If you want to avoid illness or at least reduce the time and intensity of sickness this winter here are a few uncommon common sense tips to help you stay healthy, and a bit of an ‘osteopathic lecture’ to help understand HOW they help.

Upper and lower respiratory tract bacterial infections (the ones with the coloured mucous) and flu viruses are largely opportunistic, for example

–    give them an immune system that is slightly depressed and they will thrive

–    put them in contact with a bronchial tree whose drainage is restricted by poor rib movement and they will thrive.

Osteopathy sees the body’s structure and function as being reciprocally interrelated. This means you can not separate the two. It’s the good ol ‘chicken or the egg’ principle at its confusing best – where do you start to explain the body when its bits and pieces are so interconnected? lets start with the bones.

The skeleton is the coat hanger for all our soft tissues and organs. The nerves drive and govern how things work. The lymphatic circulation drains the spaces between the cells and is the arena for huge immune battles against invading forces.

The first sign of impending illness is often pain or difficulty swallowing, and a swelling of the glands in your neck. (This is your chance to hit it with everything you can think of before it can get a hold of you and take over.)

The lymphatic system can be visualised as a series of interconnecting dams that are patrolled by an army of immune cells. These dams run between muscle and bone, and can be squashed for example when the first rib is in the position of inhalation – pressing up against the collar bone, Or if the ‘Scalenes’ muscles spasm from coughing repeatedly throughout the day.

During an attack swelling occurs as things get crowded and messy, and the flow from one dam to the next clogs up like bad plumbing. This needs to drain away to decrease the pressure pain in the throat, face and sinuses. Promoting good function in the thoracic spine and ribs can help do this especially when a rib restriction is blocking the flow!

During normal function each breath is a free and easy movement of the diaphragm and rib cage. Some of the many things that occur include

•    A pump like motion moving accumulated lymph back into the venous circulation – from the thoracic ducts to the left and right subclavian veins.

•    The tiny hairs of the bronchial tree waft any foreign matter or mucous up and out of harms way.

•    A gentle massage like stimulation of the liver and intestines – which also have vital roles in the health and immunity.

The body can not stop breathing just because a rib may get stuck or pulled the wrong way from tight muscles. Pre existing breathing difficulties and rib motion restrictions also feature in making it more difficult to function in a ‘normal’ way.

So the moral of the story is in keeping your rib cage and lungs free and easy in their motion as it can help immensely in fighting off an impending flu. More importantly it can prevent illness in the first place by promoting an active immune response.

Another simple piece of advice is to keep warm. A simple scarf can fend of a chill that easily aggravates a stiff neck, and begin a sequence of events that makes it that little bit harder for the body to fight and survive the winter season illness free.

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