- Back pain
- Hip pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- Headaches and tension
- Ankle Sprain
Back pain is extremely common – roughly six million patients visit osteopaths each year, and back pain accounts for over 50% of those cases. Pain exists for a reason; your back will tell you very quickly when things aren’t right because the longer spinal faults go unchecked, the more widespread the strain suffered by the skeleton as a whole. The role of pain is to make us aware of the fault so we can fix the problem. Most people will suffer with back pain at some point in their life.
Back pain can vary from a minor niggling ache to a severe incapacitating pain that can spread to other areas of the body. Causes of back pain include chronic postural problems, unsuitable seating, unsupportive beds, inappropriate lifting, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and anxiety, accidents, sports injuries, pregnancy and obesity. The cure for an aching back lies in persuading a stiff and painful spinal joint to move, and that’s something osteopaths specialise in.
Sciatica is pain running down the back of the leg and is often caused by a problem in the back which irritates the sciatic nerve. This could stem from a disc (slipped disc), a joint or even a muscle problem. Sciatica is not a diagnosis but a symptom of a problem, it is important to find out what is causing the sciatica as doing the wrong exercise can make things a lot worse.
Another type of leg pain is called referred pain. When a joint in the lower back becomes inflamed and painful, its nerve supply picks up the pain messages and pain is felt in the back. However, other tissues sharing the same nerve supply as the inflamed joint may also feel the pain. It could be a sensation to the skin of the lower leg, nagging pain in the front or side of the leg, groin pain or a vague ache in the buttock or hip. So, although the symptoms are leg pain, the cause stems from the back.
Pain in the hip can often be caused by osteoarthritis or injury and will frequently respond well to osteopathic treatment. Hip pain itself doesn’t always indicate a problem with the hip because the body’s nervous and circulatory systems are closely linked, meaning pain in your hip or groin may actually originate from your lower back, or even a muscular spasm in the gluteal region. Hip arthritis also often refers pain to the knee which may be the only symptom, it can affect the way we walk and cause additional problems if not checked. Persistent or re-occurring problems in this area should be evaluated early on.
Many neck problems are the result of modern life and the continuous strain we place on our bodies. Pain can be caused by repetitive movement, poor use of the neck’s full range of motion, poor work position and/or stress. Headaches frequently accompany neck pain and are caused by a build-up of muscular tension across the shoulders, which then travels up into the base of the skull. Pain in the neck can also result from trauma, especially car accidents, which can lead to problems weeks, months or even years later.
The shoulder is a complex and shallow joint held in place by the deeper rotator cuff muscles and cartilage. Damage to any of these structures can cause a variety of painful symptoms which should be addressed promptly. Not all shoulder problems arise from the shoulder itself, particularly where there is no history of trauma to the area. Many conditions unrelated to the shoulder can cause referred pain in the shoulder region. For example, neck dysfunctions, repetitive strain, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. Other conditions such as gall stones, liver problems and heart conditions can also refer pain to the shoulder region and should therefore by checked out.
Knee pain can be due to problems arising from above or below the knee such as hip problems like arthritis or over-pronated feet (flat feet). There are also several structures within and around the knee that can be damaged through sports such as football, rugby, tennis, badminton and other sports which put large demands on the knee joint. Any problems with the knee should be looked at promptly as they can alter the normal gait pattern and cause stress and pain to develop on other parts of the body very quickly.
Headache and Tension
Headaches affect most of us at some point in our lives, and while painkillers can help to alleviate the symptoms, they don’t address the cause of the problem. You may not have considered osteopathic treatment for recurring headaches, but the fact is that some types of headache respond very well to osteopathic treatment. There are many reasons why people suffer with migraines and headaches, including diet, stress, and chemical imbalances. Both tension headaches and migraines can often be alleviated by a course of treatment.
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All of us beyond our twenties experience degenerative changes of our joints. This degeneration speeds up the ageing of our joints, and older joints are less tolerant of knocks and bangs. Osteoarthritis is not a disease, but simply wear and tear: it only begins to cause pain once it has become more advanced. Degeneration of the joints happens when the flow of fluid into the joint slows down – cartilage becomes brittle, ligaments, tendons and muscles dry out and lose their elasticity, and the joints lose their ‘give’. If this process continues unchecked, the cartilage can become chipped and irregular, weight-bearing through the joint becomes uneven, abnormal bony outgrowths begin to form around the edges of the joint, and the joint swells.
The pain is caused by mechanical and chemical irritation of all the tissues of the joint. Mechanical irritation arises when the joint’s soft tissues are stretched, often by excess fluid trapped in the joint. Chemical irritation is caused by the effect of ‘inflammatory products’ produced by the swollen tissues.
The good news is that we can control the pain by performing simple movements to pump away the excess fluid and free up the stiff, tired joints. This rejuvenates old soft tissues that are binding up a joint too tightly.
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An ankle sprain refers to damaging of the ligaments of the ankle. The most common ankle sprain occurs on the lateral or outside part of the ankle, usually following a fall. This type of sprain can be extremely painful and cause severe bruising and swelling and includes the rick of a fracture. There are of course several other ligaments within the ankle joint and all can be problematic following an accident. Left untreated and with little follow up exercise, ankles can remain stiff, restricted and tender for a long period and reoccurrence of the injury is more lightly. Regaining full movement followed up with strengthening exercises is important for improving stability, strength, confidence and returning to normal function.
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Whiplash is an injury to the ligaments and tendons in the neck when it is moved forwards, backwards or even sideways very quickly, often seen is car accidents or sporting events such as rugby and boxing. Symptoms usually include neck pain, stiffness and tenderness leading to reduced movement and headaches. Very often the affects of whiplash diminish, but sometimes they can be prolonged and the muscles remain taught and irritable affecting sleep, concentration levels and general well being. It is important to get this checked as there may be an underlying issue, though in most cases the tension can be eased with treatment which can help restore normal function, improve sleep patterns and of course give peace of mind.