Osteopathic Approach to Dealing With Back Pain

How does an Osteopath treat back pain?

Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints our Osteopaths at Pillar Health see and is a growing health problem worldwide. Lower back pain can affect people of all ages and Osteopathy can be an effective form of treatment for this.

Lower back anatomy

Our lower back is made up of 5 vertebral bones called our lumbar vertebrae stacked ontop of each other with intervertebral discs between them. Your lumbar spine connects to your thoracic spine above; this is your upper back and your pelvis and hips below. The joint that connects your vertebrae together is called your facet joint. Through the lower back there are a number of ligaments to help connect your joints and provide support for your back.

Our spinal cord runs through the length of our spine through the spinal canal of the vertebrae. Spinal nerves branch off from the spinal cord and travel into our arms and legs carrying motor and sensory signals from the brain to the muscles and skin.

Our back has natural curves through it, this is to help evenly distribute weight and load throughout the back. The lower back also known as your lumbar spine is naturally curved inward this is called lordosis.

osteopath back pain

The muscles that are found in our lower back help support and provide strength to the area. There are four main functional muscle groups of the lower back. These are the extensors, flexors, lateral flexors and rotators.

Causes of Back Pain

There are many causes that can contribute to your lower back symptoms.

The most common causes of lower back pain are:

  • Muscle strain
  • Ligament or joint sprain
  • Disc injury
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Nerve root impingement

Lower back pain may also be triggered by the following situations;

  • Prolonged periods of sitting and standing
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pregnancy
  • Injury
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Dysfunction or disorder of the upper back, hips or lower limb

There are some more serious causes of your lower back pain. During your Osteopathy assessment your osteopath is trained to identify signs that may indicate a severe underlying pathology and refer you to a specialist or for further investigation.

How to Prevent Back Pain

When it comes to Lower back pain there are a number of things we can do to help prevent recurrence and improve the function of the lower back. This may include:

  • Exercise

Exercise that is aimed at improving range of motion and strength of your lower back and surrounding structures can help with the treatment and management of lower back symptoms. Exercises may include walking, swimming, Pilates, yoga or a home exercise program written up by your Osteopath or other health professional.

  • Weight Management

Being overweight can be a contributing factor to lower back pain as this may put extra strain on your joints and muscles especially those of your lower back.

  • Ergonomics

Being aware of how we sit, stand and work and altering these to ensure we are using our bodies optimally can reduce potential repetitive strain on our lower back which may prevent mechanical lower back pain.

What to Expect from an Osteopathic Consultation

On your first visit your Osteopath will introduce themselves to you and begin a conversation about the reasons for your visit. They will take a thorough case history and ask you questions about your current symptoms or injury, medical history, any medications you are taking or other factors related to your health and wellbeing that may be related to your concerns. This allows your Osteopath to get a full picture of what may be causing your symptoms and other factors that may be influencing them, beginning the process of coming up with a treatment plan specific to you and your condition.

During the examination your Osteopath will go through a range of tests to help determine how to best treat and manage your condition. This may include orthopaedic testing, neurological testing, movement testing or postural assessments. During your examination your Osteopath may take you through some passive and active ranges of movement to examine the general movement and function of the area and how your musculoskeletal system functions on a day to day basis. To ensure that the examination being performed can be achieved efficiently it is asked that you wear comfortable and appropriate clothing that will not restrict your movement.

Lower back pain may be a cause of something more serious that requires specialist treatment or imaging this may include; fracture, disc injury, cancer or an infection. Osteopaths are primary health care specialists who are educated to rule in or out more sinister causes of lower back pain and refer for further imaging or to a specialist to ensure you get the best care.

Osteopaths take a holistic approach to treatment and doing so may assess areas of your body that aren’t specific to where you are experiencing your symptoms. For example if you come in with lower back pain your Osteopath may assess and treat your lower back as well as your pelvis, hips, knee and ankle as dysfunction in these areas may be related to you presenting complaint. Keeping in mind the first principle of Osteopathy ‘the body as a single unit’, sometimes we experience pain, discomfort or stiffness as a consequence of a body compensating with a previous injury or postural issue and it is your Osteopath’s job to identify this through your examination.

Your Osteopath can provide a large range of hands-on manual therapy techniques. This may include soft tissue massage to your muscles, joint or spinal articulation, muscle energy techniques, stretching, manipulation, taping and dry needling. In conjunction with hands-on treatment your osteopath may also prescribe exercises to do at home or work, ergonomic advice and lifestyle advice to compliment your in person treatment.

Osteopathic Treatment

Osteopathic Treatment can include a wide range of manual therapy techniques, exercise prescription, education and ergonomic advice. Osteopaths may use the following manual therapy techniques to treat your symptoms, these can include:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Joint mobilisation/articulation
  • HVLA or manipulation
  • Stretching
  • Taping
  • Dry needling

How does an Osteopath treat back pain?

An osteopathic approach to the treatment of your lower back pain will be dependent on the findings noted during the examination. Your Osteopath if required will refer you for imaging or to a specialist if there are signs suggestive of a more serious pathology. If all serious injury or pathology can be ruled out an Osteopath’s aim for treatment will be to provide optimal function of the body to encourage healing.

Your Osteopath will look at the overall function of your lower back and surrounding areas that can affect the mobility and function of your lower back.

Your Osteopath will come up with an individualised treatment plan to get you back to doing all the things your back pain may have prevented you from doing in the past.

If you are experiencing Lower back pain, be sure to make an appointment with an Osteopath at Pillar Health today for an assessment, treatment and management plan.

You can make an appointment by calling the clinic on 03 8899 6277 or booking an appointment online.