Visit our Location
5-6 Sydney Terrace, Claygate
Give us a Call
01372 464659
Send us a Message
info@claygateclinic.co.uk
Opening Hours
Mon-Sat:9:30AM-5:30PM

Why back pain doesn’t ‘Just Go away’

Helen Amembal - Registered Osteopath

When my Clients use the Internet to learn about back pain they can find a common myth repeated – that back pain can resolve on its own within 2-8 weeks. But as I explain to my Clients, you’re not “healed” just because you don’t feel pain. When it comes to the most common injuries affecting the back, pain is usually the last thing to show up, and the first thing to go away.

These are the top three reasons why back pain sticks around……..

 

  1. Our muscles and brains are linked

Our nervous system changes when we are injured, say in our back. In some cases, our brains stop “seeing” the area that was injured, and research has shown that your brain stops telling your back muscles to work in the damaged area. This means that your back muscles become weaker and unable to support your spine regardless of whether you feel pain or not. Consequently, the link between your brain and the muscle and joints in the injury is altered following an injury, without treatment.

 

  1. Deconditioning

One of the common myths surrounding back pain is that you need to rest for it to get better (I talk about this in my ‘back pain myths’ post).  Lack of activity is also a key reason for the breakdown in the body’s ability to control and withstand the stresses imposed on it. Using our muscles and joints to support our posture is fundamental to preventing injuries from occurring in the first place.

Evidence has shown that poor endurance in our back muscles is a risk factor for developing low back pain – and this is an important thing that I get my patients to do; start exercises and self treatment at home to build up back strength so that their injury does not come back.

 

  1. Just because it doesn’t hurt

If we scratch our skin or cut it, we have a constant reminder of that damage through the formation of a scar. However the minute back pain goes away it is easily forgotten – there is scar tissue but we can’t see it. The scar tissue replaces the muscle fibres in your back that have been injured – but this scar tissue forms in ‘clumps’ and sticks to the muscle tissue which makes the muscle weaker. So injuries will happen in that area again and more easily. But if healing muscle fibres or joints are gently moved and stretched it encourages the scar tissue to grow stronger and prevent further injuries.

 

One way to think of it is when you put spaghetti into a pot of boiling water and then leave it without stirring, it all clumps together like a knotted up ball of string. If you add motion, like stirring the pot, you help to separate the spaghetti and keep it from sticking together. Your body is the same way: Motion is Lotion!

Acupuncture and Sports Injuries

By Tracy Slater and Helen Amembal

Acupuncture has a very successful record with sports injuries. Many professional sports teams have acupuncturists on staff to decrease healing times and resolve stubborn ailments. But the use of acupuncture to treat acute injuries from intense or repetitive physical activity began centuries ago. It was and still is one of the primary means of quick healing for the martial arts. Specific acupuncture styles and techniques were developed to stop pain and dramatically increase recovery time. This tradition continues today, and its use has expanded into competitive athletics that result in similar injuries.

Common Injuries treated

Common medical diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of Sports Injuries include: medial & lateral epicondylitis, frozen shoulder, plantar fasciitis, acute olecranon bursitis, acromioclavicular joint separation, rotator cuff tendonitis, osteoarthritis of all joints, meniscal tears, bicipital tenosynovitis, lumbar disc herniations, anterior & posterior cruciate ligament tears, patellofemoral syndrome, Osgood Schlatters syndrome, and more.

How Does Acupuncture Help?

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for Sports Injuries because it reduces pain, increases range of motion, increases recovery and healing time, and strengthens weakened parts of the body. These effects are accomplished during treatment because acupuncture:

1. Decreases inflammation
2. Reduces swelling
3. Relaxes muscles and relieves spasms
4. Decreases bruising
5. Lowers the body’s pain response
6. Improves local blood circulation to increase delivery of nutrients

When to get Acupuncture

Acupuncture divides sports injuries into two main categories, which determine how treatment typically proceeds. Acute injuries (that happened recently) and chronic injuries (unresolved for 3 or more months).

Acute Injuries

Acute injuries need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment can begin. Most people are all too familiar with the feeling of a strain or sprain. If someone is unsure, however, it is best to get examined and properly diagnosed (possibly with the help of an X-ray or MRI) to rule out a more serious injury.

Acupuncture should then begin as soon after an injury as possible for the best results.
Acupuncturists classify acute injuries as Excess conditions. An Excess condition is just what it sounds like: there is an excess physical response (too much pain) or an excess biochemical reaction (too much inflammation or swelling). Acupuncture treatment given soon after an injury occurs encourages the body to deal with and process this excess in a rapid fashion. An improvement is usually noticed within one or two treatments. If an injury is not very severe, 3-4 treatments typically resolves the condition. More serious injuries require 4 treatments before an accurate prognosis and treatment plan can be given. Right after an acute sports injury happens it is helpful to remember the acronym RICE. Each letter stands for
one of the four steps to follow immediately after an injury: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This will help quicken recovery and provide short term relief.

Chronic Injuries

Chronic injuries also need to be properly assessed before any type of treatment begins. It is important to determine if there is an underlying structural cause for a lingering injury such as a loss of cartilage, formation of scar tissue or degenerative damage of any kind. Once the complete underlying framework of the injury is understood, an acupuncture treatment plan can be devised to address both the main symptoms and their causes. This may include acupuncture treatments, stretches and exercises, diet modifications and the use of
liniments or balms.

Acupuncturists classify chronic sports injuries as Deficient conditions. Deficiency refers to a weakness or lack. Over time, unresolved sports injuries lead to areas losing strength, flexibility and stability. Instead of focusing on removing excesses, acupuncture for chronic conditions focuses on invigorating and strengthening specific parts of the body. This is done while also decreasing the pain that commonly accompanies most chronic sports injuries.

It is more difficult to generalise the length of treatment for chronic conditions because medications, prolonged inactivity, low morale & surgeries complicate treatment. Even so, a person should notice a positive change in his/her specific condition within 8 to 10 treatments, although many chronic injuries respond quickly to acupuncture. After which, an accurate prognosis for complete resolution of the problem can be given.

A 1999 study published in the medical journal Pain by researchers at University of Heidelberg in Germany compared the effectiveness of acupuncture for rotator cuff tendonitis against fake acupuncture needles. The researchers found a significantly measurable improvement in the athletes that had acupuncture for their shoulder pain and rotator cuff tendonitis than those athletes that had placebo acupuncture needles.

What is Taping Therapy? It is a major Therapy in correcting the balance of human body by regulating tension and relaxation on muscles and ligaments, by attaching the special tape to the skin. As a non-drug therapy, there are few side effects, and it is available to apply to children and the elderly

By Tracy Slater and Helen Amembal

Tracy Slater

Acupuncturist