Over the past 13 years working as an osteopath, I’ve treated a plethora of people from different age groups and all walks of life including professional athletes, world-famous pop stars, office workers and stay-at-home parents.
With this experience, I’ve discovered that certain habits can have a huge impact on our overall health. Thankfully, with a few small adjustments and a more mindful attitude, these aches and pains can be eased, and in the long run, more serious chronic conditions can be prevented.
I’ve put together some of the most common reasons I see people in my clinic and ways in which you can avoid causing pain:
Stop looking down at gadget screens
This is such a major one and it affects almost everyone. When you’re walking down the street or on public transport it’s highly likely that the majority of people in view will be on their phones. In the clinic, I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of patients coming in with neck and shoulder tension and I honestly attribute this to the amount of time we spend looking down at our phones. If you think about it, our head weighs almost a stone, so when we look down it naturally increases the amount of pressure on our neck and shoulder muscles. If we are doing this for a large part of the day, it will have a huge impact on neck pain and could also lead to headaches.
Lack of movement is a particularly common issue, especially after the past year of working from home and spending a lot more time indoors. I always say that the only bad posture is one that you stay in for far too long. Our bodies were created to move and prolonged periods of time sitting in the same position does a lot more damage than you might think, causing pain to the anterior part of your hip, lower back and neck. When I preach the importance of movement, I don’t mean running marathons or sprinting around your house, something as simple as stretching at your desk or grabbing a glass of water from your kitchen can still do the world of good.
You don’t need me to tell you how important drinking enough water is but you might not know the impact it has on our joints. As well as maximising our physical performance, enhancing energy levels and helping with headaches, water helps to keep our joints lubricated and flexible. The synovial fluid that lubricates your joints is made up of water and reduces friction between joints and helps to maintain healthy tissue.
Have a diet rich in Omega-3
I wholeheartedly advocate having an omega rich diet. Omega-3 can be found in oily fish like mackerel and salmon, nuts, plant oils and the correct supplements. Omega-3 works to keep joints supple with higher levels present in synovial fluid correlating to a reduction in joint pain. It also works to strengthen bones, working with Vitamin D to increase calcium absorption and bone density.
Mind your mental health
Stress can lead to a number of physical ailments and issues, manifesting itself in different ways. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as jaw clenching, shrugged shoulders, insomnia, hyperventilation and IBS. These symptoms can then impact the muscles associated with these areas causing muscle tension and tightening which then leads to pain. This ultimately leads to a cycle of pain and anxiety, with both impacting one another. Practising mindfulness and looking at potential stressors and how to minimise them can positively impact your overall health.
Get a good night’s sleep
Studies suggest that a lack of sleep can be linked to an increased chance of musculoskeletal pain. Not only is sleep vital for your mind, it also aids repair in your muscles and joints, and allows your body to rest and recover. When we sleep, our bodies release their own growth hormone which then aids muscle repair. When our sleep is disturbed, it affects the hormone secretion and can impair how quickly something like sciatica or neck pain resolves when caused by muscle tension.
Practice strength training
Strength training is particularly important for our bodies, increasing bone density and building muscle strength. If you’re able to, I recommend working with a trainer who can watch your form. If that’s not possible, my advice would be to take things slowly and gradually, building up your weight and reps. It’s easy to go into the gym and try to lift too heavy, too soon which in turn, can occasionally lead to injuries and strains.