Osteopathy is an established manual therapy that focuses on the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and other related disorders. Techniques include soft tissue massage, joint articulation (stretching and mobilising joints to improve quality and range of movement) and spinal manipulation (explained further down page).
Visiting your GP to rule out any serious illness related to your back pain is recommended – thankfully for the vast majority of patients this will not be the cause. Whilst your doctor can rule out some potentially distressing origins, it may not solve what, for many, is a debilitating and life-altering pain.
Osteopaths deal with both acute and chronic pain. We aim to prevent pain recurring, giving treatment and advice on self-help.
The skeleton is beautifully evolved (or designed) to protect vital organs and move efficiently. Every part of the body has a function; if one part is dysfunctional another part will compensate and work harder. Acute musculoskeletal pain that suddenly occurs for no apparent reason usually occurs as a result of dysfunction elsewhere in the body, and that last ‘lean over’ is “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” – an overworked muscle throws in the towel and spasms in protest at another muscles’ longterm lack of function.
So, when you present yourself to an osteopath, we will take a full case history, asking you all sorts of questions about what you’ve done with your body over the years. We are particularly interested in injuries – even old ones in a different area to the pain. We need to decide whether your pain is arising from something that requires urgent medical attention, or if it is likely to respond to osteopathic treatment. We are not allowed to treat unless we can form a diagnosis and management plan.
Spinal Manipulation – What is the ‘crack’?
Although not the main osteopathic technique, the ‘crack or High Velocity Thrust (HVT) is a manipulation carried out to restore normal function to a joint. An HVT is a short, fast motion precisely in the right direction. A satisfying pop, like a cracking knuckle, is sometimes heard and considered evidence of success.
Muscle tension can result in joint surfaces being held so closely together that the fluid (which normally aids the gliding of the joint) has been pushed to the edges of the joint capsule, resulting in the joint having reduced range of movement. The HVT is performed to restore normal mobility to the joint.
Does it cause arthritis? There is no evidence to suggest that HVT’s will cause arthritis. In fact, restoring normal movement to joints will decrease strain on soft tissues and balance joints to reduce wear and tear. Joints that repeatedly crack on their own indicate that there is imbalance in the joints and soft tissues which could lead to strain and increased wear and tear.
Do I have to be “cracked”?
No! Osteopaths have many techniques, and we will always ask your permission before manipulating you.
Will I need ongoing Maintenance Treatment?
Osteopathy is very focused on the cause of a problem. If the cause of your problem cannot easily be rectified – a stressful and/or physical job or an underlying problem such as arthritis, then regular maintenance can be a really good way of improving your general sense of well being. People are frequently shocked and frightened by how debilitating back pain is and are keen to never be in the same pain. Exercises and improving posture and lifting techniques should be enough to keep you out of trouble and although regular sessions won’t do any harm, the best time to consult an osteopath is when you know you have hurt yourself, or within 5 days of having muscular type pain that isn’t getting better. The tendency if you already have something booked in a few weeks, is to wait until that appointment, by which time your problem may have got more complicated, needing more than one treatment.