People often ask whether flu vaccinations give protection against pandemic flu. Pandemics are caused by flu viruses that are completely new. Whereas in most infections you are exposed to, your immune system is immediately suspicious that this new thing is an enemy and doesn't take long to produce antibodies, if you are exposed to a completely new type of virus that doesn't appear suspicious, then your immune system is not primed and is much slower to respond. By the time it does, you are very ill indeed. Pandemics were caused amongst the indigenous Americans by our normal viruses when Europeans first visited the Americas because they had not been exposed to them before. In 1918 a new virus appeared to arrive from nowhere and killed more people than the First World War; we still do not know its origin.
Do flu vaccinations work and what are the risks?
The greatest risk is animal viruses as they will not be recognised by our immune systems. For this reason, bird or avian flu kills a up to half the people who contract it and it is mutating all the time and will be able to spread from human to human before long; indeed the first human-to-human case has recently occurred in China. In both the above examples, poverty and the absence of modern treatments made them worse than they would be now. We can also take some comfort in the reduced virulence of mutated viruses. However, there can be no doubt that an avian flu pandemic would kill many thousand people in this country and it is worse amongst the young. It is agreed that it is a matter of when not of whether an avian flu pandemic strikes. Seasonal flu vaccination is a self-funding programme as the reduction in sickness absence that comes with flu vaccination has been shown to more than pay for the vaccination programme. Does it also prime your immune system against pandemic influenza? We do not yet know which strain will cause a pandemic so this is hard to answer. However, seasonal flu vaccine includes H1N1 which is one of the strains we are worried about. We also know that people who have been exposed to more strains have had better-primed immune systems in past outbreaks. Therefore there is good reason to believe that seasonal flu vaccination is likely to help. Large companies have business continuity plans to try and keep the company going during a pandemic. The Government also has contingency plans in place with business continuity planning for the emergency services and with reactive support for the general population. Doctorcall are experts in influenza in relation to business continuity planning both in relation to seasonal influenza and pandemic flu. The Doctorcall on-site flu vaccination programme is the main occupational health flu programme in the UK. Doctorcall was the first OH provider to offer mass flu vaccination in the work place and is also a recognised expert in pandemic planning.
Swimming is often recommended for patients suffering from lower back pain. The benefits over a land based fitness programme are obvious: the non-impact, weightless environment removes pressure from joints allowing associated structures to relax and compression on the nerves is reduced. Swimming also helps increase blood circulation, thereby increasing nutrient and oxygen supply to areas of damage, aiding the healing process.
However, before you grab those shorts or costume you need to be aware that swimming with poor technique can exacerbate existing back problems. Muscles in the lower back area can become hyper extended due to poor posture whilst swimming. Particularly common is swimming breaststroke with the head held high up out of the water putting sustained pressure on the lower back. Front crawl is an ideal stroke to master for those looking to prevent undue stress on the lower back.
It is essential, however, that the stroke is technically correct so that the movement through the water is smooth. Unnatural awkward movements in the water can easily damage tissue through the back. Top tips for mastering front crawl are:
We hope you will enjoy your swimming!
- Think straight lines. As you swim you should imagine that a view from the side (underwater) would show your body position parallel to the water surface; this is achieved by ensuring the face is submerged with the water, the abdominal muscles pulled in and up, and the glute muscles engaged. You should also imagine that a birds eye view of you swimming would show a straight line in the water - i.e. no lateral deviation or snaking.|
- Roll with it. As you breathe to the side you must ensure this is timed with the roll of the body. Lifting the head or excessive twisting will at best slow you down, and at worst cause damage to cervical vertebrae. Be sure to rotate the head only within the axis of the body keeping the head down as much as possible.
- Work towards bi-lateral breathing (alternating the sides to which you take a breath). This helps to ensure you have a balanced front crawl stroke.
- Equip yourself. Goggles are an essential tool but equally short training fins are extremely useful for mastering the correct body position in the water. In more severe cases of back pain using a training snorkel can help reduce the awkward movement of the neck when taking breaths.
If you are suffering from back pain please get in touch with our physiotherapy clinic in Manchester. Click on Physio to find out more.
ATTENTION ALL RUNNERS:
For all those in training for the London Marathon, re-starting triathlon training, Manchester 10k and anyone just running for fun. Make sure you resolve any of your niggles and injuries with a visit to City Physio. We specialize in diagnosis of running related injuries and will aim to keep you running whilst correcting the cause of your problems.
As a client of City Physio you will receive a 10% discount on your running shoes at "Sweatshop" in the Arndale Manchester. Video gait analysis is available at no extra cost.
) and City Physio frequently liaise on the run up to major running events. Patrons of both businesses can enjoy mutual 10% discounts at each others store/clinics. Speak to a member of the Physio team for details.