How to reduce back pain
Back pain is a prevalent issue in the UK, causing discomfort, workplace absences and significant healthcare costs. Osteopathy, a safe and effective approach, can help manage back pain.
According to Versus Arthritis, over 20 million people in the UK suffer from back pain. It also affects up to 80% of us at some point in our lives. The NHS spends more than £1 billion per year on back pain-related costs but even more is lost through workplace absence caused by excessive aches and pains.
Back pain can have many causes and it is not always obvious what causes it. A common cause of back pain is an injury like a pulled muscle or strain. It can also be initiated by medical conditions such as a slipped disc or sciatica.
Your spine is made of solid, bony blocks reinforced by strong ligaments and muscles. It is surprisingly difficult to damage the spine, but the surrounding muscles and ligaments can cause discomfort and pain if strained.
How can an osteopath help with back pain?
Osteopathic practice is a safe and effective form of prevention, diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of health problems, including back pain. Often back pain resolves quickly by itself, but if it persists for more than a few days, an osteopath may be able to help.
Osteopaths look at the health of your body as a whole and aim to ensure all your bones, muscles and joints are functioning smoothly together. They use gentle physical manipulation, stretching and massage with the aim of increasing the mobility of joints and relieving muscle tension.
Together with exercise and advice designed to promote and maintain the best environment for a healthy back, an osteopath can offer this type of treatment for short-term or long-term general lower back pain. Research evidence shows that these osteopathic treatments can have beneficial effects, especially for back pain.
What happens at your appointment?
A first appointment will involve a consultation and possibly some initial treatment. The osteopath will talk to you about your general health, your back pain, and what treatment you are having. They will look at your whole body concerning your back pain and may observe you making simple movements and stretches. In addition to this, they will also feel and examine your joints, ligaments and tissues. Osteopaths are highly trained professionals skilled in diagnosing health issues, including those that may require further investigation.
The method used to treat your back pain will be bespoke to you as it depends on your exact location, the length of time you have been experiencing the pain, the extent of the pain, your age, and any relevant medical history. The treatment often focuses on releasing tension, stretching muscles, and improving mobility – all of which may help relieve pain.
There is no need to consult a GP before visiting an osteopath, although you may wish to do so. An osteopath can give advice about methods to aid recovery and maintain a healthy back.
‘Osteopathic practice is a safe and effective form of prevention, diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of health problems, including back pain’
REMEMBER: Back pain is rarely due to any serious disease and the long-term outlook is good. If you do have any concerns about your back, you can discuss these with an osteopath.
The UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidance for health services that recommend manual therapy, such as that provided by osteopaths, as part of a package of care for the management of low back pain and sciatica.
Tips for caring for your back
- Check your posture. We are spending more and more time sitting and working at a desk, so make sure your chair has adequate back support and use a portable adjustable laptop stand if need be
- When lifting and carrying, always keep the item close to the body. Make sure to bend the knees and let the legs do the work. Try not to twist the back – turn with your feet
- Take regular exercise. People who are physically fit generally experience less back pain and recover faster if they do get it. Engage your core with exercise. Pilates and yoga are good for this.
- Take care of your feet with appropriate footwear. Shoes provide stability and posture support, so ensure your footwear is comfortable and well-fitting.
- Adjust your car seats, use a rolled-up towel to support the lower back and take regular breaks on long journeys
- Mattresses and sofas wear out over time and can cause back pain. If you have one that is over seven years old, it may be time to get a new one. A good supportive pillow is also important to keep your spine aligned.
Finding an osteopath
All osteopaths in the UK should be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). This means they have completed approved standards of training and follow the GOsC standards of practice and conduct. It’s against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the GOsC.