80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, and an estimated 30.6 million work days are lost annually to it, making it the number one reason for absence from work in the UK.1  Seeking help from a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath is often recommended, and whilst there are many similarities between the three types of care, there are also important differences. We’re discussing how each approach differs to help you decide which treatment might be right for you.

What causes back pain?

Although painful, back pain isn’t serious in many cases. Typically, the pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks and can be triggered by many situations including bad posture, sports, heavy lifting, weight gain, pregnancy and even stress or smoking. 

Treating your back pain

We have all heard of Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors – but which specialist do you really need to see? The similarities between each profession include:

  • They must all complete a degree qualification and register with a relevant governing body (including the Health & Care Professions Council, the General Chiropractic Council and the General Osteopathic Council)
  • They all take a holistic approach to increase movement in the body and reduce pain in the bones, muscles and joints

However, there are some variations to the methods and techniques used to reduce pain in each profession:

Physiotherapy involves the treatment of issues connected to the body’s musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. This type of treatment is what’s referred to as ‘manual therapy’, because the practitioner applies pressure with their hands to patients’ muscles, and moves parts of the body to increase blood flow and relieve pain. It can also include the use of other therapies such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy. As a physio patient, you’re involved in your own care, with a variety of exercises to repeat at home to aid recovery.

Chiropractic treatment looks not only at the musculoskeletal system, but also at the nervous system and overall health of the patient. It’s a holistic treatment so it takes into account your diet, lifestyle and fitness regime, to learn about your medical history and make recommendations for improvement to aid long term recovery. Whilst it’s also a manual form of therapy; the main difference between chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy is its focus on ‘spinal manipulation’, which involves the handling of bone, muscle and soft tissue around the spine in order to treat lower back and neck pain primarily.

Osteopathy is considered a complementary medicine. An Osteopath will use their hands to treat your body in a variety of ways, using a mixture of gentle and forceful techniques to find areas of weakness, tenderness or strain – particularly around the spine – with the aim to restore the normal function and stability of the joints to help the body heal. By moving, stretching and massaging your muscles and joints, osteopathy can help to increase joint mobility, enhance blood supply and relieve muscle tension.

Your therapist should look at your individual situation, and as well as treating the problem, may also suggest things you can do on a daily basis to help relieve pain and discomfort, and to prevent the back pain re-occurring.

Talk to your employer

Whilst not all back pain can be prevented, your employer has an important role in controlling workplace factors associated with these conditions – so be sure to talk to your employer (or health and safety representative) and let them know about any health problems you may be suffering from. This way, they can conduct a risk assessment and put appropriate measures in place to help ease your discomfort.

Health care cash plans

Seeing a therapist can often be an effective treatment for back pain, however people can be put off seeking help due to the costs associated with the treatment. With a health care cash plan, you can get money back towards these treatments and help make them more affordable. 

If you’re suffering from back pain and are concerned about its effect on your wellbeing you should seek advice from your GP.

Sovereign Health Care recognises the benefits of seeking alternative therapies for a range of health concerns. With this in mind, its health care cash plans give you money back towards a range of everyday health care costs, including physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy treatment. 

1 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/workplaceoverview.aspx

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