Reinventing the wheel (and backpain)
The legend of how Osteopathy was discovered by our founder Dr. Andrew Taylor Still was one day, Dr. Still had a headache. To have a rest, he put his head on the seat of a swing, attached to a tree. When he awoke, his headache was gone. Thus, the seeds of Osteopathy were planted on how the body can heal itself naturally. Almost 150 years later, I should be sitting here writing this in pain. Yesterday afternoon, I felt the sudden onset of low back pain, mainly on my right side, fortunately with no referral pain down my leg. Into the evening, my back seemed to get tighter and this morning it was affecting my daily activities like putting on my socks and getting into and out of my car. Sneezing did not aggravate the pain, and I wondered if Mother Nature was helping me diagnose my mechanical lower back pain.
Having treated many patients with similar symptoms, and usually being their last resort after they had suffered for weeks or months, I was worried that this was only the start of my back pain. Would muscle guarding lead to increased muscle tension? Would chronic muscle tightness lead to nerve irritation? This was a slippery slope but fortunately, Osteopathy has taught me how to treat people’s bodies, but now I needed to treat myself. As Osteopaths, we know that the body is capable of self-healing, so I thought some rest would help, similar to that day our founder had a headache. However, after a short nap on my couch, when I awoke, I could still feel the tightness in my back. So I had an epiphany, to speed up my self-healing, what Osteopathic techniques could I use on myself? As I soon realized, treating patients with back pain is sometimes easier than treating myself. Many techniques, like adjustments, muscle energy, even massage were harder to do on myself.
So I tried Counterstrain. By sitting upright, I could use more angles and leverage than laying on my back or side. Since it was my back being tight, I thought of the different muscles who function to extend, sidebend and rotate. Then, I thought if they are too tight, then how to shorten them. Thus, by sitting upright, I was able to angle my body backwards, rotate and sidebend into the tight muscles. I could feel like a good pinching of the muscles; almost sour, like sucking on a lemon, kind of feeling in my muscles on the right. Then I held that position, just letting my body relax into it. After a few moments, in my mind I remember my textbooks recommending about 90 seconds, I straightened my body slowly and was relieved that my back was feeling about 50% better, with increased range of movement without the feeling of tightness like before. Similar to heat packs and ice therapy, Counterstrain has minimal side effects so I thought I would try it again. To pass the time, I watched some music videos on YouTube on my mobile phone. My Osteopathic Treatments are about 60 minutes so I thought I could watch 10-15 videos with this easy technique if I am the patient here. Fortunately, after a few more videos, my back was feeling good enough for me to go wash my car. I am still aware it is not 100% again, so it will be interesting in the next day or two, to see how the body can more quickly heal rather than suffer weeks or months like some patients.
Thus, this new experience with back pain has taught me to be more empathetic on how my patients feel and how back pain can affect our daily activities. I have read studies that back pain may affect 4 out of 5 people in their lifetime, and how sitting is like the new heart attack. Sitting can aggravate back pain and is linked to heart disease. This experience has taught me as Osteopaths we have the techniques to help, naturally and quickly. So no need to reinvent the wheel because I am grateful for Osteopathy and thankful to our founder Dr. Still for finding a way to help headaches and today, I personally felt how Osteopathy can help back pain. I can only imagine how YouTube might have helped Dr. Still as well.
So if you are having back pain, or headaches, shoulder pain, leg cramps, nerve irritation or sports injuries, please contact your local Osteopathic Practitioner.