on your lap? Anything that forces your spine into a C-shape encourages it to slump forwards, and consequently add further tension to your 'guy wires' the best way to check your usual position is to get someone to take a photograph. A result of these prolonged and habitual postures is altered curvature of the spine which is likely to gradually place increasing tension on your heels and foot muscles.
3. The next thing to look at is your footwear. The body needs to be supported appropriately from the ground up at all times. I make a point of addressing how people sit, stand and sleep because these positions cover everything. The flexibility, thickness and contour of the shoe's sole and innersole are essential to get correct. Many shoes have an arch support which may feel comfortable and offer some pain relief however they can compound the structural problem of the body and exacerbate the underlying reason of the foot pain in the first place. In a nutshell you need to find footwear that has a flexible sole, has a wide toe box and has a flat surface for the foot to stand on. I love vivobarefoot shoes for all of the above.
For more information regarding how I work and our workshops in clinic, drop me an email.
Happy walking and running, Chiro Sarah.