Back pain does not simply produce pain in the back, often it may cause symptoms in more remote areas such as the buttocks, groin, hips, and legs (commonly called sciatica).
Problems in the spine and neck can also cause symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, clicking jaw, pins and needles and many more. Indeed research has shown that problems related to the back may affect over 60% of the UK’s population at some stage in their lives.
Osteopaths are trained professionals who are skilled in diagnosing problems, including those which may require further investigation if necessary. Around 30,000 people currently consult an osteopath every day with more than seven million consultations carried out every year (Source: General Osteopathic Council).
NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines recommend manipulative therapies including osteopathy for the treatment of low back pain.
Osteopaths use a wide range of gentle manipulations, depending on your age, fitness and diagnosis. Treatment is different for every patient but may include techniques such as different types of soft tissue massage and joint articulation to release tension, stretch muscles, help relieve pain and mobilise your joints. Sometimes, when we move joints you may hear a ‘click’. This is just like the click people get when they crack their knuckles.
Keeping a healthy spine and joints
When young, the body can adapt easily to the stress and strain it is put under. As it grows older (over 25 years!) it begins to lose some of the elasticity which gives the body the flexibility to cope and adapt. In particular this applies to the discs between the vertebrae and the joint cartilage. These require regular movement to ensure their maximum range and thereby increase local circulation and nutrition to the surrounding fluids and tissues.
10 top tips for back care
1. Keep moving and stretching
2. Take regular exercise
3. Take frequent breaks between repetitive tasks and vary the rhythm
4. Change position – avoid ‘computer hump’
5. Pace yourself when the work is heavy e.g. gardening
6. Adjust car seats, and on long journeys, have breaks and stretch
7. Watch children’s posture – don’t let them carry bags on one shoulder
8. Avoid strain when lifting especially when shopping and with small children
9. Is your bed the right bed or is it getting old?
10. Seek osteopathic advice earlier rather than later
Professionalism and safety
To qualify, an osteopath must study for four to five years for an undergraduate degree. This is similar to a medical degree, with more emphasis on anatomy and musculoskeletal medicine and includes more than 1,000 hours of training in osteopathic techniques. By law, osteopaths must register with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). It is an offence for anyone to call themselves an osteopath if they are not registered.