Are you sitting comfortably?
Are you fidgeting in your seat to try and find a pain-free position? Did something twinge when you put that plate in the dishwasher last night? Are you struggling to put your socks on? If this is you, you are certainly in good company.
Back pain is the 2nd most common problem reported to GPs, and according to the Office of National Statistics musculoskeletal problems (which include back and neck pain) are the most common reason for long-term sickness absence. It’s a fair and accurate statement to say that most people will suffer from back pain during their lifetime.
So that all sounds quite frightening, but I’m delighted to tell you that we have some good news. Almost all back pain goes away without surgery and there are lots and lots of things that can be done about it. Osteopathy is one way to relieve your back pain, read on to find out how.
What's causing my back pain?
Back pain comes in many different forms, you might have a sharp pain, a deep or dull ache, pins and needles, numbness, general soreness, spasm, or tightness. All of these things can have different causes and often you can have a combination of things adding up to the pain you are experiencing.
For example, if you have torn a muscle you can have pain from the tear, but also the muscles around the muscle will often “guard” it so it gets a bit of time and space to repair. But this can mean that those muscles produce their own pain by squeezing so tight!
Then you might walk a bit “funny” because you can’t stand up straight without your body giving you pain, so then you end up with some joints getting restricted in movement because you’re walking slumped over to one side!
Some different structural things that could be causing your back pain include:
Herniated discs (sometimes called slipped discs)
Arthritis/wear and tear
Facet joint or SI pain
Referral from another structure, for example, a knee problem meaning you are walking in a way that puts pressure on your back.
Osteopaths can treat all of them, which is brilliant news for you! Pain is however actually quite complicated and isn’t always about structural damage, if you are struggling with chronic pain, we can still help. We’ve put together a blog on chronic pain specifically for people suffering from it and the ways that osteopathy can help chronic pain.
What is an osteopath?
In the UK not everyone has heard of an Osteopath, but once you get back pain “osteopath” can often become a very familiar word! Interestingly, Osteopaths can treat a LOT more than back pain, but because back pain is so common and we are great at getting rid of it, we are often associated with back pain treatment!
Osteopaths train for 4 years full-time at university learning anatomy, physiology, and
biomechanics in serious detail. Osteopaths complete 2000 hours of hands-on clinical
treatment before graduating, they must keep up to date with current research and link that to the individual person standing in front of them to create a personalised treatment plan.
Finally, not just anyone can say they are an osteopath, you must be registered with The
General Osteopathic Council to practice in the UK. In short, osteopaths are a qualified bunch.
How can osteopathy help my back pain?
Osteopathy itself is based on 4 guiding principles:
- The rule of the artery is supreme.
- Structure and function are reciprocally inter-related
- The body is its own medicine chest
- The 3 above principles must be applied together in a way that suits the individual person, their personal history, and their individual body, mind, and lifestyle.
We think these principles are pretty cool and add up to a great way to approach what is
going on with the individual patient in front of us. If you would like to know more about
them and where osteopathy came from you can read our fascinating blog on the history of osteopathy!
So using the above, your osteopath takes a whole lot of verbal and physical information
from you, puts it together with their knowledge and understanding of the body, and comes up with a personally tailored plan just for you.
What does an osteopath actually do to relieve my back pain?
So you have the theory about how osteopathy works, but what do osteopaths actually do? Osteopathy is a hands-on therapy and osteopaths will use hands-on techniques such as:
Soft tissue techniques: These are techniques used to release muscles, remember that tight spasm I described at the beginning? Soft tissue works to increase blood supply to the muscles which means that the body brings all the bits and pieces that the muscle needs to repair to the site of injury.
Mobilisations: This is when your osteopath moves a joint in a certain way to improve the health of the joint. For example, if you have been stuck in one position because your back has been too painful to move your osteopath can gently encourage passive (no effort from you!) movement through the joints. This means the discs and little joints of the back produce more synovial fluid (the WD40 of the body!) which relieves stiffness, encourages repair and reduces pain.
Dry needling: This is a western form of acupuncture and is very different to the Traditional Chinese Medicine form of acupuncture (of which we have huge respect!). Dry needling encourages blood supply to the area which of course increases repair and nutrients to the area (You can see the theme here and how it links back to the osteopathic principles).
Manipulations: These are the techniques that everyone likes to talk about! This is because they can make a popping sound and patients will often say things like “she clicked me! My back went off like a machine gun!”. Despite the drama and mystery around this technique, it's actually very simple. Manipulation causes gas to be released from a joint, endorphins (feel-good chemicals!) to be released into the surrounding tissues and changes communication between the joint and the brain in a good way. This leads to reduced pain, better movement and a happier you!
Exercises and movement: we know that relieving pain is ½ the battle, the other ½ is keeping it away and we like to ensure that structures that need to be stretched are stretched and things that need to be strengthened are strengthened! This puts the power back in your hands as a patient, instead of you feeling dependent on us. So we put together personalised exercise and movement plans with your unique situation in mind.
I always use a personalised combination of treatment techniques for my patients because every patient is unique and needs a specific set of treatment techniques just for them.
For example, if you were suffering from a spasm of your lower back muscles on one side I would release the tight muscles with my hands using soft tissue, and put a couple of needles in to release any stubborn trigger points (little bits of muscle that have formed their own tight little knot!), give you a stretch and mobilisation on that side to help the joints to move again, reduce stiffness and encourage repair, and if I felt you would benefit I would perform manipulation on any joints that were a little stuck!
Want to talk to an osteopath about how they can help your back pain?
At Soco Therapies we have so much faith in our expert practitioners that we offer a free no-obligation consultation. To book your consultation with me (Jayde) today:
Call: 01202 422 000
Book an appointment through our website now.
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