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You are not alone!
It is estimated that up to 84 percent of adults have low back pain at some time in their lives. Basically, everyone with a back! Also, we know there is a global burden for low back pain: it’s the most disabling of health conditions in terms of years leaving with disability.

If it ain’t your first episode of back pain, you know how much it can put your life on “hold”, affecting your work, activities and even family moments. That’s why if you keep struggling a few days after the onset, consulting an osteopath specialized in musculoskeletal disorders is the first step to regaining control over your life.

What’s wrong with my back pain?
Did you know that only 1% of back pain is related to serious conditions like fracture, infection or inflammatory disease (ankylosing spondylitis)? The good news is that the majority of back pain cases (85 – 90%) are due to harmless causes.

So, when someone comes to see me for their back pain, my main job is to rule out all of these potentially more serious conditions through my interview and clinical assessment. Furthermore, reassuring you that your pain is not related to anything serious is the first step in our treatment plan.

What does an osteopathic session look like?
The interview at the start of the session will allow me to get a better idea of the context behind your low back pain episode: lifestyle modifications (sleep, stress level, diet etc.), training load (overload versus sedentary), perceived painful sensation and beliefs about the pain.

Then comes the clinical assessment. I will evaluate which movements tend to reproduce your symptoms, but also if specific tissues are sensitive (special tests). Once I have gathered all these information, we can discuss and start the treatment plan.

Osteopaths use a variety of treatment modalities in order to reduce pain and improve your function. Each treatment is patient-centered as every patient is different! I take into account your goals, your (realistic) expectation for our first session and your preferences.
The first session with an osteopath lasts on an average 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your medical history.

Here is a couple of techniques / modalities that osteopaths can use during the session:

  • High velocity thrusts (vertebral manipulations)
  • Joint mobilizations & soft tissue techniques on the spine
  • Dry needling
  • Pain education
  • Graded exposure to movement
  • Advice on pain management with activity

Should you have a scan prior to your osteopathic session?
As we said earlier, most of the time, we’re dealing with a relatively benign but yet, really painful low back pain. It is only when we suspect a cause other than “mechanical” that we will order imaging or labs tests.

Always remember that the pain intensity you’re dealing with doesn’t translate the severity or the integrity of your back tissues (joints, discs & muscles). That’s why it is safe to consult an osteopath as a first line practitioner for the management of low back pain.

What should I do after the session?
Staying active as much as possible is advised after the osteopathic session. Movement is medicine for low back pain, especially if you are aiming to resume work, playing the sport you enjoy or even carrying your children just like you used to.

Follow-up sessions in osteopathy are there to evaluate the progress you’ve made; discuss the remaining difficulties you still face and reevaluate movement patterns that could be unhelpful. Your osteopath is there to guide and facilitate the recovery at any age.

Global, regional and national burden of low back pain 1990–2019: A systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease study 2019
Sensory Characteristics of Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A subgroup investigation 2014
Iatrogenic Consequences of Early Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Acute, Work-Related, Disabling Low Back Pain 2013
Clinical practice guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care: an updated overview 2018

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