Month: March 2023

Osteopathy and Covid Recovery

COVID-19 – how Osteopathy could support your rehabilitation post infection.

Disclaimer: This post is based on our clinical findings in patients who’ve had COVID-19, therefore it is mainly anecdotal. Internet links have ben added where appropriate.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are changing all the time but over the course of the pandemic we’ve seen patients suffering with the musculoskeletal effects of the virus, which have had a profound effect on the way they breath. This, in turn, has a knock-on effect on other areas of the body and even the nervous system. Patterns have continued to emerge in those contracted the virus. 

What happens to the musculoskeletal system?

Lung capacity is sometimes reduced in patients who’ve had COVID-19 causing shallow breathing, this reduces oxygen intake leading to post-viral fatigue. This may be exacerbated by a continuous cough. Over time the ribcage may become restricted, and the patient is no longer be able to breath deeply. 

Common clinical examination findings in patients who’ve had COVID-19:

  • Restriction in the ribcage and back caused by shallow breathing, limiting thorax expansion, and coughing, leading to intercostal muscle tightness/spasm.
  • Shortening of the diaphragm muscle (primary muscle of respiration) due to limited ribcage expansion. 
  • Use of “secondary muscles” of respiration to enable the patient to take a deeper breath. These muscles are found in the neck and upper back; this can lead to tightness/pain in the neck and shoulders due to muscle fatigue and even headaches if the neck becomes restricted.

How can Osteopaths help?

  • Retraining and strengthening breathing with exercises and mediation techniques. 
  • Mobility exercises and stretches for the neck, thorax and lower back to optimise movement through the spine and reduce restriction.
  • Hands on treatment using diaphragm stretching and articulation through the ribcage and neck. 
  • Cranial treatment is sometimes effective rebalancing the nervous system.

What can patients do to help themselves?

  • Rest! In the first few weeks after contracting the virus it’s important to rest and recover. Avoid strenuous activity as this will create too much stress on the body.
  • Slowly reintroduce exercise, with gentle walking, stretching and breathing exercises.
  • Keep hydrated. 
  • Avoid stimuli such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar. These can be inflammatory and will hinder your body’s recovery.
  • Book an osteopathic consultation and see how we can help you. 

Everyone responds differently to any virus; many people have experienced all the symptoms of COVID-19 whilst others were completely unaware they had it in the first place. It’s important to understand what you can do to help yourself. The NHS Covid recovery website is a good resource for those looking to tailor their own recovery. 

Janine Norris

Abshot Osteopathy

Top 10 Tips – how to avoid musculoskeletal gardening injuries!

Top 10 Tips on how to avoid musculoskeletal gardening injuries!

The temperature is climbing, the sun is shining and we can’t wait to be outside but, before you leap back into gardening you may wish to consider the 10 points listed below as a precaution:

1) Warm up – having a brisk walk around the garden and doing some simple stretching exercises is good preparation for time in the garden
2) Build up gradually – we’ve all done it – there’s so much to do – the temptation is to hit it hard. The problem is that the musculoskeletal system takes time to adapt, particularly as you get older and this can be a common cause of injury. If you’re not used to it, start out by doing a little bit first of all – tackle a small area of the garden and see how you get on with a short period of physical activity each day. Gradually build up the time and intensity.
3) Vary the workload – chop and change whilst you’re in the garden. Apart from the physical demands of some tasks, it can get boring working on just one part of the garden. Scarifying the lawn is a workout so try interspersing this job with an easier task like weeding. This will help you avoid overuse injuries affecting hands, wrists and elbows most commonly.
4) Think about your position – some activities, particularly repetitive ones, can easily lead to injury if you don’t get your body posture or technique correct. In spring time, you are also using tools and equipment that you haven’t used for 6 months. Make sure you are comfortable doing the task – if not stop and re-adjust. You can also vary the jobs depending on whether they require you to sit, stand or bend – as your back is unlikely to tolerate endless amounts of heavy bending or lifting.
5) Listen to your body – remember that pain can be your body’s way of telling you to stop. If you start to feel any discomfort, give yourself a break. Pushing through the pain may seem like an admirable quality, but it will most likely just make things worse.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – we can all picture the scene – you start digging out some old hedging and you need some extra strength to get the last bit out – but no one’s around. You can struggle on but the risk of injury is high. Why not leave it until someone can give you a hand (maybe after social distancing rules have been relaxed!)
7) Decide in advance what you’re going to do – get the right equipment, plan what is involved and tell someone else if you can so they are aware of what you’re doing. Many accidents occur as a result of poor planning.
8) Look after your back and knees – if you can, straighten your back, look ahead and lift using the power of your knees and legs rather than allowing the lower back to take all the strain. You could also try using a foam-padded kneeler to prevent knee pain and backache when planting, weeding or tending to low growing plants
9) Use long handled tools – Use long handled tools if you can, as this will reduce the amount you need to bend, reach or stretch
10) Warm down – after you’ve been in the garden it’s good to do some simple back exercises which can help to counter the strain and keep your spine healthy and pain-free 
We hope that you will stay safe and well in the garden. However, we are aware that injuries happen to even the most conditioned and prepared gardener. During this period of social isolation, Osteopaths are on hand should you suffer an injury.

Osteopath (and keen trainee gardener)