Back pain is the most common reason why people present to an osteopath. There are many factors that contribute to any single case of back pain. Your practitioner will assess many parts of your life and physical body to determine the cause, and develop a treatment plan that corrects the structural and alignment issues as well as the precipitating and maintaining factors.

Causes of Back Pain

There are multiple causes of back pain, and as many as 85% of us will experience back pain in our lifetime. Muscle/ligament strains and intervertebral joint dysfunction are responsible for around 70% of back pain cases. Spondylosis (osteoarthritis/degenerative back disease) accounts for around 10% of cases, intervertebral disc collapse for 6-8% of cases, while referred pain, psychogenic disorders and spinal pathologies contribute to the remainder of back pain cases. While most people recover within 2 – 6 weeks, recurrence is common, occurring in around half of patients, with 2 – 7% of patients will experiencing chronic pain. However, there are ways to prevent, treat and manage back pain.

Back pain is a broad definition as your ‘back’ spans from the top of your neck (including the back of your head) all the way to your tail bone. Osteopaths can treat many areas of your back including conditions causing:

  • Neck Pain
  • Upper Back Pain
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Sacral Pain and Sacro-iliac Pain
  • Coccygeal (Tail Bone) Pain

Back pain is a common issue that osteopaths deal with. The key is to look beyond the immediate sites of pain and identify the causes whether they be structural and alignment issues (often requiring digital postural assessment and X-ray/imaging) or habitual and behavioural factors. In almost every instance a combination of hands on treatment, advice and behaviour modification, strengthening, reconditioning, and retraining will be required

Osteopaths treat all manner of back and spinal issues and are trained to look beyond the pain. Osteopathic care is suitable for a host of complaints which may present as combination or as the points list below:

  • Sciatic and disc pain causing immediate (acute), sharp, burning, shooting, radiation and throbbing pain
  • Dull low grade discomfort that is persistent and long term (chronic)
  • Tight, achy, and stiff joints that are restricted in movement and locked up
  • Pain that only occurs with movement

By looking beyond the immediate areas of pain your osteopath can take steps to properly understand the cause(s) that drive the deeper problem, and rule out more insidious and dangerous causes of pain.

Risk factors

Occupation and age can contribute to a person’s risk of back pain, and the development of chronic back pain. Not surprisingly, work requiring manual labour (heavy lifting, whole body vibration etc.) carries an increased risk of back pain. Repetitive work, a lack of autonomy and poor job satisfaction also increase the risk of developing back pain, while people working as doctors, lawyers and engineers are in the category of professions that report the least back pain and the least time off work due to back pain.

Increasing age does not appear to have an impact on the number of days off work due to back pain, with one study showing that there is no significant difference in the number of days taken off work due to back pain among 16-64 year-olds. In fact, over the age of 60, the incidence of acute back pain decreases. In those people who do experience back pain after the age of 60, however, recurrence is likely to be more common and more prolonged.

Preventing back pain

Be aware of the risk factors for acute and recurrent back pain in your life, during work, sport or general activities. An example of this is to follow protocol for correct manual handling or to follow recommended ergonomic guidelines for managing yourself in the office environment.

Exercising to maintain a healthy weight, as well as strength and flexibility can also help prevent, treat and manage back pain.

We recommend osteopathic care for identification and treatment of the stiff joints and tight muscles which may be the result of your daily activities such as work and leisure. Many of our patients report that osteopathic care and management helps them stay at their best and stay a head above pain and injury.

This information on risk factors and preventing back pain is provided in a fact sheet linked here.

Sciatica symptoms and treatment

Sciatica refers to a loosely defined group of symptoms relating to pain of the lower back, hips, and outer side of the leg. True Sciatica is associated with compression of a nerve root in the lumbar (lower back) region, and in its most severe form will refer nerve like pain down the leg of the affected side. There are over a dozen structures in the lower back and pelvic area that can refer pain to the hips and legs and this can be referred to as pseudo-sciatica. More often than not pseudo-sciatica is presenting as referred pain rather than pain referral caused by compression of the nerve. Your osteopath will conduct all necessary assessment to accurately diagnose the source and nature of your symptoms.

Get long-term relief from back pain and sciatica. Our Brisbane based sciatica & back pain specialists will assess your pain, providing a full diagnosis of the source and tailored treatment for your needs.