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The human body is designed to be moved.

A recent study of teenagers showed that they often sit for 95% of their waking day. At this clinic we encourage people to be physically active.

Physical Activity can be physical work (e.g.Building) or chores (house work) or daily activities. Exercise is a planned activity moving the body in a pattern different from normal activity. Play is usually physically active but involves elements of rest and creativity. (e.g. role playing or fishing) Rest is when the body is relaxed and the mind is floating free (day-dreaming) with no hard or worrying thoughts

This clinic is committed to enable patients to develop self-care. On this website there are examples of some exercises given at this clinic.

Head Balance

Step 1: Getting started.

I recommend that you stand relaxed or sit comfortably upright in a chair. Identify where your head joins the top of your neck. This can be done by nodding your head up and down gently.

Step 2: Find the balance point for the muscles at the top of your neck.

head-balance-left-rightGently turn your head left and right, keeping your head level.

When you feel the tension in the joint, gently move your head the other way. Make smaller and smaller movements, left and right, until you find a ‘balance’ or ‘wobbly’ point somewhere near the middle. This is likely to be off to one side.

Repeat the exercise nodding your head.

head-balance-up-downSlowly tilt your head all the way down and all the way up without causing pain. As before, slowly make smaller and smaller movements until you find a ‘balance’ or ‘wobbly’ point somewhere near the middle – this is likely to be a lot higher than what you might expect.

Your head should now feel relaxed on top of your neck.

Step 3: Relax the body.

Leave your head in the position you have just found, relax or drop your shoulders, wriggle your body or your hips. This takes about 1-2 seconds. Draw in a deep breath and let it out, then breathe normally.

Step 4: Fine-tune the balance.

Gently move your head left and right, up and down about 5-10 degrees or 2-3 centimetres. This is to find an even more relaxed or balanced position for the top of your neck.

Step 5: The head clearing exercise.

With your head sitting very relaxed on the top of your neck, imagine or visualise your head as a balloon floating up towards the ceiling or you may visualise your head is being drawn up off your neck by a piece of string attached to the top of your skull.

At this time, people often experience a feeling of ‘head rush’. You may feel a bit light-headed – do not be frightened by this, just relax with it until it settles down. At this time, you may also feel your body move or squirm. Allow it to move as it wants and try not to force it.

When all the movement has finished or your head has finished settling, breathe deeply in and out and relax. (Some people are not able to experience this head rush, either because they need further training, treatment or some other factor.)

Step 6: To finish off the exercise.

Repeat Step 4; you re-find where your head sits most comfortably on your neck. You may experience that your body ‘settles’ further.

This is where your head belongs.

If you experience pain or discomfort during this exercise please stop immediately and consult your osteopath.

I recommend that people do this exercise several times a day (Step 5 is optional) until they become quite familiar with where the minimum tension is at the top of the neck.

It is important that people balance their head at their workstation, at the gym, when walking or doing exercise. This exercise can also be integrated into other relaxation or meditation techniques.

This exercise is also recommended for those who suffer with tension headaches since these are usually caused by tightness in the muscles at the top of the neck. It may also help with other forms of headache or shoulder tension.

In developing this exercise, I have drawn from the Cranial Osteopathy and Osteopathic Functional techniques and acknowledge the influence of Alexander technique, Feldenkrais technique and Tai Chi.

Lower Back Care

lower-back-careIf the sway in your lower back gets too large then the back starts to buckle and give pain.

Tuck your butt in!

Place your hands on your hips. Tilt your pelvis back and forward (tailbone down, pubes up) until your lower back feels more comfortable or less painful.

Many people experience this good posture balance in other activities:
In sport there is the ‘weight low’ stance;
In sailing there is the ‘sea legs’ stance;
In the military there is the ‘at-ease’ stance;
Also in tai chi, dance, haka, Pilates, ….
Or a confident, ‘I feel good!’ stance.

Keep your lower back balanced when walking, standing, exercising or carrying items.

This posture is with the centre of balance in the pelvis. This is the most efficient use of your body.

Thigh Stretch

thigh-stretchStand next to something you can use for balance.
Lift your right leg behind your and hold your foot (or trouser leg) with the right hand. (Start with either leg but stretch both legs).

Tilt your pelvis forward. (Tuck your butt in and flatten your tummy). Check with a mirror if it helps.
Once you are in this position keep your back as straight as possible.

The area of the muscles being stretched is shown in figure above.
With your back straight push your knee to the floor. Alternatively, keep your back and hips stable and pull your foot horizontally backward.
Hold the position you are in for 10 to 15 seconds. Swap legs and the side with which you are holding the chair. Repeat the stretch for both sides at least twice each day – especially before exercise and after sitting too long.

Important: This stretch should be pain-free.

Take care not to arch your back during this stretch.
If you have difficulty with this exercise or you want to know more contact your osteopath.

Safe Abdominal Exercise

For those beginning or those with a weak back.

Upper Abdominal Crunch

Secure your lower back

Bring your knees up toward your chest and cross your ankles and let your knees spread apart.
Adjust the position of your legs until your back is almost flat.
At this point the back usually feels strong and secure with the abdominal muscles just slightly engaged.
The feeling is similar to the lower back balance position
Secure your neck

With your hands make fists and place them over your ears.
Bring your elbows together
Your neck should stay relaxed (your eyes can stay looking at your elbows)
The abs

Bring your elbows up between your knees.
This exercise should put no strain on your neck or lower back.

Lower Abdominal Exercise

Secure your back.

Place your hands, palm down, under your lower back muscles.
Bring your knees up toward your chest as above but keep your knees together and your ankles uncrossed.
When you have secured the lower back note the pressure that is on your hands and do not let the lower back lift up from your hands.
The abs

Keep one leg in position and stretch out the other leg. (Bicycle type move)
Make sure you keep the pressure on the hands under your lower back
Swap legs taking the extended leg out as far as is comfortable.

General Advice

If your have any pain or difficulty with this exercise (other that sore abdominal muscles) then stop the exercise and seek advice from your osteopath or exercise therapist.

Beginners can start with as minimum as 3 repetitions in a set.

After mastering this exercise you can do any abdominal exercise as long as it puts no more strain on your lower back or neck than this way.

Physiologic Stretching

Stretching is to change the length of muscles or to reset the ‘length reflexes’ in the muscles.
This will help maintain a balance in the body and increase performance of muscles.

To stretch most people pull hard on a muscle
People under 25 can often do this “Stretch or die” stretch and it lengthens
The further that people are from 25 the more they have to negotiate a stretch.

Using an understanding of muscle physiology there are three basic ways to stretch

  1. Passive stretching
  2. Post isometric stretching
  3. Breathing assisted stretching

Passive stretching

Engage the muscle. Stretch using only 20- 50 % of the power. Wait 20 to 30 seconds or until the muscle relaxes and lengthens. Repeat as required.

The anatomy of a muscle.

The muscles are made up of many bundles.
A model of thinking of these is to think of
Bundles of 10 which are often the regulator muscles
Bundles of 100
Bundles of 1000 which are the power muscles

A good alternative is stretching in stages

Stage one: Engaging the muscle
Gives the feeling “I can only just feel the muscle but I am not doing a stretch”
Using the bundles of 10
Wait 20 to 30 seconds or until the muscle relaxes and lengthens

Stage two: Medium pressure
In this stretch the muscle or muscle group is held with medium pressure 20- 30 %
Using the bundles of 100
Wait 20 to 30 seconds or until the muscle relaxes and lengthens

Stage three: Hard Stretch
A More powerful stretch
It is common that the muscle relaxes quite quickly at this stage.
Using the bundles of 1000
Wait 20 to 30 seconds or until the muscle relaxes and lengthens

Post-Isometric Stretching Similar to PNF stretching

In this stretch the muscle or muscle group is held with medium pressure 20- 30%. Then the muscle is held in a constant length and the muscle being stretched is activated to about 30 % of power for 5 seconds. The muscle is still held at the set length for another 5 seconds. Then the muscle length is re adjusted and the process repeated up to 3 times.

Breathing Assisted

When be forcefully breathe in we tighten muscles ant then when we breathe out we relax muscles. This is similar to the post isometric stretch but it uses breathing instead of muscle contraction. The stretch point is held firm and deep inspiration is held for 5 seconds, then the muscle is still held while a deep out breath is held for 5 seconds, then the stretch point is relocated and the process is repeated as required.

A good general discussion on stretching is at the Injury Fix website.

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