Help My Back Pain – Therapies to Ease the Misery

Therapy to help back pain
Lower back pain sometimes known as Lumbago or Sciatica is a common disorder affecting some 60% of the adult population, seeking to get rid of back pain. So great is the problem, that in the UK alone, some 150 million man days are lost each year in industry, as a result of absenteeism attributed to lower back pain. Generally, the symptoms of low back pain are due to benign musculoskeletal problems often arising from strains in the lower back muscles or soft tissue, and these ease considerably within a few weeks using common sense measures to address.

To help back pain, establishing of the fundamental origin of the back pain with a GP is usually made through a combination of a medical history, physical examination, and, when necessary, diagnostic investigation, such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Usually, low back or lumbar pain can be treated conventionally, with one recommendation being physical therapy which may help alleviate the symptoms, and give back pain relief. A summary of some of the more common therapies used to provide back pain relief are listed below:-

Acupuncture
Acupuncture treatment originated in China over two thousand years ago. It is reputed that the first observations were of soldiers, wounded in battle by arrows, and how the arrow ‘punctures’ caused therapeutic effects in different parts of the victims body well away from the wound area. The general theory behind traditional acupuncture is based on patterns or meridians of energy flow through the body that are essential for health. This is referred to as Qi or Chi and sometimes Xue (blood). Disruptions of this flow are thought to be the primary causes of pain and disease. Acupuncture attempts to correct imbalances of flow, thus helping to restore the patient’s health.

How acupuncture works
Broadly, acupuncture involves stimulation of points along these energy flows through a range of techniques. Stimulation is typically performed using very fine needles that create gentle sensations. Each of these needles are inserted into specific points along these ‘energy pathways’ or “meridians”.

Can acupuncture help my back Pain
Acupuncture is considered useful in treating such conditions as lower back pain, sciatica, stiffness, and strains. In traditional acupuncture theory, pain arises due to blocked energy along ‘energy pathways’ or “meridians” of the body, which are ‘cleared’ when acupuncture needles are inserted. In modern medicine, scientific reasons have been put forward for the apparent benefits that acupuncture provides for the sufferers of lower back pain. One observation is that acupuncture stimulation causes the releases neurochemicals and hormones, regarded as producing signals that soothe the sympathetic nervous system and release natural opioids which provide back pain relief.

Alexander technique
The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a re-education of the mind and body. The Alexander Technique is a method which helps a person discover a new balance in the body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities

How Alexander Technique works
The Alexander Technique shows its students how to learn to do whatever they currently do as easily and efficiently as possible. It is concerned almost exclusively with process – how an activity is performed not what it is. Although there are no exercises, Alexander technique shows how to exercise more efficiently, with reduced risk of injury. Many, seeking back pain relief are drawn to the technique because of its reputation to help back pain or lumbago, stiff necks and shoulders, and other conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Alexander teachers are not doctors and do not diagnose diseases.

Can Alexander Technique help my back pain
By becoming more aware of how the body works and learning how to “undo” bad body practices, those suffering with long term or chronic back pain are able to soothe and ease their symptoms. Pupils of Alexander technique can learn how to pupils how to liberate needless muscle tension and, freer means of movement which impose less strain and therefore back pain relief.

Bowen Therapy
The Bowen technique is a soft tissue remedial therapy, named after its innovator Tom Bowen. This therapy is not considered massage, but as a non-invasive muscle release and integration technique, but similar to massage, it releases muscular tension. Its clients describe experiences of significant relaxation after a session.

How does Bowen Therapy work
The technique involves the therapist using fingers or thumbs to move over muscle, ligament tendon and fascia in various parts of the body. The work is very subtle, relaxing and gentle involving no hard or prolonged pressure. During a session the client will lie on a therapy table or bed, although the work can be effectively carried out with the client in a chair.

Can Bowen Therapy help my back pain
The most common presentation is for back pain relief and here Bowen excels. The average number of treatments would be two or three for most therapists. There are always going to be exceptions to any rule, and certain people will need further or even on-going treatments. Sports injury is a field of remedial therapy that is becoming very aware of The Bowen Technique. The Bowen Technique is being used at high levels of sport in this country, with rugby clubs and premiership football clubs showing interest. Bowen therapists advocate that this can reduce or eliminate or help back pain and promote general health
Source: European College of Bowen

Chiropractic
Chiropractic is a technique which focuses on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. The principal of Chiropractic is that the key to health is the nervous system with the spine at its centre. If the spine is aligned correctly, then optimal movement can occur and the patient can achieve improved health.

A chiropractor will generally address “subluxations”- misalignments to the spinal bones responsible for reduced movement or or loss of normal posture, causing impairment to the nervous system or nerve irritation.

How does Chiropractic work
In seeking to help back pain, a chiropractor would usually examine the patient’s spine and review any patient history to determine any previous injuries, accidents, or tensions that may be impairing normal function. Sometimes the Chiropractor will order an X-ray to help determine this. A common form of Chiropractic treatment is a spinal manipulation or adjustment. This is generally carried out by hand manipulating the spinal joints affected in an attempt to increase or unlock the joints mobility.

Additional tools are sometimes used to promote healing including rehabilitative exercise, nutritional and lifestyle improvement programmes. The amount of, and frequency of the treatment required would vary according to the nature and severity of the condition.

Can Chiropractic help my back pain
A chiropractor will attempt to focus on the fundamental mechanical and neurological trouble in the spine to decrease the back pain and other symptoms caused by reduced spinal function. He will concentrate on natural health care working to encourage the body to self repair back towards improved health. Chiropractic care as a therapy for back pain in general is safe when employed skillfully and appropriately. Manipulation is regarded as relatively safe, but as with all therapeutic interventions, complications can arise, and it has known adverse effects

Feldenkrais
The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic educational system designed by Moshé Feldenkrais (1904-1984), based on physics, neurology, and bio mechanics. The Feldenkrais method is designed to improve movement repertoire, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness, in order to reduce pain or limitations in movement, and promote posture, and general well-being. The Feldenkrais Method is often regarded as falling within the field of complementary medicine, and is a means of re educating the neuromuscular system, redefining movement to increase efficiency and reduce stress

How does Feldenkrais work
Feldenkrais Method is taught in two complimentary formats – “Awareness Through Movement’ taught through classes and Functional Integration taught on a one to one basis.

In teaching ‘Awareness Through Movement’ classes, the teacher will lead the class through a sequence of movements involving standing, sitting in a chair or sitting or lying on the floor. One of the key aims is to instruct pupils how to decrease unwarranted muscular exertion and develop understanding of their whole self during movement.

In a Functional Integration lesson, a trained practitioner uses his or her hands to guide the movement of a single pupil, who may be sitting, lying or standing. The practitioner uses this “hands-on” technique to help the student experience the connections among various parts of the body (with or without movement). Through precision of touch and movement, the pupil learns how to eliminate excess effort and thus move more freely and easily. Lessons may be specific in addressing particular issues brought by the pupil, or can be more global in scope. Although the technique does not specifically aim to eliminate pain or “cure” physical complaints, such issues may inform the lesson. Issues such as chronic muscle pain may resolve themselves as the pupil may learn a more relaxed approach to his or her physical experience-a more integrated, free, and easy way to move Students are taught to become aware of their movements and of how they use themselves, thus discovering expanded movement options.

Can Feldenkrais help my back pain
The theory behind Feldenkrais is that inefficient movement behaviour may lead to avoidable tension and movement constraint leading to back pain. The Feldenkrais technique provides for expanded movement alternatives and enhanced posture which can provide backache relief or back pain relief, whilst developing greater efficiency and freedom of movement

Massage therapy
Massage is the manipulation of superficial layers of muscle and connective tissue to improve the function and encourage relaxation, well-being, and improve posture dysfunction. It involves acting on and manipulating the body with pressure – structured, unstructured, stationary, or moving tension, motion, or vibration, done manually or with mechanical aids. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments skin, joints, or other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels, Massage can be carried out using the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm, and feet. There are over eighty different recognized massage techniques with many used to help back pain.

Massage manipulates the soft tissues of the body by rubbing, kneading, stretching and other methods for therapeutic effect. As a result, muscle and tissue is made more pliable, energising lymph circulation and promoting blood flow. Therapists will employ a range of techniques and methods during treatment sessions.

How does Massage therapy work
Massage manipulates the soft tissues of the body by rubbing, kneading, stretching and other methods for therapeutic effect. As a result, muscle and tissue is made more pliable, energising lymph circulation and promoting blood flow. Experienced therapists will employ a range of techniques and methods during treatment sessions to help back pain. There are many types of massage therapy for back pain in addition to acupressure or Bowen (see above) such as:-

Deep Tissue Massage
Used to relieve severe tension in muscle or fascia, often used where the patient suffers consistent lower back pain caused by specific muscular-skeletal conditions. It concentrates on the underlying muscles rather than those at the surface in order to help back pain.

Swedish massage
(or Classic massage in Sweden!) can be used to help back pain, by improving circulation and easing joint stiffness. Swedish massage uses five styles of strokes to massage: Sliding, kneading, tapping, friction, and vibration

Hilot
Hilot is a traditional healing and massage technique originating in the Philippines that can be employed to relax stressed muscle and joint manipulation to treat muscular-skeletal conditions as a lower back pain therapy.

Trigger point therapy
Can be used to help back pain and poor posture, by helping to release muscles in spasm, employing techniques to release ‘knotted’ muscles, and freeing up circulation in the affected area.

Traditional Chinese massage
There are two types which can provide back pain relief and – Tui na (the Chinese equivalent of physiotherapy) which concentrates on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle, and Zhi Ya which utilises techniques of pinching and pressing at acupressure points. These originate from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Although Tui Na is described as massage in the West, in TCM it is not. In TCM massage is called Anmo, which forms the basis of Japan’s Anma.

Can massage therapy help my back pain
Carried out effectively by experienced practitioners, knowledgeable of the human body and conversant with muscle imbalance massage therapy can be a useful therapy for back pain. Massage can also assist in relieving lumbar pain by reducing tension in turn alleviating poor back posture caused by muscle imbalance. Relief of mental tension and stress by using massage is also useful a useful therapy for back pain helping those within sedentary occupations involving hours of sitting in front of VDU’s. Although massage is undoubtedly useful for back pain relief it may not address the underlying condition so GP advice should be sought.

Osteopathy

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