Got cracks and pinches in your bones? Here’s how to decide whether those aches and pains could be something more serious…
Is your back playing up? You’re not alone. Around four in five of us will suffer from lower back pain at some point in our lives. It can be caused by sedentary lifestyles, pushing too hard at the gym or any number of other factors. Useful, right?
Before you put your feet up and resign yourself to a lifetime of sleeping on the floor, it’s worth considering whether a chiropractor could help.
Having suffered from lower back pain and a shooting pain from my left hip for around ten months, I decided to stop moaning to anyone who would listen (sorry mum), and booked in for a consultation with Mr Rishi Loatey of Richdales Chiropractic Centre in Wembley.
At the clinic, I fill in a booklet with questions about my medical history and family health. When I go through to Mr Loatey, he asks a LOT of questions. Some seem irrelevant (have I had any X rays recently?), but he assures me all are important. (It turns out the X rays could be reused if they’re recent, saving me from having to redo them) I then change into a gown and Dr Loatey examines everything from how I walk and stand, to testing my reflexes are working. At one point, I have to suppress the urge to laugh as he pokes a toothpick up and down me to test whether I have full sensation in my legs.
After a thorough examination, my diagnosis is given. It’s a mouthful, that’s for sure. Chronic hip biomechanical dysfunction with associated myofascial hypertonicity concomitant with mechanical low back pain Really, Mr Loatey says, it means my hip flexor is strained and my pelvis isn’t moving properly, which is happening at the same time as my lower back pain. Treatment involves a couple of sessions a week for a few weeks, alongside icing my hip and back a number of times a day and avoiding exercise or sitting for prolonged periods. Because I’m relatively young, fit and otherwise healthy, Mr Loatey says I can expect a fairly short treatment time.
Here are five reasons why you too could benefit from seeing a chiropractor:
1. You’re experiencing shooting pains in your hip and down your leg
As in my case, if you’re getting shooting pains starting in your hip and moving down your leg, it can be a sign that you’ve strained your hip flexor. Often this will mend itself with rest, but everyone is different. If the injury is reoccurring or doesn’t heal with time, it’s worth getting it checked out. The newer the injury, the easier it is to deal with.
2. Your shoes are wearing down unevenly
If your shoes are wearing down unevenly – or your skirt or trouser hems are hanging wonkily – it can indicate a problem with how you are walking. Mr Loatey says, “Your normal gait pattern should involve your heel striking first, your foot then coming down, then you toe off. If one side of your shoe is wearing excessively, it means that when you’re walking, you must be putting more pressure on that side.” A chiropractor can diagnose what’s causing this to happen, in order to treat the problem.
3. You use a laptop
While sitting down for long periods of time at a computer is a sure-fire way to back problems, it’s the laptop – and the tablet and smartphone – that are the real enemies here. “When I first started treating patients, the only neck problems I saw were from car crashes: whiplash,” says Mr Loatey. “Now,” he says, ”the vast majority of neck problems I see are young people, from secondary school upwards, people who mainly work off their laptops. The top of your screen should be at eye level, and with a laptop, it’s often lower down, with a much smaller keyboard. When you use a tablet or smartphone, your posture becomes even smaller and more hunched – so you’re performing finer and finer movements in a smaller area. And that’s when you get problems.”
4. You suffer from headaches
After checking that headaches aren’t related to your cycle, diet or routine, Mr Loatey says that their cause can often stem from the neck: “The neck and surrounding muscles can refer pain in a similar pattern to a headache. Often, it can be misdiagnosed as a migraine, when actually it’s something entirely different.” When you look at someone from the side, their earhole should be roughly where their shoulder is. However, many people, especially those who sit at a computer for long periods of time, have their head positioned forwards slightly. That causes neck problems. Mr Loatey advises, “Every half hour get up, stand up to answer the phone, walk over to a colleague instead of sending an email – break the sitting cycle.”
5. You’re pregnant or you have small children
“During pregnancy there are two issues,” says Mr Loatey, “Firstly, your weight is increasing in a very specific area – so more pressure is placed on the back. Secondly, the body releases hormones to make the ligaments loosen up, to make it easier for the baby’s head to pass through the canal. However, these hormones affect other joints too. So the joints move around a bit more, causing many ladies back and leg pain during their pregnancy.”
“On top of this, parents of young children do a lot of lifting. Whether it’s taking the car seat in and out, leaning over to put your baby into bed without waking them up, carrying your child on your hip or even breastfeeding – all of this can give you neck and back problems.”
Chiropractory – The Facts
What is a chiropractor?
Chiropractors are primary contact healthcare professionals who specialise in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the joints, muscles and nerves. They specialise in the spine but also treat the hips, knees and shoulders.
How can I find one?
Start with the British Chiropractor Association: www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk/
It’s the largest and longest established association in the UK. Members will have completed four or five years of full time training.
How much will it cost?
Expect to pay from £40 for an initial consultation (which will last around an hour) and from £30 thereafter. You should expect to see a chance within 6-8 treatments. However, as with everything, this is dependent on how long you’ve had the problem and your general health and fitness.
Words: Eva Caiden
Eva is a freelance journalist with a special interest in health and well-being and (we may as well be honest about it) G&T. You can follow Eva on Twitter: @evacaiden
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