A Free Osteopathic Assessment – What’s the point?

A FREE Osteopathic assessment? Yes please!

A Northampton Osteopath offering something for free? When you see the word ‘Free’ what do you think? Do you view it with suspicion and think if it’s free it can’t be useful? If it has value why offer it for nothing? etc. etc.

In the age of the internet you are right to be suspicious as things offered for free usually have a price, whether it’s endless spam emails or you get something that is not even worth the free price tag.

Time for a Free assessment?

So what makes a free osteopathic assessment different from other free stuff that is readily available?

"What's in it for you?"

  • A chance for you to tell your story to someone that has the time to listen and understand what is happening to you.
  • An opportunity to speak to a highly trained medical professional who can explain why you are in pain and how they can help. You also get to find out how versatile osteopathy is and the wide range of conditions that it can be used to treat.

  • The fact you can ask questions and get answers in a way that’s as simple or as complex as you want i.e. ‘your back pain is caused by a trapped nerve’ or ‘your L4-5 nerve root is being compressed due to a central disc herniation causing referred pain into your right Hallux’.

  • The chance to ‘interview’ me and decide if I am the right person to help you. (probably the most important part of the process!)

  • Discussion of any scans or test results you want to bring along as they are often not very well explained. I have the time and knowledge to explain them in a jargon-free way.

  • An honest opinion where I tell you whether or not I can help and if I can’t I will refer you to someone that can, whether it’s your GP or another healthcare professional.

"What's in it for me?"

I am a healthcare professional with a duty to identify and explain what I think is going on and provide you with advice you on your best options to resolve any problems. If I can help or at least point you in the right direction then my job is done and if you book an appointment that is a bonus  🙂 

Got a problem? You really have nothing to lose apart from 15 minutes of your time so why not book a Free Assessment now by clicking on this link

If you want more information before you make that all-important decision you can always call me on 01604 532853 or email for a no-obligation chat.

The difference between an osteopath, chiropractor and a physiotherapist is….

Osteopath, Chiropractor, Physiotherapist?

When people find out that I am Osteopath the next question is usually ‘what is the difference between an osteopath, a chiropractor and a physiotherapist and which one would be the best for me to see?’ Here is my attempt at a simple answer to that question which I hope makes sense. If there is anything you are not sure about please feel free to contact me for more information.

Choosing a therapist is like a maze

I have made some generalisations so I apologise to all of the therapists who read this and say ‘that’s not what I do!’ This summary is aimed at helping people understand a bit more about why we do what we do as therapists and I have deliberately kept it at a ‘high level’. Feel free to post comments if I have missed something fundamental about the way you practice, as anything that increases understanding can only be a good thing.

Probably the most important point to make is that anyone using the title osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist is a highly-trained healthcare professional that has studied for 3 – 5 years and must be registered with the appropriate regulatory authority i.e. General Osteopathic CouncilGeneral Chiropractic Council or Health and Care Professions Council.

What they do

Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment based on the view that when the body is balanced and working well, it will function with the minimum of wear and tear. Osteopaths use a detailed case history and physical examination to identify musculoskeletal problems within your body’s structure and function. The treatment approach can involve a combination of manipulative, structural, cranial and soft tissue techniques which are effective for a wide range of muscular, nerve and joint problems.

Like osteopaths, chiropractors take a case history and perform an examination to diagnose problems involving your muscles, joints and the nervous system. A chiropractic exam is more likely to involve the use of MRI, x-rays or CT scans as well as other diagnostic tests to identify any problems. They treat muscles, joints, and bones using a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine to resolve any problems identified.

Physiotherapists treat problems associated with ligaments, muscles, tendons, and joints and are known for their provision of post-surgical/fracture rehabilitation. As with the other health professionals, they will take a detailed history and use orthopaedic tests to diagnose problems and will use mobilisation techniques, manipulation, stretching and exercises to treat musculoskeletal conditions.

Similarities and Differences

Although equally well trained, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physiotherapists treatment approaches are based on different principles and philosophies. Despite those differences, there are many similarities with each profession using orthopaedic and neurological tests to examine and diagnose the problems presented by a patient. They may use different techniques to resolve the problems found, but the end result is always to improve health and to see you getting better.

Who should you see?

Does any of this help you to decide the best type of therapist to see? Probably not! In my experience ‘word of mouth’ is still the most popular way most people find a therapist usually from a good review from friends or family members. The next best thing is to use the internet to identify some therapists you like the sound of and call them. It is a good sign if the person you speak to sounds knowledgeable with a clear understanding of your proof what is happening. If the therapist is able to explain their thoughts in a clear and understandable way that is even better. Whenever there is a lot of ‘jargon’ with no clear explanation of what might be happening, feel free to walk away and find someone else that you feel comfortable with. Always ask lots of questions and as long as you are happy with the answers and the therapist’s treatment approach you have made the right choice.

The next best thing is to search the internet to identify some therapists that you like the sound of and then call them.  It is a good sign if the therapist sounds knowledgeable with a clear understanding of your problem and can provide an explanation of how they could help you. If they respond with a lot of ‘jargon’ and technical terms that leave you confused, feel free to find someone else as they either don’t understand what is going on or have communication difficulties. Always ask lots of questions and as long as you are happy with the answers and the therapist’s treatment approach you have made the right choice.

Choosing a practitioner is really as complicated and simple as that, with one approach to a treatment being very similar to another for resolving musculoskeletal problems.

I chose to practice osteopathy because it suits my philosophy and the way that I like to work, but it is really about the practitioner and whether their approach to treating you works for you.

If you have been looking for a therapist I hope that this helps and if there is any more advice that I can give you, please get in touch.

Muscle cramps, what they are and what you can do about them…


Muscle cramps can be a real pain..........

A common problem among my clients is muscle cramps, so I have looked at the latest research and summarised the advice to save you spending hours on the internet trying to find the relevant information.

What are muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps can range from an inconvenience lasting a few seconds to severely debilitating pain lasting 15 minutes or more. While it is a problem normally associated with exercise, it can also occur in non-athletes i.e. the majority of my clients.

Cramp can affect any muscle in the body and occurs when muscle fibres contract involuntarily and fail to relax normally. They are most common in muscles that cross over two joints e.g. the calf muscles, hamstring muscles (back of your thigh) and the quadriceps muscles (front of your thigh). Other areas that can be affected include the hands, stomach muscles and smaller muscles of the feet and toes.

What causes muscle cramps?
Despite extensive research, the exact cause of the problem is still a mystery. It is known that cramps occur when the mechanisms controlling muscle contraction and relaxation fail to work properly, resulting in the contraction lasting too long.

There are a number of factors that might contribute to the problem including:

  • Poor hydration and insufficient levels of electrolyte minerals in muscles.
  • Making muscles work too hard during an exercise that the body is not used to e.g. running 10 miles instead of your usual 5.
  • Inadequate rest and recovery before more exercise, as muscles are much more likely to cramp when fatigued.
  • Genetics play a role with some people more prone to muscle cramping than others.
  • Age, as muscles in the elderly are more prone to cramping than in younger people.
  • An injury, where muscles go into spasm in order to ‘protect’ the injured area.
  • A side effect of some medications including statins, ‘water tablets’ (diuretics) and asthma medications or an illness such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If your muscle cramps coincide with a new medication or you have any other concerns you need to speak to your doctor who will determine if anything more serious is going on, and do not stop taking any medication!!

So what can you do?

Generally, the fitter and healthier you are, the lower your risk of developing muscle cramps. This means that improving your fitness and general health, can significantly reduce your risk. The good news is that it doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym, just being more active, drinking more water and carrying out a few simple stretches can make a huge difference.

Here are some of the other things you can do to help reduce the problem.
Hydration – Maintain adequate hydration (1) as reduced hydration levels can lead to impaired electrical signalling to the muscles resulting in an increased risk of cramping. The common advice is to drink 2 litres of water a day, in fact the amount you need may be more or less than that, depending on your activity levels, body size and other factors. I could go on, but that is a topic for another blog…

Calcium and magnesium – These elements are essential for the contraction and relaxation of muscle fibres. A high-magnesium diet can help as this is an element that is often low in Western diets (2) and research suggests that low intake of magnesium can affect exercise performance generally (3). Good sources of magnesium include wholegrain unrefined (not white) breads and cereals, while brown rice, all nuts and seeds (especially sesame seeds), beans, peas and lentils (especially chick peas) and green leafy vegetables are all excellent sources.
Because of their role in muscle contraction and relaxation, research has focused on the role of calcium and magnesium in muscle cramps. In pregnant women, low magnesium status is associated with increased incidence of muscle cramps and magnesium supplementation helps reduce this condition (4-6). Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to help sufferers of ‘night cramps’, which involves nocturnal muscle cramping (normally in the legs) (7).

Stretching – One thing that nearly everybody agrees on is regular stretching targeted at muscles prone to cramping can greatly reduce the incidence of muscle cramps as well as stopping cramp once it’s started (8,9). Passive stretches held for 30 seconds seem to be most effective; the mechanism is unclear but a regular program of stretching is known to lengthen muscle fibres, by altering spinal neural reflex activity. Regular massage or foam rolling may also be beneficial as they promote general muscle relaxation.

In Summary
In most cases, you should be able to self-manage muscle cramps and reduce their frequency and intensity by following the advice outlined in this article. If you have any concerns please seek the advice of your doctor, especially if you have recently changed medication or the cramps have been getting worse over time.

Feel free to contact me at Sollus Healthcare if you need any advice on stretching or simple ways to increase activity to help reduce your cramping problem.


  1. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005 Dec; 15(6):641-52
  2. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 42(6): 533-63, 2002
  3. J Nutr, 132(5): 930-5 2002
  4. Z Geburtshilfe Perinatol. 1982 Nov-Dec;186(6):335-7
  5. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Jul;173(1):175-80
  6. Fortschr Med 1984 Sep 13;102(34):841-4
  7. Med Sci Monit 2002 May;8(5):CR326-30
  8. J Sports Sci 1997 Jun;15(3):277-85
  9. Clin Sports Med 2008 Jan;27(1):183-94, ix-x

Spring gardening is a dangerous sport?….

a lawn mower is a dangerous thing
A garden full of dangers….
how dangerous can a flowerpot be?
….be very afraid?

A recent article in the Telegraph claimed that gardening can be a dangerous activity and while I think that it greatly exaggerates the problem there is definitely an element of truth to it.

In one year, 300,000 individuals in the UK attended A & E departments after having an accident in the garden with 87,000 people actually injured while gardening! Top of the list of most dangerous pieces of equipment is the lawnmower, with 6,500 accidents reported and flowerpots were the second most dangerous causing 5,300 accidents. Falls, cuts and lifting injuries were some of the other common types of accident reported.

Some of the more common gardening problems you want to avoid include:

  • Gardeners’ back which is another name for low back pain caused by digging, raking and lifting heavy objects.
  • Weeder’s wrist where wrist pain and stiffness occur due to over-zealous weeding or overuse of the garden shears.
  • Pruner’s neck with neck and shoulder pain caused by pruning those high branches on hedges and trees.

Using gardening equipment safely (especially lawnmowers!) will obviously be very high on your priority list, but when it comes to avoiding injury taking care of your body should be viewed with equal importance.

This advice should help you to avoid some of the common problems listed and help to keep you pain-free:

  • Try to begin your gardening session with a warm up routine by taking a brisk 5 minute walk to help get your heart pumping and warm up your muscles ready for activity.
  • Set a 10 – 15 minute time limit on any activity to help spread the load on your muscles and joints as this will make a repetitive strain injury  much less likely. Whenever possible change the hand/ arm you are using for a particular job as this will also help reduce any problems.
  • Listen to your body and if you start to feel some discomfort while carrying out a task don’t ignore it, slow down or take a break.
  • Protect your back by keeping it straight, avoiding any twisting movements and bend at your hips and knees. This means that when you lift you will use the powerful leg muscles rather than your weaker back muscles!
  • Keep hydrated and drink plenty of water to replace any fluids that you might lose due to sweating.
  • When planting or weeding use a foam-padded kneeler or knee pads to avoid developing knee pain.

When the gardening has been done, carrying out some simple stretches like these will help to reduce any aches and pains and you will feel much better the next day. A nice warm bath will also help to keep you nice and flexible.

Following our advice should help to make your gardening a less ‘extreme’ activity’, but if you do have any concerns please call us on 01604-532853 or email and we will do what we can to help resolve any problems.

post-gardening relaxation in the sunshine
….Gardening safely done, time to relax



So what exactly is osteopathy?

An image of Andrew Taylor Still - The founder of Osteopathy
Andrew Taylor Still – The founder of Osteopathy

I was inspired to write this blog after trying to explain what Osteopathy is at a networking meeting recently. The nature of networking meetings mean that you have a short time to explain who you are and what you do while making it sound interesting otherwise it ends up being a very short conversation. I tell people “I am an Osteopath and I ‘fix’ people for a living” which usually gets their attention then I tell them what I really do.

Osteopathy is a very difficult subject to summarise in the confines of a blog post, but here goes….

Osteopathy was developed by an American called Andrew Taylor Still in 1874. He worked as a frontier doctor during the American Civil War and became disillusioned with the practice of medicine at that time as it seemed to be killing as many people as it cured!!  After witnessing the death of his children from meningitis, and being unable to help them, he looked for an alternative, more effective approach to healthcare.

Osteopathy came from Still’s understanding of the musculoskeletal system, the importance of the blood supply, natural immunity and the body’s ability to heal itself. By taking these different factors into account he developed an effective treatment approach involving joint manipulation (‘cracking’), joint mobilisation (movement), massage (soft tissue techniques) and cranial techniques (influencing the skull and nervous system). Other osteopathic tools include muscle energy techniques, balanced ligamentous tension, visceral osteopathy, myofascial techniques and trigger points (all covered in more detail here).

 The General Osteopathic Council (UK regulator of osteopathy) describes Osteopathy as:

“a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.”

This basically means that it is not just for ‘bad backs’, but can be used to treat a wide range of problems including headaches, neck, shoulder and back pain, hip pain, osteoarthritis, sports injuries, hypermobility syndrome, motor neurone disease etc. etc. I could go on, but you can hopefully see that Osteopathy is a very versatile treatment approach.

The ability to treat such a diverse range of problems is because Osteopathy treats the person and not the symptoms. If you see an osteopath because of a knee injury they will also consider the knee, ankle, hip and low back, then take into account old injuries, your fitness levels, age and many other factors before proposing a treatment plan. Because everyone is different, taking this approach ensures the treatment is always aimed towards getting the best outcome for you as an individual.

 While Osteopathy is a very versatile treatment approach it cannot resolve every problem and a referral to a GP or other health professional will always take place if that is the route to the most effective form of treatment.

 As I am sure that you can tell, this is not an exhaustive description of Osteopathy and its history, but I hope that you now have a better understanding of what it is and how much an osteopath could do to help you.

If you still have any questions on Osteopathy please feel free to contact me as I am always happy to help. You can also find out more about what I do on my website.

An image of Andrew Taylor Still and a colleague discussing anatomy.
Andrew Taylor Still and a colleague discussing anatomy

 AT Still’s autobiography is a great insight into the man, the world that he lived in and why he developed osteopathy:

If you still want to know more about Osteopathy I would suggest you look at Osteopathy – Models for Diagnosis, Treatment & Practice by Parsons and Marcer ( ISBN-13: 978-0443073953) which is an excellent, easy to understand reference book for all things osteopathic. is a good on-line reference if you don’t like those book things 😉 and it also has links to many more on-line resources

Are you sitting comfortably?

poor posture

The osteopaths at Sollus Healthcare see a lot of clients that have work-related aches and pains, especially the ones that work in an office environment.

Work related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD), as we professionals like to call them, are the result of a poor work environment affecting muscles, joints and ligaments usually in the neck, shoulders and low back. These problems can seriously affect your quality of life and this can be confirmed by anyone that has suffered from low back pain, neck or shoulder problems or posture-related headaches.

According to the latest statistics (1):

  • In 2014/15 44% of work related illnesses were WRMSD.
  • An estimated 9.5 million working days were lost due to WRMSD, which is 40% of all days lost due to work related ill-health in 2014/15.

(If you would like to know more, you can have a look at  this (1)

We work with employees based at some of Northampton’s largest educational establishments treating WRMSD and providing advice on workstation setup. Until they came to see us many of these clients didn’t even realise that their workstation set up could have such a significant impact on their physical wellbeing.

Here is some advice on what you can do so you don’t end up with similar problems:

poor posture

Don’t work like this

Head forward, rounded shoulders & low back, leaning forward with your weight through your elbows, pressure on the wrists etc.

This can result in headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, low back pain and wrist pain.

Work like this

 Head upright, (top of the monitor level with your eyes), straight back, your bottom at the back of the chair, forearms resting on the desk and feet on the floor (use a foot rest if your feet don’t reach the floor)


good posture


Once you have set up your workstation correctly, here are some other things that you should consider:

  • Desks are designed for people of average height and if you are very tall you probably need a height adjustable desk. If you are shorter than average and your feet don’t touch the floor when you are sat down you need a footrest (whatever you do don’t tuck your legs under your chair or adopt other strange positions as this can cause hip, low back and knee problems over time!).
  • Avoid crossing your legs while sitting.
  • At least once an hour look away from the screen and focus on a distant object for 30 secs to reduce eyestrain.
  • If you spend a lot of time on the telephone, don’t cradle it in your neck, treat yourself to a headset.

Specialist equipment can be useful e.g. if your work requires a lot of numeric input you could use a numeric keypad and reduce the amount of typing by using voice to text software.

Other things to consider are:

  • TAKE REGULAR BREAKS AWAY FROM YOUR DESK!!! (probably the most important point hence the capital letters!)
  • Ideally take a minimum 5 minute break from your desk every 30-45 minutes. (set up a reminder on your PC or use the timer app on your phone)
  • Rather than emailing or calling someone in your office go and see them.
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk and go for a walk afterwards.
  • Do some stretches during the break (contact us for exercises ideas if you need to)

If you have a WRMSD caused by office work, doing some or all of the above will definitely help and remember it is equally important to apply the same principles if you work from home.

Don’t forget we offer 15 minute FREE assessments so please contact us if you have any concerns about a pain that just won’t go away or you would like more advice on your desktop setup. You can call us on 01604 532853 or email We are here to help.