About back pain

Back pain 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. Your spine is made of solid, bony blocks reinforced by strong ligaments and muscles. It is surprisingly difficult to damage the spine but if strained, the surrounding muscles and ligaments can cause discomfort and pain.

How an osteopath can help

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 will often use gentle hands-on techniques to help resolve back pain, together with exercise and advice designed to promote and maintain the best environment for a healthy back. Research evidence shows that these osteopathic treatments can have beneficial effects, especially for back pain.

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.

Osteopathic treatment is based on the individual needs of the patient and will vary depending on age, fitness and diagnosis but 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.

Early diagnosis and treatment can aid recovery and get you back to normal activities more quickly. Around half of those who suffer an episode of back pain will have a recurrence of symptoms within a few years. Stress can increase the amount of pain you feel by magnifying the effect of tension and muscle spasms. An osteopath can give advice about methods to aid recovery and maintain a healthy back.

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.