“Six weeks?” I stared incredulously. “I’m afraid so,” said my GP. “It might be even longer, there’s just no telling with soft tissue injuries like this.”
“And there’s nothing you can do?” In return I was prescribed a bucket-load of painkillers and anti-inflammatories and told sympathetically that I would just have to ‘wait it out’.
I had just been in an accident where my car had experienced an unfortunate head-on collision with a lamppost (how I wish this was a slightly less embarrassing sequence of events but in broad daylight, having newly passed my driving test I simply pressed the wrong foot pedal and subsequently panicked…..!).
Having sustained no serious injuries, I was still in absolute agony with a soft tissue injury. My neck was incredibly painful and every movement jarred my whole body. Six weeks of this??!
As I hobbled out of the surgery my GP called after me hopefully, “You could always try an osteopath!”. Those six words were to lead to a discovery that would change my entire outlook on back pain for good.
What an osteopath does
I had heard of an osteopath and thought they were vaguely connected to back pain in some way so the first thing I did when I got home was look it up online.
It turns out that osteopaths treat far more than simple back pain.
Osteopathy (pronounced os-tee-op-athy) is a system which treats the body as a whole, looking at the entire musculoskeletal system including not just bones and muscles, but also ligaments, tendons, joints and connective tissues.
It’s a natural treatment, designed to boost the body’s own healing mechanisms and involves hands on massage, manipulation as well as stretching techniques. But it’s much more than this; it aims to help to prevent the injury to recur and adopts a holistic approach which can include exercises and diet too.
My initial appointment
Having found my nearest osteopath who was registered with the General Osteopathic Council I booked my initial appointment.
My GP is wonderful but when I go to see him, I rush to squeeze all the pertinent details into my six minute slot and often kick myself later for forgetting some important aspect.
Being conditioned to the typical NHS conveyor-belt type mentality, it was rather strange to have an entire hour to talk to the osteopath and undergo a proper assessment.
I was asked about my entire medical history, not just what was relevant to a neck injury, as well as about my lifestyle. The osteopath looked at me standing, and then asked me to gently move my head from side to side, up and down, as well as twist from the waist. This was so they could make an accurate assessment of how my body moves and what was the best way to tackle the issue.
I made an appointment to come back and start the treatment.
I returned for treatment with the osteopath who had assessed me and I am delighted to say that I wasn’t hobbling in agony for the whole six weeks. The osteopathy treatment I had made a huge difference and after each session, I found a gradual improvement.
Part of the problem with injuries is that our bodies become so sore, we stop using the muscles because we want to avoid causing more pain. This in turn causes stiffness and can lead to muscle atrophy, exacerbating the problem further. An osteopath can address this by gently helping sore muscles to stretch rather than becoming tight, bunched and taut.
Of course an osteopath does much more than this, but this is the overwhelming lesson I took away.
As my injury eased, my osteopath showed me exercises I could do at home and also what I could try on a longer term basis to help keep my back moving well.
Having had a neck injury, I’ve found that it can recur at times of stress but making sure I follow the advice and exercises I was given by my osteopath means I can usually get rid of the pain quickly and without further treatment. The first time it recurred I forgot everything I was told and immediately became rigid and immobile which is the worst thing I could have done!
Returning back to the osteopath for treatment, my neck pain was once again quickly and easily resolved.
Working long hours in an office isn’t great for the body’s alignment and over the years, when my back has started to niggle I have made an appointment with my osteopath to nip any problems in the bud. By listening to my body, I know when it needs a bit of help and that by seeing an osteopath I will quickly be back on the road to recovery, click here for further information.
Over the years I have seen a few different osteopaths and learnt that each one has their own different methods and techniques. You often find that the methods they adopt depend on their own personal preferences. Also, don’t assume that a small-framed female osteopath won’t be strong enough to treat your back – even if you are a burly rugby player! Osteopathy is about the skill of the practitioner, not brute strength!
Osteopathy has taught me to view my musculoskeletal health very differently, and rather than being a passive patient, I can take responsibility for my own well-being. That much-cursed lamppost did me a favour in the long run, indirectly introducing me to osteopathy and a whole new way of looking after my body.
An article by Michael Morton, of the Bushey Osteopathic Clinic.