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Back pain

Most common reason people visit their osteopath

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their osteopath.  If back pain is treated by many kinds of doctors and practitioners, osteopathy is very specific in his concept and therapeutic pathway.
As the purpose is not only to treat the pain but to prevent it from coming back, you will always be offered a full-body check to identify the root problem and the mechanisms beneath it.
Lots of back pain are an adaptation to another disorder. For example, sciatica can come from an old sprain ankle, or pain in between the shoulder blades from chronicle stomach ache.
As a result, 2 apparent same problems with 2 different people can be treated in a very different way, and will always be treated with adapted techniques.

Whatever you are suffering from an identified deceased or not, osteopathy can be of help.  An osteopath is educated to make a diagnose, so you don’t have to visit your doctor before to come, but if you do or if you pass medical tests (x-ray, MRI, scan, blood test..), make sure to bring the results with you.

Locked back – acute back pain – lumbago

It can be sudden but mostly happen because of untreated chronicle back pain getting worse. Usually after a false move, typically bending forward, feeling an acute pain while coming back to a standing position. It can be impossible to stand straight, and the pain is triggered whit movement and often deep breathing. 

This trouble is actually a defensive system: A chronicle back pain can damage the spine joints, so the body is putting tremendous muscles tensions to reduce the mobility, trying to prevent further injury.

This tension, however, is really painful and can last up to 3 weeks without treatment, whit a huge risk of relapse.
An osteopath primarily will restore the mobility locally, to reduce the pain, then as usual get to the root problem, to prevent relapse. Depending on the conditions, advice will be provided.

Herniated disk and nerve irradiation

In between the 33 vertebrae in the human spine, seat one intervertebral disk, with a central nucleus. If there is an imbalance in the repartition of pressure on a disk, the nucleus will migrate and can come close to a nerve root, creating an irritation of this specific nerve. The irritation can be responsible for impaired sensitivity (abnormal feeling of touch, temperature…), pain, and altered motricity.

The pain is often described as shooting, or like electricity, and the location of this trouble is a good indicator of the segment of the spine implicated.  An osteopath will always conduct a careful examination to evaluate the situation and medical and osteopathic tests will allow a good understanding of the mechanisms conducting to the present symptoms.

A nerve can be pinched and irritated for many other reasons than a herniated disk, but treatment can be provided either way.


Sciatica is a medical condition resulting from irritation of the sciatic nerve (L4-L5-S1 mostly). Typically, the pain starts on the lower back, to the buttocks, and down each leg, it can go until the foot. It can be only on one side or both, even changing over time, from one side to the other.

The sciatic nerve essentially allows the movements of flexion of the leg and flexion and extension of the foot. It allows the sensitivity of the posterior and lateral part of the leg, as well as the whole of the foot. The pain is usually sudden onset, after a false movement or a trauma, and increase moving.
It can be the result of a herniated disk or be pinched at any level along with his course (on the sacroiliac joint, or from unbalancing on the muscles from the hip or the leg, for example).

An osteopath will perform medical and osteopathic tests to determine which portion of the nerve is implicated, therefore the most adapted treatment.

Piriformis syndrome

It is a disorder caused when the muscle piriformis compresses and irritates the sciatic nerve. It is sciatica, with specific characteristics: the pain is unilateral, starts in the buttock, and is triggered by compression of this muscle (long sitting position, running, climbing stairs…). As any sciatica, it can be felt at any point along the sciatic nerve.

A normal tension of the piriformis is mandatory for the stability and the balance of the pelvis and for normal mobility of the hip.
The piriformis muscle is part of the buttocks muscles, and have a strong connexion with the gluteal muscles, the pelvis, the lower limbs, and the visceral organs in the pelvis.

Facets syndrome

This syndrome is described as a painful degeneration of the facet joints (the posterior joints in between 2 vertebrae, from C2 to S1). It can be the result of natural aging, excess pressure due to position at work or sport, a disease concerning the spine, or a trauma. At first, the cartilage will become thinner, or even disappear, so the two pieces of bone will get directly in contact, creating over time bone spurs and thickened ligaments, leading to inflammation and pain.

Typically, the pain is triggered by prolonged standing position or walking, retro or lateral flexion of the back. The amount of pain is not directly correlated to the amount of pain.

An osteopath can’t bring back the joint to his original state, but can understand the reasons beneath the process, and increase the mobility of the concerned joints and tissues, to stop the inflammation.

Spine curvatures, malformations, and bone diseases

Hyperkyphosis, hyperlordosis, or scoliosis are a common vertebral deformity, usually occurring during the childhood, exacerbating during the puberty. 

Scoliosis is a deformation of the spine with a sideways curve, in “C” or “S” form. The degree of the curve defines his seriousness. If mild scoliosis does not always cause trouble, a severe degree can cause breathing difficulty or pain.
A hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature, most of the time occurring in the upper back. It can be a result of a poor posture, a Scheuermann’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, or a Paget’s disease, for example.

A hyperlordosis is an excessive curvature of the spine on the neck or the lower back. It can come from a medical condition: spondylolisthesis (a state in which one vertebra slips forward), obesity, pregnancy, an adaptation to an upper hyperkyphosis, but also a compensation for a forward pelvic tilt, an imbalance on the tension of lumbar or pelvic muscles, like tight iliopsoas or weak hamstrings or abdominal muscles.
Both hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis can either be only postural (and reversible), or irrevocable (the shape of the bone is changed and definitive).

In osteopathy, we consider most of these spine curvatures as result of compensations, such as imbalance in tensions of muscles or soft tissues, lack of mobility on the craniosacral line or the pelvis. Depending on the cause, the curvature can be improved or not, but better mobility will help to stabilize it and reduce the pain and further compensation.
Most of the back disorder affecting the shape of the bones, such as Scheuermann’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, Paget’s disease and so on, will lead to a stiff back, and ankylosis in the surrounding area. Osteopathy can improve mobility and flexibility, therefore the comfort and functionality.

Back pain with visceral origin

All our organs are linked either to other organs or to our skeleton through soft tissue and ligaments. A lack of physical activity, a poor posture due to sport or work, a heavy or long-term medication,  a surgery, or an infection can lead to a lack of mobility of these soft tissues, and result in tensions on their attack on the spine. With time this stiffness will prevent vertebrae from moving properly and create pain and discomfort.

For example, lots of women experience low back pain during their period, and osteopathic treatment of the pelvic organs and joints will significantly increase comfort during this time.

On the same model, lots of back pains are eliminated by treating the digestive system.

Trauma and back pain

A fall or an injury can lock a joint, create important muscle tension and be painful. During the interrogation at the beginning of the session, the osteopath will ask about trauma history, because it can create trouble even a long time afterward, or remotely.
Fall from a horse or from skiing or car accident are the common reason of back trauma. It can result in a painful lack of mobility or an injury such as a broken vertebra or a herniated disk. Either way, an osteopath will make a diagnose and perform an adapted treatment.

Sport and back pain

It is important to be a progressive resuming sport, and have a professional follow-up if needed because beginners can easily make mistakes and hurt themselves while starting a new activity.

The sport practiced should be complete (using the whole body), or be supplemented with specific exercise. A common mistake is to not care enough for the balance of the different group muscles and body parts, and the mobility of the joints and tendons.

For example, it is important to practice adapted stretching or be aware that sports with impact (martial arts, horse riding, running…) can create specific problems.

An injury or chronicle trouble even in experimented sportive person has to be dealt with a health professional, to prevent chronicity or further injury. Osteopathic treatment can eliminate pain or trouble, improve recovery, and enhance performance.


    Maud Clément

    Autoriseret osteopat

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