Who knows what an Osteopath does? Hands up! Not many of you I bet, but what you do know is that when back pain strikes they are the person you run, or perhaps walk carefully, to! What you can be assured of is that if you go to an osteopath you are in good hands, behind which there is a wealth of study, experience and training.
Back pain affects 4 out of 5 of us, and other than the common cold is the leading cause for taking time off work. Unfortunately, cold weather has also been linked to increased risk of developing low back pain, so as the winter season really sets in, is there anything we can do about it?
Luckily, yes - Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions including general, acute and chronic backache. It works with the structure and function of the body and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.
So what exactly are the benefits of osteopathy? The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends manual therapies such as osteopathy and physiotherapy alongside exercise as a treatment option for lower back pain. However, the waiting time of a NHS physiotherapist is up to 18 weeks, whereas with osteopathy 54% of new patients are being seen within one working day, and 95% are seen within one week. Around 30,000 people currently consult osteopaths every working day.
Although low back pain may be the most commonly reported symptom to osteopaths, our understanding of pain and treatment is constantly evolving. So what will an Osteopath do? Well, in order to figure out the cause of your pain, the osteopath will first conduct a full medical assessment. We will take time to listen to you and ask questions to make sure we understand your medical history and your day-to-day routine. We usually look at your posture and how you move your body. We may also assess what happens when we move it for you and see what hurts, where and when. Using touch, we may also find the areas which are sensitive or tight and this helps us to identify what's going on. When we have done this, we can diagnose your condition. We may sometimes feel that osteopathy is not appropriate for you and refer you to your GP or another specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon. Osteopathy treatments are different for every patient depending on age, fitness and diagnosis, but may include techniques such as soft tissue massage and joint articulation to release tension, stretch muscles, help relieve pain and mobilise joints. We may discuss exercises that you can do to improve your posture and movement in your workplace and everyday life. The number of treatments you require will depend on the exact condition and type of person we are treating; a professional athlete with back pain may get a very different style of treatment to an overweight office worker who doesn’t exercise! We always aim to keep your appointments to a minimum, and we will be able to tell you within a short period of time whether we can treat you or if we need to refer you to someone else. Training to be an osteopath takes 4 years full-time or 5 years part-time and is an allied health profession which means you are not required to see your doctor before booking in for a treatment.
Don’t let back pain ruin your 2019 before it has even begun! An Osteopath may be just the right person for you to see.