Category Archives: Woods Words on Wellness

Blog on health related information for those moving toward a wellness lifestyle.

Exercise – some is better than none

There are so many ways to exercise and

even a small amount is beneficial to our health.

“Movement – Both Funcion and Expression of Life”

We all  know that regular physical activity has health benefits, including weight control, strengthening the heart, bones and muscles and reducing the risk of certain diseases. Recently, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that just one session of moderate exercise can also act as an anti-inflammatory. The findings have exciting implications for chronic diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia and for more complex conditions, like obesity.

Even 20 minutes can act as anti-inflammatory

Unfortunately, many people who want to start exercising have issues that stop them exercising or make it uncomfortable or painful to exercise. This could be because of painful joints, stiff back or even lack of confidence in their body’s ability.

Our bodies are designed to move. We love the feel the feeling of movement and all the benefits that exercise brings to our health and the postive impact it has on those around us. We’d love you to be able to feel the same.

So, if you feel that your body is not up to it yet and want to find out if we might be able to help you. Come in for our weekly, free, no obligation Talk. Have a look at this short clip for more info.  

Move it – or – Lose it

The Brain needs Movement

The Brain needs Movement

Your whole body and its physiology are designed around movement. In fact, even the most basic organisms have a system of detection “a nervous system” and system of locomotion. These are there to either take them toward nutrients and a sustaining environment or away from predators and threats.

While all your trillions of cells make you a highly complex multicellur organism your whole body, its organs and their workings (physiology) are essentially doing the same thing: Keeping your nervous system alive, so it can move you toward food and away from threats.

In a human embryo the first organ we can see developing is the Neural Tube, even before the heart starts beating! This is the early nervous system and will control and regulate every function in your body. Wow! As the embryo grows into a foetus and then us, the nervous system continues to grow and develop. The main nerve circuits like breathing, control of heart beat and reflexes are “pre-wired”. The other pathways contain trillions of “unprogrammed” potential and tentative connections. These connections are either “embedded” and “expanded” or are “pruned”, depending on whether they are stimulated or not. This stimulation comes primarily from … wait for it …. movement, interaction with and in the environment. So it’s really this movement and stimulation that creates and re-creates the wiring and connections within your brain and spinal cord (nervous system).

Hopefully now you can appreciate how crucial movement is for the development of a competent nervous system, especially during early childhood. But it goes further than that. Learning new movement patterns help us to make new nerve connections and has been shown to improve cognition and memory in the elderly. (Learning a new language also helps but skills that require learning new movements seem to be particularly beneficial)

Likewise practising and repeating a movement helps to keep both old and new nerve pathways intact. The more you practice the more “hardwired” the circuitry becomes. When I was a kid I played a lot of tennis and other racket sports. Those movement patterns are quite ingrained and I’m confident that when I pick up a racket again I’ll be able to hit the ball but I’m also quite sure my direction and accuracy will be way off. But with practice and repetition I will be able to improve … by firing up those old pathways (and probably some of my old bad habits). I also know that if I don’t play or practice, my shots, movement and anticipation will all decrease again. It is just like aerobic fitness “Use it – or – lose it!”

We now know that the nervous system tells our body how and when to move, but it turns out that when we flip it on its head, our brain and spinal cord actually need the stimulation of movement, to tell it at what level to operate. In and around all your joints you have lots of little sensors that detect things like movement, tension and pressure. These sensors (proprioceptors) send signals to your brain to tell it where each body part is in space. These signals are very important for balance and control of limbs. When these sensors stop sending signals to your brain, like when you sit down for more than about 20-40 minutes, the brain slows (down-regulates) your metabolism and decreases alertness.

Ever sat at your desk and looked down at your watch and thought, “I’ve been sitting here for 2 hours and have only a typed handful of lines?” Your sitting, or rather your lack of movement, has decreased your mental alertness. The opposite can be seen if you watch someone on an important phone call, they can be seen pacing up and down, literally “on their toes” ready, engaged and highly adaptable.

In short:

  • Movement is crucial for developing and maintaining a healthy nervous system.
  • Movement improves and maintains nerve pathways that can help mental function and memory.
  • Lack of movement changes the way your brain and body function (in a bad way).

Take Home:

Get moving and keep moving thoroughout your day. Break up your sitting hours by standing up every 20-30 minutes then move your limbs and spine. (Chat to me about our Posture Up programme)

 “Movement both function and expression of life”  Dr Timothy Wood

Science, Practice and Motivation

I used to love the research process. I loved the order. Where others found the stats boring, I found “crunching the numbers” fun. Putting meaning to these by interpreting the results, “Wow, what a privilege!” I published several papers and presented these at International Conferences. I liked the prestige that came with this. I admit, it stroked my ego.

I’m not actively involved with research these days. I still read articles every week and follow trends in Health Care science. But I’ve become somewhat disillusioned by it. Why? One of the reasons is it takes the patient experience out of the equation. The outcome must be isolated, numbered and variables removed. The reductionist model doesn’t really fit practice, because we are the variables. Wellness Care takes into consideration the whole person. The quantitative scientific process gives us glimpses of what might be going on, but it can never tell us the whole story. We design elaborate studies with more and more complex statistics (I have to believe these will give me the answers without always understanding how they work, but that’s a whole other essay) to help us get insight into what or how things might work. Where does that leave the client or patient? Nowhere! Because they aren’t interested in being a number and they probably won’t fit the criteria for the study and even if they did – they will have variables that can’t be measured or even known. Even if they were an exact fit for a particular trial they might be the 10%, 20%, or 30% that didn’t respond like the rest.

From my experience as both practitioner and clinical scientist all patients want is: “to be well”. For some this is just getting out of pain, or being able to sit on the floor and play with their grand-kids and for others its being able to train for some epic physical challenge.

This is the part I like about practice: the variation within, the uniqueness of the person in front of me. The idea that flipped a switch in a 12 year old boy’s brain 32 years ago, “I can help people by working with the frame of the body and support the healing process without drugs or surgery!” is still alive in me today. So, having studied all those years, learned all these skills and helped thousands of people, what inspires me now?

Finding out what drives each person to seek their version of health; helping people identify their wellness goals; physically playing a part in their healing; educating; inspiring and motivating each patient or client to reach their health goals. In short: optimising their life experience through true health & wellness.

So, what started as blog about the limitations of science in practice, turned out to be a piece about my practice journey so far. Thank You Science for your contribution, Thank You passion and opportunity and most of all Thank You to all the patients and clients who have allowed me to be part of their health journey.  — Tim Wood

Hellish High Heels

Real Heals

If we were designed to wear heels our feet would look like this.

Many women love high heels, some men too, or at least looking at women wearing them. We know they make the wearer’s leg look slimmer and longer? But, from a health perspective, they are a disaster.

  1. They mash the toes, bending them upward and pushing them inwards. This causes painful and unsightly bone and joint changes like bunions, hammer & claw toes (ironic, considering women wear them to look good).
  2. They create excessive forces through the foot, ankle and knee causing early arthritis (degenerative joint disease).
  3. They increase the chance of ankle sprains and fractures.
  4. They changes posture contributing to spinal pain.

My advice is avoid all high heels, don’t kid yourself they are causing damage. If you must wear them, then go as low as possible. A 1 inch heel increases the load on your forefoot by more than 22%; 2 inch heel by +57% and 3 inch heel by +76%.

In the end the questions is: How much are you willing to damage your health, just to look taller?

One Man’s Journey from Pain to Vitality

Liam (Age: 59) writes:

The worst symptom was several years of pain in the left buttock, especially after sitting for long periods; this had been getting worse in the last few years.  Other symptoms included numbness in the front left thigh, generalised pain in the upper left leg, stiffness in the lower back and regular neck pain.    This all began after experiencing lower back pain about ten or fifteen years ago, when the lower back ‘locked’ for a short period following an awkward rotation of the lower spine.  I sought immediate treatment from a physiotherapist, and subsequently visited various osteopaths, physiotherapists, sports massage therapists and chiropractors.

In order to get a definitive diagnosis of my condition, I went to Bournemouth College of Chiropractic in July 2012.  The student intern’s examinations suggested there was a misalignment (subluxation?) of a lumbar vertebral disc (L5 or L4) affecting my left side and leg.  Various tests in the gym also showed my left leg was weaker than the right, which corresponded with my own suspicions.  There were no visible abnormalities on the X-Rays of the sideways and frontal area of my lower spine.  Two subsequent visits resulted in failed attempts to manipulate L5 vertebrae, but on the third visit the student was successful and I felt a sliding movement deep within my lower spine – I assume this was the actual L5 vertebrae moving into a new position.   The next day, the pain in my buttock was confined to a small region above its normal location, and then it virtually disappeared.

As it was time consuming to continually drive to Bournemouth, I believed I was almost  cured and only needed to have the lower spine massaged to help cure the weakness in the left leg.  I went to an Osteopath near to my home, who diagnosed Spondylolisthesis, but I felt this was incorrect.  I went to another local chiropractor who diagnosed Piriformis Syndrome, which I understand is a differential diagnosis of Sciatica.  I felt this was incorrect also. Several visits to a sports massage therapist made me feel I was not on the right track with regard to getting my lower back and spine in optimal condition.

 I researched other local Chiropractors, and thought I would give Maple Leaf a go, as Dr Timothy Wood was an external examiner at Bournemouth College of Chiropractic.  Tim avoided specific diagnoses, and instead explained that any further treatment should be directed at my pelvis as this is the foundation of the spine’s support structure.  Also, my pelvis was misaligned.  This may have been a cause or result of the L5 misalignment, and possibly contributed to the weak left leg when Tim explained that signals along the nerve pathway from the brain were not being efficiently communicated to the left leg.   After several visits where Tim manipulated the lower back, pelvis and neck, I began to notice great improvements in walking and sitting; I felt a surge of power in both legs as a result of the improved nerve signal communications between the brain and leg muscles.  Also, I felt more confident walking on uneven asphalt pavements, whereas before I was usually  hesitant.  The spine and pelvis now feel different;  movement of the lower back is much easier, and pain in the lower back and left leg is virtually absent.  This is quite an achievement, and I never expected to get this better so soon or to such an extent.  It seems I had found the right chiropractor, and a diagnosis which was more generalised than I expected, but entirely appropriate to my ailment.

A point to make here is that I have been a regular, recreational cyclist for about twenty years, and for about the same period have consumed foods that I considered to be nutritionally dense rather than processed.   Recently, I also purchased new chairs and a bed to improve my posture when seated or lying down.  I believe that these changes have kept me fairly healthy, and may help to explain my body’s positive and speedy response to chiropractic manipulation.  I suspect that certain types of ill health cannot be overcome unless the patient makes changes to the lifestyle which caused his particular illness or sub-optimal health.

A final observation.  It is very difficult for a patient to work out which alternative medical treatment – if any –  is relevant to his particular problem, and I cannot suggest a short cut to getting this knowledge.  The patient needs perseverance, patience and a willingness to invest in their health.