Spring is here, the flowers are in bloom, there’s a warm breeze, the smell of freshly mown grass….and you’re miserable. Red, watery eyes, itchy nose, scratchy throat – it’s allergy season!
Allergies are extremely common in Australia, in particular hay fever, with up to 40% of adults and 15% of children and teenagers suffering from it. The warmer months can be a terrible time for those unlucky enough to be affected, and if you are one of them, you will be familiar with all the medications and supplements that can help alleviate symptoms. However, you might be surprised to learn that osteopathic treatment can also have a positive influence on hay fever and allergy symptoms, and for some sufferers, it can reduce the need for over-the-counter remedies.
When your body comes in contact with an allergen, such as pollen, your immune system is activated to help defend your body and minimise harm. In some people, the immune response too weak, in which case an allergen can overpower the body’s defences. In others, the system is so sensitive that it over-reacts to even harmless substances, and allergies are the result. Either way, the immune system needs an overhaul, to restore it to optimal functioning and allow the body to more effectively deal with intruders.
Osteopaths use many different treatment techniques to influence your immune system, but when it comes to reducing the effects of hay fever and allergies, there are some key areas that will be addressed:
The diaphragm – this is the main muscle that helps you breathe, and in the wheezy, sneezy sufferers of hay fever it becomes short and tight, and doesn’t move as easily as it should.
The ribs – these small bones protect some important nerves and vessels which can become overloaded and hyper-sensitive in the presence of allergens, and as a result of their close proximity, the ribs can become stiff and sore. This, coupled with bouts of coughing and sneezing , leads to lots of sore spots!
The neck – your neck is an incredibly important and busy area, full of nerves, arteries, muscles, glands and lymphatic (immune) vessels. Neck tension and stiffness are very common in modern society, but even more so in those prone to allergies and asthma, due to the extra demands placed on the muscles to assist in breathing during an attack or allergic reaction. Tight muscles can compress the lymphatic vessels in your neck and reduce their ability to drain fluids from your head and arms, which mean runny eyes and blocked noses hang around for longer.
The sinuses – the membranes that line the sinuses, nose and throat are incredibly sensitive, and when irritated by an allergen can become inflamed, swollen and itchy, and will often become blocked with mucus. Osteopaths use gentle massage and ‘tapping’ techniques to allow greater fluid drainage and relieve the unpleasant pressure that many people experience.
Treatment of any or all involved body areas may have a positive influence on your immune system, so if you are one of the unlucky ones this Spring, keep your osteopath in mind. Treatment of that pesky neck injury or backache may have some positive side-effects you never even considered!