How Osteopathy can treat your back pain

Osteopathy is becoming more popular in Australia as a treatment for back pain. Osteopathy, Australia’s fastest-growing allied health branch, is quickly becoming a well-known and effective treatment for back pain.



On any given day, more than 3.7 million Australians suffer from back pain. It is more common than the flu and colds, and it causes more workdays than any other condition.

While some people make a full recovery, others may experience recurring back pain every few months. Even though the pain relief and disability aspect is often gone, the problem still exists and can recur.

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It is most often caused by strain in the bones, discs or ligaments that make up the spine.

These are the most common causes for back pain:

  • Muscle strain
  • Ligament or joint strain
  • Disc injuries
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Nerve root impingement

There are many reasons why the lower back is more susceptible to injury. Poor posture, insufficient activity like office work, too much exercise, “runs within the family”, misalignment of hips, pelvis, feet… the list goes on. There is no one cause for lower back pain. A variety of factors may cause your back pain. Sometimes it’s trauma from falling or a car accident, Other times, there is no apparent cause. It just happened one day and then got worse.

A list of usual things that can cause lower back pain.

  • Poor posture
  • Too much sitting
  • Repetitive lifting and bending
  • Smoking
  • Exercise is not enough
  • Being overweight
  • Past injuries and falls
  • Back pain or family history
  • Fear, anxiety and stress are all linked to depression.
  • Stiffness or weakness in an area of the body that places more pressure on the lower back when you move
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Osteopathy can treat back pain in a variety of ways.

Simple muscle strains or muscle spasms

Lower back pain that is dull and achy. Strained muscles can feel stiff, sore, or achy. Lower back strain is often worsened by some movements that activate the affected muscle tissue. The lower back is the most common pain area. You may feel it in your hips or buttocks. These muscles support the lower back. When a lower back muscle strains, it can make it more difficult to bend, change positions, walk, or stand for a long time. Muscle strains can become tender and inflamed. The lower back muscles can be relaxed by resting them for a few seconds. This will reduce tension and spasms.

Osteopathy employs a variety of techniques to relax muscles that are spasm or have been injured. These include massage, MET and Inhibition, counterstain. PNF stretching is also used.

Facet Sprain

Facet Joint Sprain, also known as Facet Joint Strain, is a common injury to the lower back. It is usually caused by poor posture, repetitive lifting, trauma (e.g. a knock or fall) or prolonged poor posture.

An injury to the back facet joint can cause lower back pain and possibly pain in your buttocks or thighs.

A sprain to a facet joint can cause it to become stiff. You may be unable to move in the opposite direction. If the joint is in a forward bent position, it will likely be challenging to arch your backwards. Muscle spasms will try to protect the injured facet joint in acute phases.

A muscle spasm and a facet joint strain are common.

This is an osteopathic treatment that uses various techniques to address the stiffness of the joints, such as manipulation or mobilization or Muscle energy techniques.

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Bulges and strains, prolapses, and slipped disc injuries

These injuries can happen, but they are not the same as a joint sprain or muscle spasm.

The disc is the shock absorber or small cushion between vertebrae. The disc can bulge slightly over time from repetitive strain and overuse. This is what is often seen on MRI’s, but it is not always the source of your pain.

Some people find a clear connection between their back pain and disc bulges. A complete assessment by a back specialist and an MRI can determine if this is the case. A disc bulge does not necessarily mean that the swelling causes your pain. You may have a muscle spasm or a facet sprain.

If the disc bulge is severe, you may experience similar symptoms to a muscle spasm. If the disc bulge presses on a nerve in your spinal cord, pain can travel to your legs. Sometimes, you may feel leg pain. Other times, pins and needles can occur.

The severity of your disc injury and the time you see the osteopath will determine how osteopaths treat it. The treatment will not be as gentle if you are experiencing severe pain. The therapy will encourage normal alignment of the spine, hips, and pelvis as well as improve blood circulation.