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Frozen Shoulder: The How’s and Why’s

Our shoulder is the most mobile joint in our body. A remnant from our tree-swinging ancestors, now it’s a joint that enables us to use our dextrous hands as the brilliant tools that they are.

If our shoulder is out of action, life suddenly becomes quite hard! Manipulating the space around us with our hands becomes much more difficult and we realise that our shoulder plays a role in pretty much everything we do. Even laying on them when we sleep can become a problem!

What Is ‘Frozen Shoulder’?

One of the more debilitating shoulder injuries is the so-called ‘Frozen Shoulder’. All the joints in our body have a bag around them called the ‘capsule’ which holds in the fluid. The capsule of the shoulder has folds in it like a curtain so that when we reach our arms overhead the capsule can stretch. In a frozen shoulder, the folds become sticky and inflamed and can be incredibly painful when you reach up. Movement becomes limited and the hand can barely be lifted above waist-height.

Frozen shoulders mostly occur between the ages of 45 to 60 and are more common in women than in men, but this is just a guide because I have seen them in many demographics.

They normally come on after an injury like a fall or an unexpected reach, like catching a falling glass, for example. What normally happens is that the shoulder aches for a bit after the incident which the patient thinks is normal, but then it continues to tighten up over the next few weeks and doesn’t seem to improve.

The Mind/Body Link

The really interesting thing about frozen shoulder is the link with the mind. This was summarised beautifully by one of my mentors when he said simply, “animals don’t get frozen shoulders”.

When we look at the difference in the stress response of humans and other animals, it’s got nothing to do with the chemistry that goes on in our body – that’s the same. The major difference is the time we suffer for. Animals fight, prey, chase, run, but then they go back to their life. Humans have bills, relationships, colleagues and rush hour traffic to contend with and our stress response can last months or years.

The link between our mind and our body is still not fully understood by science, but there is certainly a known correlation with problems like frozen shoulder and stress.

How To Treat It?

With this in mind (excuse the pun), what do we do about it?

Well, frozen shoulders have three phases known as ‘freezing, frozen and thawing‘ which relate to what is happening to the capsule and how much inflammation there is. The rehab and exercises needed in each phase are different so it’s important to have a clear diagnosis and make sure you are not doing something that will exacerbate the problem.

Minimising Stress

I also speak to my patients about managing lifestyle stress. Our body can’t speak to us in words, just symptoms, and something like a frozen shoulder can be our body’s way of saying “slow down”. Take note of the stressors in your life and see if you can minimise them. Maybe there’s a conversation you need to have with a loved one, or you may need to ask for help in your work or you might be doing everything for everyone else but not have any “me time”.

This may sound strange that there is such a strong correlation between stress and frozen shoulders, but I have yet to find an example where this isn’t true.

If you have a frozen shoulder, firstly deal with the mechanics by seeing a specialist who can tell you what phase you’re in and give the correct exercises for your stage of the injury. But you also need to look after your mind. Take time each day to relax – mindfulness meditation is the best form of this using an app like Headspace.

Ask yourself, “what is my body trying to tell me?”, because if you are honest and really listen, you will know the answer.

Get In Touch

If you need help with a frozen shoulder and want to take a holistic view, get in touch at [email protected] or you can call on 01245 522360 – we are here to help.

Have a healthy month!

3 Tips To Make The Habit Stick

Regular readers may have noticed recently that I have become fascinated by habits.

So much so that when looking back, I have labelled my 2017 “The Year of the Habit” because I started and stuck to so many new habits of health.

Starting them is the easy bit, it’s the sticking to them that’s hard!

Here are three strategies I use when starting a new habit:

Start With WHY

Before you start something new, grab a pen and paper (that’s important) and write down as many reasons why you want to do it as you can.

Don’t just think about yourself, but also how it will affect those around you.

Plan for the Roadblocks

On the same piece of paper, write down all the things you can think of that may get in your way of sticking to the habit and, crucially, what you are going to do about it if that happens.

Things like going on holiday, work getting busy, a birthday or even the weather, may make it more difficult to stick to something, but there is always a way around it, I promise 🙂

Celebrate!

After a set period of time, what are you going to do to celebrate if you stick to the habit?

The celebration should take you deeper into the habit, not go against it. For example, if the habit is to eat clean, your celebration shouldn’t be a massive cake!

How about a nice Japanese chef’s knife instead to help with all the nice food you’re cooking?

 

So, whether you need to stretch more, get back to the gym or clean up the diet, grab a pen and paper and start writing.

You’ll be living the healthy life (and sticking to it) in no time!

Have a great week,

Chris and the Forté Team

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It’s Not Your Lower Back’s Fault!

It’s Not Your Lower Back’s Fault!

 

When I was at school, I had a lovely maths teacher called Mrs Boyce. Unlike many of my classes, Mrs Boyce allowed us to sit where we like. I’m sure the intention was that by giving us some autonomy she was hoping to be repaid with good behaviour.

Unfortunately, my best friend, Kyle, and I just couldn’t help ourselves from chattering. We were told so many times to be quiet that eventually we got split up and sat in opposite corners of the room.

I used to love maths class because it was an opportunity to do puzzles for an hour, and I love puzzles!

One day, the class was sitting quietly in concentration working through the exercises when there was a bang of a rubber hitting the wall above my best friend’s head. “Woah Chris!”, he shouted. He pretended I had thrown it at him, when really, he had thrown it at the wall himself, bored and wanting to cause me some trouble.

Mrs Boyce shot me a glare and told me to stop throwing things at my friend. “But…”, I knew it was a lost cause. “Ok, Mrs Boyce”. I got my head back into my workbook and a few minutes later, the same banging noise came but this time it was a pen hitting the wall followed by my friend shouting, “Chris! What are you doing?!”. Mrs Boyce was getting angry now and I got a proper telling off.

I was stuck. You can’t grass your best friend up, but I didn’t want the consequences that were about to come from Mrs Boyce. My only hope was to get on with the maths problems and hope that my friend had had his fun for the day.

Alas, five minutes later, when Mrs Boyce had her back to the class Kyle picked up his entire metal pencil case and lobbed it at the wall, pens, pencils and protractors scattering all over his corner of the room in an almighty bang.

“Christopher!”, Mrs Boyce screamed, “Get out!”.

Kyle had well and truly won that round. When I was standing outside in the hallway the headmaster happened to be doing the rounds, so not only did I get a telling off from dear Mrs Boyce, but also the headmaster, and that was no box of chocolates I can tell you.

What is the point of this story? Well, sometimes it really isn’t your fault!

This brings me on to your lower back. If you have lower back pain, I can guarantee it’s not your lower back’s fault. You see, the lower back has friends too. Its closest friends are the hips and the thoracic spine (your upper back, between the shoulder blades).

There are many reasons why you may have lower back pain, but I am going to tell you three of them.

1. TIGHT HIPS

If you have restricted hips, when you perform a function like picking something up, or twisting, rather than the movement coming from the hips, your body asks other areas to do the work so you can achieve the task. This can ask too much of your lower back and overload it, thus leading to injury.

Spending some time stretching each week is the solution to preventing tight hips.

2. WEAK HIPS

Our hips are our powerhouse of movement. If you’ve ever had a golf lesson, learnt to throw a punch or hit a perfect backhand, what do they say? “It’s all in the hips”. Strong glutes initiate a chain reaction that creates power in our movement, and if they are weak, the body will recruit more from their closest friends – the lower back muscles. The lower back isn’t designed to be as powerful as the hips, so again, asking too much from it will increase the risk of injury.

Learning to squat, especially the “below parallel” squat where your hips go below the level of your knees is the best exercise to strengthen the glutes. If this seems too hard, simply doing repetitions of getting up and down from a chair would also be a good exercise for you.

3. TIGHT THORAX

Too much sitting and desk work can be the culprit for tightening your upper back. If this area is tight, like when the hips are tight, your body will ask for motion from elsewhere when it’s needed.

The lower back is a target because often the thorax and the hips are tight at the same time, so the lumbar region is getting overloaded from above and below. No rest for the wicked!

If you suffer with lower back pain, it’s super important to figure out which of the lower back’s friends are causing the problem. When in pain, it’s human nature to focus on it, but that’s where an expert eye can help you solve the problem and fix the cause of it.

 

For regular tips on how to stretch and move for your back health, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and YouTube by clicking the little links at the top of the page.

 

Stay healthy!