One continually growing health issue across the developed world, is low back pain, with millions of people reporting the condition and businesses suffering losses through employee absences. In the UK it reported that low back pain is responsible for 37-44% of all chronic pain disorders and is estimated the effects of low back pain costs the economy £12-13 billion annually.*
There are large numbers of research statistics which have been produced in the last 10 years which supports the statement above, and now we are hearing from Google Trends analysis that there has been a rise in searches for back pain related terms, as well as practitioner terms such as ‘chiropractor vs osteopath’. As many as 60-80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their life, and an increased chance of back pain in line with increased age. **
People suffer varying degrees of pain – and back pain can be totally debilitating to daily life – but anything that stops a person functioning fully and causes pain, needs addressing. Now things get trickier – knowing who to turn to, to treat this problem.
There are so many choices out there, and a good starting point would be to ask for a family member, friend or colleague for a recommendation. But, what is right for one person is not always right for the next. Firstly, you need to find the appropriate treatment for your specific condition, and then you should be aware that the more comfortable you feel with a practitioner, the better the outcome you are likely to have.
We offer a range of treatments at the clinic, and we are often asked for advice from potential patients as to which treatment they should have, as well as which individual they should see. Unfortunately, there is not hard and fast rule and we make suggestions on the information given over the phone/email. It may be appropriate for you to see a chiropractor for one issue, yet a massage therapist for another. We thought it might offer some clarity to explain a little about each discipline we offer at the Regency Clinic (part of The Medical group) and how they treat back pain. Biographies of our individual practitioners are available on our website to help you in your research.
Chiropractic – The spinal specialists
Chiropractors are regulated health care professionals, qualified to assess, diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system (joints and soft tissue – muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia), but are specialists in the back. Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, with an emphasis on manipulation/spinal adjustment. Their treatment is designed to free joints that are not moving properly – which can cause pain and dysfunction – and aiming to prevent degeneration of the joint in the future. They also use a variety of techniques (such as acupuncture, taping, massage, fascial release) as well as offering exercises and posture/lifestyle advice.
Osteopathy – Joints and Wellbeing
Focuses on the body’s wellbeing and the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue) working in harmony. They will look to treat the body as a whole; looking at psychological and social factors effecting a condition. Similar to chiropractic, osteopaths use joint manipulations, as well as soft tissue techniques, along with and advice on exercise, posture and lifestyle. Osteopaths are often trained in cranial osteopathy, which is a gentle and safe approach to treating mechanical strains in the whole body, not just the head as the name implies. Cranial osteopaths simply recognise the importance of the subtle influences of structures within the head and their influence on the whole body. Note – our Osteopath offers predominantly cranial treatment and specialises in infants/babies.
Chiropractic and Osteopathy
There is a lot of cross over between Chiropractors and Osteopaths and all individuals treat differently within their field (muddying the waters yet again!). Within both professions, individuals are trained to assess, diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions, regulated and insured. So, finding the practitioner you are happy with, whatever their treatment style, and most importantly, seeing a result with is vital.
Physiotherapy – Facilitating Movement and Exercise
Physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat muscle, joint and nerve complaints. Their primary focus is to reduce pain and restore the body’s movement and function to as near normal as possible. Our physiotherapists use a variety of the latest hands-on techniques (including manipulation) along with personalised exercise therapy to facilitate the body’s natural healing. Physiotherapists primarily treat acute conditions – such as sporting injuries or injury through trauma – but again, there is a cross over with the chiropractic and osteopathic professions, treating joint and back issues and prescribing exercises and lifestyle advice.
Sports Massage – Muscle Pain and Tension Reduction, Not Just For Sports People
Sports massage is essentially a deep and specific massage, focusing on a particular area of pain, tension or injury. It is designed to both release tension and restore soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Function, mobility and fitness can all be improved. Massage can ease lower back pain by reducing tension in the surrounding muscles – glutes, hips, lower (as well as upper) back, and promote healing by increasing blood flow to the area.
NHS Guidelines state:
Consider offering a course of manual therapy, including spinal manipulation, spinal mobilisation and massage. Treatment may be provided by a range of health professionals including chiropractors, osteopaths, manipulative physiotherapists or doctors who have had specialist training (2009). This has since been updated in 2016 to state these should be used alongside exercise. Our practitioners will recommend home exercises for rehabilitation and give advice on specific training/exercise for future injury prevention.
*Whitehurst et all 2012
** Palmer & Greenough 2013