Back pain is, of course, very common, and can range from the ‘merely’ uncomfortable (where it might make it difficult for you to sleep) to the acute and debilitating, where it’s difficult to do anything.
The pain can come about for many different reasons and for any treatment to be a long-term solution, it is necessary to look at the whole picture – so the osteopath will ask you a whole lot of questions – about work, lifestyle, family history as well as the rather obvious ‘did-you-do-something-when-you-pulled-up-that-tree-stump’ question.
There may well be an apparently obvious catalyst for the sudden pain, an accident for example, but there’s just as many instances where back-aches arises out of the blue, triggered by apparently undramatic events such as relatively low-level physical exertion, emotional stress or illness. Sometimes a minor strain may give more pain and take longer to heal than expected, perhaps because the body has reached the limits of its ability to cope with the combined effects of past injuries, so any new demand is the final straw. You might end up with pain due to any number of issues, but these are the most common:
Lifting strain: Lifting heavy or awkward weights including babies, children and shopping, can cause back strain, especially if not done correctly (remember: bend the knees, not the back). If the spine is already under stress from another cause, it may only take lifting a small weight to cause strain, usually at the weakest point in the spine.
Whiplash: In a car accident, even at relatively low speed, the body is subjected to very sudden deceleration, and can be thrown around violently in many directions. Osteopaths are often able to feel the effects of these stresses locked into the body tissues as tensions, after a whiplash accident. The whole body is affected, but particularly the neck, lower back and rib cage. Unless treated, these strains can be present for life.
Falls: The spine is often jerked or twisted during falls, and parts can become impacted or compressed. Sit-down falls such as falling on to your bottom on ice or a slippery surface are particularly damaging because in addition to the direct impact on the base of the spine, the impact of the head onto the top of the spine causes strain at the top of the neck. Headaches and neck problems are very common after this type of injury.
Violence: Any direct injury, for example kicks or blows to the spine can create a local area of disruption of normal spinal mechanics. Problems may gradually develop over a period of time, even if the back seemed uninjured at the time. Blows to the head can disrupt the normal minute movements of the bones of the skull, a situation that has far reaching effects on the whole of the rest of the body. Posture can also be modified as by blows to the head as the spine adapts to the injury.