Long Covid – a guide for Self Help

It has been nine months since Covid-19 started to dominate the news. For the last six months it has had a dramatic impact on everyone’s life in the UK especially for the vulnerable and the unfortunate people and their families who became infected and developed symptoms.

Slowly our understanding and knowledge about the conditions and it’s ramifications are building and a lot of unexpected details are emerging. We still are only scratching the surface and the next months and years will no doubt produce more useful information.

One of the many worrying aspects of Coronavirus is the number of people who are suffering from Long Covid. This is development of long term symptoms associated with the condition especially fatigue. I have been supporting patients in my clinics in Newton Abbot and Ashburton for many years suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is also known as Post Viral Fatigue and closely associate fibromyalgia. The parallels with Long Covid are marked and may well be physiologically very similar. There is an excellent and detailed video about Long Covid produced by the BMJ here.

I have for the last few months been approached by increasing numbers of patients with Long Covid asking if Osteopathy can help. Previously energetic healthy individuals, many between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age who have developed troubling long term symptoms. Unfortunately there is little the GPs can do and so they are admirably researching different options and ways of managing their health.

So can I as an Osteopath help and support people with Long Covid? So far I have had a number of patients respond well to my work with them as an osteopath. Of course I make no claim to cure the condition but believe an individually designed course of treatment can support and aid their recovery. Drawing on my many years of experience with ME/CFS this usually involves supporting the fundamental basics of health. I help their musculoskeletal system, advise on diet, mindfulness practise, yoga based exercises, graded exercises, sleep, hydration and supplementation.

If you’d like to discuss what you have read above please call me on 01626 334036 (Newton Abbot TQ12) or 01364 652016 (Ashburton TQ13). More details about my clinics can be found here.

Low Back Opener

This is a wonderful stretch for gently easing stiffness and tension in the low back delivered from my clinics in TQ12 and TQ13! My mission is for everyone to become their own osteopath!

It also helps to bring space to the vertebral joints (apophyseal joints). When these joints get too jammed together from tight, stiff muscles it leads to too much pressure and load bearing on the joints. This then leads to increased wear and tear (osteoarthritis). The symptoms of this in the low back are pain and stiffness especially in the morning.

Doing these stretches yourself is like a form of self treatment. Much of my work as an osteopath is aimed at achieving what these exercises can do. Sometimes, unfortunately, we need some help from an osteopath to start things moving in the right direction. But hopefully, when the pain and stiffness has been reduced in the the low back, then the patient can build these stretches into their own exercise routine.

Feel free to contact me in Ashburton or Newton Abbot for more information, for treatment or for your own bespoke exercise plan. More exercises can be found on the News page. Have you looked at my Core Stability or Daily Routine videos?

Core Stability

A simple, adaptable exercise for core stability.

Core stability is defined as “the capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc., especially during movement”. Reading this definition it comes as no surprise how important it is. In fact I believe that just about every movement we do in day to day life involves the core.

A few of the exercises I’ve posted from my Newton Abbot clinic address this and much of my time as an osteopath is helping patients rebuild these areas or treatment often caused by a weakness in their core.

Regaining strength and flexibility will lead to greater confidence which will in turn encourages more movement. Please call me if you’d like help with this in come and see me if you’re in the TQ12 or TQ13 area of Devon.

Restrictions are easing.

Lockdown restrictions are easing and so now is the time to start easing those restrictions that may have built up in your body.

After a few unprecedented months of being limited by lockdown we now have the freedom to move a little more. We are still living in times of stress and those stresses easily find their way into our bodies. This can cause us to hold pain and tension especially in our neck, low back, shoulders, jaw and even our face and nostrils. This causes pain which reduces our movement which increases stiffness and around the vicious circle goes. Osteopathy can help this!

There are some videos of stretches to do that will help you on News page of my website but sometimes we need a helping hand from an osteopath to get things going again. I’m pleased to say the clinic has been open for a few months now using the appropriate infection control and PPE. So please contact me at Newton Abbot (TQ12) or Ashburton (TQ13) for a chat about how I could help you find the Freedom to Move again.

The Importance of the Pelvic Floor (and what you can do to keep it healthy).

The pelvic floor is often an under-appreciated but nevertheless very important part of our anatomy.  It plays a vital role in keeping our low backs and rest of our bodies healthy and functioning well; it is directly linked to the role and importance of the “core” ie in core stability; it aids the functions of our internal organs and perhaps most well known is that it plays a huge role in bowel and bladder function especially after the effects of pregnancy and childbirth.

So what is the pelvic floor?  It’s best thought of as a “sling” of muscles the covers the outlet of the pelvis.  A little like a hammock, the contents of the abdomen lies on top of it and is supported by it.  Being made of muscle it is contractile and therefore is a dynamic structure capable of movement.  When it has good tone (the resting contraction of the muscles) it helps gentle close the structures that pass through it, most importantly the urethra and the lowest part of the large intestine – in other words the tubes that our pee and poo travel down to find their way out of the body.  More on this later.

How is it important in low back pain and posture?  As an osteopath this is of particular interest for me.  The low back relies on a number of different structures and their health for good low back functioning.  Some of the most significant are the shape and alignment of the lumbar spinal vertebrae, ligaments, intervertebral discs and the muscular support of the spinal muscles.  The pelvic floor blends with the diaphragm and abdominal muscles (if core stability is good) making a balloon like container.  When we move or lift this container acts like a support – a little like a weight lifters belt.  These days people are more aware about the abdominal muscles and their importance of this but the pelvic floor is a vital component playing a very important part in supporting the spine and keeping it strong, stable and free from pain.

How is the pelvic floor important to general health?  One way of looking at the abdomen (the area below the rib cage but above our thighs) is as a muscular container within which is our viscera (large and small intestines; kidneys; liver; spleen; pancreas etc).  These organs all individually need to function well for the for the health of everything things else in our body and minds.  For this to happen we need the usual things for health eg good diet; exercises; posture etc but also it needs a good blood and lymph supply and drainage.  Again many things influence this but often forgot is movement.  Movement at a the level of the body but also within the body.  When we breathe well (more on this in another blog) our diaphragm descends and rises gently massaging the the organs, helping the gut to transport things along its length, aiding the blood supply and improving the lymphatic health.  So where does the pelvic floor fit in?  The rest of the muscular container is comprised of the abdominal muscles to the front, the spinal and posture muscles at the back and the pelvic floor underneath.  As the diaphragm descends the overall function of the abdomen will be that much better if the pelvic floor and the rest of the container are functioning well.  The pelvic floor will allow the abdominal organs to return back up receiving gentle compression and relaxation with every breath.  This helps the blood and lymph flow and, you guessed it, improving all the organs functioning and health.  As well as gently moving the spine with each breath and aiding its health in the same way.

How does the pelvic floor help bowel and bladder function?  As I mentioned above the urethra (pee tube that leaves the bladder) and lowest part of the large intestine travel through the muscular pelvic floor.  As well as supporting the bowel and bladder the muscles offer some ability to close off the tubes.  If the floor is weak then it can lead to urinary incontinence, haemorrhoids and other pelvis disorders.  These conditions are not uncommon but can be a source of embarrassment and inconvenience.  Can anything be done?

Can I improve my pelvic floor?  Yes!  But as with all self help regimes it takes a bit of time, effort and self discipline.

Pelvic floor exercises:

Take a seat and imagine you’re sitting on the loo. Now imagine you’re having a pee and want to stop the flow. What muscles would you contract?  If you’re unsure, next time you’re going to the loo then experiment with stopping the flow of wee.  Contract these muscles and hold for a count of 10 seconds.  Next squeeze and relax the muscles quickly five times.  You can then see if you can isolate the muscles mid way back on the pelvic floor and repeat the same set of exercises.  Then again for the muscles at the back of the pelvic floor.  Over time try increasing the number of sets of exercises.  Remember not to strain and if you get any pain then stop and let me know. 

For more complicated exercises imagine you’re contracting diagonally across the pelvic floor (eg right of the pubic area to left of the tail bone area and vice versa).

Do these exercises at least once a day.  When you get proficient the exercises can be done anywhere and in any position.  If you have any questions then contact me at either my Ashburton or Newton Abbot Clinic.

You should feel the benefits in a couple of weeks.  Good luck 🙂