Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Go Sophie! Running The London Landmarks Half Marathon for Tommy's!

Sophie Hughes is a wonderful member of our front-of-house team here at the Octagon Chiropractic Clinic. Here's her running story...

"Two years ago I started running as a complete and utter novice. I had no experience at all and no idea how to do it. But I knew how to put one foot in front of the other and gym membership seemed like a waste of money so I thought, optimistically, ‘I’ll give it a try.’ Nine months later I was faltering. I didn’t run regularly and I was struggling to even be able to cover 5k. So I signed myself up for a New Year’s Eve 5k fun run and, frankly, a running monster was born. Not a fast monster, or particularly competitive monster but a little Welsh running monster nevertheless. I started to run 4 times a week without fail and was training for a 10k race. I got the 10k done, better late than never, in September 2017 at the Cardiff 10k. If was a wonderful event, I was pleased with my time and was on a bit of a running high and then...I stopped.

In the 5 to 6 weeks that followed I ran maybe 3 times. The motivation I’d been putting in place for myself in the form of training for a race was gone. ‘So’, I thought, ‘Maybe I should sign up for a half marathon?’ This seemed beyond me. 13.1 miles. 21 kilometres. ‘So’, I thought, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t sign up after all!’ But I couldn’t escape the idea. I, irregularly, browsed the internet to see which events were far enough away that I could sign up and pretend they weren’t happening. Then it landed in my lap. The inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon, being run by Tommy’s, The Octagon’s nominated charity. So I mentioned it to Steve [Octagon owner and Chiropractor], who thought it was a good idea. So I signed up in the middle of October and then promptly forgot about it for a month. Then I realised I needed to raise £100 for Tommy’s by the 1st of December in order to keep my place in the race and since then it’s pretty much been all systems go!

I started training gently in December with the intention of really getting down to business in the New Year. And that’s how the plan went for a while. I was a bit rusty after my Autumn hiatus but soon got back up to my familiar 10k distance and then it was time for the real leg work (pardon the pun!) to begin. It all started so well! I did a very encouraging 12k off the cuff one day that felt relatively easy and it all appeared to be going great guns. Then this happened…

I was attempting 15k. At 8k, on Kew Bridge, I stopped to adjust a twisted sock of all things and at that moment, what can only be described as an almighty spasm made its way through the top half of my right leg. For about 2 minutes I was in too much discomfort to even walk but then I managed to hobble for a while and eventually work my way back up to a run. But the running was short lived. As you can see from the pictures above my time per kilometre after 10k drops dramatically. That, reader, is because I was walking. Or limping. Or sitting on a wall.

What a mercy then, that I work in a chiropractic clinic! I promptly booked in to see Hazel who gave me an incredibly thorough treatment which left me slightly uncomfortable for about a day but then seemed to get rid of the pain entirely. Hazel also recommended ice on the knee (the old classic!) and foam rolling. The picture below is of my new foam roller from Physioworld. It hurts but I love it!

After a couple of days I attempted 5k. Slightly uncomfortable but doable. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all! But you guessed it, I spoke too soon. On my next run, I tried a run from Acton to Richmond and this time it was my left knee that internally shouted, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS (the 10k mark…).’ Back home I hobbled (by hobbled, I mean via a very inefficient weekend TFL service) feeling quite despondent. At this point, the Half Marathon was 5     weeks away and with 2 injured knees I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Since then I have been seeing both Hazel and Karen at The Octagon, twice a week, and we are slowly but surely getting there! I was told to rest for a whole week (!) while stretching, foam rolling and icing both knees. I’ve also been sworn off the love of my life, high heeled winter boots, because of the strain they cause to your knees.

A week went by and I tried runs on consecutive days, a 4k then an 8k. Both runs were painful but bearable. I could do the race feeling that way but could sense that it would probably cause some damage and also, I’m fully aware that 21k is a lot further than 8! Then the snow came so I was put on another week’s rest, this time by Kismet. Kismet must have known what was going on because the runs I’ve completed since the snow cleared have been my first runs in comfort for over a month.

We’re still not quite there with the pain, I’m incredibly behind with my training and I only have ten days to go! Race day is 25th of March and it has to be said I’m really nervous about it! I’d wanted to cover the whole 13.1 miles at least once before the race and that’s definitely not going to happen now. My new plan, instead, is to get a 2 hour run done sometime between the 15th and 20th, as my longest training run and then rest until the 25th. What will be, will be!

Will my knee hold out? (Fingers crossed) Will I make it over the finish line? (I have to, people have given me money!) Will I enjoy it? (Hopefully) Will I meet my £500 fundraising target? Yes, with your help! Here’s the link to my Just Giving page Every little helps! Go on, sponsor me, I’m injured!

Thanks in advance :-) I will write another blog once I’ve done the London Landmarks Half Marathon, in whatever fashion (running, walking, crawling?) to let you all know how it went!"

If you're in marathon or half marathon training and need to see a Chiropractor contact us here. 

We also offer free 15 minute consultations where you can find out if Chiropractic is right for you. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Chiswick Slingers: The benefits of babywearing!

Here at the Octagon Chiropractic Clinic we treat a lot of mums-to-be, post-natal mums and babies and so were pleased to discover The Chiswick Sling Library a wonderful, local baby-carrying initiative for mums and dads.

Chiswick Sling Library aka Chiswick Slingers
This popular initiative supports parents who want to wear their babies, by  helping find the right carrier for both them and their baby. Carriers can be a big financial investment, and sometimes new parents can end up with a carrier that doesn’t suit them. So as The Chiswick Sling Library says "testing out a few carriers, thinking about the ergonomics of babywearing and learning from the experiences of Caroline [Chiswick Sling Library founder] and other parents is just so useful!"

The Chiswick Sling Library has many different slings, pouches, wraps and carriers for babies of all ages [including toddlers] that parents can borrow and test out. The centre also offers demonstrations and discussions on safe baby-wearing. Caroline is trained as a Trageschule baby wearing consultant and was very confident and professional in her care of both adult and baby when showing the correct ways to wear your baby with comfort and safety.

Sling Libraries across London
Here's the Sling Libraries in London – if you'd like to know more about which sling to choose and how to wear it with confidence contact your local sling library.

Octagon Chiropractor Hazel Dillon visited Caroline at The Chiswick Sling Library, here is what she had to say:

I spent a lovely hour chatting with Caroline and meeting some Mums and Dads who had come along to learn how to wear their babies with confidence. With my Chiropractic training I was really interested to see how best to wear the slings to support the posture of both adult and baby as a lot of new parents come into clinic suffering with discomfort from carrying their new babies and also with concern that their baby has good support for their body.

I tried out a few slings with Caroline’s special weighted baby doll for practice – when shown how it was very easy to wear the sling and it felt comfortable and secure.

Chiropractor Hazel Dillon testing out a baby-sling

Benefits of sling wearing for adults can include:
        Reduction of tension and pressures often felt while carrying baby in arms
    o    Upper back and neck pain, shoulder and even wrist and hand pain
        Hands free to deal with other daily tasks whilst baby is calm and safe in the sling
    o     this can be especially helpful if there are other children in the family.
        Babies weight is distributed more evenly throughout the adults body over the larger muscles of the back rather than the smaller muscles of the shoulders and arms
    o    Baby can then be carried for longer periods with less stress on the muscles and skeleton

How the sling can support babies body when worn correctly:
        Neck is supported so the head is stable and not floppy
        Spine is supported and baby doesn’t curl up
        Hips are in optimal position for good joint development
Crossover low on back for good support

    Baby close enough to kiss    
Make sure to follow the TICKS rule for safe baby wearing from the school of baby wearing -

The Chiswick Sling Library opened in April 2015, and runs every Wednesday 10am-12. More info here.

If you feel you are suffering any aches and pains as the parent of a young child then Chiropractic may be able to help you – if you would like more information you can book a free 15 minute consultation with Chiropractor Hazel Dillon at The Octagon Chiropractic Clinic.

P.S. On the last Thursday of every month we hold free Positive Birth Movement events in clinic. These eves are friendly and welcoming and full of expert advice from health care professionals including doulas, midwives, female Chiropractors and others. Tea and biscuits always served!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Back Care Awareness Week: Prevention Begins at School!

Back and neck pain is often seen as only an adult problem but new statistics, along with our own experience of treating children and teens at the Octagon Clinic, suggest this is not the case. Sadly, one quarter of UK secondary school pupils report that they suffer from regular or daily back and/or neck pain. BackCare (the National Back Pain Association) is highlighting this problem during Back Care Awareness Week, 2nd-8th October, and offering solutions to schools to improve pupils back-health. One month into the new-term start your child off with these top Chiropractic tips selected by Octagon Chiro's Hazel and Karen. These should help to keep your kids happy and pain-free throughout the academic year!
The Stats:
  • One quarter of UK secondary school pupils suffer from regular or daily back pain
  • School bag burden was associated with a ten-fold higher rate of back pain
  • Back pain was also linked to prolonged sitting.

    Top Tips to minimise back-pain for your child: 

    Here's the British Chiropractic Association's advice on how to make sure your child's backpack is loaded and carried safely. (Adults worried about how your bag/handbag may be causing you backpain? Here's our  Chiropractor Hazel advice at The Octagon Clinic for safe, spine-friendly bag-carrying.)

    This sheet of top tips for kid's from the British Chiropractic Association's Straighten Up campaign is also great! Featuring exercises, computer posture tips and breathing exercises.
    Here's some fun and kid-friendly stretches we like! Moving more is key.

    We also love the ChiroMoves set of You Tube exercise and stretch clips from Tone at our Surrey sister clinic Luck's Yard. Check them out here, suitable for all ages.

     Find more useful stretches from the team at the Octagon clinic on our blog, from shoulder stretches to this yoga inspired cat/camel stretch to this great rotator cuff exercise. These are child and adult friendly stretches for all!

    Remember we also offer FREE fifteen minute Chiropractic consultations in clinic. Call to book in on 020 8563 2608.

Friday, 1 September 2017

1:1 Pilates with Polly!

As an Octagon team member I was lucky enough to recently experience a 1:1 mat and reformer Pilates session with new Octagon Pilates and posture expert Polly Benge. I went in with a number of 'normal' bodily niggles, stiff shoulders and slightly stooped posture (from a mainly sedentary job) and more specific issues such as left-sided bias (I seem to be sitting oddly and so stabilising on this side and had consequently built up more muscle on the left side of my body!).

Polly began by assessing my neutral posture as I did simple roll downs to the floor, one vertebrae at a time, and back up again. Once she'd gotten an idea of my movement patterns, imbalances and bodily strengths and weaknesses we moved to the mat for a series of postures. Many of these floor postures involved micro-movements that may seem to a spectator to be doing little, yet which I could feel engaging muscles I rarely used, or was even aware of. Pilates may over time improve your superficial body but it is about so much more than this which seemed evident as I laid on the mat legs bent trying to move my leg outwards whilst keeping my hips and back stable to the floor. This sequence involved knee folds, toe taps and hip rolls. Joe Pilates, creator of Pilates original name for his new form of exercise in the 1920's was Controlology and it is clear why. However despite the trickiness and (internal) strength involved in mastering many of the Pilates moves we went through Polly made me feel calm and encouraged throughout.

From the floor we moved to the reformer (more info on the differences between mat and reformer Pilates below). Using the apparatus for resistance we focused on leg exercises, which worked to strengthen and lengthen my lower body whilst stablilising my upper. I had a tendency to put my back into leg exercises as it is naturally stronger whilst letting my all important core and glute muscles do nothing (or at least very little!). Polly kindly corrected this imbalance and woke-up my lazier but much needed muscles with gentle instruction including metaphors that helped me imagine how to better utilise these neglected muscles. Polly gave me the tool to carry out a ‘pelvis inventory’ by using the visualisation of a clock face and getting me to imagine rolling a marble around every number on the dial. This simple technique freed up my pelvis, lower back and hips so that I could naturally relax into the correct neutral alignment to keep my back stable whilst I strengthened my legs, hips and arms with the proper amount of core control. (One of the things I always enjoy about Pilates, as an English Literature tutor, is it's lovely use of imagery!) Pilates is also hands on and it's amazing how a gentle tap reminds you to correct a strained or off balance posture. Polly simply had to tap my stomach to remind me to use my inner abdominal muscles when needed, or to touch my thigh to remind me to use this muscle rather than engaging my hips for a hamstring exercise!

Polly explained me to the key difference between matt work and reformer work saying how ‘Joe Pilates devised the equipment in order for the student to gain better strength, flexibility and control so that they may better perform the Classical Matwork repertoire which he viewed as the ultimate mastery in mind/body wellness.  Certain people may have too many restrictions or lack the right amount of strength to perform the mat exercises correctly and could benefit from more feedback and support offered by the Reformer where you work against the resistance of springs. It is easier to know if you are doing things correctly as the sensations are more immediate and stronger.'

We ended our session with a bodily revaluation back on the mat, me stood up rolling my spine back up and down. After this hours worth of rehabliative movement my body felt wonderful, stretched, lengthened and, (though no doubt in my head after just one session!), stronger. An added benefit is that my mind felt clearer too, with all the focus in popular press about Pilates being great for 'the core', I feel that sometimes the mental benefits of the exercise system getss over-looked. Pilates is a subtle, delightfully complex set of movements that means you can't be worrying about the rest of your day or your 'to do' list whilst you exercise which you can with other forms of exercise. There's a inherent mindfulness to Pilates and its an aspect that a quality teacher such as Polly really brings out with her nurturing and intuitive approach to teaching.

More on Polly here and booking in with her here. Polly is in clinic at the Octagon every Wednesday morning. Call reception on: 020 8563 2608 for more info and to book in.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Q and A with our new Pilates teacher Polly!

Hi Polly! Tell us, where did your interest in Pilates come from?
I had been suffering with repeated knee injuries for some time but as a relatively young dancer in the ballet company I didn’t want to admit how bad they were for fear of losing my job. One evening performance, dancing as a swan in Swan Lake, I froze in the wings unable to make it onto stage as the pain in both knees was unbearable.  I was lucky enough to have a nurturing ballet mistress called Elaine Macdonald who noticed a swan missing and came and found me in the dressing room packing my belongings, ready to give it all up. Telling me I would regret that decision for the rest of my life, she sent me off to London to train with the Pilates Master, Dreas Reyneke.

Pilates was still relatively new to the UK in those days, from the minute I laid down on the Reformer, with Dreas’ calm instructions, I was sold. Moving my legs against the resistance of springs, feeling my back supported by a barrel, my ankles stabilised in straps - the experience came as a revelation. It was also humbling! My assumption that I was strong because I was a dancer was put to the test daily. I shared the studio with non-dancers who had much more core control than I did.  After three months of intense work I returned to the company a much stronger and secure dancer, my technique had improved without doing one step of ballet.  I learnt to work smarter, not harder.

What’s your favourite thing about being a Pilates teacher?

I love the journey that both my client and myself take whenever I start with someone new.  They will come to Pilates because of injury or to improve their performance and they will have a goal. Together we will work on achieving that goal but along the way other things will appear and present themselves, patterns that have not been serving them to their best; it could be the way they breathe, where they hold their tension, what their ankle does – what it should do – all of these different parts of the puzzle that need to be addressed. I love that everyone works differently, that they respond to different stimuli; my hand on their hipbone, for instance, could be the trigger to organize the body better, for others a verbal cue or a visualization. This takes trust and a good dose of humour and I feel very privileged to be able to work this intimately with people.
Does Pilates combine well with other therapies?

Yes, very much so. When Steve, Hazel and Karen have given the all clear for the patient to engage more actively in their recovery, Pilates can be a great way to start. Resuming exercise and normal activities after injury or inactivity can be scary and uncertain; Steve wanted to create the Pilates rehab studio at The Octagon to provide the bridge from treatment table to returning to the gym, generic exercise classes or even feeling confident to lift their baby out of the cot. We believe that offering treatment and rehabilitation all under the same roof is hugely beneficial to the patient in both communication between the therapists, and that one to one attention to give the individual all the tools, skills and awareness needed to take control back over their body. I feel very excited to be part of this team.

Any common misconceptions about Pilates that you would like to clear up?

Yes! Pilates is not all about a rock solid core and killer abs. In fact endlessly cuing ‘naval to spine’ is not beneficial to finding ease of movement with control and grace.  Nor is Pilates something to be good at, we practice Pilates so that we can, “Go about our varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” (Founder, Joe Pilates). In my mind Pilates is more than just building core strength, after I do a lesson I feel buoyant and happy which is then reflected in other aspects of my life. This is my goal for my clients.
Any Hammersmith and Chiswick local recommendations?

I live locally so I have lots, but I won’t bore you with them all. For coffee it has to be Artisan, for the best cut and colour in West London I recommend Adam and Potsie – they are a husband and wife team who are great fun as well as being fantastic. My family are big cyclists and The London Cycle Workshop are very knowledgeable, friendly and deliver a great service. For a quick dinner pre or post cinema Killer Tomato on the Goldhawk Road is good for speedy tacos and enchiladas. 

Read Polly's full bio here and get in touch here to book in a 1:1 Pilates session with her.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Give your back a break from tech!

Computers are the top tech back pain trigger for people in London.

As part of Chiropractic Awareness Week (10 – 16 April 2017) The Octagon Chiropractic clinic is urging people to take a break from their tech, as well as learn some key away-from-the-desk stretches. 

New consumer research from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has revealed that computers are the top tech back pain trigger for fast-paced, tech-addicted Londoners, with well over a third (39%) of those surveyed having experienced back or neck pain after using their laptop and 37% after using a desktop computer.
We all know how easy it is to become glued to your tech. Our devices have become an integral part of our lives, with many of us spending our days either looking down at our phones or stuck on laptops. However it’s important to think about the impact this is having on back and neck health, as well as our posture.  

Here are the Octagon we are not saying stop using tech altogether, in fact we would recommend the app Chiro Moves from our sister-clinic Lucks Yard, however it’s important to think about limiting the amount of time you spend using technology, and start building regular breaks into your day so you can give your back a rest. Particularly when using laptop or desktop computers, if you’re working in an office it’s important that you don’t spend longer than 40 minutes sitting at your desk at one time...”

The British Chiropractic Association has developed these top tips to help people tech- proof their back health:
   Sit up straight - When you are sat at your computer or laptop, it’s easy to forget your posture and lean towards your screen. To avoid developing back pain from sitting at your desk, set up your computer in a back friendly manner. The top of your screen should be at eye level, so use a stand or a ream of paper to elevate the screen to this height. Your bottom should be right to the back of your seat with your back and shoulders in contact with the back rest. Your arms should lie flat at desk level and your chair positioned so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
 On the move -  Laptops and tablets are very convenient and flexible to use so it’s tempting to use them in situations where your body may be in an awkward posture position. You are less likely to notice any discomfort developing if you are concentrating on what you are doing.
  Head up - Looking down at your mobile phone, tablet or laptop leaves your neck unsupported and the weight of your head will put pressure on your neck and spine. To help keep neck and back pain away, try to hold your phone up in front of you when using it and limit your use of portable technology devices where you can. It is a good idea when using a mobile device to elevate your arms on a table as this will help you. Walking and tech use do not mix so try not to do this at all!
  Accessorise - If you are using a portable laptop, plug in a standard mouse and keyboard, which will encourage you to sit in a more ‘back-friendly’ position.
 Take control -  Ideally, you should sit in a chair when playing video games with your back supported against the backrest and your feet on the floor. If standing, try to position your television screen at eye-level, so that you are not having to strain to look up or down regularly.
Take a break -  Our bodies are not designed to stay in one position for long periods of time so, whether working on your computer, scrolling through social media or playing your favourite video game, remember to stand up at least every 40 minutes and move around to keep your muscles active.
Detox - We are becoming much more dependent on technology and taking a break from technology is likely to benefit both your mental and physical health. Use this spare time to get outside and exercise; your back will thank you for it!

The BCA has created a programme of 3-minute exercises: which can be slotted into your daily schedule to help improve posture and prevent back pain by promoting balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.

*The consumer research was carried out on behalf of the British Chiropractic Association between 14/02/2017 and 20/02/2017 

Book in with an Octagon Chiropractor here.

Allergy Season Aid!

Feel like you're allergic to summer?! Our nutritionist Pippa is at hand to help. 

Most of us look forward to the arrival of the warmer weather, blossoms blooming and more time spent outdoors but for those unfortunate ones the spring and summer seasons brings misery in the form of seasonal allergic rhinitis AKA hay fever.

What causes Hayfever? 

Proteins in pollen irritate the delicate membranes of the nose and eyes causing inflammation. Causing the all too familiar symptoms of red, itchy, watery eyes and a runny  nose. But not all hay fever sufferers are alike. Some react to tree pollen which is present from February to May with the peak time being April (this month, eeek!). Grass pollens are prevalent in June and July and weed pollens (such as nettle) are worst in July and August. 

So what can be done to alleviate the symptoms, whichever month they fall in? 

 There are practical measures to help ward off the worst effects of pollen such as...

applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly or lipbalm around and just inside the nostrils can trap minute pollen particles and prevent them from being inhaled and starting an allergic reaction.

Steam inhalations help to reduce the “blocked nose” feeling.

Secondly there are some simple preparations that can reduce the severity of attacks later in the season....


If you are lucky enough to be able to buy organic honey that is produced locally, take a teaspoon every day. It's been shown in some studies that ingestion of tiny molecules of pollen in local honey helps build resistance to pollens when they appear in full force later in the year.


Butterbur is a herb that has undergone scientific trials showing a substantial health benefit for relieving hay fever.

Butterbur has been shown to relax blood vessels and various smooth muscles in the body. It contains chemicals that are also known to reduce inflammation, (this has been demonstrated in human studies). Some studies have also shown that butterbur extract performed as well as a common antihistamine drug taken by hay fever sufferers, but without causing that dreaded drowsiness!

Suppplement and Eat Well!

Bioflavanoids are plant compounds that have shown anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory activity. Along with Vitamin C, these supplements can help prevent the formation of histamine – the chemical that causes the common reactions of irritated itchy eyes and a congested nose. Quercitin is king! Foods rich in the bioflavanoid quercitin include onions, garlic, green tea, red wine (1-2 glasses!) and dark chocolate (the good stuff, 70%+ cocoa solids). 

Vitamin C is found in broccoli, lemon juice, green peppers, oranges, strawberries and blackcurrants, kiwi, cabbage and cauliflower.

Plant sterols are fats found naturally in plant foods. Phytosterols are highly versatile substances that have been shown to be helpful in the management of several conditions including immune disorders. Phytosterols inhibit the release of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) thus reducing the production of histamine. Plant sterols are present in foods such as soya (tempeh, tofu, miso, soya sauce etc.) and whole grains, particularly whole oats, being rich sources. Porridge is not just for winter!

Omega 3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds (AKA linseeds) and cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel, can affect chemical pathways in the body to help ease allergy symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Vitamin E taken during the pollen season alongside other anti-allergy treatments can reduce the severity of hay fever symptoms by 23% studies show. Good sources of Vitamin E in the diet include cold pressed wheatgerm and sunflower oils, hazelnuts, sweet potato, avocado and spinach.

KEY: A strong immune system is essential to help fight off allergic symptoms. The Vitamins A, C, D, E and minerals zinc and selenium are all antioxidant supplements that can help immune function.

Vitamin A is found in egg yolk, watercress, squash and oily fish such as mackerel and herring. Likewise, top sources of Vitamin D include mackerel, herring, sardines, mushrooms as well as eggs and cheddar cheese. Oh and (safe) amounts of lovely sunshine on the skin!

Zinc is plentiful in pumpkin seeds, wholemeal bread and red meats. Eating just four to five brazil nuts daily can provide your recommended intake of selenium but other sources include fresh tuna, sunflower seeds, wholemeal bread and cashew nuts.

If you are taking any medication, always check with your GP or health practitioner before taking any herbal or vitamin supplements.

More on Pippa here.