How to Use Osteopathy to Treat Back Pain: a Complete Guide
When searching for the best treatment for back pain and joint problems, more and more people turn to osteopathic medicine. One of the many benefits of using osteopathy to relieve back pain is the fact that, as opposed to conventional medicine, it does not imply the use of medication or surgery. In this guide, we will define osteopathy and show how you can use it to treat back pain effectively.
What is osteopathy and how can an osteopath help?
As defined on the NHS official website, osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating, and preventing health problems mainly by using joint movement and mobilisation, stretching, and massage. In the UK, osteopathy is categorised as a complementary or alternative medicine. As opposed to conventional western medicine, it focuses on treating the whole body (skeleton, joints, muscles, and soft tissue) rather than a specific illness.
Moreover, in osteopathy, the musculoskeletal system is seen as one of the key elements of one’s overall health and well-being. The theory behind manual therapy and other alternative treatments is that a properly aligned musculoskeletal structure will enable the body to heal itself after a traumatic event. It is all about the link between the structure and function of the human body.
Osteopathic medicine provides drug-free non-invasive manual treatment that focuses on strengthening the musculoskeletal frameworks to:
- Increase or restore joint mobility;
- Relieve muscle tension;
- Reduce pain and stiffness in muscles and joints;
- Improve blood flow;
- Enhance tissue elasticity.
Osteopathy provides a holistic treatment for back pain using diverse techniques to relieve pain and treat a variety of problems. These techniques include:
- Massage – achieved by freeing restrictions within joints and muscles, massage addresses the whole body so to restore its vitality. The osteopath also uses traction, where your head, feet, and hands are slightly lifted and pulled to relieve stress.
- Spinal manipulation – used to help restore movement to a joint or threat asymmetry in a facet joint.
- Muscle energy technique – with this technique, the patient uses his or her muscles in a specific direction and from a precise position against a counterforce applied by the osteopath.
- Counterstrain technique – this technique implies the patient being moved away from a position where movement is restricted to one of greater comfort.
- Cranial osteopathy – a form of gentle bodywork addressing the bones of the head and spinal column. The osteopath uses therapeutic touch to alleviate both pain and stress.
Many osteopaths specialise in treating back pain. Here is how an osteopath can help you benefit from such a treatment.
- Osteopaths are well-trained specialists who can make a diagnosis based on taking you through a thorough case history and examination, as well as analysing X-rays, scans, and other tests.
- They use a wide range of manual treatments depending on the patient’s diagnosis, age, and overall fitness from gently massaging the soft tissues of the back to mobilising and manipulating the back to loosen joints until it “clicks”.
- An osteopath will advise not only on the right posture, stretching, and other activities that help relieve pain but also advise on posture; stretching and rehabilitation as well as other activities that help relieve pain.
Osteopathic Medicine and Back Pain
When it comes to back pain, people complain about various symptoms, ranging from stiffness to severe pain in different locations from the top of the neck to the pelvis. For some, the pressure from the back on the nerves may be the cause of numbness in the legs and arms while for others it just feels like pins and needles. Such forms of pain can come on suddenly or over time, and be located anywhere in the spine.
Whether it’s lower back pain, middle back pain, or upper back pain, there is good evidence that osteopathic medicine is effective in treating it. As the cause of pain differs from one individual to another, sometimes it may involve treating other body areas such as the neck, the hips, or the knees.
Commonly, patients visit osteopaths for the following back conditions:
- Generalised aches and pains including lumbago, acute low back pain, and chronic back pain.
- Joint pain – affects the connection between bones (ankles, feet, shoulders, hands, etc.).
- Rheumatic pain – a type of chronic pain that affect the joints
and the connective tissue.
- Sciatica – the irritation or compression of the “sciatic nerve” located at the lower part of the back.
- Pregnancy back pain – lower back pain caused by the fact that the spine has to support the weight of the growing baby.
- Posture problems caused not only by pregnancy but also by driving or prolonged sitting at work
- Muscular tension, muscular spasm or the inability to relax.
- Neck and shoulder pain (including frozen shoulder).
- Mechanical back pain – back pain caused by abnormal stress placed on the muscles of the spinal column, typically resulting from bad habits like poor posture, incorrect bending and lifting weights.
- Secondary and compensatory problems arising from spinal disc problems – caused by the many stresses the spine has to sustain. Typically, these problems lead to lower back pain, numbness, and weakness.
- Sporting injuries and tensions caused by accidents, not warming up properly, or using inappropriate equipment.
- Osteoarthritis – a form of arthritis (a joint disease) that results from breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone.
- Headaches and migraines – pressure or pain in the head of different intensities.
- Digestive problems – including unpleasant symptoms such as constipation, nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, etc.
Next, let’s see the four basic steps you can follow in order to benefit from qualified osteopathic treatment.
How to Use Osteopathy to Treat Back Pain within London
1. Get answers to your “osteopathic” questions
We have already provided you with a few answers to general questions such as “what is osteopathy?” and “how can an osteopath help when dealing with back pain?”. However, we are sure there are plenty of other questions waiting for specific answers. Here is a short Q&A section that might be of further help.
What’s the first thing to do if you have injured yourself?
If you have injured yourself, you may notice pain, swelling, bruising, and restricted movement several hours after the event. If the injury is minor, you can look after yourself at home during the first 24-72 hours by:
- resting and preventing the affected body part from further damage;
- applying an ice pack to the affected area to reduce swelling;
- relieve pain by taking painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
If the injury is severe, you should go to the nearest A&E (accident and emergency) department and see a doctor.
When is the best time to visit an osteopath?
Osteopathic treatment is recommended within the first month of your back injury.
Do you need to be referred by your GP to see an osteopath?
No, you can make an appointment with an osteopath without being referred by your GP. However, if you are using private medical insurance, such as AXA PPP and BUPA, you may need a GP referral first. Please check with your insurance provider before making an appointment.
What are the risks of osteopathic treatment?
We have outlined the main benefits of the use of osteopathy, but what about the risks? Osteopathic treatment is generally considered a safe and effective remedy for back pain. Of course, all treatments should be based on accurately determining the diagnosis of your back pain.
Usually, there are no side effects other than soreness for one to two days after manual therapy. By all means, the degree of soreness depends on the technique the practitioner chooses to use. To be safe, always check with your GP if your condition would benefit from osteopathy or other pain relief alternatives.
Is osteopathy available on the NHS?
Osteopathy is not widely available on the NHS. However, osteopathic treatment is covered by most Private Health Insurance providers. Your GP or CCG (local clinical commissioning group) should be able to provide you with further information and tell you whether osteopathy is available in your area. Currently, bodytonic clinicprovides osteopathic treatment within London. Our osteopathy specialists and massage therapists will be happy to assist you with any questions.
2. Find a qualified and registered osteopath in your area
The second step you should follow is research potential osteopaths and make an appointment within the first month of your back injury with a specialist you fully trust. How can you make sure the specialist you contact is a qualified and registered professional?
Not many people know that osteopathy is one of only TWO complementary and alternative medicines regulated under the UK law. For an osteopath to practice, he or she must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council.
3. Register for a spinal assessment – book a free consultation today!
At bodytonic clinic, there is a professional therapist for the treatment you need whether it is osteopathy, cranial osteopathy, pregnancy, sports & deep tissue massage, reflexology, or manual lymph-drainage.
What to expect from a spinal assessment? Before proceeding with your treatment, the osteopath asks you about your medical history, performs a physical examination, and may also use lab tests or X-rays to determine the appropriate treatment for your condition.
If you are suffering from back pain, our dedicated professionals are here to help. You can book a free 15 minutes consultation and see what to except. One of our qualified and registered osteopaths will outline the options you have in terms of treatment and discuss them with you in detail so as to decide which one is best for you.
4. Proceed with the osteopathic treatment that best suits your needs
Should you like to proceed with treatment after your free consultation, you are more than welcome. Also, if you would not like a treatment after the 15 minutes free consultation, that is absolutely fine. There will be no charge.
What do we treat at bodytonic clinic?
Based in the heart of London, our clinic offers a wide range of osteopathic treatments. If you suffer from back pain, our osteopaths will use their developed sense of touch to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your condition. Treatment is carried out using a variety of techniques that best suit the patient and may help with:
- Generalised aches and pains
- Joint pains, including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core OA treatments and exercise
- Arthritic pain
- General, acute and chronic backache, back pain (not arising from injury / accident)
- Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain (as opposed to neck pain following injury, i.e. whiplash)
- Headache arising from the neck (cervicogenic) / migraine prevention
- Frozen shoulder / shoulder and elbow pain / tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck, but not isolated occurrences
- Circulatory problems
- Digestion problems
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to relax
- Rheumatic pain
- Minor sport injuries and tensions
Due to its holistic view towards the musculoskeletal system, osteopathy encourages the body to work effectively as a whole. The basic principle of osteopathic medicine is that all body parts are interconnected. That is why by using osteopathy to treat back pain patients may experience improvements in maintaining the health of other parts of the body such as the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems.
Just like any type of therapy, osteopathy can work only based on an effective communication between therapist and patient. Back pain sufferers must follow their practitioner’s advice so to improve their posture, stretching, lifting, and other body mechanics. So, patients and osteopaths should work together to get the best results possible.
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