How to manage common back injuries

Back Injuries: Can Osteopathy help back pain?

With around 80% (4 out of 5 adults) of society suffering from back pain at some point in their lives it is something we see often in clinic. Anatomically the spine starts at the base of the skull and finishes down at the tailbone, with various ligament, tendons, nerves and muscles attaching to support the vertebrae and the associated intervertebral discs. Every task we complete during our day to day lives requires the use of our spine, and it is important that our spine is robust and strong so that the chance of any serious injury occurring is minimal. 

Injury occurs to a number of different tissues (muscle, disc, ligament etc..), but this doesn’t always reflect in severity of pain. We break these injuries down into 2 main categories, acute and chronic pain. 

Acute Injury

An acute injury is a pain felt during a specific movement. Commonly we see it in regards to picking something up off the ground or bending and twisting and feeling a tweak. Then over the next few hours to days the pain becomes quite strong and restrictive. This can last a few days to a few weeks, if management of this condition is ideal to begin with it can move to a more chronic nature.  

Chronic Injury

Chronic back pain or injuries are associated with a gradual build up over time from weeks to months, sometimes it is from a poorly managed acute injury. But most of the time is due to lifestyle factors such as work or exercise habits. 

Types of Back Injuries

The spine is a highly complex and important part of the human body, due to its complexity it can be hard to understand what the problem is and how it happened. Below are the types of injuries that the spin can sustain: 

  • Sprains & Strains – damage to ligaments, tendons or muscles. This can occur from poor lifting techniques or lifting a load which is too heavy.
  • Traumatic Injury – This can be anything from a car accident to a fall. Depending on the severity of the trauma will dictate how bad the outcome is, a lot of the time full resolution is common. 
  • Herniated or Prolapsed Discs – Surprisingly common injury (around 30% 18-year old’s radiographically show signs of disc disease). Occurs when there is microtrauma over years that wears down the outer cartilage of the disc and the inner substance protrudes out. Symptoms will vary in severity. 
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration – Another common issue associated with the spine (wrinkles on the inside of the body). The discs narrow in height which places extra pressure on the nerve roots and muscles which can cause referred pain down into the legs or lower back. 
  • Sciatica – One of the more common symptoms explained by the general public, occurs when there is compression on the nerve. Either through tight muscles (piriformis) or narrowing of the nerve root canal. 
  • Spondylolisthesis – This is when the vertebrae slip forward on top of the one below. Common in the lumbar spine (lower back). Largely has minimal symptoms but towards the more severe the more compression through nerve roots occurs. 
  • Stress Fracture – Really common in sports or activities that have extreme range of motions under load, think gymnastics or cricket bowlers. 
  • Scoliosis – Is an abnormal curve (looking from behind the spine isn’t straight). Proper diagnosis is required so that the correct management can be done. If caught early enough it can be managed with exercises and braces (Schroth method). 

Pain Management Options

Based off what the case history and assessment show will dictate how the individual is managed. Current research is suggesting that prolonged bed rest is no longer effective for the acute and chronic management of back pain. With an option to move towards moving and doing what you can tolerate gold standard. I focus on walking and avoiding activities (ie sitting, laying on your side) that do cause pain initially. Inactivity can lead to increase stiffness, de-training of muscles and increase in pain felt. Early days hot/cold packs may be effective in pain management as well as NSAIDS (Neurofen/Voltaren) but only provide short term relief. Acute injuries need more 1 on 1 treatment in the first 3 weeks to improve function and get back to normal as quick as possible. 

How can Osteopathy Help My Back Injury?

Osteopaths are trained musculoskeletal therapists that work with the individual to provide the best treatment and achieve the desired outcomes based off patient goals. The whole treatment and management process involves an individual assessment, some treatment (depending on symptoms) then a tailored exercise program for the individual. The rehabilitation program primarily consists of strength and endurance exercises to the back, core and hips. But it may also include some hip and thoracic mobility to take the pressure off the lower back. Research has shown that individuals who have a healthy weight are less likely to suffer severe lower back pain so sometimes this is a part of the rehab process along with periodic traditional osteopathy services. 

For a tailored injury plan and how Osteopathy can help you and your injury get in contact with us at Hobsons Bay Health Group and we can definitely point you in the right direction to making you the happiest and healthiest you can be!

Author: Osteopath, Dr Lachlan Buckley