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It can be really frustrating (and painful) for you and your doctor, although you should be aware that the majority of back pain episodes will simply go away on their own (if you give yourself enough time off to rest). If you suffer from pain in your back you might consider visiting an osteopath. In fact, the department of health advice you to seek swift treatment for back pain in order to reduce its intensity and longevity. Your osteopath would be able to provide treatment to reduce your pain and offer you advice on how to change your posture and/or behaviour in order to prevent causing yourself further pain in the future.
Common Causes of Back Pain
The incidence of back pain has increased recently as people spend more time sitting at desks, typing on the computer or watching the television. These activities place strain on your back, shoulder and neck and can cause you to develop pain. Whilst bad posture is a common cause of back strain, most back pain is created by muscle strain (lumbar muscle strain) that is most commonly caused by injury or undue strain (which could be caused by trying to carry something that is too heavy for you)
Another cause of back pain could be due to a problem with one of your spinal discs. Your spinal discs sit between each of your vertebrae (that make up your spine) and problems with your discs can cause discongenic back pain. If you suffer from a herniated (or ruptured) disc then your disc will have slipped out of alignment with your spine and will be putting pressure on your nerves. Further movement or inflammation of your discs can trap the nerves that exist within your spinal cord and subsequently increase the severity of your pain. The position of your ruptured disc (and your personal health and wellbeing) will dictate the type of treatment that you require.
In a similar way, spondylolisthesis describes a condition where your vertebrae become misaligned and unstable and can move out of alignment and causes back pain by trapping the nerves that sit in your spinal canal.
Spinal stenosis causes back pain by narrowing the space within the spinal cord where your nerves are positioned. This puts pressure on your nerves and creates a feeling of pain. Spinal stenosis is more common in older people and people who put a lot of strain on their backs (either through manual labour or sports) but it is often caused by arthritis. Arthritis could also cause you to develop pain in your back if it you were unfortunate enough to develop inflammation of the joints within your spine, shoulders or neck.
In a similar way you may experience pain if you suffer from other bone disorders such as osteoporosis or develop an infection within your back area. Very rarely your back pain could be caused by a tumour.
An osteopath will often be able to diagnose the cause of your back pain (if you don’t already know it) but you must be aware that a large amount of back pain is diagnosed as “non-specific” pain. This is due to the fact that there are so many different potential causes of back pain that it can be impossible to pin-point exactly what the cause of your specific problem is. This often does not matter as the pain could be cured prevented from reoccurring using by osteopathic treatment, especially if your pain is due to a minor spinal misalignment or muscle strain that was probably caused by a previous injury.
The method used to treat your back pain will be tailored to suit you. It will depend on the exact location of your pain, the length of time you have been experiencing the pain, the extent of the pain, any relevant medical history etc. Typically, treatment will include touch and massage of the painful region and areas around the painful region. This will act to relax the muscles around the region as well as release any tension in the tendons. Massage also acts to increase the blood flow (and lymphatic flow) to the painful region which will increase your body’s ability to heal. If you suffer from osteoporosis (or osteopenia) your osteopath will want to treat you using a more gentle method to avoid causes further degradation to your bones.
If your pain is caused by stiff or strained muscle, then the act of gently stretching the effect muscle and surrounding tissue will often immediately alleviate some of your pain. If your pain is caused by misalignment of the underlying bone, the restructuring of the soft tissue above the bone and will allow the osteopath to re-balance the forces acting on your bones and thus reduce the pressure on them. This is often especially true with pain in the lower back which is often caused by poor posture building up muscles in an uneven manner. These unbalanced muscles will place torque on your body and reduce the structural efficiency of your body as a whole as well as causing you to feel pain.
In this way, an osteopath will use massage, stretching and manipulation to reduce the tension in the areas where you are experiencing pain. They will also assess the rest of your body in order to be able to treat any other areas that may be the underlying cause (or a consequence) of your pain. They will probably also give you advice on lifestyle and posture that will allow you to reduce your long-term vulnerability to back, shoulder and neck pain. This will reduce the likelihood of your pain reoccurring as well as helping to speed up your recovery.
If your back pain is caused by a ruptured disc or spondylolisthesis then your osteopath will first check for areas of trapped nerves and will discuss your treatment options with you (including the possibility of getting an X-ray or ultrasound image taken to assist in diagnosis). Osteopathic treatment will be able to reduce your pain level (hopefully until you experience no pain at all) and your osteopath will be able to discuss ways for you to manage your posture and lifestyle to minimise your risk of reoccurrence. If you suffer from spondylolisthesis then your osteopath may suggest that you continue visiting in order to maintain your level of health and reduce your rate of degeneration.
Medical conditions linked to Back Pain
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The Osteopathic Clinic, 6 Morris Avenue, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2JR, UK