What do you treat
Back pain is a very common problem; recent reports suggest that eight out of ten people will suffer from it at some point in our lives. At present, 5.6 million working days in the UK are lost each year due to back pain, second only to stress.
Osteopaths are perhaps best known for the treatment they give to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with back and neck pain. So much evidence exists of the effectiveness of osteopathy in the treatment of low back pain that both the NHS and UK health watchdog NICE recommend it. The NHS also recommends acupuncture for the treatment of low back pain.
Back pain can affect anyone at any age, and can often be the result of a sprain or a strain of the structures of the back such as the muscles, ligaments, joints or damage to the discs. Osteoarthritis or wear and tear in the back can also be a reason. While back pain is not usually serious and will often resolve itself in a few weeks, people seek osteopathic treatment to address the pain more quickly and at a time and place of their choosing. Osteopaths are also skilled at helping to prevent back pain from becoming a chronic, long-term condition.
Neck pain is common in people of all ages and is often caused by the ways in which we use our necks in our everyday lives. Working all day bent over a computer, driving long distances, poor posture while standing or sitting, stress and tiredness are all factors that can cause the muscles in the neck and upper back to become tight and the joints stiff, which can contribute to ongoing neck pain.
Sometimes, a nerve in the neck can become irritated or ‘trapped’ causing pain in the arm going down into the shoulder or hand. This may be accompanied by pins and needles and numbness.
Some headaches can be the result of tension or stiffness in the neck and upper back. Neck pain responds well to osteopathic treatment, although an osteopath will be able to discuss potential benefits for each individual patient.
Hip pain can come from a tight, strained or overused muscle in the hip or from the joint itself, as the result of an injury or can be related to the way you move, stand and use the hip. Pain from osteoarthritis, or wear and tear in the hip joint, is also common. Treatment and advice from an osteopath can often help ease the symptoms as osteopaths look at the patient as a whole, assessing the way the hip moves, as well as strengthening and stretching the muscles, gently massaging the hip muscles and stretching the hip joint to reduce tension and improve mobility. This can also help secondary problems like backache.
The largest in the body, the knee is a major weight-bearing joint and is one of the most frequently injured. Knee pain can be painful and debilitating, and while some conditions may require surgery many can be helped through exercise, treatment and advice. Common symptoms in the knee include pain, stiffness, aching, pain, locking, swelling, limping and difficulty fully straightening or bending the knee.
Knee pain can have a number of causes; damage, strain or sprain to the structures of the knee can give rise to symptoms or it can be the result of a sudden injury, such as a sports injury or by repeatedly placing strain on the knee. Poor alignment of the knee or kneecap and the way the knee interacts with other joints such as the hips and knees can be significant. Osteoarthritis or wear and tear is a common condition that affects the knee.
Shoulder Pain is a common condition a number of different causes. These include:
- Rotator cuff problems where pain in the shoulder or upper arm – particularly when lifting the arm, lying on it or using the sore muscles – may result from repetitive overuse of the arm and shoulder or a shoulder injury. Age can also play a part
- Pain in the acromioclavicular joint, at the joint on the tip of the shoulder where the collarbone and shoulder blade connect
- Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is the painful and gradual stiffening of the shoulder capsule (the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint) where the shoulder can become so stiff and painful that it limits the ability to use the arm in everyday activities
- Referred shoulder pain is experienced in an area away from the actual injury or problem (for example, pain in shoulder referred from the neck or upper back)
- Osteoarthritis – see below
Shoulder problems are often complex and can take a long time to resolve. Our osteopaths work with patients to understand the cause and, depending on your age, fitness and the diagnosis, may offer massage, rhythmical articulation and stretching techniques to try and improve the movement in your shoulder and reduce tension in any tight muscles. We also offer specific strengthening or loosening exercises to the shoulder and advice on posture.
Arthritis is a common condition which causes pain, swelling and inflammation and stiffness in the joints of the body. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, although there are many other types including ankylosing spondylitis, gout, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis. Certain types of arthritis can also affect children. Osteoarthritis is a result of wear and tear of the joints in the body. It is common in people over 50 and most commonly affects the joints of the knees, hips, neck and back, base of the toes and hands.
Osteopaths treat patients with osteoarthritis every day.
The ability of osteopathy to help arthritis patients has been recognised by health watchdog NICE, which recommends manual therapy such as osteopathy as a treatment option for osteoarthritis. Osteopathic treatment is aimed at improving mobility and reducing inflammation by using gentle, manual osteopathic techniques on joints, muscles and ligaments, as well as positive advice related to your lifestyle. Treatment is individual and osteopaths may also give advice on exercises, diet, posture and changes to lifestyle.
There are many reasons why people get headaches. The most common type is tension headache, which often results from the contraction of head and neck muscles. This can cause traction and irritation to the blood vessels around or in the head or the meninges (the outer covering of the brain and spinal chord). It is the most common form of headache and accounts for 70 per cent of headaches. It can occur in people of either sex and at any age but it is most common in adults and adolescents. Tension headache usually occurs in isolated incidents although it can become chronic for some people. Possible causes for the muscle contraction associated with tension headaches include poor posture, stress, fatigue, eye strain, and tobacco and alcohol use, as well as hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. Headaches of this type are often called cervicogenic headaches, because they often involve tension of the muscles in the neck.
Treatment from an osteopath may help. Gentle massage of tight muscles and manipulation to loosen the joints of the neck, thorax and back can relieve the build-up of muscular tension that may lead to headaches. Osteopaths can also advise on exercise and lifestyle changes, and offer guidance on simple changes to posture at work or driving.
Circulation problems can occur when blood flow becomes restricted in certain parts of the body, and people often notice it at the extremities of their body, such as the toes or fingers, although it can affect any part. A common cause is the build-up of plaque on the insides of the blood vessels and capillaries, which in mild situations can just cause a little discomfort. However, as the situation worsens, the condition can become rather serious, involving high blood pressure, heart problems, organ damage, strokes, varicose veins and kidney issues. Bad circulation doesn’t happen overnight and usually creeps up on a person. Osteopathic treatment helps the body to circulate its fluids such as blood, lymph, synovial fluid and digestive juices, which carry life-sustaining compounds such as hormones, enzymes, immune and anti-inflammatory factors, nutrition, and oxygen. Treatment focuses on any obstruction that impedes the circulation and structural impediments including twists, curves or pulls within the body structure and organs.
Digestive problems can cause unpleasant symptoms including constipation, nausea, diarrhoea, acid reflux, abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, hiatus hernia, fatigue, sleep disturbances and gallbladder troubles. While over the counter and prescription medications can help relieve symptoms, often, a compression, adhesion or strain on the ligaments and supportive connective tissue around the organs is the cause of the discomfort and digestive symptoms.
Osteopathic manipulation can restore normal function and mobility to the organs, improving mobility, position and comfort to the organs, promoting optimal circulation and balancing the internal pressure systems in the body. Osteopathic treatment may help sufferers of irritable bowel symptoms such as indigestion, heart burn, bloating, constipation and flatulence. This is due to improvement in spinal mobility to aid nerve and blood supply to the gastro-intestinal tract.
This painful condition is caused by an uncontrolled nerve impulse that stimulates the muscle(s) to contract strongly. It is often a reaction to real or perceived damage where the body attempts to protect an area by seizing up and not allowing any movement. Spasms commonly occur in the neck and low back but can occur in any part of the body. In the low back, it usually affects large side-bending and erector spine muscles, very powerful muscles that can render the sufferer immobile. In the neck it tends to be the ‘shoulder hunching’ muscles that spasm, often referred to as a ‘cricked neck’. Muscles spasm can also occur in response to damage from conditions such as slipped disk, arthritis, muscle tension/stress, whiplash, trapped nerves, scoliosis, etc. Muscle spasm are different to muscle cramps, which occur through exercise, lack of stretching or mineral deficiency
Muscle spasms require a careful and expert diagnosis by a trained professional. If appropriate, gentle treatment will free up the body structures causing the symptoms, reducing pain. Ultimately the aim is also to prevent symptoms from reoccurring.
Sciatica is pain that runs along the sciatic nerve, usually affecting only one side of the lower body at a time and often extending from the lower back through the back of the thigh and leg, occasionally the foot or toes. It is often a reoccurring condition that seems to worsen with every episode. Symptoms include: pain in the buttock, hamstring and/or calf pain that worsens when sitting; lower back pain; weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot; burning or tingling down the leg; a shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up. The pain can persistent or come in spasms. In young and early middle-aged adults, the cause of sciatica is usually inflammation or pressure from a bulging disc, while in older people, changes in the spine due to conditions such as osteoarthritis may be responsible.
Osteopathy has an essential role both for the acute episode as well as long-term avoidance of episodes, and the most common type of sciatica responds well to osteopathic treatment. Typical treatments include gentle mobilisation of the lower lumbar spine, release of muscle spasm, traction of lumbar spine, gently articulating the affected joints, and rehabilitation exercises.
Neuralgia – or nerve pain – refers to a severe and often intermittent pain caused by changes within a nerve usually as a result of nerve trauma from disease or infection. It can cause severe facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia) that can be quite debilitating. Neuralgia is more common in the elderly but can strike people of any age. The pain can be particularly sensitive along the path of the affected nerve; any pressure or touch on the skin is felt as pain. Numbness that comes and goes or weakness or paralysis of the muscles may occur in neuralgia, which can also manifest as a burning pain. Neuralgia can take many forms but commonly occurs in the face, back of the throat and at the back of the neck and head. Osteopathic treatment can help relieve some kinds of compression that affects nerves and we can offer advice to help prevent nerve pain from getting worse.
Fibromyalgia is a relatively common condition of unknown cause that results in debilitating pain and muscle stiffness all over the body, although often particularly affecting certain joints or soft tissue. The condition is especially common in middle-aged women. Symptoms include tiredness and exhaustion, pins and needles sensations in the arms and legs, dizziness, chest pains, poor concentration and memory, irritable bowel syndrome (fluctuating between diarrhoea and constipation and stomach pains) and erratic sleeping patterns. It is a chronic and often complex illness that requires careful treatment and management.
Gentle osteopathic treatment, in conjunction with other therapies and medication as appropriate, can relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Muscle tension can be reduced and joint mobility improved and a plan can be created specific to your individual needs.
Stress and the inability to relax can affect anyone, often resulting in muscle pain and tension, fatigue, disturbed sleep, tension headache, tightness in the chest and upper back (due to shortening of muscles caused by increased rate of breathing or hyperventilation) and a flare-up of previous problems due to increased traction on the area caused by tight muscle. One of the basic tenets of osteopathy is that the mind and body are interdependent, and the stress response is a good example of the direct effect of our emotions on our body. However, it works the other way too, and feeling good in one’s body, being able to breathe comfortably, feeling energised and free of pain has a powerful effect on the sense of wellbeing and optimism.
Alleviating muscle tension with massage and stretching techniques restores normal tone to the muscle, allowing the free flow of blood through the muscle and reducing pain. Rib-stretching and thrust techniques directed at the ribs and thorax, in addition to massage, are extremely effective at alleviating the restriction that results from over-breathing. In addition, there is the therapeutic effect of touch itself, which tends to calm and relax, with patients often reporting improved sleep after treatment. Undergoing treatment can also offer a sense of regaining some control by having taken action to improve wellbeing.
Mobility is of the utmost importance to the active person, so by assessing the posture and structure of the body, osteopaths are able to promote rapid recovery from injury. Osteopathy can also help to prevent injuries and can be particularly effective for sports that require controlled body mechanics, such as golf and tennis.
Muscle aches and pains are among the most common complaints seen by osteopaths because the treatment they offer deals directly with the tissues causing the discomfort. Osteopathic treatment can relax tight muscles, release trapped ligaments and tendons, reduce inflammation and improve circulation.