Osteopathy and Healthy Ageing

Everybody gets grey hair and wrinkles as we get older. In the same way, it is normal for our muscles, bones, joints and associated tissues to change as we age. Ageing does not necessarily mean that we will experience increased pain or stiffness. However, if this does become a problem, people often find that treatment and advice from an osteopath can complement GP care and pharmaceutical products. If you do notice problems, your osteopath can work with you to keep you healthier, allowing you to enjoy the pleasures of life into your older years.

Advice as you get older

Although aches and pains may be a common element of ageing, they don’t have to get in the way of your lifestyle. Here are some healthy tips to keep you active:

  • 150 minutes of exercise per week, in blocks of ten minutes or more (enough to make you warmer and breathe harder, whilst still being able to have a conversation) can help reduce the risk of circulation problems and falls. It can also help to improve your mood and levels of confidence. This might include activities such as dancing or brisk walking.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy, varied diet.
  • Doing some form of balance exercises twice a week (for example, Tai Chi) is also recommend as you get older to help reduce the risk of falling, particularly if you are over the age of 65. Try to also include exercises that strengthen your arms, legs and body.
  • The use of trainers or similar footwear can help absorb shocks and take the pressure off your knees, hips and spine when walking for longer periods.
  • A short rest can help recover energy for the remainder of the day’s activities.

How can your osteopath help?

You don’t have to put up with aches and pains simply because you are getting older. In fact, many people find it helpful to talk to an osteopath about ways of keeping active, preventing common problems such as falls and managing conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatic pain and osteoporosis. Osteopathic care is based on the individual needs of the patient and so varies depending on your age, fitness levels and diagnosis. Osteopaths use a wide range of gentle hands on techniques that focus on releasing tension, stretching muscles and mobilising joints.

Please call us on 07423 433930 or book online via the home page.

Are You Fit For Work?

Your health at work

Do you feel fit for work?
Musculoskeletal conditions (problems with the muscles, bones, joints and associated tissues) are a major contributing factor to work place absenteeism. The Office for National Statistics reports that 30.8 million working days are lost each year due to musculoskeletal issues, such as back, neck and upper limb pain, in the UK alone.

Habitual poor posture can contribute to daily aches and discomfort in the workplace and beyond. Whether you work at a desk or have a more manual occupation, your job may expose you to stresses and strains that can cause you pain.

Common causes of strain in the workplace can include:

  • Prolonged sitting at a desk
  • Driving long distances
  • Awkward lifting and carrying
  • Overstretching
  • Bending
  • Extended periods of repetitive motion
  • Using a computer without taking breaks

These can lead to various aches and pains, and other common musculoskeletal conditions such as sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. Furthermore, workplace stress can increase the amount of pain you feel by causing muscle tension and spasms.

Keeping healthy at work

These simple tips can keep you healthy at work and avoid unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints:

  • Frequent short breaks away from the computer may help avoid back, neck and eye strain.
  • Ensuring that your chair and computer display are appropriately adjusted so that the top of the screen is at eye level, may be more comfortable for your upper body and neck.
  • When lifting, judge whether you can do this safely alone or need help (don’t be afraid to ask for assistance). Always keep the item you are lifting close to your body. Bend your knees and make your legs do the work. Try not to twist your back – turn with your feet
  • When driving make sure you are positioned comfortably, and take regular breaks on long journeys, at least once every two hours.

How can your osteopath help?

Osteopaths are highly trained, healthcare professionals, experts in the musculoskeletal system (joints, muscles and associated tissues) and its relationship to other systems of the body. Osteopathic care is based on the individual needs of the patient and so varies depending on your age, fitness levels and diagnosis. Your osteopath can provide you with a fit note if you do need to take time off from work. You can discuss with your osteopath the impact work may have on your body and agree on an appropriate course of action that may help. Along with hands-on osteopathic treatment, your osteopath may also offer advice on posture, lifting and workplace ergonomics.

Advice for working at your desk

If your work is office or computer based, you can spend a significant portion of your day seated at a desk which can lead to host of problems for your health.  But with a few changes and addition of good habits, you can keep productive at work and keep healthy.

Sit-well

  • It is really important when working at your desk that you are mindful of your posture and your equipment is correctly set-up.  Things to look out for include;
  • Is your screen at eye level? If your monitor does not have height adjustment try elevating it with a riser, or even some old books!
  • Keep your mouse close.  It’s easy for your mouse to drift away from you when working, make sure you are not over-stretching to reach it
  • Keep your keyboard close.  You should be able to sit up in your chair, have your elbows in an L-shape and still be able to reach your keyboard. If you are overstretching to reach it, you will need to adjust accordingly.
  • Adjust your chair. You should be able to sit right back into your chair, so your lower back is supported while still comfortably accessing your equipment
  • Feet to the floor. The height of your chair should allow your feel to easily reach flat to the floor. Use some form of riser if needed
  • Avoid crossing your legs. It can cause circulation problems and puts unnecessary strain through your lower back.

If you are unsure about your desk or workstation set-up, ask your employers to provide a workstation assessment.

Regularly re-set your posture

While you may start off in the correct position it can be very easy to drift into slouched position as your desk.  Try putting a sticker on your monitor as a reminder to re-set your posture every time you see it.

Take regular breaks

  • It is recommended that you should take a break from your desk every 30 minutes for at least one or two minutes. Try building in some of these good habits into your working day.
  • Stand-up and move around for a few moments around your desk
  • Use a break to get a drink of water, which also helps you keep hydrated.
  • Rather than phoning an office colleague, can you walk over to talk to them?
  • When taking a call, can you take the opportunity to stand-up rather than sit?

On the phone

If your work involves making lots of calls, avoid tucking handsets between your neck and shoulder. Consider getting a headset so you are not battling with the handset, keeping your hands free and able to maintain a healthy posture.

Laptop working

Increasingly we are working directly off laptops, particularly if you are a mobile or remote worker or hot-desking across offices.  However the same rules apply, and even more so if you don’t have the luxury of an adjustable chair or monitor.

If you are mainly working off a laptop you may want to consider getting wireless keyboards and/or risers, so you can optimise your work posture.

Also consider where you work – your dining room table may be convenient but if of an incorrect height, extended working may cause shoulder, neck or back pain.

 

Advice for physical work

If your work involves lifting or more physical activities, you need to be careful that you are not putting yourself at risk of injury or long-term health problems.

One of the biggest causes of back injury at work is due to lifting incorrectly.  Additionally, continuous repetitive activities, or staying in the same position for extended periods of time, can also lead to pain and discomfort. Being aware of how to move correctly when at work can keep you healthy for longer and keep you safe from injury.

Lifting safely

  • Before you lift any object, try to establish its weight and if you can indeed lift it safely. If in any doubt, don’t attempt it.
  • Check your destination. Make sure you know where you are going to deposit your load and you have no obstructions in the way.
  • Lift in stages.  See if you can phase your lift. For example, from floor to table and then to destination. Once at the destination can you lift it in stages to its desired location?

The golden rule of lifting – Bend at the knees and not your back! 

  • Remember do not bend forward from your back to lift an item.
  • Before you start to lift make sure your footing is stable, keeping a wide stance.
  • Get a good hold of the item and keep the item close to your body as you move up, using your legs to straighten up.
  • Avoid twisting your back/body when lifting or positioning a load.

Awkward places and repetitive movements

If your work involves getting into awkward places or repetitive movements for extended periods of time, this can also put additional stress and strain on your muscles, joints and associated tissues. Overhead movements when decorating, working under cars, on knees fixing carpets or leaning over to fix pipes, are all examples. The demands of your job will often dictate what can you do, but you may want to consider:

  • Rotating jobs. If you’ve got several things to do, try and rotate from one activity to another after a shorter period of time, so you don’t get stuck in one position or activity.
  • Take regular breaks. Short regular breaks that allow you to move into different positions can be helpful
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle. With a physically demanding job it’s important to make sure you are eating healthily, and maintaining your body fit for work. Depending on your job, you may want to consider doing other physical activities for fun that will either build strength or your cardiovascular stamina.

Off work and suffering back pain?

  • Keep in regular contact with your employer to make them aware of your situation, and to discuss what adjustments might be needed once you are ready to return.
  • Discuss your needs with your employer and occupational health provider
  • If there is no occupational health provider available, your GP or safety representative may be able to discuss possible work restrictions or adjustments.
  • Suggest any practical workplace adaptations or alterations which might help you to cope while you return to full time working.
  • And of course, see your Osteopath!

We offer appointments in Devizes, Pewsey and Amesbury – please call 01380 728453 for further information or book online.

How Healthy is Your Heart?

And you thought we were just about backs……..

3 Things You Can Do Today to Have a Healthier Heart.

1 – Stop Smoking!Quit-Smoking-Cigarettes

Seriously, if you smoke, stop. We know you’ve heard all the risks before and the effect it has on your blood pressure, cholesterol etc, but it’s still worth reinforcing. The British Heart Foundation lists 4 ways that smoking damages your heart:

  • Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
  • The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.
  • The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
  • Your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Remember an E-cigarette still releases nicotine, so even though they aren’t seen as being as bad as cigarettes they still carry some risk.

If you quit, there are immediate benefits as well as long term ones, click here for a full list.

2  Move around on a regular basis!walking

Seems easy, and frankly, it is! According to the NHS guidelines all you need to do for your heart to benefit from exercise is 20 minutes per day of fast walking. If you think you haven’t got time bear in mind that the average British person spends 1 hour a day on social media, and with today’s smartphones you can do that while you are exercising!

Moving about affects the heart in many positive ways, it makes it grow and become a more powerful pump to get the blood around your body. The repeated increase in pressure when you exercise also makes the main arteries stretch slightly, making them wider resulting in easier blood flow.
Two very cool ways exercise improves your heart function is via your breathing and the muscles in your calves. As you breathe in, the increased pressure in your lungs helps pump out the blood, easing the workload on the pump (a bit like giving it a squeeze), and then when you exhale, the reduced pressure causes it to expand helping it refill.
So heavy breathing (however you want to do it) helps your heart pump!

Also, when you walk or run you have to get a lot of blood to a lot of places fast, but to keep the blood circulating it needs to get back to the heart, and this is where your calf muscles come in. As you exercise, your calf muscles exert a squeezing action on the blood vessels, creating pressure and driving the blood back to the heart to be re-oxygenised.

3 Know Your Risk Level!

Information is power, you can’t make an informed and decisive change in your lifestyle until you know what you are doing it for, there are several risk factors that determine your likelihood of having heart disease, these include;

  • Age – the older you are, the greater the risk
  • Gender – Men tend to be a more risk earlier, but women catch up after the menopause
  • Family History – If someone in your family has had heart problems before they were 55 then you may have an increased risk.
  • High Blood Pressure – The higher the pressure the greater the risk and the harder your heart has to work.
  • High Cholesterol – Usually a result of dietary factors, see here for a good guide to why cholesterol is important.
  • A high waist/hip ratio.  This is a good measure to see if your body composition or your weight could be a risk factor for heart disease, a measurement over 1.0 in men or 0.85 in women may mean you have an increased risk. Calculate yours here.

If you think you may be at risk of heart disease, get a full medical check as soon as possible so you can start taking action!

healthy-heart

What is Sports Massage?

Laufender Mann Silhouette mit Skelett und GelenkschmerzenAs defined by the Sports Massage Association:

Sports Massage is the management, manipulation and rehabilitation of soft tissues of the body including muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is applicable not just to sports people but to anybody wishing to guard against or recover from a soft tissue injury.

Sports massage is used to:

  • Improve circulation and lymphatic flow
  • Assist in the removal of metabolic wastes

  • Calm or stimulate nerve endings

  • Increase or decrease muscle tone

  • Increase or decrease muscle length

  • Assist in the remodelling of scar tissue

Sports Massage is not just for the Olympic athlete –  we treat armchair athletes too!
Around 50% of our patients are sports injury related and 50% are unrelated to sport.
Our youngest patients are still at primary school and our more senior patients are approaching their 90th birthday.

The benefits of sports massage therapy may also help relieve many day to day problems, such as:

  • Repetitive strain injury e.g: work, driving

  • Sprains and strains

  • Tension

  • General aches and pain e.g: gardening, lifting, playing with the kids

  • The effects of poor posture

  • Tight muscles / Muscle spasm<%2

We offer Sports Massage in Devizes, Pewsey and Amesbury – please phone 07423 433930 or book online.

Supporting National Back Care Awareness Week

Sharon and colleagues, together with The British Osteopathic Association (BOA) are giving their full support to this year’s National Back Care Awareness Week, which takes place from 8th to 12th October.

The theme, this year, is “Builder’s Back Pain”.  National Back Care Awareness Week aims to raise awareness of the causes and treatments of this debilitating condition.

 Back pain accounts for half of all chronic pain people suffer and is the leading cause of sickness absence from work.

 The financial burden of back pain is enormous, costing the UK economy £37 million, £13 million in disability benefits and the NHS £1.3 million EVERY DAY.

That’s a staggering £19 billion every year.

This year’s campaign is focusing on the construction industry which generates 30,000 new back injuries each year. Most back injuries for construction workers are typically sprains and strains which occur in the lower back due to activities involving lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing, or pulling.

The risk of injury increases with repeatedly carrying heavy loads and twisting the back, or when working bent over or in awkward position.

An osteopath can identify and tackle the underlying musculo-skeletal problems that cause pain. Osteopaths work with their hands using a wide range of treatment techniques, such as soft tissue and neuromuscular massage, joint mobilising techniques and corrective manipulations, all of which are designed  to improve the mobility and range of movement of a joint.

If you’re not in the vicinity of our clinics, the first step to finding an osteopath in your area is by searching on the website: www.osteopathy.org

 Top tips for preventing back pain on a building site

  • Cut down on carrying. Have materials delivered close to where they will be used.
  • Try to store heavier materials at waist height.
  • Raise your work to waist level, if you can.
  • Make sure floors and walkways are clear and dry. Slips and trips are a big cause of back injuries.
  • Take rest breaks. When you are tired, you can get injured more easily.
  • Use carts, dollies, forklifts, and hoists to move materials—not your back.
  • Use carrying tools with handles to get a good grip on odd-shaped loads.
  • If materials weigh more than about 50 pounds, do not lift them by yourself. Get help from another worker or use a cart.
  • When lifting or carrying materials, keep the load as close to your body as you can.
  • Try not to twist when lifting and lowering materials. Turn your whole body instead.
  • Lift and lower materials in a smooth, steady way. Try not to jerk to lift.
  • When you pick up materials off the ground, try supporting yourself by leaning on something while lifting.
    Also don’t bend over; instead, kneel on one knee and pull the load up on to your knee before standing. Make sure to wear knee pads when you kneel.

“Can we fix it? Yes, we can!”
If you think we could possibly help you and you would like to book an appointment at our Devizes, Pewsey or Amesbury Clinics or you’d like some further information, please call us on 07737 416906.

Hot Stone Massage

Hot Stone Massage is a treatment offered at our Pewsey clinic, and will be given by one of our sports massage therapists, Lia Bessant.

What is Hot Stone massage?

Hot stone massage is a variation of standard massage therapy, in which the therapist uses smooth, heated stones either held in their own hands, or placed on one part the body while they massage another part. The heat can be deeply relaxing and help warm up tight muscles so the therapist can work more deeply, more quickly.

The stones used are basalt, a black volcanic rock that absorbs and retains heat well. They vary in size, and have been smoothed and rounded by natural forces in the river or sea.

 

What happens during a hot stone massage?

Before you arrive, the stones will have first have been cleaned, then heated in a hot water bath until they reach a certain temperature range.

Depending on which part of you is to be treated, the starting position will vary, but most massages begin with you lying face down on the couch to enable your back, shoulders and neck to be treated. As the stones cool down, they will be replaced with fresh warm ones.

You will be required to undress as far as your underwear, but during the massage, only the part of your body being massaged will be exposed, to ensure your modesty.

The stones come in a variety of sizes, so big ones can treat bigger areas of your body, smaller ones on the smaller areas.

Everyone has their own comfort range, so if you should find that the stones are too warm or the pressure of the massage is too intense, that can easily be adapted – all you need to do is speak up!  If you don’t find you like the stones, then your treatment can be changed to a regular massage.

How much does it cost?

Please contact the practice on 01672 564646 for our current fees.

Each massage will last around one hour.

Who can have hot stone massage?

Virtually anyone!  Most people enjoy the warmth and find it a comforting and relaxing experience.

It’s ideally suited for people who have muscle tension but prefer a lighter massage. The heat relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist to work the muscles without using deep pressure.

Hot stone massage may be of help to people with:

  • Back pain and aches
  • Poor circulation
  • Osteoarthritis and arthritis pain
  • Stress, anxiety and tension
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Who should NOT have hot stone massage?

Hot stone massage is not appropriate for certain people.

If you have the following, you cannot have hot stone massage:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease – please check with your doctor first
  • You are on blood thinning medication or at a risk for developing blood clots, there is a risk that clots could be dislodged
  • You are pregnant
  • You have sunburn
  • You have just had surgery
  • You have an infectious disease, a rash or an open wound
  • You are having chemotherapy
  • You can’t be massaged over a recently fractured bone

If you are menopausal, the heat may trigger a hot flush! Not a contra-indication as such, but something you may want to bear in mind.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is very common – according to a survey published in 2000 almost half the adult population of the UK (49%) report low back pain lasting for at least 24 hours at some time in the year. It is estimated that four out of every five adults (80%) will experience back pain at some stage in their life. (1)

In most cases it is very difficult to identify a single cause for back pain. In about 85% of back pain sufferers no clear pathology can be identified. (2)

 

The following factors could contribute to back pain:

  • Having had back pain in the past, smoking and obesity. (3)
  • Physical factors such as heavy physical work, frequent bending, twisting, lifting, pulling and pushing, repetitive work, static postures and vibrations. (4)
  • Psycho-social factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, job satisfaction, mental stress. (3, 5)

Nearly 40% of back pain sufferers consulted a GP for help. 10% visited a practitioner of complementary medicine (osteopaths, chiropractors and acupuncturists). (6)

Common causes of low back pain include:

  • Muscular strain – sometimes you can ‘pull a muscle’ in your back, resulting in a small tear or sprain in your muscle.
  • Disc problems – sometimes the discs between the vertebrae may become weaker and bulge out. In extreme cases, this may lead to a prolapsed disc.
  • Spinal stenosis – the spinal column runs through a narrow opening in your vertebrae.  If this opening becomes too narrow, the nerves may become trapped, which causes pain.
  • Collapsed vertebra – the vertebrae give much of the structural support to the spine but these may become damaged as a result of disease or injury. Severe osteoporosis may result in a vertebra collapsing and by doing so, disturb the surrounding structures.
  • Inflammation of sacro-iliac joints, or lumbar spine facet joints
  • ‘Wear and tear’ ie arthritis/spondylitis of the lumbar spine

If you have a physical job, sit or stand for long periods, or are in poor physical condition, you are at greater risk of developing lower back pain.

Most people associate back pain with physical risk factors such as heavy lifting, twisting and bending and awkward postures.  These can contribute to back pain or exacerbate any existing pain. Therefore you should pay attention to controlling these factors by, for example, using manual handling aids (lift, hoists etc) and ergonomically assessed workstations.

Other risk factors of a physical nature include vibration (for example the vibrations that a driver experiences when driving a car or truck), repetitive work and static postures.

Emotional stress and long periods of inactivity can also make symptoms appear worse.

Structure of the spine:

Understanding a little basic anatomy can help you understand the nature of your pain and where it’s arising from.

Your back consists of many different structures that all have to work together.

Your spinal column is comprised of 33 vertebrae, with discs (like shock absorbers) in-between them.  You have 7 in your neck (Cervical vertebrae), 12 in your middle back (Thoracic vertebrae), and 5 in your lower back (Lumbar vertebrae). You have 5 vertebrae which are fused together to form your Sacrum, attached to which are 4 vertebrae, which are also fused, that form your Coccyx (tailbone).

The shape and size of these vertebrae changes from the top to the bottom of the spine. Cervical vertebra are small, and are designed for movement and flexibility, whilst lumbar vertebrae are much bigger, being responsible for the weight bearing of almost all of the upper body.

As the vertebrae stack up one on top of the other, a small gap called a foramen is formed. Pairs of spinal nerves branch away from the central spinal cord and travel through these foramen to supply organs, limbs etc.

The spinal cord is encased in a ring of bone formed by the front and the back of the vertebra, and this runs from the base of the brain to the bottom of the spinal column.

The discs between the vertebrae are more formally known as intervertebral discs. They are made up of a soft jelly like substance called the nucleus, which is held inside a tough, elastic and fibrous outer casing known as the annulus.  The vertebrae and the discs together are known as the spinal column. This is supported by many muscles, tendons and ligaments. Their function is to provide strength and stability to the spinal column.

The muscles are connected to your bones with tendons – when a muscle contracts, the forces are passed on to the skeletal system via the tendons. This ensures that a muscle contraction results in a movement of a certain body part. The role of a ligament is to provide stability to a joint – however, ligaments are also flexible to a certain degree, so they can stretch or contract when the joint moves.

It could be thought that any abnormalities in the structure or functioning of your back will result in pain, but this is not necessarily true.  People have very different backs and it is difficult to define a ‘normal’ structure. Some people with severe deformities may not experience any back pain while others who appear to have ‘normal’ backs experience severe pain.

Osteopathic Treatment for Lower Back Problems:

Although lower back pain is often very painful, the good news is that few people have a major problem with the bones or joints of their backs.

A good proportion of lower back problems can be resolved using non-surgical methods.Manipulation by a specialist practitioner followed by mobilisation and exercises has been proven to be the most effective treatment for acute low back pain (UK BEAM BMJ 2004; 329; 1377)

Prevention is better than cure, and it is often easier for an osteopath to treat underlying stresses and strains when there is no current back pain. You do not have to have the pain on the day of the treatment.

Likewise, you do not have to wait for a particularly painful episode to settle before visiting an osteopath.  Most back pain is easier to treat in its early stages. It is also important for the longer term to minimise the potential for structural damage or arthritis, which can be caused by wear and tear through strain on weak areas of the spine, by getting treatment when it is needed.

During your consultation, the osteopath will take a full history of your condition, and also ask questions relating your current and past state of health. It is helpful if you could bring a list of any medications you may be currently taking.  Once a diagnosis had been made, the osteopath will discuss it with you and outline what the best course of treatment would be.  Occasionally, further diagnostic tests may be required, such as x-rays, MRI scans or blood tests –  for these you be referred back to your GP/Specialist.

Osteopathic treatment of lower back pain may include one or more of the following techniques:

  • High velocity low amplitude thrusts (HVT) – the osteopath applies a high-velocity low amplitude thrust to the joint to reduce any restricted movement. This is painless and makes a small ‘clicking’ or ‘popping’ sound.
  • Myofascial Release – The osteopath may use this soft tissue therapy to release muscular shortness and tightness.
  • Muscle Energy (MET) – The osteopath applies a counterforce to the muscles while they are being used in a specific position and direction, such as when flexing.
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization / Massage – The osteopath uses rhythmic stretching, deep pressure or traction techniques to engage the muscle area around the spine.

The average patient usually responds positively within three to six treatments, but more, or indeed fewer treatments may be required depending on the nature of what is being treated and the individual’s circumstances and past history of the condition. A chronic lower back problem may well take considerably longer to resolve.

After your treatment, you may well be given a series of exercises to do, and/or postural advice if your osteopath feels this would be of benefit to you. 

To book an appointment, please telephone 07423 433930, or book online.

References:

(1) Palmer KT, Walsh K, et al. Back pain in Britain: comparison of two prevalence surveys at an interval of 10 years BMJ 2000;320:1577-1578.

(2) Nachemson AL, Waddell G, Norlund AI. Epidemiology of neck and low back pain. In: Nachemson AL & Jonsson E (eds). Neck and back pain: The scientific evidence of causes, diagnosis and treatment. Philadelphia: Lippencott Williams & Wilkins, 2000.

(3) Burton AK, Balague F, et al. European guidelines for prevention in low back pain. Eur Spine J 2006:15(suppl 2):S136- S168

(4) Andersson GBJ. The epidemiology of spinal disorders. In: Frymoyer JW (eds) The adult spine: Principles and practice.  Philadelphia: Liipincott-Raven, 1997.

(5) Hoogendoorn WE, van Poppel MNM, et al. Systematic review of psychosocial factors at work and in private life as risk factors for back pain. Spine 2000;25:2114-2125.

(6) Department of Health Statistics Division. The prevalence of back pain in Great Britain in 1998. London: Government Statistical Service, 1999

Could your driving position increase your chances of whiplash injury in the event of a collision?

Drivers who fail to wear seat belts correctly are at risk of injury according to the British Osteopathic Association.

While most people are fully aware that wearing a seat belt saves lives, the majority are not aware that the way they sit in a car plays a huge part in their personal safety.

The results of a survey by the BOA has found over one in ten drivers (13%) sit too far back for their seat belt to offer effective protection in a frontal crash.
To be effective, the belt should be sitting over the bones of the pelvis and not the stomach preventing internal injuries. It should be in contact with the shoulder to prevent serious neck injury. Sitting too far from the belt can often lead to submarining – where the occupant slips under the belt which can cause catastrophic injuries.

Approximately half, that is around 15 million of all UK drivers, do not drive in a position where their head is close enough to the head restraint, or they sit too far back for their seat belt to be effective.
This means that in an accident, they would be at risk of sustaining a serious whiplash injury.
Furthermore, only 6% of people adjust the head restraint regularly, despite the fact that most people travel in a variety of vehicles (as drivers, passengers and in taxis for example) and half of all drivers surveyed (51%) said they never adjusted their head rest at all.

Head restraints work by catching and supporting the head in the event of a rear end collision, and so reduce the chance of permanent soft tissue damage.
A correctly adjusted head restraint should be as close to the back of the head as possible and as high as the top of the occupant’s head. This means that the head movement in relation to the body is reduced as the car and seat are shunted forwards when hit from behind.  In addition, the drivers’ seat should be at the correct distance from the steering wheel.

Receiving a serious chest injury as a result of being hit by an airbag during an accident is also a very real possibility for one in seven drivers (14%) who admitted sitting too close to the steering wheel.
Drivers with a gap of less than 12 inches between themselves and the steering wheel when driving are at risk of receiving the full force of an airbag deploying in a crash involving the front of the vehicle.
Airbags have to inflate very quickly (some at over 200 mph) in order to protect the head and chest of drivers and passengers in the event of a frontal crash.

Therefore an airbag needs enough space in front of the steering wheel in order to inflate properly.
People who are shorter than around 5ft 2in (1.57m) often sit too close to the steering wheel and may be injured by the inflating airbag.
A safe distance is around 12 inches – the size of an A4 piece of paper placed lengthways.

Danny Williams, BOA Council Member, said: “While most of us are aware that seat belts save lives, it’s fair to say that the majority of us don’t know that the way we sit in a vehicle also plays a huge part in our safety and well-being.
The position of the head restraint, how far or close we sit to the steering wheel and how long we spend sitting at the wheel without having a break are can cause long-lasting neck and back injuries.”

Matthew Avery, Crash Research Manager at Thatcham, said: “Vehicle safety has moved on at a pace with numerous new technologies now available designed to help avoid or mitigate injury during a collision. Whilst many seats and head restraints perform well in protecting the occupant, this research goes to show that too many drivers are still subject to avoidable risks by not taking the time to adjust their head restraints correctly.”

Planning a new car purchase? These are certainly points for consideration – the car should fit you, not the other way around!

Are you suffering from injuries sustained in a road traffic collision?
Perhaps osteopathic treatment could help with your recovery – please do get in touch to see if one of our friendly team could help.

With practices situated in Amesbury, Devizes and Pewsey, you can book by telephoning us on 07423 433930 or you can book online.