General Advice

Osteopathy Advice

Why not give us a call to see if Osteopathy could be the answer to your problems.

Centre For Whole Health0117 923 1138
The Berkeley Centre0117 370 1177

If you are reading this page its probably because you have recently hurt your back or another part of your body. We are happy to discuss your symptoms, and give general advice. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how osteopathy might be able to help you please contact us.

If it is out of our clinic hours and you are not experiencing serious pain or any of the red flags listed below, you may find some of the advice below helpful. We also recommend you look at the NHS back pain pages, which gives basic advice for back and other pains.

Serious back pain symptoms

You should seek immediate medical help if your back pain is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling in the back
  • Pain in other parts of your body
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness around your genitals
  • Pain that is worse at night
  • These are what are known as red flag symptoms and could be a sign of something more serious.

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General advice for acute back pain, sprains and strains

Painkillers

Take painkillers, if you feel the need to, but remember they can mask your pain so continue to be careful not to overstrain or restrain yourself.

Sprains and strains

After an injury such as a sprain or strain you can encourage recovery by applying the following four procedures, which are known RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, to the affected area, which will aid recovery and prevent further injury. It is especially helpful when done in the first 48 hours, though sometimes it may be useful to do it for longer periods of time. It’s generally better not to use heat on an injured area for 48-72 hours.

You can buy hot and cold gel packs from us, which can be put in the freezer for about two hours before use (always follow manufacturer’s instructions), or, use a bag of frozen vegetables or crushed ice. It is not advisable to apply a hot or cold pack directly to the skin, so make sure it is wrapped in a thin piece of towel.

Rest

Do not use the involved area after the injury.  The length of time needed to rest depends on the severity of the injury. During the rest period, immobilization may also be needed.

Ice

It is important to place ice on the injured area in an effort to reduce pain and slow swelling. Never place the ice pack directly on the skin, use a sleeve or thin tea towel. Keep on for about 10 minutes at a time. Repeat every hour.

Compression

Apply pressure to the area with a bandage or support if possible. As a general rule begin wrapping the bandage towards the toes or finger, and wrap with 50% overlap up the extremity toward the body.  Wrap snugly through the injured area, but not so tight that it cuts off your circulation and causes numbness or tingling.

Elevation

Keep the injured body part propped up above heart level as much as possible. If you have questions or excessive swelling or pain, contact us, your doctor or NHS Direct.

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General advice for stiffness and ongoing back pain

Ongoing back pain

If you have ongoing back pain, a combination of resting and moderate activity, such as walking or doing everyday tasks, will usually help recovery. In the past, doctors advised rest for back pain, but most experts now agree that being inactive for long periods is actually bad for your back. In fact, try to remain as active as possible without over tiring yourself and continue with your daily activities.

Stiffness

Stiffness can be relieved by applying heat or hot and cold, combined with regular stretching. We can give advice on specific stretches designed to improve suppleness and it can also be helpful to start a weekly yoga class, as it will help strengthen and improve flexibility in your whole body. A course of osteopathy to discover and release the underlying causes, may also help.

Warmth can help increase blood flow, decrease pain; moist heat tends to feel more comfortable than dry heat although either will work well. You can achieve this by wrapping the hot pack or hot water bottle in a damp thin towel. Apply heat for about 15 – 20 minutes, it may be applied every hour. Followed by some stretching.

Do not use heat…

  • Use caution if you have limited sensation in the affected part of the body
  • If swelling is present as it can make it worse
  • If you have a circulation disorder
  • Until 48-72 hours after an injury, not before, as heat can make it worse
  • On open wounds or stitches

Heat Packs

  • If using a gel pack, heat per manufacturer’s instructions, or, use a hot water bottle.
  • Place the hot-pad on or around the involved area.
  • Use for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Remove.
  • Gently stretch the area.

Bathing

  • Fill a container with warm water between 98 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the involved area in water.
  • Soak for 15 – 20 minutes.  Gently bend and straighten any involved joint while in the water.
  • Remove.
  • Gently stretch the area.

Hot and Cold Packs

This can be helpful for sore, stiff painful joints and muscles. Alternating between cold and hot compresses causes the blood vessels in the local area to constrict and dilate. This has the effect of flushing out toxins that build up with acute and chronic stiffness, muscle spasms and inflammation, so reduces irritation to the local tissues. It is very safe and usually makes the area more comfortable for a few hours, so it can be helpful to do several times a day with acute symptoms.

You can buy hot and cold gel packs from us, which can be put in the freezer for about two hours before use and a microwave (always follow manufacturer’s instructions), or, use a bag of frozen vegetables or crushed ice and a hot water bottle. It is not advisable to apply any hot or cold pack directly to the skin, so make sure it is wrapped in a thin piece of towel. It takes about 15 minutes, so get in a comfortable position.

  • Place the cold pack in a damp towel and wrap it around the affected area for 3 minutes
  • Replace with the warm pack or hot water bottle for 3 mins
  • Replace with the cold pack for 3 minutes
  • Replace with the warm pack or hot water bottle for 3 mins
  • Finish with three minutes cold because it reduces the amount for fluid in the area and so leaves you more comfortable.
  • Remove it sooner if a rash or skin reaction develops.
  • Cold pack application may be repeated every hour as needed for relief of pain and/or swelling.

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Keeping your back strong and healthy

Stretching

If you are in the middle of experiencing an episode of back pain, some gentle stretches can help ease discomfort and will help strengthen the muscles in your back.

Stretching, is a key way of strengthening your back. It can help towarm up the muscles in your back before starting to exercise and can even be helpful in preparing your back muscles prior to household chores or gardening. The best way of maximising the benefits of stretching is to make them a part of your everyday routine.

Long term, strengthening the muscles in your back will help protect it from further problems, so it makes sense that stretching should become part of your daily routine, especially if you suffer or have suffered from back pain in the past.

Preventing back pain

As well as stretching, strengthening your back through exercise is one of the best ways to keep back pain at bay, and can be effective in reducing back pain. If back pain has become a recurring problem, a course of osteopathy combined with introducing regular exercise, can often improve flexibility and the strength of your back muscles.

Choose a low-impact, gentle exercise that will help strengthen the muscles in your back, without the risk of strain or sudden jolts.Swimming, yoga and pilates are very good for improving flexibility and strength and once you feel your back is strong enough; you can graduate to something more energetic such as jogging, cycling or dancing.

Pick something you enjoy so that it is more likely to become a habit. You should aim to exercise three to five times a week for 30 minutes each time.

The NHS has some useful links:

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Advice for posture, ergonomics and work stations

In the course of our osteopathic assessments, we are interesting in discovering any postural habits that may be contributing to your symptoms and we will advise you on helpful stretches or exercises, recommend seating positions for home or work, correct lifting techniques, ways of improving your diet and many other aspects to help aid and support your full recovery.

For more information please see our Blog articles on ergonomics

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