According to the University of Otago, up to 1 in 3 New Zealanders suffer from back pain on any given day, causing them discomfort, decreased mobility, and a reduced quality of life – not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars spent in health care.
The numbers are equally shocking across the pond in Australia where back pain is the third leading cause of disease burden for the nation.
As a result, the number of painkiller prescriptions prescribed to Australians has increased from 4.8 million to 7.3 million in just five years. This suggests that people are just grinning and bearing the pain, rather than getting to the root of the problem. But this self-management approach to pain can affect other systems in your body.
A recent study out of Sydney shows that patients who mask the pain with commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs – like ibuprofen, which only offers very limited pain relief – are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from gastro-intestinal problems, such as stomach ulcers and bleeding.
When you add these statistics to the expert insights we hear about in the media – like how Kiwis are suffering from severe neck/upper back pain because they’re hunched over phones and laptops more; or those saying we have a 13% chance of dying early because of back pain – it’s easy to become fearful of back pain and think there’s no way of managing it. But there is.
Osteopathy focuses on how your skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves and circulation work together to improve your health and wellbeing. By looking at the whole interconnectedness of human physiology, osteopaths treat the bigger picture of dysfunction – not just the physical symptoms. So a trip to your osteopath may reveal that those sore knees you’ve been complaining about are linked to a lazy bottom, or those migraines you might be experiencing are linked to neck or upper back problems.
Back pain usually starts in the spine and the muscles that support it. You might experience back pain after an injury, as an effect of being out of shape and under stress, or because of poor posture or a strain from strenuous activity.
Along with osteopathic treatment, your osteopath will also recommend regular exercise as a preventative measure. Just make sure it’s the right kind. Low impact cardiovascular activities, like walking and swimming are good, as is yoga and monitored strengthening programmes. And even meditation has shown to improve back pain in patients.
If you’re suffering from back pain, or joint aches and pains in general, get in touch with your osteopath or another healthcare professional and start treating the root of the problem.