Back Pain

Research shows that 80% of people experience back pain at some time in their life. Most episodes of low back pain settle down after a couple of weeks but a very large percentage of these people (85%) then go on to suffer repeated acute episodes of lower back pain. That is, when you have had it once, without effective treatment, lower back pain tends to reoccur.

Back pain can have a significant impact on quality of life and is a major cause of time off work. Research also shows that chronic pain is often associated with depression, anxiety and poor sleep.


Why does back pain begin?

A common story from patients is that one day a simple movement such as bending to pick something up caused a sudden acute spasm and pain in the back. Why would this happen in an apparently healthy individual? During an osteopathic examination it is common for osteopaths to find several different and apparently unrelated areas of strain or tension in the body. Individually each of these may be well tolerated and the patient may be unaware of any problem. But the combined effect of having to accommodate all of these may reduce the body’s ability to tolerate additional strains.



Osteopathy for Back Pain

As an osteopath I have two aims during diagnosis and treatment: Firstly, to identify and treat the cause of the pain ( for example muscle injury, joint strain, intervertebral disc damage etc.) Secondly, to understand why this back has been vulnerable to this strain, and to improve overall spinal mechanics so that it is less likely to recur in the future. I will then recommend a treatment plan.

Aims of  Osteopathic Treatment

  • Relief of your current symptoms.
  • Treatment of the identified underlying cause to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
  • Rehabilitation, which may include advise about your lifestyle, workplace or exercise.


A patient may have poor posture with slouched shoulders which would impose a dragging effect on the muscles and ligaments of the neck making them tense. This would be made worse if the patient also had general poor muscle tone especially in the abdominal and back muscles.


If this patient then tripped and fell onto one knee it would cause a twist in the pelvis and tension in the low back. Perhaps this person was also emotionally stressed, causing tension in the diaphragm area and restricting the ability to take a deep breath.


This person was, in spite of everything listed above still getting along in life until one day the simple act of bending over to pick up a sock oveloaded the back and caused the muscle spasm, slipped disc or lower back ligament strain.

How many treatments will be needed?

The number of treatments will vary depending on how complicated and long-standing the problem is. In some people one or two treatments are sufficient. For others treatment may continue for much longer. When to consult me about back pain? Prevention is better than cure, and it is often easier for an osteopath to treat underlying stresses and strains when there is no current back pain. You do not have to have the pain on the day of treatment. It is better to consult me before back pain becomes severe. Most back pain is easier to treat in its early stages, and my aim as an osteopath is to minimise strain on the joints and discs of the spine.


Self Help for Back Sufferers

While every person is different, there are a few general rules to observe to help reduce or prevent back pain. If in doubt, consult me.

Lifting- when lifting, stand straight in front of the object to be lifted and hold weights close to the body. Bend the knees, and keep the back as straight as possible.

Sitting- do not slouch in chairs with the lower back unsupported. Push your bottom well back in the seat of a chair and sit tall.

Be sensible with physical exertion. If you are unfit then muscles fatigue easily and injury is more likely. Short bursts of heavy activity should be interspersed with more gentle tasks. If it hurts, stop! Pain is there for a reason. If you take heed of the early warning signs, it is often possible to prevent the situation getting worse. Painkillers mask the early warning signs, so take extra care when using them. Do whatever is most comfortable, not what is most convenient.

Gentle exercise helps improve flexibility and muscle strength. Pilates, yoga and swimming are all beneficial. Try a small amount of the activity the first time, and whether there are any ill effects the next day. If all is well a little more can be done the next time. Seek osteopathic treatment if your back pain does not go away within a week or two.