Back pain is one of the most common reasons people consult osteopaths and it is for this reason that we are true experts in dealing with back pain of all types and severity. Currently, back pain affects over 80% of the population at some stage of their lives, and the pain may vary from a slight niggling ache to sharp debilitating pain that can affect every part of the back and also radiate to other areas of the body too.
The pain may hit suddenly like a lightening bolt, or may be like an excruciating "toothache" in your legs - either way sciatica is a painful experience that osteopaths are able to help you with in most cases. Early Sciatic Pain is often so mild it can be ignored but this is the stage when it’s vital to see your osteopath.
Sciatica is a general term describing pain from irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve that leaves your spine to supply your leg. Its symptoms are generally pain down the back of the legs and can sometimes be felt in the ankles, feet & toes. Even when sciatica originates from the lower part of the spine, low back pain isn’t necessarily present. A prolapsed disc may cause sciatica but there are other conditions, such as the spinal wear and tear of osteoarthritis that can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve. The first hint of sciatic symptoms may include numbness or tingling in one or both legs, occasional shooting pains, and tenderness in surrounding muscles.
The intervertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the spine and are essential for the day to day as well as long term health of your spine and the nerves that run through and around it. Technically, discs cannot slip; however, they can bulge, herniate, collapse and even rupture.
Accidents or lifting are common ways of causing a disc injury, especially where severe forces have gone through the spine or where years of poor posture have weakened its structure leaving it vulnerable to damage with only the slightest amount of force. When the spine is forced beyond its natural limits, the ligaments, tendons and muscles that support the spine can become overstretched or torn. The bulging disc can compress the spinal cord and nerves and produce pain in the local area and areas distant from the site of the problem, this can be in the arms or legs or both.
Because of the serious nature of slipped discs, your family osteopath needs to see you quickly to ascertain where the problem is and how serious the injury is. Only after a full examination can a diagnosis be made at which point your osteopath will discuss with you the probable course of the injury and how best to resolve it. In some instances referral to a neurologist or orthopaedic surgeon may be required but only rarely is this the case.
Scoliosis is a general term meaning a sideways curvature of the spine so that when looking at the spine from the front or the back it would have deviations to one or both sides often in a “C” or “S” shape curve. One shoulder or one side of the pelvis being higher than the other may be a sign of scoliosis.
Although no one has the ideal spine that is 100% straight, sometimes a scoliosis can occur which is out of the bounds of comfort for the patient in both pain and social terms. Whether scoliosis can be corrected by osteopathic care depends on the individual case. Scoliosis often develops in early teenage years and the earlier you intervene, the easier it is to treat. When scoliosis has been present for a long time, the sideways curvature may not always be corrected, however the function of the spine can, in most cases be improved, thus relieving any pain, discomfort and even the breathing difficulties that may occur.
It is very easy with one or two simple tests for your osteopath to determine whether a scoliotic spine has a good chance of being resolved or not, so it is best to pop in and talk to your osteopath to find out more.
Sports injuries can be a very real problem for all athletes, from the social squash or tennis player to the highly tuned athlete competing at top level sporting events.
Sports injuries are often not the case of a simple muscle strain or local trauma that should be expected as par for the course.
Your osteopath has to ask the question; why has the injury occurred there, why now and why to you, so that they can really get to the root of the problem and get you back to full fitness for longer and perhaps with advanced performance.
You will be assessed to ensure that there are no underlying mechanical issues, such as an imbalance in the pelvis or spinal misalignment, that may be clinically silent, but that may be loading your muscles and tendons to the brink of collapse allowing trauma to occur with only the slightest of excess exertion.
Obviously, where local traumas present such as a twisted shoulder or sprained wrist from a fall, your osteopath will help to reduce the pain and speed up the healing process ready for the next onslaught on the rugby field!
The average adult head weighs about the same as a bowling ball and bad posture can cause your head to deviate from its most comfortable position to one that can substantially increase the weight that the muscles and joints in the neck and shoulders have to hold, net result being pain in the form of local tension, arm pains and often headaches spreading from the neck to up and over the head.
Trauma to the neck is also very common, especially in car accidents and falls. The speed and unprotected elements of these type of injuries can lead to substantial tissue damage and cause a long list of symptoms to arise; neck pain, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, reduced ability to turn and bend, low back pain, pins and needles, and numbness or muscle spasms in the shoulders, arms and hands.
Your osteopath will conduct a thorough investigation of your neck and related areas to determine where tissues have been damaged and then consult with you as to the best way forward for treatment.
Successful treatments for the most severe and chronic neck presentations are common place, but a key to success is getting to your family osteopath for treatment as soon as you can after the event, whether that is days or years depending on your situation.
Mother and Baby Related
The emotional strain of pregnancy followed by the physical stress of the birth often leaves the body with a feeling of being "pushed down" and "collapsed". Postural problems that develop at this time can cause problems later in life.
Frequently the mother suffers back and neck pain in the weeks and months following the birth and is too busy to seek help. Freeing and balancing the body as soon as possible after the birth helps the mother cope with the new demands of the baby. Craniosacral treatment at this time is particularly helpful in treating postnatal depression.
Compression of the baby's cranium at birth can lead to developmental problems. Injury to the neck during birth can cause colic and distress which disturbs sleep and digestion. Birth trauma can be treated all through life but the sooner it is treated, the faster and more complete the response.
Osteoarthritis and Arthritic Pain
Don’t be despondent if you’re told that you should expect a certain amount of pain for your age, or that it’s normal for you to have reduced movement. We often meet patients who have come to us as a last resort having been told that nothing can be done for them and they must live with pain. Osteopathic treatment may enable you to live a more active life with reduced pain and suffering.
Wear and tear seen on X-rays are not always the underlying cause of your pain and advanced arthritis can be managed well. You don’t have to put up with constant pain.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, and it is reported that over 50% of people over the age of 65 suffer pain and disability as a result. This type of arthritis begins years before any bone changes are found on x-ray and is primarily the “wear and tear” arthritis associated with every day life. In many cases, your osteopath can help you to accommodate to this change in structure, perhaps by freeing up related joints so that they share more of the load, or even reducing the tensions in the muscles of the area to reduce the inflammation and pain - treatment has proven to be immensely successful. There are also lots of postural exercises and day to day tips that can help you to help yourself.
If you start having aches and pains in joints that you believe are normally are subject to osteoarthritis, and the pain has come on over a matter of days, weeks or a few months (and in some cases years), please don't just resign yourself to it. It could be something far more simple to deal with, so make an appointment with us for a full assessment.
Headaches, migraine and dizziness
Taking painkillers might give some relief from your headaches, but they do not address the cause of the problem . Headaches are so common that some people think they are a normal part of life and live with an almost constant pain. It is important to note that the level of head pain is no indication as to the severity of the problem.
Headaches are common but they are not normal. There are many types of headaches: tension headaches are often associated with our hectic lifestyle and stress; migraines can be very debilitating and disturbing; sometimes there is no headache to speak of, but symptoms may include visual and hearing disturbances, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, even vomiting. Pain can be experienced at the base of the skull, the surface of the head or the face and eyes and can be on one or both sides of your head.
Mechanical stress in the form of poorly functioning neck joints can affect the nerves of the face, head and neck and when spinal nerves and associated tissues are stretched or irritated they can produce throbbing headaches.
Emotional stress can increase muscular tension, especially at the base of the neck, head and jaw, irritating nerves and upsetting blood flow to the brain, causing headaches.
Your osteopath will try to accurately diagnose your headache which in the vast majority of cases can be attributed to a mechanical dysfunction and can therefore be treated successfully.
You will leave with recommendations for your future care to try and avoid recurrence of the problem. Tips may include adopting some simple changes in your posture and other simple steps.
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