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Back Pain

Most people at some stage in their life regardless of age and fitness level will experience some form of back pain. Many cases of acute upper and lower back pain are the result of poor function or movement. This means with the right treatment, such as osteopathy and a few lifestyle changes, you can find relief from many muscular or soft tissue conditions in a matter of weeks.

Why should I see an osteopath for back pain?

Osteopaths use a wide variety of gentle hands-on techniques to try to reduce your pain and prevent it from coming back. These aim to release tension and improve how your body moves. An osteopath can offer this type of treatment for short-term or long-term general lower back pain. They can also help with sciatica – pain that spreads from your back down your legs.

Your osteopath may also suggest some self-help measures you can take and give you advice on exercise to help your symptoms get better.


What can back pain feel like?

  • A sharp pinch or shooting sensation that comes on as you move into a certain position

  • A dull (painful) constant ache that may radiate in a particular area or refer pain to other areas

  • A sharp nerve pain that tends to occur in one area but can often radiate down the closest limb

  • A feeling of weakness or a sense that your back may “give way” is common across the lower part of the back

  • A general sense that your upper body feels jammed up or out of alignment.


What can cause back pain?

  • Sudden falls or accidents, which involve force or an obscure movement of the spine.

  • Poor posture particularly in a seated position and for long periods.

  • Bending and lifting without supporting the spine correctly.

  • Referred pain from neck and shoulder injury

  • Sporting activity that involves twisting, impact or repetition.

  • Periods of prolonged rest, inactivity and sleeping position.


What happens when you see an osteopath for back pain?

A first appointment with an osteopath will usually take around 40-50 minutes. Your osteopath will want to talk to you about your back pain and your health in general, as well as any other treatment you’re having. They’ll probably ask you to remove some clothing so that they can examine you. If you wish, you can ask for a friend or relative to accompany you.

Your osteopath will look at your whole body in relation to your back pain – they may observe you making some simple movements and stretches. They’ll also feel around your joints, ligaments and tissues with their hands (this is called palpation).

Osteopathy techniques

Your osteopath will use manual techniques to try and reduce your back pain. Osteopathy techniques aim to increase the movement in your joints and relieve muscle tension.

The main techniques your osteopath may use include the following.

  • Massage. This is when your osteopath directly applies pressure to the soft tissues of your back. It aims to reduce tension in your back and relieve your pain.

  • Manipulation. In manipulation, your osteopath will make a quicker thrusting action with their hands at a particular point of your spine. You might hear a ‘pop’ sound when they do this.

  • Muscle energy technique. This is a technique in which your osteopath will ask you to push against them, while they apply force back. This aims to increase the range of motion in the affected joint.

  • Functional technique. In this technique, your osteopath will gently move your joints into positions that reduce your tension and pain, before gradually working them back to the original position.

  • Counterstrain. This involves your osteopath slowly moving you into the position that causes you least pain. They’ll hold you in this position for a short time while they monitor ‘tender points’ – areas on your body that are causing your pain.

  • Myofascial release therapy. This is a type of deep massage technique, in which your osteopath aims to release tension and tightness in your muscles.

What to expect after treatment

You may feel a little sore for the first few days after your treatment. If you have any concerns, contact your osteopath for advice. You may need more than one treatment. Your osteopath will assess you at each session and discuss and agree with you any changes needed to your treatment plan.

Manual therapies such as those offered by an osteopath are usually only one part of your treatment for back pain. It’s important that you also follow any advice your osteopath or other healthcare professional gives you on looking after your back and doing exercises. This will give you the best chance of a quick recovery, and will help to stop your back pain returning.


Call us today to find out more about back pain or to book an appointment at our well established, friendly Osteopathy clinic located in Old Harlow. We are well located and are happy to see patients from any area including Sawbridgeworth, Bishop's Stortford, Epping, Roydon, Nazeing, Broxbourne, North Weald, Loughton, Ongar, Stanstead and beyond.

We are registered with the Geneal Osteopathic Council.
Our Harlow Osteopaths are fully qualified and members of the institute of Osteopathy.
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