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The Physiotherapy 4 Life Blog will give you some useful hints and tips for a healthy and happy lifestyle and keep you up to date with new findings and research.

By Helen Brandreth, Jun 13 2014 11:52AM

Tom, who is a trained physiotherapist, offered to be our ‘guinea pig’ in a Q&A session about Pilates. Recently, he ran the Manchester Marathon and is now training for a 10 peaks mountain challenge! Having previously had spinal surgery, Tom now incorporates Pilates into his running regime. Here’s what he had to say:

Q - why did you decide to take the Pilates classes?

My quality of life in relation to sports participation (rugby, running and cycling) had been affected for several years due to ongoing back pain. As a physio, having tried the usual pain relief (foam rollers, massage and heat/cold therapy), I realised it was important to have sufficient mobility and strength throughout the whole body, especially the lower back and trunk. Having heard that Pilates helps to promote core stability, flexibility and control, I decided to attend Helen’s introduction to Pilates which allowed me to progress at my own pace.

Q – how does your preparation for the 10 peaks mountain challenge compare with your pre-Pilates marathon training last year?

I’ve noticed significant improvements in my running. During my 2012 marathon preparations, I was plagued by niggling injuries and muscle soreness, exacerbated by tightness in my hip and knee muscles. Since starting Pilates, I’ve been able to train harder because my muscles are not as tight on the days following a long run training run. Also, my running style is more fluid and my legs feel more powerful. I think the weekly Pilates sessions help my muscles to recover and have improved my flexibility and control. The classes give me time and focus to really stretch my legs and back, which is something I’ve always neglected previously.

It’s also contributed to my post-race recovery. After the 2012 marathon, it took almost seven weeks to feel ‘normal’ again. This year, having taken regular Pilates classes, I was back running a few days after the marathon – without any significant muscle pain or tiredness!

Q - following your spinal surgery, how have the Pilates classes helped your mobility and strength?

In 2012, I suffered a slipped disc following a back tackle during a rugby match. I needed spinal surgery, which was followed by several months of rehabilitation. The Pilates classes have helped me get back to my pre-injury state, in terms of mobility and strength. Pilates has motivated me to work on my core stability and my lower back mobility. All this means that the weekly back pain I’ve experienced for years has been reduced to an occasional ache, e.g. after a long day of driving.

Q - are there any other specific benefits Pilates has brought you?

In addition to improving my flexibility and strength, I’ve noticed improvements in my posture. The Pilates classes teach you to be aware of your body position. I now find myself ‘checking’ that my posture is correct. Adjusting and improving my posture when standing and sitting has reduced my lower back pain and had a knock-on effect in improving my running style.

Q – could you tell us something about the classes themselves?

In my opinion, Helen is a fantastic Pilates trainer, who combines professionalism and friendliness to make the classes challenging and enjoyable. She takes time to get to know each member of the class and this insight enables her to tailor the classes to suit the group. Helen provides advice to individuals, such as those who may have specific injuries/pain, so that each attendee gets the most out of the classes.

The classes are fun and varied, where the level of difficulty of each exercise is adjusted to suit the individual. There are between 8-12 people in the class I attend. This allows a social element, without having too many attendees. Helen walks around the class and helps individuals whenever needed. It’s also really motivating to watch others improve as the weeks go on.

I really like the fact that the Pilates classes are mixed, in terms of gender and age. Whilst the classes are mainly female, several men do attend and don’t feel out of place. The age range is from under 18s to 60 years plus. Attendees include people who are into sports like running, rugby and dancing, but also include those who simply wish to be more active.

I was amazed to discover that Pilates suits everybody. It’s great to be involved in a class where everyone works at a similar level, regardless of gender, age and background. I’d highly recommend the classes – either to support specific injury problems or for general fitness purposes.

Helen says …"Pilates really is great and I am glad that Tom along with all the other class participants have found great benefit in their own ways. Pilates based exercises are often given during one to one Physiotherapy sessions too, so don't feel the only way to benefit is to come to a class. You could have a one to one Physio Led Pilates Session at the clinic or exercises may be taught in your Physiotherapy Assessment and Follow Up appointments. I can also say how much benefit I have personally felt from my own Pilates experience. I am 26 weeks into my 3rd pregnancy, I have had no pelvic pain, back pain or sciatic pain which I suffered during my previous pregnancies."

For more information about our physiotherapy-led Pilates classes, please contact us [email protected]

By Helen Brandreth, Jun 4 2014 07:31PM

Physiotherapists often wonder how many people workout at work. By this, I don’t mean running laps around the office as though you were training for a fun run or marathon. Nor does it mean jumping around to music in front of the boss, no matter how much they might enjoy it!

Working out at work can include a variety of tasks that are aimed to get you up and moving. For example, delivering documents to a colleague rather than sending them via the internal mail will get you out of your chair. Another suggestion is to simply use the stairs instead of the lift whenever possible. An obvious idea, and one that’s often overlooked, is to offer to make your colleagues a cup of tea or coffee. Whilst you do your “good deed” (and improve your popularity), you’ll be able to stand up (or quietly stretch) in the kitchen while the kettle boils.

In an attempt to “keep everyone moving”, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is encouraging physiotherapists to host a variety of events on 6 June 2014, as part of its “Workout at Work” initiative. Rachel Newton, CSP public affairs and policy officer, said: “Many members who are organising events are using the occasion to invite a local health decision-maker to take part, which will help raise the profile of physiotherapy”.

So far, more than 100 events have been registered. Activities include brisk lunchtime walks, Pilates, circuit training, Zumba and desk-based stretch sessions. One Healthcare Trust is even planning a ‘retro sports day’ and outdoor picnic, in order to promote the importance of taking a lunch break and moving away from your workstation.

On a serious note, the whole point of the “Workout at Work” day is to promote the importance of taking a daily break at lunchtime. Even better if it includes a quick walk around the block, outside in the fresh air. Whilst your boss may be a little reluctant, you can reassure him/her that it will leave you fresher and more motivated in the afternoon. Surely, that’s music to their ears?

Helen says, “Physiotherapy 4 Life would like to offer you an opportunity to invite us to your workplace on 6 June. We’ll willingly lead a Pilates session or show everyone some medically approved desk-based stretching exercises. We’re happy to advise on any other ideas too – although, if you decide to host a lunchtime egg and spoon race, don’t expect us to offer to boil the eggs!”

To contact Helen, email [email protected]

By Helen Brandreth, Apr 30 2014 08:29AM

This may seem like a strange or rather personal question from a physiotherapist. However, did you know that “National Stop Snoring Week” takes place between 28 April – 2 May 2014.

Medically known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), sleep apnoea is often associated with obesity and is often an under-diagnosed condition.

How can physios help? We can see patients who feel very tired during the day and snore at night. If so, OSA is something on which we could provide treatment and advice. For example, providing health and fitness advice to overweight patients who are at risk in developing the condition. Often people stop exercising or unsure of which exercise would be best for them as they have pain or restriction somewhere in their body.

Left untreated, OSA can reduce life expectancy and sometimes increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease.

For further information, please visit:

Alternatively, if you’re concerned in any way and wish to find out more about some medically safe treatment rather than buying the latest anti-snoring gimmick, please contact us via email [email protected] or send a facebook message at

By Helen Brandreth, Mar 31 2014 08:16AM

Do you suffer from Sciatica?

Janet, age 66, would like to share her story:

When suffering from painful Sciatica, I first visited Physiotherapy 4 Life in November 2013. My suffering had gone on intermittently for years. Eventually, I had great difficulty walking more than 250 metres without experiencing excruciating pain.

As you can imagine, my posture was terrible, I struggled to walk and my confidence was extremely low.

Having booked a 7-week holiday to visit family in Australia in February, I realised that something had to be done. I was desperate to at least be able to walk well and enjoy the wonderful sights.

I found Physiotherapy 4 Life on the internet and used its easy online booking system to arrange a convenient appointment.

At my initial clinical assessment, Helen asked lots of questions to ensure she fully understood every symptom in great detail. The initial programme included Acupuncture, massages and careful manipulation of joints and muscles.

Helen explained that, as I had walked so badly for so long, my muscles had not been used properly for quite some time. Her “hands on” treatments, combined with a specific programme designed to get my muscles moving again began to show results. I was encouraged to keep moving, especially as time was short and my holiday fast approaching.

Each week, Helen worked really hard to improve my flexibility. She introduced new elements to improve my mobility, whilst continuing to reassure me and offer invaluable advice. This included guidance on improving posture and balance. When appropriate, I was taught how to do some Pilates and Yoga exercises that I could do at home. I felt confident to do these outside the clinic because Helen guided me through them in detail. I did the exercises every day, without fail, for the whole period of my treatment.

In January 2014, after just 8 consultations in a period of only 15 weeks, the results were beyond my expectations.

Amazingly, I now have no Sciatica. The results were fantastic. My confidence is high and I feel great. I’m “back to normal” having thought this would never be possible and am now excitedly looking forward to my holiday.

Helen’s advice and patience were incredible. The programme she devised had a life-changing impact on me in a short space of time and I shall continue to do my exercises to maintain my current pain-free, confident state. I may even book a massage periodically to keep my muscles mobile!

I would recommend Helen to everyone, especially if you suffer from Sciatica. She’s given me an active life back and I’m keen to get on with it. THANK YOU, HELEN!

Helen said, "It has been a pleasure to work with Janet to get her back to living her life. Janet has worked hard at home completing her home exercise programme but it really shows what a difference it makes working together in this way. I am confident Janet will now have a happy and healthy future to look forward to and a fantastic trip! Enjoy!".

By Helen Brandreth, Jan 31 2014 11:48AM

If you suffer from diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders or mental ill-health, you could benefit from a structured exercise programme managed by a trained physiotherapist.

When speaking at a question and answer session at the 5th annual Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), Professor Peter Kay commented that, “physiotherapists could play a central role in encouraging people with long-term medical conditions to follow therapeutic exercise programmes”.

How could this benefit you or someone you care about?

It’s widely recognised that including structured exercise in the treatment of any long-term medical condition is a ‘big winner’. Additionally, it might also prevent some conditions from developing or worsening. ‘There is real potential to de-medicalise some conditions’. So, combining medical advice with physio-led structured exercise can sometimes result in a reduced reliance on prescribed medicines.

Patients forget that physiotherapists can provide advice and care about lots of diverse health problems. It’s not just about treating injuries, but developing patient-specific programmes that benefit each individual.

Sue Browning, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) pledged that the organisation would “put its weight behind any attempt to press for therapeutic exercise to be made more widely available”. This doesn’t mean people need to join a gym because physiotherapists can recommend safe, structured exercises to be done at home or outside, alone or with friends.

If proof is needed – just think of the Hairy Bikers, Si and Dave. Their TV series “Hairy Dieters” showed the food-loving guys creating tasty recipes whilst accepting that they needed to make lifestyle changes. So, they put their motorbikes in the garage and took up pedal power in an attempt to lose weight.

Though difficult at first, they persevered. As well as getting trimmer, they were honest about how their measured blood pressure lowered as they exercised on a regular basis. As the TV cooks would probably say, “the proof is in the pudding”. While the guys still love to eat, they combine it with regular exercise to maintain those health benefits.

If a managed exercise programme can work for those food-loving motorbikers, we’re confident we can devise a plan to help you too.

Please contact us if you have a long-term medical condition you’d like to discuss. We can work with your GP to devise an exercise programme that could help you.

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