020 8520 5268 | Ashlins Natural Health, 181 Hoe Street, E17 3AP sarah@saraholiverosteopathy.com

Numb Bums and Back Pain – What is Sciatica?

Sciatica seems to be a well known but poorly understood condition.

It generally refers to pain in the buttock and back of the leg, but can also include back pain, tingling, shooting pain, numbness and muscle tension.

Sciatica is a result of irritation to the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body; about the width of a pencil in places and stretches from the low back down to the tip of your toes.


Your sciatic nerve supplies your skin, muscles and joints in the back and side of your leg, so these structures are affected when the nerve is irritated.  This is what causes tingling and numbness (sensory fibres supplying your skin) and muscle tension (motor fibres supplying your hamstrings and calf).

So what causes sciatica?  The two most common causes are a problem with the intervertebral discs in your low back and tension in the piriformis muscle in your buttock.

Your discs act as cushions between your vertebrae (bones in your spine).

If they become damaged or irritated (sometimes referred to as a slipped disc) they can cause low back pain and sciatica.  This may be because they start squeezing on part of the sciatic nerve, or because inflammation in the low back is irritating the nerves.

Either way, the sciatic nerve can become very sensitive and start to cause painful symptoms.

There is a muscle deep in the buttock called piriformis.  In many people the sciatic nerve emerges through or underneath this muscle before continuing its journey down your leg.  If piriformis becomes too short and tense it can squeeze the sciatic nerve and eventually lead to sciatica.

There are various potential causes of disc problems and piriformis syndrome which are too long to go into here!

Those are just the 2 main causes of sciatica.  There are other causes, some of which are quite serious conditions such as tumours or infections around the spine.  Thankfully they are pretty rare but it is sensible to seek professional attention if you have back pain or sciatica.


Sciatica is easily confused with other conditions.   Issues with the low back, sacroiliac joints (in the pelvis), hip and knee can cause similar symptoms.  I always take a thorough case history and examination so I can work out what I think is causing the problem.  Then an appropriate treatment plan can be formulated, or I can refer to another therapist or your GP if necessary.

Weekend Reads April 2018: Managing pain, Exercise to boost your immune system

I hope you’ve had an enjoyable month and have some fun plans for the bank holiday weekend.  I’ve rounded up my favourite health and wellbeing articles from this month, so make yourself a cup of tea and get up to date with the latest news.



  1. Seven Way to manage Pain

“Acute pain is a necessary evil, an essential response to danger and a natural part of the healing process. Too much of it, and for too long, can be serious – but there are ways to manage it.”



2. How does your immune system work? This cute video explains:



3. Tame the beast – how to rethink persistent pain

4. If your knee hurts, keep exercising

“If you take up exercise later in life, as a treatment for joint or hip pain, you should expect a small, temporary increase in pain. But if you proceed sensibly, you will be rewarded with pain relief similar to that of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen, and twice that of a non-prescription painkiller, such as paracetamol.”


5. Exercise in old age maintains immune system.


What I’ve been up to

Aside from taking a break from blogging I have been enjoying spring!  I had a nice walk to Wanstead Park to see the bluebells.


In February I became the proud tenant of an allotment. I’ve enjoyed clearing the weeds and have started planting a few crops. Currently I am over run with thistles but hoping to dig them up and plant more goodies soon.

My allotment, and a gigantic pile of horse manure

I’m also taking part in Walthamstow Beer this year. The hop lives in our garden where we can keep a close eye on it. We have named it Roger and he is growing very quickly so far.

Roger the Hop

I have been on a few trips this year including California for a family wedding, Cornwall for my Grandad’s birthday, and Nice for a bit of a jolly with Mr Sarah.   Did you know that ravioli was invented in Nice? And Nice only became part of France in the 1860s? I had no idea.


I’ve also been doing quite a bit of sewing and am pleased to say my skills have improved since last year 😁.  I’ve made quite a few tops and skirts and have a long list of patterns to work through. That’s all on hold for the moment while I finish sewing my Guide badges on to my camp blanket.

At Ashlins we have been working hard on GDPR. We’re also making big strides towards taking card payments, which is very exciting! 


Busted: 3 Myths about Osteopathy for International Osteopathic Healthcare Week

international osteopathic healthcare week

It’s International Osteopathic Healthcare Week this week and to mark the occasion I’m busting 3 big osteopathy myths and explaining how osteopathy can improve your health.


  1. Osteopaths only treats backs

Osteopathy is well known for helping people with back pain but it’s definitely not all we do!

Osteopaths are able to help with a wide range of problems including many muscle and joint issues.

I frequently treat neck pain, shoulder pain such as rotator cuff tendinitis and frozen shoulder, arm and wrist pain such as tennis elbow and RSI, hip pain, sciatica and many more.

Osteopaths typically train for 4 years and have detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology meaning we understand and can manage a variety of  conditions.  We will also refer you to another practitioner if we think it’s what you need.


  1. ‎Osteopathy is about clicking and cracking joints

This is absolutely not true! Cracking joints (known as HVT or HVLAT) is a useful technique but just one of many used by osteopaths.

Utilising only one technique is a pretty limited approach to treatment.  It works for some people but is not likely to lead to longer term improvement and isn’t suitable for everyone. For some individuals HVTs are contraindicated.  I prefer to use a range of techniques which I mix and match to get the best results for you.

I use a variety of techniques including:

  • Soft tissue technique
  • Muscle energy technique
  • Strain Counter Strain
  • Stretching
  • Harmonics
  • Gentle joint mobilisation
  • Stronger joint mobilisation
  • HVTs


Each technique can be applied in lots of different ways in each area of the body, so osteopathic treatment can actually be very varied and tailored to your needs.  It’s much more than a few clicks and cracks.


  1. ‎Osteopathy is only about muscles and joints  (musculoskeletal system)

It’s true that osteopathy is primarily focused on the musculoskeletal system. It is well suited to aiding problems with muscles and joints. 

It’s important to consider the musculoskeletal system in the context of your general health and wellbeing. For example, your low back pain may recover faster if you have a balanced diet, active lifestyle and sufficient sleep.

So your osteopath will also be interested in your diet, exercise and activity levels, stress and overall wellbeing. This allows for a more tailored, detailed treatment plan which should help you get better quicker.

Most of us have some room for improvement when it comes to our health. Your osteopath will be able to advise you on how you can make positive changes and can direct you to other practitioners and resources for more detailed guidance.



Shoulder Exercise – The Prince Charles


1. Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart.

2. Bring your affected arm up behind your back.

3. Bring up your good arm to hold onto the affected arm.

4. Use your good arm to bring your hand further up your back. You should feel a stretch in the front of the affected shoulder.

Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Perform 3 times a day.


– Keep breathing normally while you stretch. Do not hold your breath.
– Stretch gently and slowly. You should be able to feel a stretching sensation but it should not hurt.
– If a stretch becomes painful, stop immediately and seek advice from your therapist.
– Only perform stretches which have been prescribed or approved by a qualified individual such as your GP, physiotherapist or osteopath.

We’re in the 1000 Swifts project for E17 Art Trail

Ashlins Natural Health is taking part in the 1000 Swifts project to celebrate the new Walthamstow wetlands centre.

Sites and organisations across Walthamstow are taking part in the project and displaying swifts.

Why not follow the trail and see how many swifts you can spot?  It’s a great way to take part in the E17 Art Trail and is also excellent exercise and a good opportunity to get some vitamin D!


Follow 1000 Swifts on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

E17 Arts Trail Website |  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Example Exercise Plan for frozen shoulder (phase 1)

Frozen shoulder is a condition causing pain and stiffness in the shoulder.  It usually affects one shoulder but sometimes will be in both shoulders at the same time.

Phase 1 is the first stage of frozen shoulder and is characterised by pain and increasing stiffness.

It’s really important to keep moving during this stage or the shoulder can become extremely stiff.

Frozen Shoulder Exercises

I’ve shared quite a few exercises for frozen shoulder on this site, so I’ve summarised them in to an example exercise plan.
1. Shoulder Retraction – 3 repetitions, 3 times a day

2. Neck Sidebending Stretch  – 3 repetitions, 3 times a day

3. Pendulum – 1-3 times a day.

4. Shoulder Shrugging  – 3 repetitions, 3 times a day

5. Shoulder Rotation – 3 times a day

6. Pushing the Arm  – 3 repetitions, 3 times a day

7. The Elephant  – 3 repetitions, 3 times a day

This plan is just an example.  Please speak to a qualified individual such as your GP, osteopath or physiotherapist to get the best exercises for you.

Weekend Reads: April 2017. Naps, heart disease and cracking knees.

Happy bank holiday weekend everyone!  I hope you’ve got lots of nice things lined up for your extra day off.

Here are my favourite health and wellness articles from recent weeks.  Pour yourself a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy some relaxing reading.


1. Cycling can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. (did you know you can get free cycle training from Waltham Forest council?)

2. Is running the best exercise?  There are some convincing arguments but I think walking is more accessible for most people.

3. Are naps the key to happiness?  I am a big fan.

4.  This is just cute: A Japanese spa is offering back massage form a cat

5. A good night’s sleep is super important.  Here’s how to choose your perfect mattress.
“You should lie down for 20 minutes on each one. If you just hop on and off, it’s hard to imagine how you will feel after an eight-hour sleep.”


What I’ve Been Up To

April has felt like a really long month, despite the long weekend for Easter!  We celebrated Easter Sunday with lots of chocolate, a walk in the rain and a Chinese takeaway 🙂

I went to a Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

I also enjoyed my first visit to a Stow Startups meetup and the first ever Yolk event.

We found this strange bone in the garden.  I think it’s from a dog – any ideas?


I also went to a Save Orient gig at the Rose & Crown, which was excellent and surprisingly emotional.

Leyton Orient have been relegated from the football league for the first time in 112 years, and their existence is under threat due to appalling management from their chairman.

The Fans Trust are collecting a regeneration fund.  You can read all about it on their website, and please make a donation. Orient are one of London and indeed England’s oldest football clubs and are Waltham Forest’s only professional football club.  They’re an important part of our local culture and economy and need to be saved!

What I’m Listening to:

Shoulder Stretch – Walk Up The Wall

Here’s another simple but effective exercise for loosening stiff shoulders. I like this exercise for phase 2 frozen shoulder but it can be useful for other conditions.  You should not do this exercise if it is painful!

Shoulder Stretch, Walk up Wall

1. Stand next to a wall.

2. Using the affected arm, gently walk your fingers up the wall as far as you can go.

3. Note how far you can reach.

4. Slowly walk your fingers back down the wall.

Repeat three times. Perform 3 times a day.


You can also perform this exercise facing the wall, raising your arm in front of you.


– Keep breathing normally while you stretch. Do not hold your breath.
– Stretch gently and slowly. You should be able to feel a stretching sensation but it should not hurt.
– If a stretch becomes painful, stop immediately and seek advice from your therapist.
– Only perform stretches which have been prescribed or approved by a qualified individual such as your GP, physiotherapist or osteopath.

How Are You?

Our lifestyles can be unhealthier than we think.  It’s easy to drink a bit more than we should, skip exercise and choose less than healthy meals.  No one has to be perfect all the time but equally you want to avoid ‘treats’ becoming bad habits.


how Are You quiz by Public Health England


I tried Public Health England’s ‘How Are You’ quiz and was pleasantly surprised by how useful it was.

The quiz only takes about 10 minutes and identifies areas for improvement as well as areas where you’re doing well.

It gives you gentle suggestions to improve your health.  The One You website has more detailed advice on smoking, drinking, stress, sleeping and exercise.


I assumed that I had quite a healthy lifestyle but doing the quiz made me realise I could exercise more often and eat more healthily (it’s a shame I like burgers and cheese so much).  Given my profession I consider myself pretty well informed when it comes to health so it just shows we all have something to learn.


Take the quiz >


It is sensible to discuss health concerns with your GP.  Other health professionals, including Osteopaths, can support a healthy lifestyle.  Find out how we could help you with a free consultation – phone 020 8520 5268 to book in.

Brugger’s Relief Position for Back Pain and Poor Posture

Staying in 1 position, particularly sitting, is not very good for your spine.   Sitting with poor posture is even worse as it places uneven load on some muscle groups.  Over time this can lead to stiffness and pain.


Previously I’ve discussed how to sit with good posture, the importance of regular breaks and stretches you can do at your desk.

Brugger’s Relief Position is another useful tool for taking care of your posture.  It’s an easy and convenient stretch which should give some immediate relief and remind you to sit properly.

Bruggers Relief Position for back pain relief and better posture

  1. Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Feel your weight on your sitting bones.
  2. Hold your head up high, as if a string was lifting you up.  Be careful not to poke your chin forwards.
  3. Spread your legs slightly apart and turn your feet outwards.
  4. Rest your weight on your legs and feet, and relax your abdominal muscles.
  5. Tilt your pelvis forward and lift your chest bone.  This will increase the curve in your low back a little.
  6. With your arms at your sides, turn your palms up and twist your arms outwards.
  7. Take 10 slow, deep breaths in the position.
  8. Relax and continue what you were doing.
  9. Repeat every 45 minutes or so.


Here’s a slightly simplified version: