Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Interview with an Ergonomist

Interview with an Ergonomist

As part of my series of interviews with people that get involved with different aspects of back pain I recently met with the ergonomist Jan Mulligan. Jan runs the Greenleafe Ergonomics consultancy and she was good enough to spend some time with me to answer some questions. This was a little daunting as she is extremely well qualified with two Masters of Science – one in Human Computer Interaction with Ergonomics and one in Cognitive Science and Intelligent Computing.  

The role of an ergonomist could cover many things – what is your definition of an ergonomist?

My definition is the study of the individual within whatever environment one is trying to achieve a particular outcome. The aim of Ergonomics is to ensure and promote wellbeing, productivity, efficiency, and, where appropriate, profitability, through the prevention of injury, accident, and human error. To achieve this, whether we are considering the design of a new product or the use of an existing space, we need to take into account the purpose of the product, the tasks being conducted, any furniture or equipment being used, the environment in terms of heating, lighting and so on. Most importantly, however, we need to consider the individual (or user group), e.g. age, left or right handedness, height, weight and frame size may be pertinent, individual preferences in terms of how one carries out the task, and whether there are any pre-existing medical conditions, disabilities, or injuries that need to be taken into account.

What area of ergonomics do you mainly deal with now?

I specialise in workplace needs, disability and accessibility issues relating to IT use. Workplace does not, however, necessarily relate to paid work. My clients include charities, the education sector (schools, FE and HE colleges and universities), clubs, and individuals needing home-based or mobile solutions.

Have you noticed any particular concerns becoming more frequent within the last five years?

With the increase in mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets 24-7 connectivity is becoming more prevalent. This results in two areas of concern. Firstly, people can be (or may be expected to be) permanently connected and available; how many of your readers can honestly say they do not check their devices for work-related texts and emails in the evenings, at weekends and even whilst on holiday?  Secondly, handheld devices introduce a whole host of postural concerns and potential for injury through repetition, e.g. texter’s-thumb.

Have you found any industries tend to need your help more than others?

The majority of my clients are office-based, computer users, where sitting at a desk all day is the norm. Often simple interventions such as regularly taking a Microbreak will have significant beneficial gains in terms of comfort and productivity. A Microbreak is a break of between 30-seconds and 2-minutes in length, taken at roughly 30-minute intervals. It is long enough to be beneficial, but not so long as to break one’s concentration. The break is used to perform gentle stretching exercises that allow for changes to as many muscles positions as possible. Changing physical and visual focus allows the body, eyes and brain to refresh.  

Are there any trends in the age, sex or background of the people you help?

I do tend to see more women than men. Whether that is because of the nature of the work conducted by women versus men, that women are more willing to ask for help than men, or because they experience more symptoms it is hard to say.

Without giving away anything confidential can you give an example where you really helped an individual become much more comfortable, happy and hence efficient in the workplace?

Several years ago I worked with a lady who was experiencing severe RSI symptoms (repetitive strain injury).  At the time she was in a senior clerical role within for a large government department and constantly under pressure to maintain high levels of productivity. She was very concerned that she might have to take early retirement on medical grounds as she was in so much pain and was struggling to keep up with the workload. Working together we considered several alternative working methods and, following  a trial of options,  agreed that a combination of regular Microbreaks, voice recognition, an adjustable ergonomic split keyboard and two ergonomic pointing devices (one for each hand) would offer her a flexible working set-up; allowing her to swap between working methods as her symptoms and work needs dictated.  One of my colleagues was introduced to her recently and asked her whether the assessment had been successful. “Absolutely” she said. “It’s the reason I’m still working”.  Feedback like that is why I do what I do and love what I do.

What aspects of your work give you the most satisfaction?

Meeting someone whose life has been turned upside down as a result of a road traffic accident, medical diagnosis or disability. With the best of intentions, family, friends, and even medical professionals will have prepared them for a life of low expectations. Within a short space of time I am able to show them possibilities and provide them with a set of recommendations that meet their individual needs, e.g. using different sizes, shapes and designs of keyboards and pointing devices, operating the computer through speech or eye gaze, using software to read out text from the screen; the possibilities are endless. The satisfaction of receiving an update from clients, especially if that update comes via an email from a person who previously could not have used a computer, is immense.

Would you recommend a young person to follow you in your chosen career?

I would, but with a caveat. There is no defined career path into the role I find myself in now. Over the years I have had a varied career including jobs in sales, customer services, finance, manufacturing, IT, disability and ergonomics. I believe this has given me a greater insight into people and the differences between us. Consequently, as well as gaining those essential qualifications to become an Ergonomist, I would encourage that young person to experience as many different jobs and work roles as possible in order to gain practical experience.

Jan’s practice, Greenleafe Ergonomics, is based in Kent. Whilst the majority of her clients are in London and the South East, Jan works with companies and individuals throughout the UK. Her contact information is below.

0794 1092015

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Interview with a Pilates Teacher

Interview with a Pilates Teacher

Murielle Carrasco has run the Garage Studio in Barnes since 2003 and strives to make it a friendly environment teaching Pilates, Yoga and Gyrotonic. I found it to be just that and in spite of being a slightly ungainly and overweight bloke was made to feel welcome when I went to visit her and ask some questions about her work, thoughts on exercise and in particular her new posture workshop.

I know what Pilates and Yoga are but what is Gyrotonic?

The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® is a body-mind exercise therapy aimed at balancing the body physically and, more importantly, energetically. It uses circular, spiraling movements and special breathing patterns and rhythm to open energetic pathways in the body and create cardiovascular stimulation.

Which is the most popular at the moment? Why do you think so?

At the Garage Studio, Pilates is, because it is our speciality. Yoga and Gyrotonic came later. Quite a few clients do Pilates and Yoga or Pilates and Gyrotonic. They all are body-mind techniques that rebalance the body and complement one another.

Do you find people come to your studio with specific concerns or just a general desire to be in better shape?

Classes cater for people who have back or neck pain because of muscle tensions or are generally fit.  The classes focus on postural rebalancing at a beginner’s stage and challenge the entire body at the more advanced stage.

We recommend the Pilates Studio sessions to clients who are injured or have back pain, like sciatica or disc problems. They are given a personal program that suits their ability and condition. Because they share the studio with only one or two clients, they are more supervised so in a safer environment.

I love doing yoga but can still feel a bit shy in a room full of people in better shape than me. How do you overcome this at your studio?

We have a beginners and a general class so you are more likely to share the room with people who are at your level. Yoga is not about how much you stretch your body (nobody needs to put their foot behind their ear!); it is a gradual process of balancing the body and mind using the breath. Also both Cath and I are Iyengar trained so we know how to use props effectively to make people comfortable in all postures.

You have recently started a posture clinic. What sort of people have you helped and has there been any posture problem more common than others?

In the recent years, my clientele has changed from middle age woman to fit 30 year olds with disc problems! They all spend hours slouching! They slouch at their desk, in their car, on the sofa and the few hours at the gym or playing football doesn’t seem to compensate for their bad posture. So I started Posture4U, workshops to teach people how to behave in everyday life so they don’t end up in agonising pain. They have proved very popular with everybody, young, not so young, fit, not so fit to really fit, husbands, mums and even teenagers!  Most common issue is non-specific chronic back and neck pain, and it is always because of bad posture. I’ve just started a blog, which gives people free advice and tips on posture. Check www.posture4u.co.uk for all information.

This question is probably unfair but can you suggest one thing that we could all do to help our posture?

As we spend hours sitting, learn how to sit correctly! Avoid slouching and do not sit still for more than one hour. The body is designed to move. That is why I love the Back App stool so much!

Have you observed posture problems changing in the last ten years or so?

Yes, unfortunately my clientele is getting younger. Last May, there was an article and a TV program about how children are getting more back ache, apparently 50% of children are suffering with back ache compared to 15% only a few years ago. Too heavy back packs and too much slouching are the main reasons.

Do you get more men or women coming to your classes? Who tend to have the better posture?

There are still more women coming to classes but lately more couples and men have joined the classes. The cliché is still valid: men are stronger but stiffer and women are more flexible but weaker. Frankly nowadays with the advance of technology, we all need to work on our posture and stay active!

Have you ever suffered an injury that pilates has helped you overcome or recover from more quickly than would otherwise be the case?

In 2010, I feel down the stairs and locked my right sacroiliac joint. It was agony! I couldn’t walk for a week. With strong pain killers, osteopathy and Pilates, I was back teaching within three weeks and back to my original fitness level in two months! Looking back it was a good experience because I can now relate to some of my clients!

What drew you to open the Garage Studio? Would you recommend others to do the same?

Lack of space! I was running a program of classes at the White Hart Lane clinic. As my students got fitter and the demand for classes increased, we needed more room. One of my clients told me about the great space just up the road. As the studio was not doing very well, the landlord let me take over... We’ve been there since November 2003. It is a great job, you get to do what you like and you are useful to the community, I would highly recommend it to others. Just not in Barnes!

Tell me something surprising about yourself?

I’ve got a Masters in International Economics and a Doctorate in “Pensee economique et sociale”!

What do you sit on?

The stool I highly recommend to all my clients: the Back App stool! It is worth every penny and I’m so glad I’ve bought it as I am spending more time at a desk because of Posture4U. I’ve always preferred stools to chairs (you can check the reasons why on the Posture4U blog!) and I love the rocking motion. It is so good for your spine. I love the design too! I did a lot of research before buying it. My bottom has tried a lot of stools and chairs! The Back App stool is definitely the best for me. It allows the optimum sitting position, makes it hard to slouch, the gentle rocking prevents spine stiffness and hydrates the discs. The adjustment is simple (another reason to prefer stools!). It is very comfortable so I need a timer to take regular breaks! All my clients that have bought it love it too!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Interview with a Chiropractor and Nutritionist

An Interview with a Chiropractor and Nutritionist

In my activities of distributing the Back App ergonomic chair I come across a lot of different people which is part of the reason I enjoy doing it. Chris Pickard is a practising Doctor of Chiropractic who has also studied aspects of nutrition and he agreed to answer a few of my questions on health, back pain and life in general.

 This is probably an unfair question but one I seem to get asked so I will defer to you! What is the difference between a chiropractor, an osteopath and a physiotherapist?

The objective of all three is to make their patients better. Chiropractors and osteopaths see the spine as vital to health and so both are very much concerned with your overall health, not just the problem you came in with. Physiotherapists may concentrate more on specific parts of the body that have been damaged by injury. I have a physiotherapist working in my clinic so I don’t want to undermine their role by saying that. 

What is the most common complaint that your patients have?

I would estimate that 60% of my patients come to me complaining of lower back pain. Of those 60% half of them have the pain as the result of a specific injury and for the rest it is probably the result of years of bad habits slowly building up into a problem that they can then feel.

Have you noticed the type of problems your patients have changing over the last few years?

There seems to be an increase in chronic fatigue and general undiagnosed pain syndromes.

Talking to other therapists they often say that their patients are not good at doing the exercises they are given to do between visits. Do you find this?

I do but I try to concentrate on getting patients to change habits which will include specific exercises as well as a healthier lifestyle. They need to be given enough reasons to change unless, of course, they are in a lot of pain as then they are more likely to change out of necessity.

At a recent exhibition I found a lot of young people (under thirty) were asking me about back trouble. Do you see a particular age demographic worried about back pain?

People of all adult ages suffer almost equally in my experience. What I see as on the increase in the younger population are more general injuries, ’growing pains, immune system problems,  and symptoms similar to chronic fatigue.

What sparked your interest and knowledge in nutrition?

Seeing the increase in symptoms such as chronic fatigue that I have mentioned already was one factor. There are others, such as finding that the population generally seems to abdicate responsibility for its health to the NHS and as such does not always think properly about diet and other health issues.

 These concerns along with other serious issues such as the number of toxins that surround us in everyday life led me to become concerned about broader health issues including nutrition.

Does giving nutrition advice work well alongside chiropractic?

Patients come to me with  pain for which the ultimate cause may be poor diet so they work well together

Could a poor diet be partly responsible for a bad back?

Certainly it could be. For example magnesium is required for strong bones and also is required for the contraction and relaxing of muscles. If the large muscles in the back are not working properly due to a lack of magnesium then back pain is quite possible.

You seem pretty healthy – do you take nutritional supplements and what are they for?

I currently take fish oils, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and glyconutrients, but also eat well and exercise which is the most important thing. You will be much healthier if you spend your money on vegetables first and then on supplements. I believe that it is just as important to vary your nutritional supplements as it is to have a varied diet so I change what I take.

I eat healthily – is it possible that supplements could help me?

I think many people are likely to be deficient in some aspects of their diet so supplements will most likely help you.

What qualifications do you hold in nutrition?

My degree covered nutrition in some detail and as part of my professional membership I attend continuing professional development events. In addition I study peer reviewed medical journals as part of my professional interest.


Would you encourage young people to study for a career as a chiropractor?

If someone would like a career that can really help people they should consider chiropractic and osteopathy and if people would like to talk about career choice do contact me.


Dr Chris Pickard has his clinic at:

Pain Relief Centres

9 Bradmore Green

Brookmans Park

Herts, L9 7QW

01707 662 704

He can be contacted via email at DrChris@ThePainReliefCentres.co.uk

He has a lot more to say on many topics and his website shown below covers some of them.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Powerpoint on How Back App Works

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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Back App UK Sponsors Edinburgh Fringe Production

Back App UK is sponsoring the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in taking a production of Twelfth Night to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

It is an introduction to Shakespeare and includes fools in love,cross-dressing, and skiffle music…AT THE SEASIDE!

It is a fanstastic production as you can see from the photos and the quotes below. If you are lucky enough to be at the festival you should go and see it.

"The precision, nuance and sheer comic brio of the ensemble playing was nothing less than remarkable."
JOHNRETALLACK- Associate Director of BristolOld Vic, and Artistic Director of ‘Company of Angels’.

“For all the children who watched thisperformance it was their first experience of Shakespeare – I cannot imagine a better introduction!"
ANNETTEOSBORNE– Head teacher of Compass Point Primary School, Bedminster

"The production is filled with a playful theatrical inventiveness, rich comedy and sparkling characters making it a complete joy to watch."
JENNYSTEPHENS – Freelance Director

Monday, 9 July 2012

Chairs with Balls - Press Release


Chairs with Balls

That Improve Your Posture and Provide a Core Muscle Workout

Research physiotherapists at Limerick University have compared sitting positions on a standard office chair and The Back App chair. The team found that the activation of important trunk muscles was significantly lower on the Back App meaning that sitting upright required less effort.

The research leader, Kieran O’Sullivan, said “Most people would assume that sitting without a backrest would be hard. However, our work shows that using the Back App means that you sit upright more easily.”

A small ball at the centre of the circular base makes the user have to balance while they are sitting. The ball can be adjusted to change the amount the user has to balance from very little up to a level that provides a gentle core muscle workout.   

The angle between thighs and trunk (known as the hip angle) is greater than on a regular chair. This leads to the shape of the spine, while sitting on the Back App, to be very similar to that when standing up. This neutral position is considered an optimal posture by physiotherapists.

The fact that sitting requires less effort on the Back App, according to Kieran, is “probably because of the larger hip angle or the motion of the seat or both.” Either way you will be using less effort to maintain a good posture, exercising you core and sitting on a very stylish chair.

The paper and abstract are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.math.2012.05.016

This information released by Mike Dilke, distributor of the Back App chair in the UK, on mike.dilke@backapp.co.uk and telephone 01727 757221 or 07979 248286. 

The Back App website is www.backapp.co.uk

An interview with the researcher is available at http://relaxbackuk.blogspot.co.uk/

All questions to the researcher, Kieran O’Sullivan, to be directed to the University of Limerick press office via:-

Christine Brennan

Protocol, Public Relations & Communications

University of Limerick

Tel:  00 353 61 23 4921 / 086 781 8441

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Interview with Research Physiotherapist

New Research Helps Back Pain Sufferers.

 Interview with Kieran O’Sullivan, Research Physiotherapist, Limerick University

Since I have been working with the Back App chair I have wondered what research is currently happening to help back sufferers. I decided that the best thing would be to ask someone who is actively involved and currently doing research work.

I picked on Kieran O’Sullivan who is a member of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists, based at Limerick University and a well renowned back researcher.

Kieran has spent some time analysing the Back App chair with the independent eye of the professional academic. The following interview Kieran touches on this, his latest research publication and how he sees research developing in the field of back pain.

Can you explain in the language of the layman what experiments you did and what the findings were in this latest research?
Most people try to sit up straight as soon as I tell them I am a back pain specialist. Then, when asked why they don’t always sit like that, many tell me that sitting upright is too hard. So we tested whether upright sitting could be made easier by using the Back App chair. Our results demonstrated that The Back App chair makes sitting upright easier.

Does this fit in with a ‘bigger question’ that your department at Limerick University is working on?
I am involved in several projects with a particular focus on how sitting relates to back pain. This was the first of a series of studies we conducted using the Back App chair. More recently we have shown that the Back App can help reduce fatigue while carrying out office tasks such as typing.

What is the most surprising result from the work you are about to publish?
Many people would assume that sitting without a backrest would be hard. However, our work shows that using the Back App means that you sit upright more easily. This is probably because of the larger hip angle or the motion of the seat or both.

What are the big unanswered questions in the back pain field?
One of the biggest questions is what emphasis should we put on physical factors (eg long periods of sitting, poor posture or lifting etc) verses lifestyle and general health factors (eg stress, anxiety, exercise, sleep, depression etc) in our control of back pain. It is clear that addressing both sets of factors can help back pain, but it is not clear how big a part each should play.   

Are we really becoming a society of couch potatoes? 
Yes. However, even allowing for the increase in sedentary-type jobs and busy lives, there should still be enough time to get some form of aerobic exercise (using the stairs etc.) The data on the protective effects of exercise on health gets more impressive all the time! Check out - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo

Do you suffer from back pain?
Only a tiny bit from time to time. I had quite a lot of back pain several years ago, and probably like a lot of health care professionals with back pain, I over-analysed and over-complicated it! Now, I can manage to run marathons (slowly!) and do as much (or as little!) physical work as I want.

What chair do you sit on when working at your desk?
I have 2 offices, and I vary between using a conventional office chair with a backrest and a Back App chair.

After carrying out your latest study would you recommend the Back App?
I would not recommend any single device or chair as the solution to a broad problem like back pain. However, if someone reports back pain while sitting which is eased by standing and walking, and is comfortable when sitting without a backrest, I would recommend the Back App. 

What was on your to do list today?
I had to revise an article that I was submitting for publication this morning. Then I was scheduling some back pain patients for testing in the laboratory next week. Finally, I treated some patients this afternoon and evening.

Do you still see patients and is it important for researchers to keep their hand in?

Yes, I see patients every week. And yes, I think treating patients is important. They remind us of all the research that still need to be done to help back pain sufferers.

Other therapists I have spoken with were drawn to their profession after being treated for a related problem. Was this your experience?

Like a lot of physiotherapists, I was pretty interested in sports and came to it from that perspective. I had a few injuries that required some treatment, so that was where the initial interest came from.

Are you glad you became a physiotherapist and would you recommend youngsters to follow your path?
Yes, and yes. Of course it is not for everybody, but there is enough variety in physiotherapy that there are several different options available.

Kieran’s latest publication is ‘Can we reduce the effort of maintaining a neutral sitting posture? A Pilot Study’

It is in the journal of Manual Therapy available on http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.math.2012.05.016
Kieran can be contacted via clinicaltherapies@ul.ie

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Interview with Dr Adam Al-Kashi of the charity BackCare

An Interview with Dr Adam Al-Kashi of the Charity BackCare
As a corporate sponsor of the charity BackCare I thought I would ask Dr Adam Al-Kashi, their new Head of Research, a few questions about back pain, the work that the charity does and Adam's role in it. The result below is, I hope, useful for those suffering from back and neck pain and also those advising them.

If I wake up in the morning and can't get out of bed due to back pain, what is your advice?
Take an anti-inflammatory analgesic drug such as ibuprofen, which most people tend to have at home, and wait for the pain to subside. Once you’re feeling a little better, it’s important to get out of bed and keep active. Nothing strenuous, but you need to just keep moving. Pottering about the house is perfect.

If a GP says I should take an aspirin and rest for a few days is that the best advice?
Again, the evidence we now have suggests that remaining motionless is not going to help, and will makes things worse in the long run. Take a break from strenuous or vigorous activity, but don’t just lie or sit still. There’s also evidence to support the use of topical heat or cold application.

What help is available on the NHS. I have heard that in some areas you can get osteopathic treatment on the NHS. Is this true?
There can be considerable tension when medicine meets medicine, and best practice may appear to be beyond the financial constraints of the primary care trust (PCT). However, more worrying can be the disparity between evidence and attitudes, whereby a kind of institutionalised inertia can hinder the adoption of change. The NICE guidelines recommend that GPs offer exercise, acupuncture or manual therapy for persistent non-specific lower back pain. However, survey data reported by PULSE http://bitly.com/PULSEsurvey, the general practice news portal, found prevalence amongst PCTs of the opinion that these services were low-priority, controversial and to be used in exceptional cases. Having said that, there are examples of more embracive PCT cultures, such as the North East Sussex PCT http://bitly.com/NorthEastSussex, where patients being consulted for lower back pain lasting at least four weeks can choose to be referred to a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist from the private sector.

I have heard a lot of people say that no one can tell them what is causing the problem yet their life is ruined by pain. Are they medical mysteries for which there is no cure?
There is a difference between the unknown and unknowable, and I think that ‘medical mysteries’ may say more about the practitioner than the ailment. We’re always increasing in the ways we understand medicine, and it’s important not to let old dogmas get in the way of new and useful approaches, especially when backed by evidence. A sadly still prevalent misconception is the idea that physical ailments can only have physical causes, when volumes of research data make it clear that the brain and mind are simply part of the whole human organism. There are abundant connections between the four primary organismic systems, namely psychology (the mind), neurology (the brain, spine and nervous system), endocrinology (the glands and hormones), and immunology (the lymphoid tissues/ organs and white blood cells). I’m always learning, and one of the most enlightening approaches I recently encountered was that of the SIRPA organisation http://www.sirpauk.com, which is using psychology to end chronic pain syndromes for which there is no physical explanation. The founder, Georgie Oldfield is a BackCare Professional which is how I learned about the work that they are doing. Unfortunately there is still a huge stigma attached to psychology and people can react quite strongly against the suggestion that their physical ailment has psychological correlates. But perceptions change – the world used to be flat.

If people have a niggling pain in their back but it is not stopping them doing anything yet what should they do now, to prevent real problems in the future?
Don’t ignore it or put up with it. Treat this as a warning signal. Seek professional diagnosis. Seek professional lifestyle advice, including ergonomics – for example have your desk, office chair and car seat looked at. A small adjustment maybe all that is required so don’t let it escalate. The nervous system learns how to perceive persistent pain more efficiently by making new neuronal connections, and longer you leave it, the bigger the underlying problem you may end up facing.

If an employer is not helping me improve my workstation/ method of work and this is adding to my back pain. Is there anything I can do?
This can be a tricky one. Depending on the culture within your work place, many people do not feel it ‘wise’ to question the ‘hand that feeds them’ so to speak. But at the end of the day, this is an important health issue. Proceed in a diplomatic and flexible manner, rather than through head to head confrontation, if possible. Your employer may simply not fully appreciate the risks involved or that prevention is better than lost productivity through sickness absence. The bottom line is that the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 make it a legal requirement for employers to have your workstation assessed and deal with the outcome.

Who can I ask about exercise that won't make things worse or what exercises to do to make things better?
Every case of back pain is different, and no single exercise regimen will be the best recommendation for everyone. Seek diagnosis and advice from a professional such as a chiropractor, osteopath, physiotherapist, Alexander Technique practitioner or Pilates practitioner with the Government's REP Level 4 certification.

How can I find medical help that really understands what I am going through?
A dedicated professional who has seen and successfully treated many people with musculoskeletal pain syndromes is your best bet. But also, don’t neglect the emotional burden of chronic pain, since what you’re “going through” is basically how it makes you feel. Depression is common amongst chronic pain sufferers, and the prolonged experience of negative emotions is itself bad for your health. Don’t be afraid to seek out psychological assistance for your sense of wellbeing.

Are there local support groups where I can talk to others and get advice from fellow sufferers?
Yes, BackCare has more than a dozen local support groups up and down the country, some of which have been running for many years. These groups have traditionally been offline, but we’re in the process of transitioning on to the online ‘Meetup’ platform. I would actually recommend that you check out Meetup http://www.meetup.comin general, which I think is an excellent way to find people who share your own interests and experiences, and after all your health is a 'biopsychosocial' matter.

My back pain is such that I am starting to feel a bit depressed. What can I do?
Depression and negative emotional states have a huge impact on wellbeing. Never consider a low quality of life to be acceptable. People are mostly trapped by what they believe to be possible. If you have been told, or are telling yourself, there is no hope, you are unlikely to ever challenge the boundaries of your own reality. It’s very important to take positive action. I say “positive” action because many people fall into the trap of obsessively seeking out people and stories that agree with their current state of hopelessness. They may learn to identify very strongly with their ailment to the point that they will resist and fight of any attempt to be shown otherwise – this is a dangerous position to enter into because you are now actively maintaining or even accelerating your ill health, rather than open-mindedly seeking help. Stay physically active and stay open to the understanding that sometimes facts are merely opinions. Seek out differing opinions, ones that challenge what you believe to be the case. And, of course, again, don’t be afraid to address your emotional wellbeing in an appropriate manner, through the help of an appropriate professional or method.

I want to talk to someone now. Who can I call?
BackCare runs a helpline (0845 130 2704) that offers support to back and neck pain sufferers, and perhaps particularly those who are in need of emotional support rather than just information. In fact, we’re seeking to expand the service that we’re able to offer and are in need of new volunteer helpline operators. Readers who are interested and have a proven background in counselling or related disciplines are more than welcome to get in touch with me (adam@backcare.org.uk).

What is your role at BackCare?
I’m the Head of Research at BackCare. I’m also the editor of our quarterly TalkBack magazine http://www.issuu.com/backcare, and the manager of the helpline.

What is on your 'to do' list for today?
Today, I’m writing up some research reports for the next edition of TalkBack, and working on a new education programme that we hope to have up and running soon.

Do you get back pain yourself?
From time to time, I get back pain. In the past, I’ve had some episodes that felt quite serious to me, but I’ve since learned to understand how pain is a response, and how I respond to specific kinds of physical and psychological stressors. Educating yourself about yourself, or ‘self knowledge’ if you like, is crucial. I still get minor backache but it is quite different now, and I understand it simply to be an indicator that tells me to take certain actions or address the way I am thinking or feeling. For me, nutrition and exercise and sleep were quite obvious factors to address, but none of these were as impactful as psychology which sits above these. I’m very thankful that I’ve never suffered a traumatic injury to my back or neck.

How many corporate sponsors of BackCare are there?
We currently have partnerships with more than thirty corporate entities. Many of these are manufacturers, distributors or retailers of back health-related products, but it also includes several educational and training organisations.

Can you summarise what BackCare wants to achieve?
Back and neck pain is an enormous problem that is greatly underappreciated by many individuals and organisations. In fact, it accounts for more than half of all pain and many billions of pounds are wasted every year in the cost to the NHS as well as the cost to the economy through days lost at work. But beyond that, I think that we are part of a global culture and society where chronic pain is built into our institutionalised lifestyles and work practices. BackCare’s mission is to use research, education and innovation to change that.

How do you use your sponsors to achieve this?
We are very grateful to our sponsors who are kind enough and insightful enough to help us achieve our mission through the donation of money, time, skills and ideas.
How many people do you help each year?
It can be hard to really quantity the impact of what we do. There is the direct impact of our publications, online activities and helpline that I would estimate to be in the tens of thousands. Then there is the impact of our educational campaigns and research activities. These are part of a longer-term approach where I’d estimate an impact in the hundreds of thousands to millions. In fact, it doesn’t need to be difficult to change lives. A campaign that gets mainstream television coverage can easily reach millions. Our ongoing school bag campaign recently made it on to news channels in the UK, Spain and New Zealand.

There were some people running the last London marathon for BackCare. Would you consider doing this?
We had a tremendous turnout this year, with nearly thirty runners in the BackCare marathon team. And after witnessing the event in person for the first time, I decided to sign up for next year. I’ve never really been a runner so this is the perfect opportunity. I’ve already started training for next April and it feels great!
To contact Adam Al-Kashi of BackCare
email adam.al-kashi@backcare.org.uk
tel 0208 9775474
To contact Mike Dilke of Back App UK
email mike.dilke@backapp.co.uk
tel 01727 757221

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Central Sussex Osteopaths CPD Meeting

Yesterday (May 19th 2012) I attended a local area meeting of the Central Sussex Osteopaths. The lecture was given by Dr Nikki Petty, a lecturer in physiotherapy at the Univesity of Brighton. The lecture was on clinical reasoning from a physiotheraspists perspective and was very well received.

After sitting on a Back App chair for the second part of her lecture Dr Petty's comment was 'this is good for the body.'

Thank you to Jeremy Buck for organising the event and allowing me to come and show the Back App chair to the attendees.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A Cure for a Golfers Back Pain

Has a bad back ruined your love of playing golf? I must admit that I am not a golfer but I know a number of golfers who have had a bad back ruin their enjoyment of the game so I thought that the story below might provide you with a feel good factor and maybe even something to ponder on if your back prevents you from playing the game you love. 

Ever thought your feet had anything to do with your back pain?
You may never have thought your feet had anything to do with your back pain. Well neither did local golfer Graham until he came to see Gillian Brown, Osteopath and foot specialist of Harpenden Osteopath Sports Injury clinic. Gillian identified that Grahams poor foot function was causing strain on his lower back. Using a state-of-the art Gaitscan system, which measures foot function, she was able to get to the root cause of his problem and prescribe orthotics (shoe insoles) to correct his gait and relieve his chronic lower back pain.

 Gillian recalls that Graham had lower back pain for over fifteen years. Although he was a golf fanatic, the walking was aggravating his back and he was unable to play. As golf was his only exercise and a social outlet for him he was really keen to find a solution. The Osteopathic examination showed that Graham had some stiffness at the base of his spine and some stiffness in his feet. To take a closer look at his foot function Graham walked across the Gaitscan system which recorded his timing sequences during walking. This confirmed that his walking pattern and in particular his lack of big toe movement was putting strain on Grahams back. Gillian explained to Graham that the big toe forms the pivot for entire body movement, and a disturbance in function, when repeated thousands of times on a daily basis, can alter the way we move and put strain on the lower back. The good news is that when this is treated specifically with an orthotic, over 77% people will get long-term relief from their back pain.

Graham was prescribed orthotics and is now playing regular 18-rounds of golf with his friends pain-free for the first time in 15 years.

Gillian has successfully treated many types of injuries using orthotics including; foot pain, knee pain, hip pain & back pain. Orthotics can be beneficial to any age above 7-8 years & Gillian has treated successfully children as young as 7 years old.

For more information on injury assessments & orthotics you can contact Harpenden Osteopath Sports Injury clinic on;

 Tel: (01582) 764361                            mob: 07969 138607

Email: info@gbosteopathy.com         www.gbosteopathy.co.uk

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The London Marathon and BackCare

BackCare, the charity that promotes healthy backs has a number of runners in the marathon raising money for them. I will be sponsoring one of them - his name is Charlie Woods.
This is a very worthwhile cause - many people will suffer from the problem of back pain at sometime in their life and when it happens it really can put your life on hold.
To sponsor Charlie go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CharlieWoods
To learn more about BackCare go to http://www.backcare.org.uk/

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I recently spoke with Gillian Brown, an osteopath at the Harpenden Osteopathy & Sports Injury clinic. I pretended to be a member of the press and carried out an ‘in depth interview.’ Her thoughts on a healthy lifestyle and practising osteopathy are, I think, relevant to everyone.

Interview with Gillian Brown – an osteopath in Harpenden

Gillian’s route to being an osteopath came via tennis and this is still a big part of her life both professionally and in her leisure. On leaving school she won an American tennis scholarship and studied sport science at Northern Arizona University. Her professional tennis career continued for eight years after university and Gillian was ranked in the top fifteen in the country and won many medals and competitions.
While being in the rarified  atmosphere of professional athletes she developed an interest in injuries and their treatment. Osteopathic treatment for a persistent knee injury lead Gillian to become qualified herself and she now practices in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

Does being an osteopath change the way you play tennis?

I see a lot of sporting injuries that are caused by insufficient warming up and cooling down time before and after exercise. I do this as a matter of course after my time as a professional athlete but seeing my patients suffering from avoidable injuries impresses the importance of this on me -  so I’m always really keen to advise my patients on correct warming up and cooling down routines.

What are the most common injuries that you treat?

With my continued connections to tennis I treat a lot of tennis elbow and other sporting injuries such as, calf strain and Achilles problems associated with runners along with all the normal everyday problems, such as back and neck pain. As I specialise in gait and orthotics and looking at the way people walk I treat a lot of foot related injuries.
 What is apparent is that most chronic injuries are due to an underlying issue or habit that has existed for a long while and it has just been a matter of time before problems are experienced.  The underlying issue could be poor posture, sitting poorly for many hours a day as part of a sedentary lifestyle or being overweight.

How do you approach your diagnosis?

I see my role as a detective to find the root issue of what is causing the problem and treat it. As mentioned chronic conditions are often due to years of neglect and after initial treatment some maintenance is required. This could be more osteopathic treatment and/ or a specific exercise program.
In some instances the root cause can be the foot and I use gait analysis equipment to allow me to prescribe orthotics that correct the foot arch and bio-mechanical problems. I use this approach where appropriate. My interest in this came after personal experience and I still use orthotics in my shoes every day to prevent the foot problem re-occurring.

What do you see as a major future cause of problems for your patients?

With more people choosing to work from home for a day or two a week it is becoming more common to not have a good work set up at home and working on the kitchen table can be the reality for many. This can lead to real problems – possibly not immediately but after some time a chronic condition is likely to ensue. I am very keen to advise my patients on an effective ergonomic set-up and regular exercises and movement to keep the postural muscles strong.

What do you sit on?

I sit on the Back App ergonomic chair which promotes a healthy posture and also ensures movement.

Do you still enjoy your work?

Very much so. I enjoy helping people get to grips with what has sometimes being a long term problem and give them a new lease of life. I have personal experience from being a patient of osteopathy and from beneficial use of orthotics.

Would you recommend someone to become an osteopath if they were considering it as a career?

Certainly I find the profession very rewarding. If anyone considering this as a career option would like to talk with me then please feel free to call on 01582 764361 or send me an email at gillianbrownost@ive.com.

Gillian’s practice, the Harpenden Osteopathy & Sports Injury clinic contact details are;
Tel:  01582 764 361/ 07969 138607

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Chance to Win a Back App Chair

I will be attending the ACPOHE/ SOM conference next week and will be exhibiting some Back App chairs. For those who attend there will be a chance to win a Back App ergonomic chair (www.backapp.co.uk .)

The conference is on March 20th and 21st at the Royal College of Physicians and I will be exhibiting on the 21st. ACPOHE stands for the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics and SOM stands for the Society of Occupational Medicine.

Details of the conference and speakers are on  http://www.acpohe.org.uk/events/acpohesom-conference

See you there.

Monday, 5 March 2012

At the Back Pain Show last week I spoke to many people while on the Back App stand. I started to note the questions that people asked and have listed some of them here - they are more or less in the order that they were asked most often.

Questions about Back App from the Back Pain Show
What are the important aspects of the Back App?
This is hard to summarise briefly so best to contact Back App UK directly but essentially the sitting position helps to ensure an excellent, healthy posture and the motion provides a gentle work out for the core muscles.
Can I trial a chair?
Back App UK is very keen for all concerned about their posture or suffering from back problems to trial the Back App. Contact us on 01727 757221 and we will arrange this through our network of dealers

Can you sit on the Back App all day?

Yes, thousands of people in Scandinavia sit on the Back App all day. It may require a short lead in period to get your muscles used to the movment but before long you will be able to sit on the Back App all day.
How long is the guarantee?
The guarantee for faulty chairs is valid for 5 years.

Do you need to buy a new desk to use the Back App?

No, but you do need to think about the height at which you are working because you sit higher on a Back App than on a regular office chair. This could mean using desk raisers or other means to raise your keyboard and monitor. A good solution is to use an adjustable height desk but it is not absolutely necessary.
Who invented/ developed the Back App?
A Norwegian man called Freddy Johnsen. He suffered greatly from a bad back, endured surgery and had the idea from sitting on a wobble board by mistake. This gave him the idea which he developed into the Back App.

Where is the Back App made?

The Back App factory is in Anderstorp, Sweden.

Do dentists use it?

          Dentists do use the Back App – they prefer the mobile version.
Does it come with a wipe clean fabric?
The Comfort fabric can be easily sponged clean but leather and a synthetic leather are also available which wipe clean.

Can I be a dealer?

There are opportunities for appropriate therapists and retailers to become dealers in the Back App. Contact us and we can discuss your ideas.
Can I sell on commission?
Some therapists sell the Back App this way. Contact us to discuss if it is appropriate for you.
What is your preferred route to market?
The preferred route to market is via therapists or retailers that have an understanding of ergonomics and have a real desire to help people improve their health and/ or their workplace environment.

Can children use it? – they may sit for 3000 hours doing home work during their school career

As long as your legs are long enough to comfortably reach the foot plate you can use the Back App. There is a low lift version so quite young children should be able to use it.

Are there any conditions that you can’t use the Back App if you suffer from them?
We have not come across any conditions that the Back App is not appropriate for as the exercise that it provides is very gentle. However, if at all concerned you should discuss the Back App with your doctor or appropriate health professional.

Does the seat tip forward?

The seat is fixed to the stem such that the  movement is from the stem and seat moving together from the base of the chair.
How wide is the base?
     The circular footplate has a diameter of 600mm.

Can I purchase the chair with a disability allowance?
We can introduce you to a retailer to help with this if appropriate.