BACK PAIN “OH, MY ACHING BACK!”
Almost everyone experiences some type of back pain during the
course of their lives. The pain may occur suddenly and be gone
within a couple of days or weeks, or it may occur repeatedly,
never completely going away, and have a major impact on regular
HOW YOUR BACK WORKS
Your back is a complex system of interlocking components:
• The bones or vertebrae that make up the spinal column
are separated by discs, which act as shock absorbers that support
and distribute the weight of your body.
• The spinal cord is housed and protected within the spinal
column and major nerves, connecting the spinal cord with other
parts of the body, pass through spaces between the vertebrae.
• The spinal column is wrapped tightly in ligaments and
supported by muscle.
WHAT CAUSES BACK PAIN?
For many people, back pain can be caused by poor posture and
bad habits. The accumulated wear and tear our bodies experience
on a day-today basis puts us at risk of experiencing back pain,
regardless of occupation. This increases with age as the spine
begins to lose its flexibility.
Routine activities like gardening, housework, picking up a
child, reaching for an object or even coughing, can trigger
an episode of acute back pain: pain that can last for hours,
days or even years.
More than 70 per cent of back problems begin during
routine daily activities.
Accidents and other forms of trauma account for only 30 per
cent of back problems. Back pain has many causes and takes many
forms. A few of these causes are described below:
• Postural Stress – poor posture
stresses your spine. The soft tissue becomes overstretched,
muscles tire and joints and nerves are put under
• Muscle Strains – minor back muscle
strains quickly improve on their own, but more severe strains
will need acupuncture / osteopathy treatment to
relieve pain and promote healing.
• Disc Injuries – discs are the
shock absorbers of the spine and are anchored to the vertebrae,
above and below, so they cannot slip out of place.
The disc has a soft (jelly-like) interior that can bulge (prolapse),
herniate or even rupture in response to such mechanical stresses
as lifting or
twisting.Although the majority of disc problems are a result
of an injury, discs wear down and thin with age leading to degenerative
• Arthritis – vertebral joints
can be affected by degenerative arthritis, causing inflammation
within the joint and the growth of bony spurs on the edges of
The pain may be limited to the back or it can radiate to the
lower abdomen, groin, leg or foot. The distance the pain travels
can be an indicator of the seriousness of the injury. Symptoms
such as pins and needles, numbness or a burning feeling in the
leg or foot region that accompany the pain pathway are also
an indication of severity and should not be left untreated.
These symptoms may be a result of damage to the sciatic nerve,
which travels from the low back down the back of the leg to
the foot, enervating most of the leg muscles and bringing sensation
to the leg.
WILL IT GET BETTER?
Normally, pain resulting from muscle or ligament strains will
repair itself in the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. If the
pain does not subside after 24 hours, or is getting worse, you
should consult a health care professional. On average, 90 percent
of people with acute lower back pain will recover within four
Acupuncture / Osteopathy Treatment OF BACK PAIN
acupuncturists and osteopathists are skilled in the management of back injuries.
A acupuncturist / osteopathist will provide a comprehensive assessment of
your back to determine the source of the problem, and to develop
an individualized program to treat your symptoms. Depending
upon the nature and severity of the back problem, the program
• A variety of manual therapy techniques such as mobilization
• Exercises to mobilize or strengthen appropriate muscles;
• Postural retraining and general conditioning;
• Education in proper body mechanics and techniques to
prevent recurrence of the back injury;
• Modalities such as TENS, ultrasound, heat or ice to
PREVENTING BACK PAIN
Recent studies indicate that the most important factor in avoiding
back injury may be your general physical conditioning. This
suggests that regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming,
may provide the conditioning a back needs to stay healthy. However,
a specific exercise program to mobilize and strengthen the spine
can also be effective in preventing a recurrence of back pain.
Strong back and stomach muscles are necessary to support your
spine properly, and a acupuncturist / osteopathist can provide guidance on
the appropriate exercises to tone and strengthen these muscles.
acupuncturists and osteopathists recommend the following tips to help you
prevent back pain:
• Lifting – with your feet shoulder-width
apart, bend your hips and knees, keeping your back as straight
as possible. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your
body, tighten your stomach muscles and use the strong muscles
of your legs as you lift the object. Keep your back straight
and avoid twisting - point your feet in the direction you want
• Posture – think tall with your
chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and level. Posture
should be stable, balanced and relaxed when sitting, walking
• Sitting – don’t sit for
long periods of time; stand up, stretch and walk around. Use
a back support in your chair if necessary but make sure it fits
• Exercise – a healthy body-weight
puts less strain on your back. Your acupuncturist / osteopathist can show
you how to keep your back flexible and strong with correct back
and stomach exercises.
• Driving – position your car seat
so your back is supported and your legs are relaxed and slightly
bent. If you need
extra lower back support, use a lumbar roll or a rolled-up towel.
• Sleeping – your mattress should
be firm enough to support your spine in a neutral position –
Consider adding a layer of foam for added support.
acupuncturists and osteopathists are healthcare professionals who help people
of all ages and lifestyles gain and maintain their desired level
of active living and physical mobility.With their applied knowledge
and understanding of the human body in action, acupuncturists and osteopathists
are able to help you to increase your mobility, relieve pain,
build strength and improve balance and cardiovascular function.
acupuncturists and osteopathists not only treat injuries, they also teach you
how to prevent the onset of pain or injury that can limit your