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Helping the Cotswolds get well and stay well with the Cotswold Chiropractor, Cheltenham and Winchcombe

News from the Cotswold Chiropractor

News from the Cotswold Chiropractor


The Importance of Sleep

Alexandra Hurley

Why do we need sleep?

The purpose of sleep is to repair and rejuvenate the body and mind. The energy that we naturally expend on day-time processes such  digestion, movement and thinking gets redirected towards healing and repairing the body whilst we sleep. We now know that the purpose of dreaming is to discharge emotions, through the use of metaphor and imagery, that weren`t discharged during the day. So if you don`t sleep or dream, the emotional charges of yesterday are carried on into the day after. Hardly surprising then that a couple of nights without sleep can leave a person feeling stressed!

How much do we need?

According to research, most of us require at least six hours of sleep per night. A just-discovered genetic mutation does enable some people to function normally on less, but less than one percent of people have the trait. According to David Schulman, MD and Sleep Expert at Emory University, most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep every night  in order to stay healthy.

Sleeping easy?

If you have trouble falling asleep, are waking up frequently during the night and then have difficulty getting back to sleep or wake up too early, you`re not alone! According to the World Health Organizaion (WHO), more than a third of British adults have sleep problems at least a few nights a week and a quarter of those will be taking prescription sleeping tablets. Research carried out by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has placed sleeping and mattresses as on of the top triggers of back pain, with over a quarter of sufferers blaming their beds. 


Just 10-20 minutes is all that is required to get the benefits of napping: alertness, improved performance, better mood, according to sleep researcher Kimberley Cote PhD, Brock University, Ontario. Why? During sleep, the brain produces different kinds of waves, which correspond to how deeply you sleep. If you nap too long, you may feel groggy and disoriented upon awakening rather than refreshed, because long naps are more likely to contain slow-wave sleep.

Also, don`t be tempted to nap too late in the day as this may interfere with your ability to fall asleep at bedtime.

Top sleep tips for sound and safe slumber:

  • Make sure your mattress is neither too hard nor too soft. If you are lying on your side your spine should be parallel to the mattress, which should not sag (bed too soft) or bow (bed too hard). Personal preference is also important when it comes to how firm or soft your bed is, but these are the simple guidelines.
  • Your pillow should support your head and neck. The neck should be a continuation of the straight spine and be neither too high nor too low.
  • Try to avoid physically stressful sleeping positions like lying on your front with your neck twisted to one side. Side lying is a far less stressful on the back.
  • Keeping hydrated is important as dehydration can make muscles ache.
  • Turn your mattress every couple of months.


    Your pillow is as important as your mattress. For individuals with neck pain, finding the right pillow can be a tricky experience! The ideal pillow should cradle and support your neck without distorting its normal alignment. Unsupportive pillows can lead to recurrent stiff necks, headaches, or referred pain to shoulder, arm or hand. It is important to avoid using no pillow at all or a very low pillow as this places the unsupported neck under strain all night long. it is equally not a clever idea to sleep with too many pillows or a very firm pillow as this forces the neck up and causes joint restriction.  Orthopaedic pillows can be expensive and difficult to choose, so please ask for advice and you can have a loan pillow to try! 

Sleep-inducing tips:

  • Avoid eating heavy meals at least two hours prior to going to sleep.
  • Foods high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, such as warm milk, turkey, nuts, banana, grapefruit, dates and figs, promote the production of serotonin which is a natural relaxant.
  • Exercise can help you sleep better, but not within three hours of bedtime.
  • Don`t go to bed if you feel wide awake.
  • Take a warm bath with lavender oil to unwind before bed.
  • Keep mental stimulation to a minimum in the two or three hours preceding bedtime. 
  • Don`t use your bedroom as a TV room.
  • Keep your bedroom in complete darkness whilst you sleep.
  • If you are still awake after twenty minutes of attempting to sleep, get up and do something relaxing such as reading a book, or drink a cup of chamomile tea.

Sleep tight!

How to stay well whilst moving house.

Alexandra Hurley

One of the most stressful experiences in a persons life, moving house is right up there with bereavement and divorce. My property lawyer told me this recently, so I am speaking from fresh experience! Our recent house move has prompted me to compile a list of advice for imminent house movers to hopefully reduce the stress and the risk of back pain.....


Leading up to exchange and completion dates there is the mammoth task of packing your worldly belongings into boxes, bags and cases (unless you hire the removals company to do this for you. If so, I would high tail it to the spa and let them get on with it!) If however, like me, you insist on doing this yourself, you will be at risk of bending and leaning over boxes, lifting heavy items and reaching and twisting....all postures which can put abnormal tensile load on the structures of the back. Here are a few pointers in the right direction....

1. Warm up before you do anything! A few easy arm swings, back and side stretches can be sufficient to get the blood circulating though the tissues which will minimise the chances of you pulling your back.

2. Try to engage your core muscles during any lifting activity, to protect your back. (Draw your belly button back towards your spine).

3. Do your best to limit the time you`re in one position i.e. knelt on the floor leaning over a box packing items or wrapping fragile pieces. Yes, there`s a job to be done, but your lower back muscles will be stiff and sore when you try to move again. 

4. When lifting weight or loading onto a vehicle, face the direction in which you want to carry the weight, to avoid twisting, keep the legs hip width apart and the knees softly bent.

5. Keep the load that you`re carrying as close to you as possible.

6. Avoid bending from the waist, which increases the stress on the lower back. Never keep knees straight as this will lead to over-stretching and will cause damage to the ligaments and muscles in the lower back.

7. Always avoid lifting whilst twisting at the waist.

All of the above may seem straightforward and nothing new but it is amazing how often I see a patient who has fallen into the trap of not warming up and then bending and twisting to lift an often heavy object. This is especially true when there is a deadline involved, which there almost always is during a house move. 

So my last bit of advice is to allow lots of time. I was told that whatever time I estimated the big pack-up to take, it would take double or three times that. They were correct! 

Chiropractic is great to alleviate aches and pains in the back and neck if it all goes wrong. I made sure I received several chiropractic treatments during my move to ensure correct skeletal alignment, to reduce muscular tension and to help me get some proper sleep. 

Talking about sleep, watch out for my next blog post  which will be describing how important sleep is and why!

Thank you for reading.




The Vitality Show...content from the recent radio show!

Alexandra Hurley

I was recently lucky enough to be asked to join into the morning chat on Melanie Cheesemans Vitality Show on my local radio station, Radio Winchcombe! Also in the studio was Clare Rigby, the focussed and talented owner of Zigs Exercise in Cheltenham. I thought, for those of you who weren`t listening in, I would share the answers to some of the questions which were put to me that morning....

Q. What IS Chiropractic?

A. Chiropractic literally means `done by hand`. It is a manual therapy, a method of adjusting the bones and joints of the body in order to improve skeletal alignment and restore joint function. We are primary health care providers which means that you do not have to be referred by your GP in order to see us.

Q. How is McTimoney different to mainstream chiropractic?

A. Developed by John McTimoney over 30 years ago, the McTimoney technique is recognised for being a gentle, whole-body approach to chiropractic care. The adjustments which are unique to McTimoney are low-force, swift and precise, making it a pleasant treatment to receive whilst being very safe and effective.

Q. Can I see a chiropractor through the NHS?

A. Not yet...Unless you live in one of the few areas of the UK where chiropractic is available under the `Any Qualified Practitioner` scheme. (Gloucestershire is not currently included in this scheme).

Q. What do/can chiropractors treat?

A. Normally, pain will be the reason that a patient visits me and some of the common problems I see in clinic are:

Lower back pain (disc injuries, ligament sprains, poor posture leading to joint malfunctions to name a few); Neck and shoulder pain (postural problems causing tensile load on neck and shoulder muscles, road traffic accidents causing whiplash-type injuries, frozen shoulder, rotator cuff muscle injuries); Sciatic-type pain; Migraine headaches and Cervicogenic headaches (relating to the neck); Pain associated with osteoarthritis (we obviously cannot change the arthritis itself, but we can help to minimise the pain and help to increase and maintain mobility. Several of my arthritis patients have found relief when I`ve used a combination of gentle mobilisations, McTimoney adjustments and Western Medical acupuncture); Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) like Tennis or Golfers elbow; Sports Injuries (Ultrasound is a great help when it comes to sprains and strains of soft tissue. Alignment checks are also so important if you`ve had a riding or skiing accident, a rough tackle on the rugby pitch (ouch!) or forgotten to warm up before the round of golf (tut-tut!)

However, pain is often the last symptom of other words, you don`t have to be in pain to see a chiropractor! The rough and tumble of childhood, all those heavy books you carried as a teenager, the naughty postural habits you`ve developed over the years, the hours spent driving and on the computer, the children you`ve given birth to and/or carried on your hip all put stresses and strains on your body which can eventually lead to pain when you least expect it. Regular chiropractic checks can pick up on these problem areas and deal with them safely, gently and effectively before they become big issues.

Lots of my patients use chiropractic as a prevention tool to minimise the risk of pain or recurrences of old injuries.

Q. Who sets the standards for chiropractic practice?

A. The General Chiropractic Council (GCC). We must follow their code of practice and standards of proficiency. Anyone wishing to call themselves a chiropractor in the UK must be registered with this governing body.

Q. What is a good form of exercise for your back?

A. Pilates is top of my list for effective exercise for back pain sufferers. I refer patients to local trusted pilates teachers once I help them through the acute stage of pain. Research has shown that exercise and manual therapy combined has better results for back pain patients than exercise alone.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Blog post, I hope it has been of interest to you. Please refer to my FAQ`s page for other questions you may have, or contact me directly.