Chronic Aches & Pains: Prevention & Treatment
Words: Dr Marcus Bernini, Osteopath
Patients often ask me what posture they should sit in and while I do have good recommendations to make, I guarantee that even if you sit with a perfect posture for 8 hours straight, you won’t feel that great. Most office jobs require concentration and the brain functions optimally with a healthy supply of glucose and oxygen so it is imperative to move regularly to improve blood flow. I can't stress it enough: Movement is critical.
Minimally, you should get up from your desk every 45 minutes. What you do after that can be anything at all as long as it can be considered general bodily movement. Simple work-place-friendly actions include: reaching your arms up toward the ceiling, doing basic stretches, walking around (with the phone if you must), getting a drink of water etc. Better yet, do try out standing desks, if you have the option of bringing it into your office.
OKAY, I am convinced. But where do I start? What can help me level-up my workspace?
You can try looking up Altizen, a the smart standing workstation, or even some DIY workstation hacks, which are in abundance around the internet. You can get yourself a basic Fitbit to remind you to move, or if it's more your thing, a smart watch. For those who just type all day, there is the Rist Roller that is a great help in removing wrist tensions.
How about post-work? Any tips on quick things I can squeeze in before heading out/home?
After a day at the desk, take 15 minutes to do basic exercises and stretches, to release muscular tension and encourage mobility. Schedule achievable and relieving activity into your diary: Try slow-paced yoga classes to get blood flowing without too much physical pressure; take 20 minutes for a gentle walk, cycle or swim.
What if the pains I experience are already chronic? Apart from painkillers, what other options do I have?
Indeed, a lot can be achieved by your own effort, to see great improvement in your overall wellbeing. Some need a little more help. Here is where manual therapy - such as that administered by an reputable osteopath or rehabilitation therapist - can be a powerful additional tool to release soft tissue tension, improve mobility, and realign the body. A good practitioner will implement specific exercises to develop correct controlled movement. The body, and therefore the mind, can be assisted in moving out of rigid 'defence' mode.
How has manual therapy benefitted others?
A patient of mine who came in for a neck treatment had also been suffering from a nasty ear infection. He claimed that after almost two weeks of taking antibiotics, there was still no obvious improvement. I don't treat ear infections, but I helped him out with his neck and wished him well. When he returned the next week for his follow-up appointment with me, he told me his infection had cleared up almost immediately after the manual therapy treatment. His freed-up neck brought improved blood flow, meaning the medication he was taking could more easily reach the site of infection. Similarly, toxins from the infection could also be 'flushed out' more efficiently.
But everyone around me seems to have aches and pains - surely it's to be expected from working hard?
We need to step away from accepting chronic physical and mental stress as being a ‘normal’ way of life. Even if you work hard, achieving a comfortable state of physical wellbeing is possible. All it requires is proactive choice on your part, in taking better care of your body and mind. If you are feeling discomfort, tension and pain, make it your priority to address these issues: either modify your work and lifestyle habits and/or get the additional help from a specialist/therapist, where required.
Remember: Treatments aren’t an indulgence but a means of taking proper care of our system and minimising the mind-body stress cycle. Make time for hot showers, baths, or hot water bottles to relax your muscles: the heat increases circulation, flushes out toxins and allows muscles to ease. Don’t feel guilty about going for a massage, reflexology or even acupuncture.