Austria offers superb treatment for Osteoporosis

HOTEL LAMM, SEEFELD, AUSTRIA

In  the middle of the charming Austrian mountain village of Seefeld, stands the Hotel Lamm – which has been owned by the Seyrling family for centuries.

Today, the family have turned their old Inn into a welcoming and efficient holiday hotel with a top-class medical centre;  now it offers first-class care and help for those with  joint pains, sports injuries, problems with your golf swing, and in particular Osteoporosis.

Visitors come not only for walking in the mountains, ski-ing and snowboarding – but also to have medical problems sorted out by the hotel’s first class medical team.  And I had come to get help with managing Osteoporosis.

Why go for treatment?

In Britain, Osteoporosis is the ‘Cinderella’ of NHS treatment.  I was told by the National Osteoporosis Society that hospitals should have a dedicated Falls/Fracture  Nurse who would deal with this, and on-going treatment to help prevent problems.

Reality is different. Trying to get the NHS to treat Osteoporosis is difficult, to say the least.  My local Foundation hospital gave me the impression that I was being a fuss-pot asking for exercise classes;  no, they didn’t offer these – but told me that if I developed a fracture due to a fall, they had all the equipment to set my bones and deal with this (cost? around £12,000 to the NHS).  They didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in the possibility of preventing falls – that was asking for the moon.  But kept on suggesting “you should go private”.

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley have told us “medical treatment is better in Europe” but when asked what are they doing about getting NHS to learn and copy – they cower behind minions trained not to answer  So, with no help from NHS,  it was time to stop pussy-footing around and go and see for myself what we could copy from Austria.  My health was worth the cost of a short break – surely?

Friends recommended the Hotel Lamm in Seefeld, half an hour from Innsbruck, and I was looking forward to combining a holiday with some specialised medical treatments.   Having everything under one roof meant there wouldn’t be any time wasted, and it was about time I ‘invested’ in my health, rather than moaning about the lack of care provided by the NHS.

The hotel works in the Austrian medical system, which means you can go there without a referral letter – although if you bring one from your doctor this cuts  down the time taken for your assessment.

What happens

First was an interview with Dr. Eva Dirnberger, resident Orthoapedic specialist at the AlpenMedHotel Lamm, in charge of their state-of-the-art medical centre.

Dr. Eva Dirnberger

Speaking faultless English (after three years in USA), Dr. Dirnberger took me through my medical history, then told me what their centre could do for me.  She was so reassuring:  no lectures, no pompous ‘we know best’, but a genuine warmth that came over with the message that she and her team were there to make our bodies perform better.

“We have many people who come here with problems” from Germany, Switzerland and other countries, and they are looking to get attention to small medical problems that, if sorted out, will give them a better quality of life”.

There were others, like myself, who wanted to get the best attention possible to help us live a healthier and less painful life – especially when it came to bone and joint problems – and to establish a routine that wasn’t too demanding  when we returned home.

She suggested exercise Aquagym classes in the pool with its specially programmed water jets;  then she said she would usually recommend two short sessions a day in their Cryotherapy chamber, but after looking at my medical history Dr. Dirnberger made me make the decision that perhaps, having had polio, it wasn’t for me.  Then she sent me off to Arianne.

Arianne gave me TLC that works

Arianne really knew her stuff.  Telling me she was a Physotherapist, it was soon obvious that she was a Physio who had had fantastic training (in the Netherlands, as it happens).   She told me that as I had Osteoporosis, she was going to give me exercises to help my co-ordination, strength and balance.  “The main thing is to prevent falls”.

She then took me through a series of exercises that would be easy for me to remember when I got home;  some I knew already, but she gave me little ‘twists’ to make them more interesting, all the time explaining the theory behind the exercise, so I could ensure I was doing them properly.

This actually not only makes it easier to remember exercises, but when you have an explanation of which muscles you are working, and why, you can see what you need to achieve.  It also makes it easier for you to self-correct if you forget anything.

Equipment

But what really warmed me to Arianne was her constant questions, “do you have this at home?”  as she took me through different exercises, using various items of equipment.

We sat on bouncy balls – but when, in answer to her question, I said I didn’t have one at home, she moved me off this and showed me how to do the exercise on a mat (below).

Start flat on the mat, with my head resting on my hands.

I then had to raise my legs slightly and also my head, so that I was gently making a U shape, then back to rest on the mat.

If you look below, you will see Arianne demonstrating more of her easy-to-do but sensible exercises.

Then she asked did I have weights at home?  If I didn’t, a good alternative was to use two 1/2 litre full water bottles.

She gave me therabands, as those wouldn’t take up any room in my luggage – and all along the practical approach was very reassuring.

The Gym had a mini-trampoline, wobble boards and a treadmill;  usually they would use these, but as I didn’t have them at home – we did without.

Watching me like a hawk, when she saw that something gave me a twinge of pain, she immediately showed me how to do the exercise to avoid this.  She made sure that the mat she placed was comfortable for me.  And was careful to make sure I was steady.

We did walking on tip toes, then on heels – all the time ensuring that I wasn’t overstraining.  Then on to lunges with one leg in front, then the other – all the time ensuring that I didn’t overbalance.  Standing up against the wall, she made me slide down so I was squatting – then up again (very good to do this whilst on the telephone!)

Then lifting my leg to right and left – all the while ensuring my toes were pointing ahead – not out in a ballet pose.  Then putting the theraband around a heavy piece of furniture, and lifting against it;  then standing on the band and doing arm-curls to pull it up.

Her enthusiasm made me want to go on, and I soon found the first hour had passed so quickly I hadn’t noticed.  I could have gone on, but she was adamant I mustn’t overstrain.  Then demonstrated some of the exercises again that are good for Osteoporosis, so I would remember them.  See below for her demonstrations.

Next day

It is very difficult for any physio dealing with someone who has had polio, and normally we expect to be in pain the following day after the first-time with an exercise regime.  But she had been so careful not to let me overstretch that when I woke the next morning there wasn’t a twinge. It was even better when I started walking around the hotel, and discovered that even after the first lesson, my balance had improved remarkably.   Now that, to me, is the sign of a superb Physio.

Walking

Arianne mentioned walking as being good exercise for Osteoporosis, and Seefeld was the ideal place to do this.  To add to one’s confidence, you are encouraged to take up Nordic walking, using walking poles.  These help you stride out, but also give you balance, so that you can tackle mountain paths with more vigour.   In the winter you can do cross-country ski-ing, from beginners idling gently along, to ten-mile hikes across the snows.

Swimming

Some mornings there is an Aquagym class, and this is the greatest fun.  When I tried out the massive, warm swimming pool, I found that every so often jets of water came on automatically – with each ‘station’ taking it in turn.  The instructor showed us how to use these jets to give us resistance and make exercises more “useful for you”.  (Translation, more difficult and to make sure we used every muscle to best effect!).

But the sessions were exhilerating,  especially the whirlpool which wizzed around in its channel.  When made to walk against it I found this beats half a mile of walking on a boring road any day!  To give us some gentle massage, there was a kind of jacuzzi where you lay on bars and gently did leg exercises – soothing and relaxing.

Again, all the exercises we were given could be done in the local club swimming pool – but sadly I don’t know anywhere in Britain where we have the whirlpools and other ‘toys’.

Ideal for allergy sufferers

Allergy sufferers in particular can take a deep breath in Seefeld’s ‘Olympiaregion’, so-called because they have hosted the Winter Olympics here.   From July onwards the region is considered to be virtually free of allergens, as the flowering season for grasses and pollen ends very early here.

Positive physical development

Seefeld is about 4,000 feet up on a sunny plateau overlooking the Inn valley.  Doctors say the Alpine climate strengthens the heart, improves the circulation system, activates the metabolism and reduces harmful free radicals

Special Offers

The hotel often has Osteoporosis Weeks, with special prices.  See their website for details.

Dr. Dirnberger is frequently asked to sort out sports injuries, and they even have a bag of golf clubs in the Gym, and all sorts of massive ‘hula hoops’ to correct keen golfer’s swings.

If you have Spinal Problems, they offer ‘Spineliner‘ assessment, which helps with many back and muscle problems, and is now also used in treating tinnitus.

They can arrange dog sledding, where you can either take out a team and learn to ‘mush’ as you run behind them, or you can sit in a pulka (sled) and have a team pull you along.

And if you are in pain, do investigate their Cryotherapy Chamber.  This goes down to an impressive 110 below – and is used by Continental sports stars as part of their training regime.

Getting there

You can make the journey part of the holiday – I flew out Business Class on BA, and it makes life so much more convenient.  No worries about luggage (there is a large allowance and your bags are tagged Priority so there is little waiting), a chance to have a civilised cup of coffee in their lounge, and pick up a newspaper – and cabin staff who are there to hand you a drink of water – or something stronger – immediately.  BA flies to Innsbruck in Winter, otherwise fly to Munich in Germany(flights from London and Manchester) and drive just over an hour to Seefeld.

Lead-in fares Heathrow – Munich in summer from £135.80 return.  Manchester – Munich £206.20 and Edinburgh – Munich £204.12   Services to Innsbruck start again in December with lead-in price of £127.40  – don’t forget all these prices include taxes/fees/charges.     0844 493 0787   www.britishairways.com

What to do

If you arrive on a Sunday don’t forget to pack a pretty frock or suit, because the Hotel Lamm hosts a Gourmet dinner for guests.  Believe it or not, the highlight for me was a Parsley Soup – totally dreamy.  The rest was pretty good too, and included slices of fillet of beef that you could cut with a fork, plus a fantastic-looking dessert, which looked wonderful, but was actually very light.

Otherwise every evening there is a delicious four-course meal, all cooked to order as you discuss the menu with your waiter at breakfast – and tell him any special requirements you have.   I adore the typical Austrian dish, Viener Schnitzel – so one evening they cooked this for me, and it was the lightest and most delicious schnitzel I have ever eaten.

Further Information:

COURSES:  Take aim at osteoporosis : includes

  • 1 detailed study of case history, investigation of spinal column and locomotor system by a specialist in orthopaedics – with consultation
  • 13 cryotherapy treatment sessions in the cold chamber
  • 5 personalised medical exercise treatment sessions (osteoporosis gymnastics, posture stabilisation/balance training, fall prevention)
  • 5 units of group remedial gymnastics
  • 1 final orthopaedic investigation with doctor‘s letter

Price per person € 855  plus room

Osteoporosis Week includes

3 treatments with the Spineliner

Price per person € 1,165 Plus room

Package can be booked any time for 7 nights!

For hotel prices, special offers, etc.  www.alpenmedhotel.com

For Tourist Information (Lilli in their office is incredibly helpful)  www.seefeld.com

Shortly there will be more ‘tourist’ information up on the ‘sister’ site, www.healthspanews.com

ARIANNE’S EXERCISES


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