According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there are approximately 2.8 million Australians who experience back pain and disc disorders.1 That’s a whopping 11.6% of the population!

It’s no secret that our lifestyle choices play a big part in painting this picture: spending hours in front of the computer, slouching on the couch at the end of an exhausting day (spent in front of a computer), and so on. The question is then, what can we do to restore and maintain musculoskeletal health whilst we continue to fulfill our work roles and live our chosen lifestyles?

Osteopathy may be the answer for you.

The Osteopathic approach to health has developed greatly over the last 130 years or so. However, at its core has always been the belief that the body is a complex, integrated system and that the best form of patient care is one that considers the physical, emotional and social influences on a person’s health. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the usefulness of this sort of integrated treatment approach to low back pain.2

When you consult with an Osteopath you will be asked lots of questions about your symptoms, lifestyle, medical history, and any other relevant details. This is the first step in determining what’s likely to be causing your symptoms. Then, a thorough physical exam will be performed to find any movement impairments or unusually sensitised nerves that may be related to your pain. If necessary, your Osteopath is trained to perform medical examinations of the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and nervous systems to determine if other forms of healthcare would be more appropriate.

Once a diagnosis has been made your Osteopath will create a treatment plan specific to you and your goals, and use any number of techniques to restore optimal movement and tissue health and help to alleviate your symptoms. Osteopaths use a range of manual treatment techniques alongside patient education and exercise prescription to deliver the best results possible for their patients. OMT typically includes soft tissue massage, stretching, joint mobilisation and spinal manipulation.

There are a number of factors to consider when treating low back pain, and understanding the role of the lumbar spine is the first step. It is vital that we have good movement of the spine, and equally important is having sufficient strength to perform our daily activities. Your Osteopath may aim to improve the available range of motion in the lumbar spine, which will allow other parts of the spine to move freely in bending, lifting and rotating movements. The second consideration is whether there is enough strength within the abdominal and low back musculature to stabilise the spine throughout these movements. It is essential that we have the ability to cope with the mechanical forces that we place on our lumbar spine so that those forces are dispersed throughout the spinal column and surrounding joints, instead of creating shear forces through one or two segments of the spine. Excessive shear forces through the spine can be a factor leading to degenerative changes of the spinal joints and injury to the discs.3 For these reasons, your Osteopath may also prescribe exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles, and may look at the flexibility and strength of your hip muscles to ensure they are capable of moving efficiently, further reducing the demand on the lumbar spine.

The use of OMT has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and improving function for people experiencing acute and chronic low back pain.4

At Melbourne Osteohealth we complement OMT with the prescription of specific exercises to further enhance treatment effects, decrease the likelihood of recurrence and to upskill you to continue to manage your condition yourself. By providing you with take-home exercises, or by working with you in our own Functional Rehabilitation and Clinical Pilates studio, we can guarantee that we have provided you with a holistic pathway to recovery and optimal health.

References:

  1. Who Gets Back Problems? Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, 2016. http://www.aihw.gov.au/back-problems/prevalence/
  2. Fryer, G. et al. Approach to low back pain – Osteopathy, Australian Family Physician, 2014, Vol. 42, No. 4.
  3. Gallagher, S., Marras, W.S. Tolerance of the lumbar spine to shear: A review and recommended exposure limits, Clinical Biomechanics, 2012,  Vol.27, p973-978.
  4. Franke, H., Franke, J. D., Fryer, G. Osteopathic manipulative treatment for nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 2014, Vol.15, p286.
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