In this article on back pain Southend Osteopath Anthony Larholt looks at the causes and cures of the ailment that causes misery to millions of people in Britain every year, Back pain is the biggest single cause of loss of time from work in the UK with some 60 million man hours lost each year. The causes of back pain are many and various but can be summarised into two main groups, Pathological and Mechanical.
Pathological Back Pain
This is back pain due to disease processes which may be affecting the whole body or just the spine. Examples of this are secondary deposits of cancer, primary bone cancer, diseases such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, Rheumatoid disease or Osteoporosis. Local causes such as infections or Pathological crush fractures. These obviously all require treatment of the underlying disease before consideration of local factors to make life more comfortable could be attempted.
Mechanical Back Pain
This is back pain due to postural or injury factors and is normally treatable with osteopathy. Mechanical back pain makes up the vast majority of back pain probably in excess of 90%. Mechanical back pain itself can be divided into acute and chronic pain and pain with and without nerve root irritation.
Acute Back Pain
Any acute condition is characterised by severe pain of recent origin and onset in the back we are all familiar with the severe sudden onset of pain which can at times be disabling leaving us “flat on our backs on the floor”. In most cases this acute severe pain will ease within 48 hours with very little treatment other than rest and analgesia. Although frequently osteopathic treatment applied rapidly can speed the rate of remission of symptoms.
In most cases the majority of the pain is due to local inflammation and muscle spasm and by relieving this osteopaths can settle the symptoms rapidly. Many people find that this spontaneous relief does not occur and so seek help after a few days. For those who do get relief they may find that after a while they have another acute attack suggesting that the first attack has eased and ceased to hurt but the underlying injury remains and needs proper treatment to alleviate it.
Chronic Back Pain
This is the grinding ache from which many people suffer. Sometimes it is the left over pain from an acute onset and sometimes it will gradually build up for no apparent reason. There are of course many possible causes but the principal ones are postural factors and degenerative factors. Most people over the age of 40 have some degree of degenerative change in their backs and this will combine with old injuries and postural abnormalities to give chronic pain. Old injuries will contribute to the development of degenerative change and will exaggerate its effects. Similarly postural problems because they cause extra strain in certain regions of the spine which will accelerate degenerative change.
This kind of chronic lower back pain generally responds extremely well to osteopathic treatment encouraging the mobility and tone of the muscles and ligaments and returning the spine to as near normal mobility as the degenerative changes present will allow.
The other common form of chronic back pain is when, in younger people, postural and occupational factors collide giving rise to muscular and joint related pain. Osteopathic treatment by encouraging the mobility and improving the posture can help relieve these symptoms as can a careful review of work and leisure activities.
Nerve Root Irritation
Because of the structure of the spine it is quite common for the nerves exiting from the spine through the intervertebral foramen – a hole between two adjacent vertebrae – with resultant pain down the area of innervation of that nerve root. This means that where the pain spreads to will give us an idea of where in the spine the pain is originating and enable us to direct treatment to the appropriate area. Generally nerve root pressure is very painful, is often accompanied by pins & needles or areas of numbness and in extreme cases can also involve weakening of the muscles supplied by the nerve being compressed. Not all cases of nerve root pressure originate in the spine, so care has to taken to make sure that there is not pressure occurring along the path of the nerve at some other point in its course, anybody had dental neuralgia!
If the cause of the nerve pressure is indeed pressure at the root exiting the spine then Osteopathic treatment, by encouraging local mobility, relaxing muscle spasm and relieving inflammation, can relieve the symptoms. This applies even when a disc protrusion is the cause, although in very severe cases surgery may well represent the only option I the protrusion is too large to be relieved with osteopathy.
The video below shows some exercises to help you relieve back pain.
If you suffer from back pain Southend osteopath Anthony Larholt may well be able to help you. Call now on 01702 348221 for free friendly advice.