Know Your Backache Basics

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Q: My 14 year old daughter has backache and the GP says she has a slight scoliosis (curvature) of her spine, which is significant enough to check annually. Is there anything she can do now?

A: Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curve of the spine, which affects three to four children in every 1000 in the UK, usually developing during teenage years (though it may appear at any age). It’s twice as common in girls. In 80 per cent of cases, the cause is unknown; in the remainder, it may be present from birth or the result of an accident.

Get it checked: US school routinely check teenagers for scoliosis and London chiropractor Dominic Cheetham is campaigning for this to be adopted here. Meanwhile, parents can do an easy test at home (see sloanesquarechiropractors.com).

Backs weren’t designed to sit hunched over computers for school work during the day and Facebook at night. Dominic Cheetham suggests the following:

Use a desk computer: laptops should only be used for short bursts; see the British Chiropractic Association’s (BCA) advice, chiropractic-uk.co.uk, under Mind Your Posture – Computer Sense.

Try a writing slope: or sloping desk for writing, reading etc: flat surfaces mean you lean forward and push your spine out of alignments, see posturite.co.uk, writing slopes from £29.95, Runner Desk from £297.88 ex VAT.

Have an eye test: if you can’t see the screen, you hunch over it.

Get a good chair: specially designed working chairs encourage you to keep moving; good brands include HAG and Hermann Miller. Visit a specialist centre and try them all. Even a sponge wedge can help by pushing the hips higher than the knees so the back is aligned better.

Walk around every hour: follow the BCA’s 3 Minute Straighten Up UK routine at least once a day. Consider learning Alexander technique (stat.org.uk), Pilates (pilatesfoundation.com), yoga (iyengaryoga.org).

Also try: fans say the specially designed sole helps backache, fitflops.com. Try Devil’s Claw, anti-inflammatory and pain-killing herb: Atrosan Devil’s Claw, £9.40 for 30 tablets from Victoria Health. For quick relief: topical Magnesium Oil Original Spray by Better YOU, £12.30 for 100ml, from Victoria Health. Deep Relief gel combines ibuprofen and levomenthol, £4.99 nationwide. And sip lots of still water: to prevent lactic acid build-up, which can cause muscle pain.

Snack foods

  1. Blueberries: as well as antioxidants, blueberries contain trace elements including vital selenium, which is deficient in many people today. Munch a handful daily.
  2. Almonds: stuffed with protein, vitamins and minerals; aim for 8-10 daily, skin on if possible. For maximum absorption, soak them in water overnight. Try almond butter for children (as long as they don’t have a nut allergy).
  3. Cherry tomatoes: contain lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, which may help protect against some cancers including prostate, also heart disease. Pop 6-10 daily.

Water Floss for teeth

As well as removing food particles, flossing your teeth dislodges bacteria, which start to harden and form plaque within 24 hours causing bad breath, inflammation of the gums, and ultimately tooth loss. An overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and complications in pregnancy. Lapsed flossers will have no excuses with the Philips Sonicare Airfloss, a rechargeable device that squirts a combination of air and water into the gaps between the teeth at 45mph. My tester said it gently removed firmly wedged food particles and was much less messy than other devices she’d tried before. It doesn’t hurt if you accidentally squirt yourself in the face so it’s safe for children. From Amazon and Boots £90.

Be an EVE Angel

Next Saturday, 17th September, a team of ‘Eve Angels’ will leap into a tandem skydive at Brackley Airfield, Oxfordshire, to raise funds for The Eve Appeal, which supports life-saving research into gynaecological cancers (that includes ovarian and cervical). The Eve Appeal is inviting other adrenalin junkies to do a sponsored jump any time of the year; you can go from any of 20 airfields in the UK; details from eveappeal.org.uk, tel. 0207 299 4430.

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