One of the most common reasons people may consult an osteopath is back pain. This condition affects over 80% of the population at some stage of their lives and is one of the largest causes of absence from work. The pain may vary from a slight niggling ache to sharp debilitating pain that can affect the whole spine, and occasionally radiates to other areas of the body such as the buttocks or limbs. It is essential that your osteopath diagnoses the source of your discomfort before any treatment is provided. Common mechanical causes of back pain make up the vast majority of the cases we see and these include bad posture, poor seating, unsupportive beds and pillows, incorrect lifting, sedentary lifestyle, stress (both physical and mental), trauma, sports injuries, pregnancy and wear and tear. So what can be done? At Cirencester osteopaths the aim is to provide a safe and effective treatment for your back pain using evidence-based methods of relieving pain and rehabilitating the spine. The aim is to provide long-term solutions by removing any barriers to recovery so that your body can heal itself. Specific techniques, exercises and advice are tailored to each individual depending on the nature of the pain, the cause of the symptoms and your lifestyle to restore functional motion and posture. This allows your body to heal itself more effectively. You should not have to put up with long-term back ache, there is often a relatively simple underlying cause that may be maintaining it.
Those who suffer with sciatica may say that the pain came on suddenly, like a bolt of lightening down the back of the leg. Others describe it as an excruciating “toothache” in their legs – either way sciatica is a painful experience and Osteopaths are able to help in most cases. Early Sciatic Pain is often so mild it can be ignored but this is the stage when it may be vital to see your Osteopath, as the earlier it is diagnosed and treated the better the outcome.’Sciatica’ is a general term used to describe pain from irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve formed from various nerve roots that exit your lumbar spine and sacrum (tailbone) to supply your leg. Symptoms vary in severity, but generally people will describe pain down the back of the legs which can occasionally be felt in the ankles, feet & toes. Although the cause of the symptoms may originate from the lumbar spine or sacrum, in some cases low back pain is not present, or the leg pain is worse than the back pain. A prolapsed disc (‘slipped disc’) may cause sciatica but there are other conditions, such as the spinal wear and tear or osteo-arthritis that can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatic symptoms may include numbness or tingling in one or both legs, occasional shooting pains, and tenderness in surrounding muscles.
If you consider that the average adult head weighs about the same as a bowling ball, it is understandable that poor posture can cause your head to deviate from its most comfortable position. Some dysfunctional postures can significantly change the distribution of weight on the neck and shoulders, potentially leading to pain in the form of local muscle or joint tension, arm pain and often headaches spreading from the neck to the the forehead.Car accidents and falls are a common cause of trauma to the neck. Substantial tissue damage can be caused by whiplash injuries which can cause a wide range of symptoms such as neck pain, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, reduced ability to turn and bend, low back pain, pins and needles, and numbness or muscle spasms in the shoulders, arms and hands.The key to success for this type of condition is going to your osteopath as soon as you can after the event. You will have a thorough investigation of your neck and related areas to determine where tissues have been damaged followed by a discussion with you as to the best way forward for treatment.
Arthritic Pain and Rheumatism
Don’t be despondent if you’re told that you should expect a certain amount of pain for your age, or that it’s normal for you to have reduced movement. I have often met patients who have presented to me as a last resort having been told that nothing can be done for them and they must continue to live with pain. Osteopathic treatment may enable you to live a more active life with reduced pain and suffering.Wear and tear seen on X-rays are not always the underlying cause of your pain and advanced arthritis can be managed well. You don’t have to put up with constant pain.The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, and it is reported that over 50% of people over the age of 65 suffer pain and disability as a result. This type of arthritis begins years before any bone changes are found on x-ray and is primarily the “wear and tear” arthritis associated with every day life. In many cases, your osteopath can help you to accommodate to this change in structure, perhaps by freeing up related joints so that they share more of the load, or even reducing the tensions in the muscles of the area to reduce the inflammation and pain – treatment has proven to be immensely successful. There are also lots of postural exercises and day to day tips that can help you to help yourself.If you start experiencing aches and pains in your joints, and the pain has come on over a matter of days, weeks or a few months (and in some cases years), please don’t just resign yourself to it. It could be something far more simple to deal with.
Shoulder, Arm and Hand Pain
Sometimes the cause of shoulder, arm or hand pain is not always as clear cut as it would seem, it can be far more complicated. The anatomy of your shoulder makes it vulnerable to injury, but as with leg pain, the most important thing to do is to determine what is causing it. Your osteopath has been trained to accurately diagnose the problem and treat accordingly.Whatever is causing the pain (frozen shoulder, repetitive strain injury, tennis/golfers elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries, awkward sleeping positions, or your work station), your osteopath will explain the best course of action.
Some cases of arm pain are related to a large nerve outlet starting in your neck called the brachial plexus. The nerves from the neck or cervical spine that service your shoulders and arms all meet in the brachial plexus before they branch off. A compressed (pinched) nerve can cause pain, tingling in the fingers, and unpleasant feelings of heat, cold and swelling. Osteopaths aim to relieve the compressed nerve by initially establishing where it it impinged and releasing the structures surrounding it. This may involve manipulations to the neck, ribs or upper back, massage techniques and acupuncture to reduce muscle tension and increase blood supply and help to restore appropriate function to these vital nerves.
Muscle Tension / Spasm
Muscle tension is very common, it can vary from a sense of tightness to agonizing pain which is occasionally disproportionate to the cause. Understanding the cause of the tension is vital in providing long term relief. The muscle’s role is to move your joints, therefore if a joint is not moving well, the muscle will have to work harder to achieve the same result, conversely if the muscle is tight then the joint itself will struggle to move freely. In some cases, a joint lock or inflammation due to injury for example will cause muscle spasm – a sudden, severe tightening of a muscle or a group of muscles. Your osteopath will diagnose and treat these combined areas of tension and give you the tools for posture and exercise to help maintain your restored mobility.