On Your Bike – Keeping Safe on the Roads

When it comes to health and general well-being few activities can match cycling.  You have all the benefits of being outdoors, exercising and you can get to where you want to go for free.  Sadly, despite all these positive advantages, cyclists are the most vulnerable people on our roads and every year many of them suffer injury or tragically lose their lives.

Here are a few facts that highlight the risks cyclists take every time they venture out on the roads:

• In 2012, 118 cyclists lost their lives on Britain’s roads, up by 10 per cent on the previous year.

• 6 people were killed on bikes in less than two weeks on London roads in November 2013.

• Accidents whereby cyclists suffered serious injuries were up by 4 per cent to 3,222 in 2012.

So what are the main causes of death or serious injury to cyclists?  More importantly, how can cyclists protect themselves so they can stay safe on Britain’s roads?

According to a recent report by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the most common contributory factor to motor vehicle collisions with cyclists recorded by police is “failure to look properly”.   In 57 per cent of cases the driver of the vehicle failed to do this and in 43 per cent of cases it was the cyclist.  Many accidents occur when cyclists are entering the road from the pavement. Additionally, drivers turning or manoeuvring without proper care accounts for 17 per cent of serious accidents in the UK.

Whilst cars and taxis are the most common type of vehicle involved in road traffic collisions with cyclists, heavy vehicles pose a particular danger, especially in London.  To illustrate this, in November 2013 when six cyclists were killed in less than two weeks in the nation’s capital it was found five of the accidents involved a truck, bus or coach. Statistics also show that accidents commonly occur when a cyclist is turning left at a junction or if a large vehicle such as a bus passes too close.

So what can a cyclist do to protect themselves when they are on the road?

Wear a helmet

According to a RoSPA report from 2013, head injuries are extremely common in cycling accidents.  In a study of 116 cyclists it was found head injuries occurred in 70 per cent of the fatal accidents in London and 80 per cent of fatal accidents on rural roads.

A comprehensive study done in America in 2009 found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head and brain injury by 63 per cent to 88 per cent even if a car was involved.  The authors of the study concluded “Helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for cyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.”

Although it may mess up your hairstyle, there is no denying that wearing a cycle helmet is the best thing you can do to reduce your chances of receiving serious or even fatal head injuries if you are involved in a cycling accident.

Make Sure You Are Visible

Use the lights on your bike in bad weather conditions and after dark, and ensure you wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing.

Cycle Defensively

Make sure you make eye-contact with other drivers and always indicate your intentions when turning or stopping by using the correct hand signals.  Be aware of cars parking who may open their car door without seeing you approach and ride the width of a car door away from parked cars.  Avoid cycling on the inside of trucks and buses as they may not be able to see you.  If you are cycling on the inside of a large vehicle they may be unable to see you when they make a left turn manoeuvre so be very aware of the vehicle’s movements and indication.

Cycling is a healthy, fun activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  By taking a few simple precautions you can enjoy riding your bike and avoid any nasty injuries.

Managing Work-Related Stress

The average person spends a third of their life at work.  Therefore, it is important that a work-place provides a safe, non-stressful environment for its employees (as a minimum). Of course, ideally it would be stimulating, motivating, and enjoyable as well.

So what can you do if your work-place becomes a source of anxiety instead of simply somewhere to get on with your job? Are there ways to become more resilient so you are better resourced to cope when situations become stressful?  How do you deal with a co-worker or customer whose behaviour can only be described as bullying?

The UK Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) formal definition of work-related stress is, “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them at work.”  It is important to remember that everyone is different and factors such as personality, background, culture and particular personal circumstances also contribute to how resilient we are to stress.

Work-related stress can affect people in many ways. Signs and symptoms of employee stress include:

    • Becoming more tearful or angry than usual
    • Feeling that you cannot cope with situations
    • An inability to concentrate
    • Feeling depressed
    • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
    • Choosing to isolate yourself
    • Feeling disappointed with yourself

So what can you do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of work-related stress?

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Kirsten Keown, advises that it is important to prioritise basic self-care, even if you feel that you do not have the time.  Make sure you continue to eat well, exercise, get adequate rest and sleep and spend quality time relaxing with family and friends.

If you are stressed at work, Dr Keown also recommends that you try to get to the bottom of what is causing you to feel this way.  She goes on to say, “A lack of control over outcomes is a major contributor to stress. Try and work out a way to gain more control over outcomes related to your position.  Sit down with a colleague or your manager and brainstorm different ideas.  Perhaps tasks can be completed in a different manner or deadlines extended.  However, make sure that if you are discussing things with your manager to come prepared with well-thought out solutions to the problems you are highlighting”.

An additional level of stress

One of the most distressing causes of work-related stress is where a person is subjected to bullying or harassment, either by a colleague, manager or even a customer.  It is important to note that harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Bullying however, is more difficult to define because it can take on so many forms. It can range from public humiliation and belittling through to snide comments and withholding work-related information.  However, there is no doubt as to the effect it has on the person subjected to the behaviour.  Work-related bullying can lead to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, depression and in extreme cases even suicide.

So what steps can you take to manage a situation where you feel you are the victim of bullying?  “Start with an informal approach.  If someone is acting in a way you do not like, clearly and calmly tell that person what you see as the issue and how that makes you feel” says Dr Keown.  “Explain to them the negative consequences their behaviour is having on you and then tell them what you would like the new behaviour to be.  The most important thing is to do this sooner rather than later to avoid the situation becoming worse”.

If this fails, you need to make a formal complaint about the person’s behaviour towards you. To do this you need to follow your company’s grievance procedure.

Make sure you keep a diary of all incidents and file any emails or other written documents relating to the bullying.  If you decide to pursue a personal injury claim at a later date these will be very useful.

Work-related stress can make your life miserable.  Remember it is not your fault and you have a right to feel safe at work.  Bullying and harassment in any form is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Five Ways You Can Assist Your Recovery from a Back Injury

Your back is a large, complex and extremely important part of your body.  It copes with a great deal of strain from simple daily living.  Think of how much your back contributes to your entire physiology.  It allows you to stand, sit, walk, run, and lift.  Injuring your back can cause a great deal of discomfort and stop you performing your normal, day to day activities.

If you have injured your back, here are five ways that may help assist your rehabilitation.  Please check with your registered health practitioner before embarking on any methods to aid your recovery to ensure the procedure is right for you.


According to two studies, published separately in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2011) and Annals of Internal Medicine (2011), participating in the practice of yoga can help with lower back pain.

Dianne Kenny, who is a fully qualified yoga teacher and Director of the Courtyard Centre for Health & Wellbeing in Biggleswade, states that yoga differs from Physiotherapy in that it takes a holistic approach to healing, concentrating on the breath, mind and body as a whole.

According to Dianne, “the most important thing you can do to assist your recovery from a back injury is to keep moving”.  She goes on to say, “even if the injury is serious, you can lie on your front and breathe into your diaphragm which will help massage both the upper and lower back.  This exercise also massages the adrenal glands, and studies have shown that this helps relieve and release stress, anxiety and discomfort which helps aid recovery”.   Dianne also points out that it is important to find an experienced yoga teacher who is properly qualified in restorative yoga practice. Their qualification should be recognised by the British Wheel of Yoga, the ‘Sport England’ recognised national governing body for yoga.

Massage Therapy

Studies have shown that both full-body relaxation massage and targeted deep-tissue massage performed by a fully trained therapist can help relieve back pain.

Massage Therapy assists recovery by ‘massaging out’ the scar tissues that can form hard lines after a strain or pulled muscle occurs.  When these scar tissues form they may not necessarily conform to the existing muscle and this can interfere with the way the muscle functions.  Once these scar tissues are massaged away, stretching and strengthening exercises designed to assist back injury recovery will become more effective.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is a natural anti-inflammatory and studies have shown that patients who drink plenty of water experience a reduction in back pain.  Drinking water has also been shown to hasten athletes’ recovery during injury rehabilitation.

If you are receiving massage therapy it is important to keep up your fluid intake.  When a knot in the muscle is released during a massage treatment lactic acid is also discharged.  Drinking water helps flush the lactic acid out of your muscles more efficiently.

Eat Healing Foods

When your body is trying to recover from an injury, it is essential to eat a healthy diet that includes foods that can aide your body to heal faster.  Increasing your intake of the following will assist with your recovery:

• Vitamin C which helps to build new protein for tendons and blood vessels and assists in maintaining cartilage and bone tissue. Berries, broccoli, citrus fruits and peppers all contain high levels of vitamin C.

• Zinc helps the fats and proteins from other foods you consume heal and replace any injured tissue. Oysters, nuts, seeds and chicken are all high in zinc.

• Protein is essential for building and healing muscle. It also helps repair bones and restores collagen. Try to eat good quality protein such as eggs, lean meat and dairy products at every meal.

• Omega 3 can assist in reducing inflammation which can cause pain and impede recovery. Include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel in your diet to increase your intake of Omega 3.

Ice and Heat

Ice and heat can work together to help heal your back (especially in cases of lower back injury).  When you first receive the injury, apply ice.  It will help control the inflammation and reduce pain.

A heat pack can be used to relax painful muscle spasms and help relieve tension in the ligaments; however, you should avoid applying it until approximately three days after sustaining the back injury as it can contribute to inflammation.

Back injuries can be painful, preventing you from participating in life to the fullest extent.  However, by incorporating these simple suggestions into your recovery program, you will be able to move forward with your rehabilitation and recover as soon as possible.

Cosmetic Surgery – The Price of Beauty

Youth and beauty.  Everyone aspires to hold onto these qualities for as long as possible, and the booming industry of cosmetic surgery has given many of us the chance to delay the passing of time and change aspects of our appearance.

The cosmetic surgery and procedures industry is forecasted to be worth £3.6 billion pounds by 2015 and there has been a recent surge in non-surgical procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers which can be carried out over a lunch-break.  However, a recent review commissioned by the Department of Health criticised the industry, stating that these practices were “almost entirely unregulated” whilst a new study found 13% of people who had had non-surgical procedures had allowed an unqualified person to perform the treatment.

The problems with cosmetic surgery

So what can go wrong with non-surgical cosmetic procedures?  Plenty, including:

• Allergic reactions

• Numbness (including Palsy)

• Lumps under the skin where injections have been placed which may need to be surgically removed

• Injections not being placed correctly, causing the medication to spread to adjacent tissues (this can cause dry eye, eyelid droop and crooked smiles)

• Nerve damage

Issues surrounding the risks of cosmetic surgery were highlighted last year when it was discovered that breast implants from PIP (Poly Implant Prothese) made from unauthorised silicone filler had twice the rupture rate of other implants.  Although the silicone was found not to be toxic or carcinogenic, a rupture can cause pain, inflammation and change the shape and feel of the breast. Around 300,000 women were affected in 65 countries.

Treatments such as Liposuction can result in severe complications if they are performed negligently including damage to internal organs and pulmonary embolisms. Even Rhinoplasty, which some people may consider to be a less invasive procedure, carries risks including; injury to the septum (the wall that separates your nostrils) and serious nasal blockages caused by swelling.

So what can a patient do to protect themselves from “cowboy” surgeons and negligent procedures?

It is important that anyone contemplating having a cosmetic procedure or cosmetic surgery consider the following:

Is the surgeon performing my procedure a member of The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS)?

Members of this not-for-profit organisation based at the Royal College of Surgeons are required to undergo thorough background screening before they can join. They are fully trained Plastic Surgeons and receive ongoing training and instruction as part of their membership.  You can find out more at www.baaps.org.uk.

Beware of clinics and practitioners using hard sell techniques.

A reputable Cosmetic Surgeon will consult with you, not sell to you.  They will take the time to fully inform you of the risks involved in the procedure and make sure you are comfortable with them.  Be aware of clinics offering free consultations and non-refundable deposits.  You have a right to change your mind right up until the time you go to sleep for the operation and a responsible surgeon is unlikely to demand to keep any payments made if you decide the treatment is not for you.  Trust your instincts, if it does not feel right it probably isn’t.

Think about what is driving your decision to have surgery.

If you have recently been through a divorce, a family member has died, or you have experienced some other type of trauma in your life it is not advisable to have a cosmetic procedure.  Take some time out to think about your decision and revisit the idea in six months time when you can evaluate the facts clearly.

Use the ‘Treatments You Can Trust (TYCT) Cosmetic Injectable Treatments’ website to find a properly trained practitioner for cosmetic procedures.

TYCT works in association with the Department of Health, Care Quality Commission and the Health Protection Agency as well as industry experts.  They have developed a set of best practice standards for injectable cosmetic procedures which practitioners have to comply with in order to become registered members.

Finally, despite the inference from magazines and celebrity culture that cosmetic surgery and procedures are as commonplace as getting a new hairstyle, remember, especially in the case of cosmetic surgery, that you are undertaking a risky procedure that can have long-term, unintended consequences.  You need to give the whole process careful thought and take your time before you commit yourself to anything that you may regret further down the line.