Ease your Pain with Osteopathy

If you suffer from back pain, you are not alone, back pain is extremely widespread affecting about 80% of the UK’s population at some point in their lives, and it is one of the most common reasons people consult osteopaths.

What causes Back Pain?

In most cases back pain is caused by a minor injury or a strain, rather than anything more serious, and can be referred to as ‘simple back pain’.

The symptoms often occur suddenly and can be triggered by a particular movement, but the causes may have been building for some time.

Some of the most common causes of stress and strain on the spine include:

  • Bad posture
  • Being overweight
  • Being unfit
  • Slouching in chairs
  • Driving in hunched positions
  • Unsupportive mattress or pillow
  • Standing, sitting or bending down for long periods of time
  • Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling loads that are too heavy, or performing these tasks incorrectly
  • A trip or fall
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Generally overdoing it

In some cases, there may be a more severe underlying causes of your pain, but these are less common. These causes include:

  • Degenerative conditions such as disc disease or arthritis
  • Congenital abnormalities in the spine (e.g. scoliosis)
  • Osteoporosis
  • A prolapsed disc
  • Deformities of the spine
  • Infection or collapse of the vertebrae
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Cancer or Tuberculosis

How Do Osteopaths Treat Back Pain?

Using manual techniques, osteopaths examine the whole body to identify sources of pain and restricted movement that may indicate injury or impaired function.

Osteopathy aims to relieve back pain by:

  • Stretching the muscles and ligaments of the back
  • Reducing muscle spasms
  • Restoring better mobility to the vertebrae of the back
  • Improving blood flow and lymphatic drainage
  • Promoting free movement of the entire musculo-skeletal system

An osteopath may also advise a patient on techniques for avoiding and relieving furure episodes of back pain, including:

  • Proper posture
  • Exercise and stretching
  • Proper lifting techniques
  • Diet
  • Stress management
  • Workplace ergonomics


Have you tried Yoga for your Back Pain?

Yoga has both preventive and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind. Asanas are good for developing coordination and help to improve concentration and memory. Regular practice can enable young people to keep their natural flexibility for many years.
These day back pain is a common problem. Some of the commonest causes of stress and strain on the spine are– slouching in chairs, driving in hunched positions, standing badly, lifting incorrectly, sleeping on sagging mattresses, being unfit, and generally overdoing it.
Bhujanga Asana (Cobra)
Step by Step
1. Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.
2. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor.
3. On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.
4. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.
5. Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
Beginners & Modifications
Don’t overdo the backbend. To find the height at which you can work comfortably and avoid straining your back, take your hands off the floor for a moment, so that the height you find will be through spinal extension.
Deepen the Pose–
If you have the flexibility in the armpits, chest, and groins you can move into a deeper backbend. Walk the hands a little farther forward and straighten your elbows, turning the arms outward. Lift the top of the sternum straight toward the ceiling.
? Strengthens the spine
? Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
? Firms the buttocks
? Stimulates abdominal organs
? Helps relieve stress and fatigue
? Opens the heart and lungs
? Soothes sciatica
? Therapeutic for asthma
? Back injury – take care and don’t lift too high.
? Pregnancy


Back Pain: Common causes of back pain

Work-related back problems

The spine wasn’t designed for sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car for long periods. The consequences of such actions are often all too uncomfortable, and painfully, apparent.

Musculoskeletal problems

Awkward movements and bad posture cause musculoskeletal disorders that affects the full length of the spine, from the neck to lower back, as well as the shoulders, arms and fingers. Spending long periods of time in the same position makes spine and muscle problems more likely. Fortunately, simple steps taken early on can reduce the risk of such problems developing.

Head and neck strain

Tension in the supporting muscles of the neck, caused by physical or emotional stress, makes them tight and uncomfortable. This tension is most often felt in the upper back and back part of the neck.

Lower back pain

Lower back pain is an increasingly common problem. An injury may be responsible, but often it’s the consequence of poor posture or an awkward twisting movement, bending or reaching – or a combination of these, along with inactivity which results in stiffness and poor flexibility. Being overweight, especially if excessive, also adds to the discomfort and pain.

Back pain: when to see your doctor

Many people with back pain never need to see their doctor. But you should be able to call or visit your GP if you’re worried about your back or feel unable to cope with the pain. As a general rule, people with back pain are advised to contact their doctor if the pain is no better after about a week. You should certainly see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty passing urine, or if you are passing blood
  • Numbness around the back passage or genitals
  • Numbness, pins and needles or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Pain running down one or both legs
  • Unsteadiness when standing

These are associated with uncommon conditions, but ones that need treatment immediately.

First aid for backs

The following self-help treatments may help to relieve back pain.

Apply heat and ice

Apply an ice pack to the affected area. If you haven’t got an ice pack, use a bag of frozen vegetables instead. Don’t put the ice directly on your skin, as it might cause a cold burn. Put a wet cloth between the ice and your skin. If ice doesn’t work, try applying gentle warmth with a hot water bottle. Don’t apply the hot water bottle directly to the skin – cover it so it isn’t too hot. A hot bath or shower might also help. Some people find alternating heat and cold produces most relief. Try to get professional advice on applying heat and ice if you can.


Take painkillers following the instructions on the packet – never take more than the recommended dose.Many people find that paracetamol or ibuprofen helps – your pharmacist can advise you. Painkillers shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution. If you find you still need them after a week or so, consult your doctor.


Muscle tension is bad for back pain, so try to relax as much as possible. Take a long bath or listen to soothing music. Use a relaxation tape if you have one. A gentle massage from a partner or friend may help, but make sure they don’t do anything that causes pain. Topical anti-inflammatory gels such as ibuprofen can also be massaged gently onto the skin over the back.

Bed rest versus exercise

Doctors used to recommend long periods of rest for people with backache, but research has shown this is actually bad for backs. Even crawling around on your hands and knees is better than no movement at all. Some kinds of exercise, such as walking, don’t put too much stress on your back. It’s a good idea to make a start on them even if your back is a bit sore, just to get your joints moving and your heart and lungs working. Use a firm chair when sitting down, or sit on the floor rather than a sofa that`s too soft. Similarly, make sure your bed is firm enough.

Getting back to normal

In most cases, the back recovers naturally if allowed to do so and the pain should settle in a couple of days. Once this has happened, continue getting back to normal activities and try not to stay in one position or do any one activity for more than 30 minutes. Avoid lifting, bending or twisting until the pain has gone for a few days. Refrain from returning to the activity that caused the pain for a week or so, even if you feel better, and gradually build up your exercise and activities day by day. Don’t just listen to your friends and relatives – ask an expert. Talk to your doctor or a properly physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor.

Back pain: making adjustments

Making small changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of back pain. Back pain can be caused by many factors. Run through your daily routine and examine the amount of strain you place on your spine. Stress can also create muscle tension, causing a loss in flexibility that can lead to back pain. To reduce stress, try exercise, yoga, meditation, getting more sleep or listening to music. If you smoke, stop. It puts you at increased risk for back problems since your blood has trouble delivering oxygen to working tissues, making your back weaker.

Dealing with back pain out and about

When you’re shopping:

  • Don’t shop until you drop – take regular rests or make several short trips
  • Distribute your shopping evenly between both` hands or hold a bag in front of you, or use a` small backpack (not large or`over-filled)
  • Wear comfortable shoes

In the car:

  • Adjust your seat properly so your arms have a slight bent at the elbow when your hands are on the steering wheel
  • Support your lower back with a small cushion or rolled up towel
  • Take regular breaks on long journeys and get out of the car for a stroll and a stretch

Dealing with back pain at work – Preventing work-related back problems

If you spend much of your time at work sitting at a desk, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of back problems. Seating A properly adjusted chair reduces the strain on your back.

  • Sit up straight
  • Make sure your knees are level with your hips
  • If your chair doesn’t provide enough back support, use a rolled up towel or cushion
  • Are your feet flat on the floor` If not, use a footrest to relieve pressure on your joints and muscles
  • Avoid crossing your legs or sitting with one (or both) twisted beneath you


  • Your computer monitor should be about 30cm to 75cm (12in to 30in) from your eyes – a good guide is to place it at arm’s length
  • The top of the screen should be roughly at eye level
  • Position the monitor so it reflects as little overhead lighting and sunlight as possible


  • Keep your wrists straight, not bent up or down – a wrist rest may help
  • Your elbows should be vertically under your shoulders – position the mouse as close to you as possible to allow this
  • A mouse mat with wrist pad can help keep your wrist straight
  • Learning keyboard short cuts may also help

Other objects

  • Position frequently used objects, such as a telephone or stapler, within easy reach – it’s important to avoid repeatedly stretching or twisting
  • If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider using a headset – cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder can strain the muscles in your neck

Take a break

  • If your job is computer-based, make sure you take regular breaks – for every hour at your keyboard, have at least five to ten minutes’ rest
  • Get up and move around
  • Rest your eyes regularly – look away from the screen and focus on something in the distance for a few seconds
  • Gentle exercise can help to relax your muscles and clear your mind

Back pain: posture checklist

A good posture can greatly improve and prevent back problems. Follow these simple rules. How to stand

  • Don’t round your back – imagine you are being lifted by a string fixed to the top of your head
  • Avoid hunching your shoulders and tensing your neck when stressed
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes – high heels put pressure on the lower back

How to sit

  • Use an upright chair that supports your lower back
  • Support the small of your back with a small cushion or rolled up towel
  • Stand up and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes

How to lift

  • Always look at alternatives to lifting – can you push or pull`
  • Lift only what you can handle and get help if you need it
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight and your feet apart when lifting
  • Avoid lifting and twisting at the same time
  • Always lift and carry close to your body
  • Bend your knees rather than your back when putting a load down

Can exercise help back pain`

Make sure you’re doing the right kind of activity to help protect your spine. Keeping fit Gentle exercise can build strong back and stomach muscles to support your spine and maintain flexibility.Walking and cycling are easy to incorporate into your daily lifestyle. Swimming is particularly good for backs, because it strengthens the muscles while supporting the body with water. However, some strokes may not be suitable, so get professional advice. Exercise dos and don’ts When exercising, make sure you do:

  • Choose exercises suitable to your level and work up gradually
  • Take things at your own pace
  • Drink water before, during and after exercise
  • Do gentle warm-up stretches before and after exercising
  • Wear good footwear and appropriate clothing
  • Enjoy yourself


  • Continue with an activity if it hurts your back
  • Eat a large meal before exercising
  • Perform exercises on a stone or concrete floor
  • Exercise if you feel ill
  • Do exercises that put weight or excessive strain on an acutely painful joint or spine

Back pain and keeping trim

Excess weight can pull the spine out of alignment and cause a back injury, so it’s important to keep your weight down. Aerobic exercises such as cycling, walking and running can help you lose the excess pounds. However, keep in mind that some popular sports, such as golf and tennis, can actually injure your back if not done properly. It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet that’s high in fruits, grains and vegetables. In addition to causing weight gain, a poor diet can also make your back weaker and more susceptible to injury.


Backache: How to overcome

Backache is one of the commonest complaints seen by a Chinese medicine doctor and treatment can be very effective. Medical researches also show the evidence of acupuncture’s benefits. For example, Dr Hugh MacPherson, from the University of York, along with colleagues at Sheffield University, reached their conclusions by studying 241 adults with low back pain that the patients who received acupuncture in the study reported lower pain levels and used fewer pain killers than those who received usual NHS care.
Common causes of back pain (Western Medicine view)
The symptoms of back pain often occur suddenly and can be triggered by a particular movement, but the causes may have been building for some timeInactivity and the wrong sort of movement are usually at the root of back pain. Inactivity makes the muscles go slack so they are unable to support the back properly. This leaves the back more vulnerable to damage when certain movements put too much strain on one area.
Often, the problem is caused by a strain or tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around the
 spine. In turn, this can produce painful muscle tension and spasm. It’s often difficult for doctors to find the exact cause of back pain in the lumbar area. In many cases, the pain starts a day or two after an injury occurs, or the cause has been building up gradually over many years, which makes diagnosis even more difficult.
Common causes of back pain (Chinese Medicine view)
One reason why acupuncture is so beneficial for this complaint is that Chinese medicine recognizes that there are many types of back pain, each with a specific diagnosis. The three main reasons for backache are
If you have a back problem caused by deficient Kidney Qi then you are likely to have a chronic, dull type of backache. The Kidneys are situated in your lower back. If they are functioning sluggishly, a dull ache is created in this area. The ache will often disappear after rest but reappear after further strenuous activity.
Emotional problems and over-activity are two important reasons for backache arising from Kidney deficiency. Over-activity carried out under stress causes the muscles to tighten up and any strenuous activity weakens the Kidneys.

If you have this kind of backache, your acupuncturist will probably use points that strengthen your Kidneys. For example, a number of points on your lower back can strengthen your Kidney Organs directly.
This kind of back problem is severe and painful, but fortunately short-lived. If it is not treated, however, it can be the precursor of more long- term, chronic back problems. Fortunately, it responds exceptionally well to acupuncture.
The initial cause of this condition is often physical overstrain. People develop tense muscles in the lower back as they try to cope with their problems or strain themselves physically.

The acupuncturist will ask where it hurts, and (if the anatomy permits) insert a needle at that point. These points are known as ashi points, meaning “that’s the spot” points. Acupuncture points may also be selected at different spots along relevant channels that supply the effected areas. 
This can cause acute or chronic back pain and is due to the pathogens entering the back directly. For example, when you are gardening you may build up a sweat and remove some of your clothes. As you cool down afterwards, the Wind, Cold and Damp can enter the back through the open pores. Cold causes the tissues to contract, creating pain, and the Wind and Damp also contribute. Similar conditions affect people working on building sites, sunning themselves on a hot day that turns cool, or after exercising and working up a sweat.

To remove the obstructing pathogen, your practitioner can use points in the area, or use cupping to draw the blood to the surface and draw out the pathogen.
A sports injury or an accident is a common cause of back problems and this can also be treated very effectively by acupuncture.


Common causes of back pain

Stress factors

The symptoms of simple back pain often occur suddenly and can be triggered by a particular movement, but the causes may have been building for some time.

Some of the most common causes of stress and strain on the spine include:

* Slouching in chairs

* Driving in hunched positions

* Standing badly

* Lifting incorrectly

* Sleeping on sagging mattresses

* Being unfit

* Generally overdoing it

Inactivity and the wrong sort of movement are usually at the root of simple back pain. Inactivity makes the muscles go slack and weak so they are unable to support the back properly. This leaves the back more vulnerable to damage when certain movements put too much strain on one area.

Often, the problem is caused by a strain or tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around the lower spine. In turn, this can produce painful muscle tension and spasm. Even a minor problem can cause a lot of pain when you stand, bend or move around. Pain sometimes comes on suddenly, sometimes gradually, but usually it only lasts a few days or up to a week.