Sarah Oliver Osteopathy, 020 8520 5268 (Walthamstow) 07708 130 319 (Fulham)

Weekend Reads: July. Cycling, Holiday Stretches, Skeleton Steve and Iced Coconut Mochas

It is the last weekend of July making it time for Weekend Reads! Enjoy my favourite bits from this month on the internet.




How much does sitting negate your workout benefit?

I’ve just got a bike and found this beginner’s guide to cycling really helpful.

Speaking of which, did you know that Waltham Forest council offer free one to one cycle training for people who live, work or study in the borough?

If you’re off on holiday, try these stretches I shared on the Ashlins blog.

Would you try an iced coconut water mocha?


Skeleton Steve, Ilkley Osteopaths

Some of my colleagues in West Yorkshire joined in with the Tour de France in their own special way.

Handy: 6 things productive people do each day.

What have you enjoyed reading this month?


How to deal with a Bad Back at Festivals

The festival season is in full swing and I’m sure many of you are looking forward to a weekend of music, sunshine and camping over the summer.

Sadly festivals can be quickly ruined if your back starts to hurt.  Here are my tips for staying safe and comfortable.


pain free festivals with advice from an osteopath

Photo Credit: fussy onion via Compfight cc



Pack light. Be picky about what you pack.  Remember that you can buy many things on site.  Choose the smallest, lightest equipment you can find.

Carry your things in a rucksack, on both shoulders.

Pack your rucksack properly, with the weight evenly distributed.

Keep the straps on your rucksack nice and short so the weight is close to your centre of gravity.


Back care at festivals

Photo Credit: burge5k via Compfight cc



Use a camping mat under your sleeping bag to cushion your body.  Self inflating mats are particularly good.

Support your head and neck with an inflatable pillow.

back pain advice for camping

Photo Credit: Stew Dean via Compfight cc


During the Day

Sit down as often as you can.  Look for benches and chairs on site.  You may want to take a camping stool or chair or a ‘shooting stick’ so you can sit in comfort wherever you like.

 Change position often.   Sitting on the floor, standing and walking for long periods can really take its toll on your back.  So mix things up as much as you can.  If you’ve been standing still for a while, have a sit down or go for a walk to another stage.

Carrying your day bag.  Again, keep carrying to a minimum, and if you need to carry heavier items such as water bottles or beer, use a backpack on both shoulders.  Take it off and have a rest whenever you can.

Stretch. Even if you are not in pain, gentle stretches each day will help you feel more comfortable.  Try these: 123.

Treatment.  Many festivals have healing fields full of massage therapists, osteopaths, spiritual healers and anything else that might take your fancy.  A visit to one of these therapists could be worth every penny if your back starts to give up.

Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, meaning you will probably feel lovely and flexible and pain free after a couple of drinks.  Don’t go too wild though – relaxed muscles are not very supportive and leave you vulnerable to hurting yourself, particularly if vigorous dancing is involved.



 When you Get Home

Get treatment from your local therapist to help your back pain clear up.  Don’t put up with it and hope it will go away on its own.


If you suffer with back pain and would like professional treatment, call me on 020 8520 5268 (Walthamstow) or 07708 130 319 (Fulham).


Stretch your Quads

Quads stretch standing


1. Stand upright and hold on to a wall to support yourself.

2. Grasp one ankle in your hand, and pull it up towards your buttock.

3. Gently pull your bent knee backwards as shown above. Do not bend forwards; it is important to keep your back upright.

4. You should feel a stretch at the top of your thigh.

5. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side, once 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.  This information is provided for reference only.

Download a pdf of this stretch ▶



Prevent Holiday Back Pain, Pack Light

During the summer I see streams of people who have hurt their backs on holiday. In many cases the problem started with lifting and carrying heavy luggage.   Prevent holiday back pain, osteopathy tips

Don’t let your luggage ruin your precious time off! Here are my tips for packing light and handling your bags with care.


Try to take the minimum possible!

- Come up with a colour scheme for your holiday wardrobe and only pack items in those colours.  That way everything will mix and match.  If you can’t decide, stick with neutral colours and take colourful accessories.

- Pack what you’ll actually need while away, not every possibility.  For example, if you’re going to do a lot of sightseeing, choose comfy trainers and light layers rather than fancy dresses and heels and vice versa if you plan to party all night.

How to pack light and look after your back on holiday –  Be picky when packing shoes.  Even if you’re going away for several weeks you will only need 2-3 pairs.

- Wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothes when you travel.  That way you don’t have to carry them.

- Remember you can wash clothes while you’re away rather than taking a fresh outfit for each day.  Particularly applicable to holidays longer than 1 week.

- When you’re packing, try putting a rolled up towel or hoody in the bottom of your bag.  When you’re done just take it out.  This helps stop the temptation to fill your bag or suitcase up!

- Avoid packing heavy items such as big bottles of water, other fluids, denim and big shoes/boots wherever possible.

For fantastic and detailed advice on packing light I cannot recommend more highly.


Carrying luggage is a lot easier when the bag or suitcase is nice and light, so follow the above tips first!

avoid lifting heavy luggage for a pain free holiday

You’re always best off keeping weight as close to your body as possible, and distributed over both shoulders if you can.

Backpacks are a great idea and shoulder bags are ok if you wear them across your body with as short as strap as is comfortable.

Personally I hate wheely bags, but if you are a fan of annoying fellow travellers with one please be careful not to overload it.  Also keep it close behind you; don’t lean backwards when you’re pulling it along.

When it comes to lifting luggage in and out of cars and baggage carousels you should follow these lifting tips.


If you do manage to hurt yourself, try some gentle stretches (1, 2, 3), keep moving as much as possible and use a cold pack on the area.

For personal advice and treatment, make an appointment with me. 020 8520 5268 (Walthamstow) or 0770813019 (Fulham).

Weekend Reads: Bee’s Knees, Brain Ageing and Hiccups

July is just around the corner so it is time for another links round up.  Here are some of my favourite bits and pieces from June.

These are cool socks:

Bone anatomy socks


I’m not sure why this is news but nonetheless, it is good advice: serve water with meals instead of fizzy drinks.

 Has science solved the mystery of hiccups?

If hot weather has been disturbing your sleep, try these 10 tips.

Being bilingual slows brain ageing

Why anaesthesia is one of the greatest medical mysteries of our time

Some local osteopathy clinics were reviewed by the Evening Standard


It’s the bee’s knees:

bee's knees

Slipped Discs – What exactly are they?

You probably hear about slipped discs all the time and may know someone who has suffered one.  You might even have a slipped disc yourself.  Despite disc injuries being very common they are often poorly understood.  Here’s a quick and easy summary – you’ll be an expert in no time!   First of all, I’ll let you in to a secret; slipped discs don’t actually ‘slip’  anywhere.  To understand what really happens you first need to understand what a disc looks like.   Anatomy of a Healthy Disc

An intervertebral disc (IVD) has a tough outer layer called the Annulus Fibrosus.  The inner layer is a gel like substance called the Nucleus Pulposus, which has a similar consistency to toothpaste.   You can picture a disc like a jam doughnut, with the nucleus as the jam and the annulus as the dough. At the front of your spine the bones and discs are supported by the Anterior Longitudinal Ligament with the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament doing the same at the back of your spine. Your discs are joined very firmly to one vertebra above and one below so there’s no way a disc can slip out of place.   So what does happen?   Disc Injuries types of disc injury     There are several types of disc injury: -The outer layer of a disc becomes torn (annular tear). – The inner nucleus is pushed out of place and squeezes between some layers of the annulus.  This makes the edge of the disc ‘bulge’ out (known as: disc bulge, disc herniation, prolapsed disc). – The nucleus pushes right through the annulus and may become loose in the spinal canal (sequestered disc). Disc injuries cause pain due to local inflammation, causing muscles around the site of injury to go into spasm and irritating nearby nerves.  In more severe cases the disc can actually squeeze on to part of a nerve root.  This often leads to pins and needles, numbness and even weakness in the area controlled by the affected nerve – the most famous example being the sciatic nerve in the back of your leg. Surprisingly, disc injuries can also lead to no symptoms at all.    If you’re worried you have a slipped disc, get a proper diagnosis.  Speak to your GP about your symptoms and consider visiting an osteopath for treatment to relieve pain.

How to Lift Correctly

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to bend your knees when you lift.  But how often do you actually do that?  If you’re like most people it is probably never.

Do you suffer with a bad back?


Crouching with both feet close together is not particularly easy or comfortable for many of us so we find it easier to bend our backs instead.  This is not really a good idea; it asks the muscles in our low back to stretch and then support both our weight and what ever we’re lifting.  If you add on to this any twisting or leaning you’re on a path to hurting yourself.


Here’s how you should do it:
Lifting correctly advice


Stand close to the item with one foot in front of the other.  Slowly bend at the knees and grasp the item with your hands.  Hold it as close to your body as possible.  Lift up with your legs, keeping your back straight.  Don’t use your back to take the weight!


- Consider what needs to be lifted before you get started.  If it is very heavy or large ask someone to help you or consider using appropriate equipment.

- Avoid twisting while lifting.  Try to turn your whole body instead.

- It is often easier to lift in two stages.  First lift to a mid point such as a sturdy table, then up to torso height to move the item.

- Make sure you have a have clear access to the item.  Move anything which might get in your way while moving it, get someone to hold open any doors.

- If you hurt yourself, seek professional treatment!  A cold pack will help you feel more comfortable.


For more information, read Manual Handling at Work guidance from Health and Safety Executive.  If you have hurt yourself by lifting or bending, seek assessment from your GP or osteopath.


Don’t get the Hump…Straighten your Back with an Easy Stretch

If you spend a lot of time working at a computer, leaning over a desk or bending forwards to work on a craft you may notice the top of your back becoming stiff.  You might also find that the top of your back is always bent over, giving you a small ‘hump’.

squirrel slouching over desk

Photo Credit: jaci XIII via Compfight cc


Let me tell you this is BAD news!  This posture can restrict your movement and your breathing and becomes harder to correct the longer you leave it.


The good news is you can improve or prevent this problem.  Try this easy stretch:


1. Roll up a small towel.

2. Lie on your back with the towel underneath and horizontally placed across your shoulder blades.  Put a small pillow under your head.

3. Interlock your fingers under your head and allow your elbows to drop down towards the floor.  Don’t worry if they don’t touch the floor.

4. Breathe slowly and deeply and allow your spine to gently stretch over the towel.  Allow your shoulders to stretch, letting your elbows fall closer to the floor.

5. Remain in this position for 5 minutes.  You may want to play some relaxing music while you do this.

5. Perform once 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.

Download a pdf of this stretch > 


Weekend Reads: Learning from Ants, Lucid Dreaming and Why Armpits Smell

A little later than anticipated, here’s my round up of reads from May.



Have you ever wondered why you can’t use blood from someone with another blood type (unless they are type O)?


Now I know why armpits can smell bad 

 Lucid dreaming is when a sleeper recognises they are dreaming and may even be able to manipulate the dream’s plot and control their behaviour. It seems that lucid dreaming can be controlled with electrical scalp stimulation.


Do you sit down at work all day? And then in front of the TV every evening?  Sitting could be as bad for you as smoking.

Survival tricks of hibernating animals could help humans overcome extreme injuries.

If you have trouble drinking enough fluids, how about this sweet bottle cap that reminds you when to drink?