Low back pain is one of the most common conditions affecting adults today.
In fact, approximately 80% of all adults will have some low back issues in their lifetime (1). Low back pain is also one of the most common reasons people visit their physicians. It is estimated that low back pain related medical costs range from $6-$12 billion every year (2). Many people work at their desk for long hours dealing with lifting injuries or just being inactive, and will have their low backs face a lot of unwanted stress. How does low back pain start? How can it be avoided? And what is the best treatment? These are the questions we will address in this article. I am a Manual Osteopath who works directly with low back conditions and we will go through how you can manage your low back pain with Osteopathic treatments.
Osteopathy is essentially a gentle form of manual therapy that mainly addresses musculoskeletal conditions which is one of the most common conditions people come in for treatment and there are many reasons why this problem arises.
Low back pain is increasingly on the rise with adults in the present. Since the low back area is the body’s center of gravity it is quite clear why much of our daily stresses take a toll on the low back. Firstly, desk jobs are a huge culprit for low back pain. Sitting at a chair for 8 hours a day means you are putting most of the pressure of your upper body right on the low back discs in the spine. Maintaining a poor sitting position at work consistently will aggravate the disc spaces in the vertebrae since you are maintaining a constant pressure right on those discs. Besides the discs, the muscles slowly weaken and lose their stability if they are stuck in a poor position. The first step when I see patients for osteopathic treatment is addressing the amount of time they maintain a poor sitting position. It is more of an issue when your body maintains one specific position for hours on end without moving as opposed to finding the best position to stay in.
In Osteopathy, daily movement is a big factor when it comes to treating chronic issues. We address how much time of the day patients lack movement and we go through certain movement exercises patients can incorporate into a routine as they go through each workday. The next step is strengthening those muscles that support the low back once there is significant progress with how much pain the patient experiences. If patients feel there is less pain after a number of treatments they can ease into certain therapeutic exercises provided by the Manual Osteopath. With these exercises, there would be more natural support in the low back even if they were to continue to put stress on it in the long-term.
Another major cause is lifting a heavy load or lifting incorrectly. Similar to poor posture taking a toll on the discs and muscles. Lifting a load that is too heavy compresses the disc beyond the point they need to be compressed and can lead to herniation or strained muscles. In Osteopathy we educate the patient about the correct posture they need to maintain if they are required to lift things. It is, of course, better to avoid lifting heavy at all if you already have a history of low back injuries. Low back pain can involve different physiological factors that can come up with certain activities or movements. Even if you have a history of low back issues in the past, pain or twinge can randomly come up in the day during some awkward movement or lift that you may not notice. Once a low back issue or injury comes up, it is more likely for it to arise again if the person doesn’t take into account the correct steps to maintain and prevent the problem.
During the osteopathic treatment, the majority of the time will involve the Manual Osteopath going through various techniques. The primary goal in osteopathy is to restore mobility and essentially get to the root of the issue. In Osteopathy we involve joint mobilization to help restore the space around each joint and free up that deep restriction you may have in the back. The next part of treatment is muscular which involves stretching work and soft tissue work. This will improve the range of motion and help prevent further injury and strain on the back. Joint mobilization and stretching techniques are repeated and held numerous times throughout the treatment and many patients experience significant relief even after their first session. The last step is therapeutic exercises which will involve taking the muscles through some sort of resistance. It is mainly with resistance work that helps build the muscle strength is built since you are putting the muscle through some form of challenge.
This is the brief layout of the osteopathic approach to low back pain. It requires the correct sequence of addressing poor posture while sitting, lifting mechanics and going through a thorough treatment. It is up to the patients who are dealing with low back pain to make sure they tackle one of the most important contributors to low back pain, physical inactivity. If you are consistently inactive you are not giving your muscles a chance to strengthen and improve in supporting your body through day-to-day activities. The original expression “If you don’t use it, you lose it” couldn’t apply more to low back issues. If you are constantly stuck in the same position then, go home and lie down day in and day out you will not actively engage your muscles for the long term and they will slowly wear away. The Manual Osteopath will make sure you keep up with the correct strengthening exercises so your muscles stay strong on a long-term basis. In Osteopathy we deal with low back pain by bringing attention to all these points and finding the correct order of techniques and treatment style that is most appropriate for each patient.
Bone and Joint Canada. Low Back Pain. 2014. Available at: http://boneandjointcanada.com/low-back-pain/. Accessed on October 26, 2018.
Canadian Chiropractic Association. Canada’s Low Back Pain Epidemic. 2018. Available at: https://www.chiropractic.ca/blog/canadas-low-back-pain-epidemic/. Accessed October 26, 2018.
Are you a candidate for osteopathy? If you would like to try this treatment, book your initial 60-minute osteopathy session and receive a $20 discount. This offer expires on December 31, 2019.