Ouch, my back!


Ouch, my back!


As an Osteopath, I am used to hearing about all manner of ailments. Most people understand that we treat back and neck pain, but actually the list is a lot longer. In fact, an experienced practitioner will have had their hands applied to joint pain, cervicogenic headaches, migraine prevention, digestion problems, fibromyalgia, neuralgia, circulatory problems, inability to relax… and there’s more.


However, it must be said that back pain forms the backbone of most Osteopaths’ practices [ha ha]. It is very common. Very, very common in fact: second only to tooth decay in its ubiquity. I personally blame our somewhat reckless decision to come down out of the trees six million years ago. As the jungles receded in the rift valley there was a nice new environment to explore. The trouble was that we needed to travel long distances to exploit it. Our quadrupedal skeletal blue print was subjected to – in evolutionary terms – a rushed, bodged redesign. This allowed us to stride out over the African savanna. And to carry stuff back to attract mates. As eminent evolutionary biologists have frequently observed, it was all about sex. We are now upright and, for better or worse, bestriding the planet. But with significant weak spots in our mechanical structure. The lumbosacral junctish_health_cranio.osteopathy5_280on being the glaringly obvious example. Gee, thanks God. Harumph.

Patients sometimes ask me if I get bored treating it. The answer, in truth, is that I never do. The symptoms may appear similar. One common typical presentation is as follows. A slightly awkward movement. A sense that something strange and unwelcome has happened, possibly accompanied by a twinge. Then pain, restricted movement, and more pain at the bottom of the back. Like a toothache, life becomes one dimensional: it is an impossible thing to ignore. Everything seems to make that junction between the spine and the pelvis hurt more, and everything becomes difficult. Driving, sitting on the loo, and the classic: putting your socks on.

Symptoms may be similar, causes are many and varied. Disentangling these is helpful for patients and very challenging but also satisfying for practitioners. It could be an old unresolved ankle strain t
hat has taken a decade to worm its way up the spinal mechanics. Or a sore neck which gets better after two weeks. Then six months later, bingo. Back pain that has never occurred before. It lasts a nasty week. But then repeats and repeats at increasingly onerous intervals. Or a period of overwork, spliced in with the effects of a blow to the base of the spine a decade before. This can cause the body to loose its ability to adapt to stresses and strains. The lumbosacral junction is frequently the first thing to go. You get the idea. I could go on…

This piece is written in a lighthearted tone. Believe me I know at first hand how debilitating, upsetting and depressing these kinds of problems can be. I hope I have provoked some thoughts and insights into what I find a fascinating area to work.

Chris Harris

Osteopath and Cranial Osteopath at Shine Holistic and Shine On The Green. www.chrisharrisosteo.com