How could meditation possibly cure my pain? That’s impossible, isn’t it?

Channel Nine news in Brisbane recently ran a story about using “mindfulness” to treat back pain. A couple of patients have since asked me about it, so I thought I’d use that story as a catalyst for this month’s piece.

What is “mindfulness”?  Mindfulness is a form of brain exercise in which you try to keep your thoughts only in the present. While doing this meditation you attempt to let go of worries, thoughts and judgments, and concentrate only on observing yourself; most people find it easiest to focus on the inward and outward flow of their breath. Once you have achieved this state of mindfulness, you can then add other mental techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and positive thinking.

But, I hear you wondering, how could such a simple technique help overcome back pain? Surely fixing my bulging disc, relaxing my tight muscles or loosening my worn out joints have more to do with curing my pain than some silly meditation?

"Back Pain: How to get rid of it Forever"

I pondered this question myself at length many years ago when researching for my book “Back pain: How to get rid of it Forever'”.

I spoke with psychologists and doctors, and examined a lot of research, including some very interesting work done on chimpanzees. I gradually realized that psychological approaches to pain are one of many tools that you have at your disposal to help you improve your health. Just like stretching and strengthening exercises, physio treatment, good nutrition and keeping fit are all a part of the holistic treatment of conditions such as back pain, having the correct mental approach is another weapon that you can use to cure yourself. Even better, once you master the meditation techniques they are free!

As a result of my studies into the psychological aspects of back pain, I expanded the relevant chapters into a separate booklet entitled “Using your Brain to get Rid of your pain”. (Keep reading for free gifts at the end of this article!) This booklet explains how your mindset can either cause or help to cure physical ailments such as headaches, back pain and even arthritis.

It’s a very complex subject, but the summary is as follows:

Stressed mum

Modern day stress can arise from many sources

Stress from any cause – not enough money, fighting with your partner, or just being too busy with a young family etc etc – induces a reaction in your body known as the fight-or-flight response. In this state your body releases hormones and other chemicals designed to help you fight (to save your life) or to run away from danger. In ancient times this response was useful, but nowadays, when our worries are often more prolonged than being attacked by a dinosaur, the fight-or-flight response gets in the way. Ultimately it can cause pain and other physical symptoms.

How does the fight-or-flight response cause such pains and problems? First, the released hormones change your bodily systems so that blood flow and energy are diverted to your muscles in preparation for battle or escape. To facilitate this it shuts down or minimizes background systems such as repair and maintenance. This state is fine for a few minutes, but if maintained through a long stressful period then damage will eventually accumulate due to the low background rate of your body’s repair systems. This can cause many symptoms such as stomach problems, skin conditions, artery damage and even physical joint pain.

Second, the constantly heightened state of muscle activity causes them to become tight and overactive. Other muscles, especially the deep core muscles that are of little use in a fight-or-flight situation, become weak. This imbalance then causes joints and tendons to be moved incorrectly, and slightly out of alignment. When this faulty movement pattern is repeated thousands of times the joint, tendon or disc becomes worn out, inflamed and painful. Voila! Your mind has caused you pain!

muscle imbalance

Muscle imbalances cause injury!

Third, if your mind is in a heightened state of stress then it is far more susceptible to sensory input. For example, imagine you are sitting around a campfire in a completely relaxed frame of mind and you hear a twig break. You’d probably ignore it altogether. But now imagine that you’re stressed and anxious and hear that same sound – you’d probably jump and startle. Why? You’re anxious mind is in a flight-or-flight state, and is searching for any sign of danger. When in this state, all sensory input is heightened – including pain. So the same injury will feel worse when you are stressed compared to when you are relaxed.

So there are many well-established pathways by which your frame of mind can directly cause or heighten injuries and wear-and-tear. By learning mindfulness and other relaxation techniques you will have another method with which to help yourself feel better.

Old version - isn't that cover just awful?

Old version – isn’t that cover just awful?

To finish this article I have two special offers! First, to all readers of this blog I would like to offer a complimentary copy of an audio MP3 entitled Using your brain to get rid of your pain. To use this file simply follow the link to our publishing web site, download the file and transfer to your phone or MP3 player. You can use this track to help you master the skills of meditation and mindfulness.

The second gift is an offer to Bulimba and Mansfield PhysioWorks patients ONLY. I have recently released a new version of the booklet “Using your brain to get rid of your

The new edition of "Using your brain..." Available as e-book or in print form amazon.

The new edition of “Using your brain…” Available as e-book or in print form amazon.

pain.” However I still have some old copies of the first edition in stock. So if you would like a complimentary copy of the original booklet (it’s the one pictured here with that awful yellow cover) , please simply contact your nearest PhysioWorks centre and let us know.

Other readers can purchase the new edition of the booklet (as an e-book or in print) at a very low price from Amazon or your favourite online book store.

So start relaxing now and reap the benefits, not just for your mind, but for your physical pain and problems as well!

“Why reading this post is NOT good for you”

You’re probably reading this post inside, sitting on a chair, on a phone or computer screen. Yet spring in Australia is the time when the outdoors beckons. We go to the beach in droves, have picnics and barbecues, paddle and fish and swim. Some hike, others bike, and a few do both (although not at the same time!) But these good times in the outdoors are an exception to the rule, which is that most of us spend the vast majority of our time inside. According to one estimate, the average person spends 90% of his or her life indoors, and as we get older we become even more inclined not to venture out.

When we do, there’s a gantlet of precautions: slather on the sunscreen; take it easy if air pollution is bad; watch out for ticks, mosquitoes, and other creatures that might bite. It’s all very well-meaning but it also reinforces indoor ways. But despite these irritations, the study results are ticking up: spending time outdoors has discernible benefits for physical and mental health. Here are five potential benefits of spending more time outdoors:

  1. Your vitamin D levels will go up

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Over all, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary, don’t have such great disease-fighting powers, but vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies (i.e. studies on large populations) suggest it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. Even by conventional standards, many people don’t have enough vitamin D circulating in their bodies. The good news is that you’ll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week on a sunny day and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes.

There are some snags. Vitamin D production is affected by age (people ages 65 and over generate about a fourth as much as people in their 20s) and skin colour. Another problem is that sunscreens are most effective at blocking the ultraviolet B (UVB) light, the part of the spectrum that causes sunburn, but UVB also happens to be the kind of light that kick-starts the generation of vitamin D in the skin.

The either-or of sunscreen and sunshine vitamin has stirred up a lot of controversy and debate between pro-sunscreen dermatologists and the vitamin D camp. But there is plenty of middle ground here: some limited sun exposure on short walks and the like, supplemented with vitamin D pills if necessary, and liberal use of sunscreen when you are out for extended periods, particularly during the middle of the day.

  1. You’ll get more exercise (especially if you’re a child)

You don’t need to be outside to be active: millions of people exercise indoors in gyms or at home on treadmills and elliptical trainers. Nor is being outside a guarantee of activity. At the beach on a summer day most people are in various angles of repose.

Still, there’s no question that indoor living is associated with being sedentary, particularly for children, while being outdoors is associated with activity. According to some surveys, children spend an average of 6 hours a day with electronic media (video games, television, and so on), time that is spent mainly indoors and sitting down. British researchers used Global Positioning System devices and accelerometers, which sense movement, to track the activity of 1,000 children. They found that the children were more than doubly active when they were outside.

Florence has many fun things to do for children of all ages!

Adults can go to the gym. Many prefer the controlled environment there. But if you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking, biking, gardening, cleaning up the yard, and doing other things that put the body in motion.

  1. You’ll be happier (especially if your exercise is ‘green’)

Light tends to elevate people’s mood, and unless you live in a glass house, there’s more light available outside than in. Physical activity has been shown to relax and cheer people up, so if being outside replaces inactive pursuits with active ones, it might also mean more smiles and laughter.

Researchers at the University of Essex in England are advancing the notion that exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health. Their investigations into “green exercise,” as they are calling it, dovetails with research showing benefits from living in proximity to green, open spaces.

In 2010 the English scientists reported results from a meta-analysis of their own studies that showed just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood. It’s hard to imagine how a stroll in a pretty park wouldn’t make us feel better than a walk in a drab setting.

  1. Your concentration will improve

Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2008 book Last Child in the Woods. It’s a play on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers have, in fact, reported that children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. A study published in 2008 found that children with ADHD scored higher on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after a walk through a residential neighbourhood or downtown area. Other ADHD studies have also suggested that outdoor exercise could have positive effects on the condition. So if you have trouble concentrating — as many do — you might see if some outdoor activity, the greener the better, helps.

  1. You may heal faster

University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) had an effect on patient recovery. Of course, windows and views are different than actually being outside, but we’re betting that adding a little fresh air to the equation couldn’t hurt and might help.

So what are you waiting for? Leave your screen, and head outside. Your health, body, mood and mind will thank you for it.

***

Contact us for more information or to make an appointment.

For a complimentary copy of John Perrier’s book “Back pain: How to Get Rid of it Forever” please follow the links below.

In Australia – click here:  http://www.amazon.com.au/Back-Pain-How-Forever-Causes-ebook/dp/B00UV5450U/

Elsewhere – click here: http://www.amazon.com/Back-Pain-How-Forever-Causes-ebook/dp/B00UV5450U/

I acknowledge the work of the Harvard Health School for the sontent of this article. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_health_letter/2010/july

“Arthritis: the causes, symptoms, and a miracle cure”

Arthritis is a group of musculoskeletal conditions in which there is wearing and inflammation of the joints causing chronic pain, swelling and stiffness. Nearly 3.3 million Australians have a disability due to arthritis and related conditions, and more than half of these have chronic or recurrent pain.

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but they are very different. RA is a disease, that can be detected via a blood test. In the RA disease process, the patient’s own immune system attacks the lining of their joints, causing pain, swelling and eventual deformity. Typically, it causes problems in the small joint such as the fingers.

Drug therapy, gentle exercise and occasional splinting are the best treatments. Joint replacement is some-times used. Thankfully, RA is rare.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Conversely, OA is wear-and-tear, like rust in your joints. It typically effects large, weight bearing joints such as hips and knees. OA is far more common than RA—almost everyone of advancing years suffers some form of OA—our bodies simply weren’t designed to last that long!

arthritis

Osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis: the differences

The Role of Exercise

Moderate, regular exercise has been proven to aid in the prevention of arthritis, and offers a host of benefits to sufferers. Exercise can reduce joint pain and stiff-ness, builds strong muscles around the joints and in-creases flexibility and endurance.

The Role of Physiotherapy

Patients with OA may benefit from joint mobilization, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy and muscle strengthening exercises. Localized, specific massage techniques can also break up the ’rust’ from the joint, greatly reducing the pain. Physiotherapy can reduce arthritic pain and reliance on drug therapy. Unlike pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy has few side effects or contraindications.

Although arthritis is a chronic disease, treatment and management techniques can control and reduce the effects of the condition, and prevent further deterioration. Almost like a miracle cure.

To read more about arthritis and its cures, see http://www.physioworks.com.au/Default.aspx?PageID=619824&A=SearchResult&SearchID=5389194&ObjectID=619824&ObjectType=1

Or visit us directly at http://www.physioworks.com.au/Bulimba/bulimba.htm or http://www.physioworks.com.au/Mansfield/mansfield.htm

 

“How to avoid and treat running injuries”

Although one of the most popular and convenient ways to stay fit, running is also one of the easiest ways for you to develop an injury. The impact and stress of running can be hard on your muscles and joints, commonly resulting in injuries to your hips, knees, ankles, and feet.

How to Avoid Running Injuries?

There are several simple techniques to help you avoid running injuries.

  • Perform a Warm Up & Cool Down. You may have specific stretches that have been prescribed by your physio—your warm up/down is an ideal time to per-form them. However, general static stretching is not as effective as once thought. A better method of warming up is to start very gently—perhaps with a walk—and gradually increase your pace.
  • Wear appropriate footwear suitable to your foot structure. Recent research indicates that softer, pad-ded footwear may actually be worse for your joint than a harder sole. Keep this in mind when buying your next pair of shoes.
  • If your foot has biomechanical problems, you would probably benefit from orthotics, which can be fitted on-the-spot at either of our PhysioWorks clinics.
  • Avoid over training – ask us for advice. As a general rule, do not increase your training by more than 10% each week. Do not try to beat your previous times every day! Take it easy, enjoy yourself, and gradually get into the habit of running.
    running injuries
    Common running injuries

Early Warning Signs of Impending Injury

If an ache or pain develops, do not ignore the early warning signs. While some injuries can be immediately evident, others slowly and progressively get worse, making it even more important to act early before chronic problems develop. So what are the early warning signs you should look for?

  • Joint pain: Pain that lasts longer than 48 hours needs physiotherapy diagnosis.
  • Tenderness: If pressing your finger into a specific point causes pain, and the same pain is not produced on the opposite side of the body, please ask for advice.
  • Swelling: Usually obvious, swelling often co-exists with pain and heat. The area will feel “full”.
  • Reduced Range of Motion: Compare with opposite side of body.
  • Weakness: Perform tasks on both sides of body to identify weakness.

Other warning signs that you have overtrained include

  1. Pain that does not go away when you warm up
  2. Aching that persists for more than 30 minutes after you have cooled down, or
  3. Stiffness and pain the following morning.

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, please give us a call. We will save you months of pain and frustration. We’ll have you back jogging pain free again in no time!

For more information on running injuries, please see http://www.physioworks.com.au/Injuries-Conditions/Activities/running-injuries or visit us directly at http://www.physioworks.com.au/Bulimba/bulimba.htm or http://www.physioworks.com.au/Mansfield/mansfield.htm

 

 

A new approach to workplace fitness

From the Courier Mail, Brisbane, Friday 22 February 2012

TREADMILLS in the office, seats that beep after 30 minutes of use and adjustable standing-sitting desks are the latest weapons being deployed in the battle of the bulge.

With the negative health effects of prolonged sitting making it the smoking of our generation, bosses are now encouraging walking meetings and even installing treadmills in offices to get their staff literally thinking on their feet.

Treadmill

National treadmill distributor Workout World Camperdown general manager, Steven To, said there have been a number of companies calling on them to install treadmills in office spaces.

“We have found it is law firms and offices located next to industrial sites that have asked for them,” he said.

“Most of the time they are asking for two treadmills at a time instead of just the single ones.”

A range of studies has found sitting for prolonged periods increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer because of increased blood pressure and sugar, excessive body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels.

 Employers are also becoming increasingly aware of links between better health and wellbeing and improved productivity.

Australian company Get the World Moving, which runs the Global Corporate Challenge to get sedentary office workers off their backsides, last month installed two office treadmills facing each other so employees can have walking meetings.

Appliance giants Miele Australia are another company conducting some of their meetings while walking.

Global Corporate Challenge marketing manager Jayne Foot said they are already seeing the benefits.

“We decided to install the treadmills to cater for bad weather and facilitate the opportunity for staff to take a walking meeting, rain, hail or shine,” she said.

“It’s also great for individual employees who want a quick energy charge, as they can jump on and get active whenever they feel like it.

“We find walking meetings especially helpful for brainstorming sessions or meetings later in the afternoon, when energy levels can naturally slump.”

The University of Queensland late last year developed a device dubbed the “sitting pad”, which emits a loud beep when its occupant should get up and move around.

Google, Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Bank are also providing workers with both sitting and standing desks.

For more information on walking for fitness, see our previous blog post https://mansfieldphysioworks.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/an-easy-way-to-keep-your-aches-and-pains-at-bay/ or visit us at http://physioworks.com.au/Bulimba/bulimba.htm or  http://physioworks.com.au/Mansfield/mansfield.htm

Golf: How to prevent injuries, lower your scores, and increase your enjoyment

Golf is a wonderful sport that offers many great benefits, including increased fitness, more social interaction, and, of course, the enjoyment that comes from whacking a long drive down the centre of the fairway. PhysioWorks can offer a lot to golfers; we not only help you prevent injuries, but also to improve your scores, and increase your enjoyment of the game.golf shot

So how do you do this? We have four main suggestions:

(1)   Improve your fitness and general conditioning.  This strategy will also help improve your performance.  if your body cannot move properly, you cannot develop a good swing. For example, if you have poor spinal flexibility, this may prevent you from turning adequately during your golf swing, leading to reduced power and accuracy. The same theory applies to tight neck and shoulder muscles, or worn-out hips and knees.

(2)   Have your physio screen you to evaluate your muscle balance. Your body has many deep muscles that help to stabilise your limbs and trunk during movement. If these muscles weaken, your movements will be less controlled, even though you still feel strong.  A thorough program of stability muscle exercises, aiming at your trunk, shoulders, hips and knees, will provide a massive boost to your movement control, and take many strokes off your handicap.

(3)   Make sure your equipment is correct.  Ask a professional to evaluate your clubs; technology in this area is improving all the time. Also, put some thought into your shoes. Are they flexible enough? Do you need orthotics to support your foot arches over 18 long holes?  Check your bag – can you clear out some clutter, and thus reduce its weight? Plenty of golfers have hurt their back, simply retrieving the clubs from the boot of the car.

(4)   Warm up before you play. A good warm up will not only prepare you for your game, but it also helps prevent injuries.  If you have a previous trouble spot, spend more time warming this up, e.g. an old back injury.  Do some full-range movements for your back, arms and legs. Your physio can help with some suggestions. Hit a bucket of balls on the practice fairway or nets, but don’t use maximum effort straight away. Start with a gentle swing of a short club, and build up to your driver.  Do about 5-10 minutes of putting.

Using these tips, you will not only reduce your chance of injury, but you will also improve your performance, and heighten your enjoyment of the game. Now all that’s left is to hit the fairways. Fore!

To read more specific information on golf injuries, go to http://physioworks.com.au/Injuries-Conditions/Activities/golf-injuries

Or visit us directly at http://physioworks.com.au/Bulimba/bulimba.htm or http://physioworks.com.au/Mansfield/mansfield.htm

“Headaches: A new cure.”

Headaches can be one of the most frustrating and debilitating types of pain. They can be unbearably intense, and can last for hours, days or even weeks. What causes these awful pains?

Headaches have six main varieties.

  1. Viral headaches, such as those associated with the ‘flu.
  2. Headaches from ‘nasty’ causes, such as tumours or brain haemorrhage. These types of pains are usually prolonged and severe, and thankfully, they are rare.
  3. Drug induced headaches. This group includes the common hangover.
  4. Vascular headaches – migraines. This type of pain is usually associated with vomiting and blurred vision. Although migraines are commonly diagnosed, recent studies have shown that they are often neck-related headaches.
  5. Stress headaches, and …
  6. … neck-related headaches. Although they appear to be unrelated, these two types of headaches often overlap. Sometimes, emotional stress or poor postures tighten the muscles in the upper back and neck. These muscles then pull on the neck joints, which become inflamed and subsequently refer pain into the head.
neck pain and headache

A headache can be a real pain in the neck….

Other causes of neck-related headaches include poor posture, an unsuitable pillow or mattress, previous neck injuries, muscular imbalances or spinal degeneration.

What can be done? Plenty. Obviously, the first step is to exclude the first three causes above. Then, it is a matter of correcting the faults in your neck. By loosening the joints in your neck and stretching tight muscles, physio can usually relieve the pain of a headache quite quickly. Then, by strengthening the muscles and paying some more attention to postural problems, the problem can usually be resolved. Permanently.

Wouldn’t that be nice!