Coronavirus COVID-19

Keeping you Safe

All effort is being made to keep you safe at your appointment. I will continue as always to use hand sanitiser with every patient. I am regularly disinfecting contact surfaces (chairs, pens, door handles etc), and I have removed all unnecessary items to reduce contact points. Wherever possible I am spacing appointments with a gap between to reduce contact between the person departing and the person arriving and allow time for a deeper clean.

Please make it mutual!  If you are sick, please stay at home. Use the hand sanitiser provided in the waiting room on arrival and departure. Paper towels are provided in the toilet for drying hands. Please observe proper hand-washing technique. A poster is provided that demonstrates proper technique.

Coronavirus Anxiety / Stress

These are troubling times for just about all of us. If you particularly suffer from stress or anxiety related conditions, you may be experiencing a worsening of symptoms. If you have irritable bowel this may have a flare up, panic attacks may be more frequent, difficulties breathing, struggling to relax or remain calm. These are all normal responses to the current crisis, and with the right treatment can be managed so that you and your health continue to be looked after during this time.

Osteopathic treatment at Edgeworth Osteopathy offers you a range of physical treatments to compliment any mind therapy or self-help strategies you already use. If you don't already have any of these other strategies in place, I can assist you in getting on the right track so that you are fully equipped with the tools you need to get through and out the other side. One thing is sure among all the current uncertainty - we will get through this.

The physical symptoms of stress can include tightness or pain in the neck and shoulders, tension in the diaphragm or difficulty breathing, headaches, and others, which can all be treated with Osteopathy.

Christchurch Earthquakes vs COVID-19

As a survivor of the Christchurch Earthquake in February 2011 and it's aftershocks, there are a number of similarities that I have noticed between the current crisis we are facing now with COVID-19, and the trauma of the events in Christchurch.

It brought us together.

The earthquakes in Christchurch were a trauma that affected the whole community of Christchurch. One of the positive results of this was the sense of "community" that developed from the shared experience. It brought families closer, stimulated a lot of people to realise what is important in life, and generated a lot of positive social behaviours as a result of the shared trauma experience. It showed our strengths as a community. We learnt that helping each other did no harm to ourselves - in fact the more we helped others the more it helped ourselves. And we learnt it was ok to not be ok: Asking for help was a strength, not a weakness.

COVID-19 is also a wide-spread trauma, affecting the whole world. Our whole country, and Newcastle, have also banded together into a shared trauma community. We can be kind to our fellow sufferers, because we know what they are going through - we are all going through it. It is an opportunity for us to increase our personal strength, grow our social relationships, and re-evaluate our priorities. And yes - these can all be done while still maintaining social distancing!

The early days and months.

The initial response to trauma is typically a lot of anxiety - the body reacts with a "fight-flight" response. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is responsible for stimulating our body for action. It increases our heart rate and blood pressure, shifts blood from our digestive system to our muscles, and gets us prepared to face danger and fight, or run away from it (see the chart below). This is why we have seen a lot of people very tense, jumpy or on edge, and perhaps some people overreacting to things, or responding aggressively. When the danger we face is a lion, we can see it and work out how to appropriately react. When the danger has past, our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) relaxes our body back to normal.

When the danger is an invisible virus, and we are bombarded with constant doomsday news coverage, it is easy to start imagining the danger to be everywhere - that everyone is infected. If you already suffer from some anxiety or stress, you are probably feeling a whole lot worse right now. And this makes it a lot harder to relax and return to normal.

In Christchurch, the inability for things to return to normal was very obvious. There were a lot of aftershocks (over 360 in the first week alone, and more than 10,000 in the next few years), which served as a constant reminder that the very ground beneath us which we took for granted was not, indeed, solid. Big shakes would wake people from sleep, leading to more stress. One aftershock had a patient on my table literally jump off it, they were that tense. The whole community was stressed, tense and on edge.

What we are currently seeing here (and everywhere in the world), is a similar reaction. Like ongoing aftershocks, we are hearing constant updates every day about numbers of cases, the cost to the economy, jobs lost, and the current level of restrictions, making it hard to relax, sleep, or generally feel settled or safe. Some of our foundations (our health and sense of security) are being shaken.

The later months

As long as the trauma or stress continues, it is hard for our PNS to return our body to normal and allow things to calm down. But our body cannot sustain the "fight-flight" response for long periods of time. It is a short term survival mechanism, to help us deal with the lion. If there is a lion every day, the constant activation of the SNS begins to cause damage (disease) to the various systems of our body (see the chart below).

In Christchurch, after months of constant shakes, it became obvious in a great many people the effects of chronic sympathetic "fight-flight". People began to feel tired, emotionally drained and physically depleted of energy. Stress, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel and a generalised fatigue were all quite common. The term "Adrenal Fatigue"* was used a lot.

We got through this too. And now with the coronavirus, we may also expect that over time, the chronic heightened levels of stress could leave us feeling tired and worn thin. A great number of the systems in our body do not cope well with chronic stress, and so it is important that we all take time to look after ourselves and each other.

Things you can do at home to help you manage:

  • Turn off the TV (or radio) for a bit. Don't feed the stress.
  • Practice breathing. Find a nice quiet spot to lie down on your back and place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Practice breathing into your stomach so that that hand moves up and down, and the hand on your chest stays still.
  • Have a hot shower to help the muscles relax. If our water restrictions get lifted, make it a long one!
  • Take some time out to do a relaxing hobby or activity that you enjoy. Slow down the fast pace of life by spending some time soaking stamps or reading a book (if you like Sci-Fi or Fantasy I can give you recommendations!)
  • Be mindful. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, and practice thinking about just one thing. Choose something you are grateful for and meditate on it, or choose an area of your body and just listen to the messages it is sending you. Be open, non-judgemental, and simply just listen.

Focus on the good

There are always positives that can be found, even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. Find the good in others, the situation, and yourself. "Things could be worse" can feel dismissive or inconsiderate of what a person might be going through. "Things could be better" can make it harder to appreciate what you have right now. So go easy on others, and go easy on yourself. Accept each day as a blessing to be enjoyed now, and leave tomorrow's worries for tomorrow.

*Adrenal fatigue is contested as to whether it is actually a medical term, and there is currently no evidence to show that the adrenal gland (which produces adrenaline - one of the hormones responsible for the "fight-flight" response) gets tired. Instead what is more likely to cause the symptoms commonly clustered together under the banner of adrenal fatigue are a number of things happening in the body relating to stress, hormones, the immune system, digestive system and many others.
For example with chronic stress:

  • The immune system is negatively affected by the chronic release of cortisol (an adrenal gland hormone).
  • The dominance of the SNS (and suppression of the PNS) negatively impacts the digestive system - less blood to the digestive system resulting in poorer digestion (IBS) and nutrient absorption.
  • The effects of unstable blood sugar levels on the brain and body.
  • Increased energy usage, food cravings (especially for high energy foods - fat, sugar), and the inevitable negative effects of these foods on health.
  • Strain on the physical and mental systems resulting in disease (heart attack, diabetes, depression etc.)

All of these and more can cause a significant variety of symptoms, from fatigue and brain fog, to muscle aches and hormonal irregularities. It is also important to be tested for and exclude other medical conditions (e.g. iron deficiency, Coeliac disease etc.) which may be causing symptoms. If you have symptoms that you have been told or believe to be adrenal fatigue, make sure you see your GP to arrange proper medical testing, and put into place a plan to target the cause of the problems (e.g. stress) rather than just treat the symptoms (e.g. with vitamins).

"Your present circumstances don't determine where you go, they merely determine where you start."
- Nido Qubein

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