Back Pain


We see people with back ache when they garden, severe back ache after sport or other activities or more serious ones as a result of an accident. We have a lot of experience in all types of back pain. You may NOT have to 'learn to live with it'.

Back pain can come from a problem in the structure of the body or from an organ.  Some back pains need to be assessed by your GP e.g. if you have back pain and urinary symptoms like pain on passing urine. All new clients are invited to fill in a consultation form and discuss their medical history as well as their current signs and symptoms, with their therapist. This allows us to make an informed decision about what treatment will help you the most.

Many people we see complaining of back pain have not realised the importance of their posture. Sitting in front of a screen for many hours will lead to poor posture especially if you don't have the working area at the right height or are sitting at an uncomfortable angle. The chest muscles become tight and pull the shoulders forward. This makes it difficult to straighten up. Pains often result from a combination of reasons based around poor posture, a lack of regular exercise, poor diet, inadequate water intake, stress, illness, or sports or other injury. In the back, there are a combination of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, discs, nerves and blood vessels and any one of these structures can become strained or overloaded, resulting in back pain. The pain can be sudden and excruciating. Pain killers deaden the pain but don't deal with the problem!

Often, discomfort may develop immediately after lifting something heavy, or after an awkward twisting movement. Alternatively, low back pain can appear for no apparent reason.Often it is a result of being very stressed and the body breaks down at its weakest part - a bit like the 'last straw breaks the camel's back'.

Small joints at the side of the spine known as facet joints often cause a problem. Indeed, they can often react like a sprained ankle after a quick, unexpected movement. A reflex action follows, where muscles respond by contracting quickly to protect the area to prevent further injury. These tight muscles then become painful because there is reduced blood flow, and toxins such as lactic acid build up. This can lead to swelling, and often restricted and painful movement in the area affected but even more often, distant to it. However, like the ankle, all of these structures can heal with treatment, usually over a period of 6-12 weeks. Pain can be excruciating as there is not a lot of space for swelling and inflammation in these joints. Luckily, our treatments usually cause an immediate relief of some of the pain. 

If the joint becomes a bit 'stuck' so it isn't moving as it was designed to do, then the joints above and below it will do different things to compensate. These compensations can cause pain but unless we find the real culprit, pain will return.

Low back pain may include nerve root pain, often called sciatica. This type of pain is related to a nerve coming out from the spinal cord being irritated or compressed by a joint or disc but more often by muscle spasm and/or congestion in the area. A facet joint sprain in the lower back with resultant muscle spasm can cause sciatica as can sacro-iliac lesions. Varying levels of discomfort are felt along the course of the nerve, in the buttock and down the leg and sometimes as far as the calf, foot and toes. Symptoms such as numbness, pins and needles and weakness can be felt. Sciatica can just be a numb toe - so if you do experience some weird signs and symptoms, come and see us.

Pain in the mid back is often caused by posture problems or rib lesions. It may also be the result of shoulder problems or lower back or pelvis problems. Pain may be coming from the attachments of the ribs or from the back itself. Again, it is straight forward to treat and we usually recommend regular massage, stretching exercises,

and keeping mobile - see our video!


From a seated position you can really move all the joints of your back and ribs, back and front, around. You should find you feel refreshed when you do it but start at your own pace! Stop for any pain. We tend to use our backs in the same way all the time, so that when we do Qi Gong, yoga or these mobilisations, we are getting any congestion moving and improving the health of our whole self.

Problems in the back can affect breathing as muscles of breathing are involved in back pain. Another good reason to do the above video!

Often, asthma, menstrual problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stomach problems such as heartburn and indigestion are helped with an osteopathic treatment to the back.

Occasionally after a period of treatment some symptoms can remain, stiffness, tightness, weakness and discomfort requiring further treatment. Regular massage is the ideal way to keep muscles and thus joints and all other structures, healthy.

90% of back pain is in the soft tissues!

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT BACK PAIN? Now is the time to try out your new healthy back routine!



We can keep our backs healthy with walking. Our videos demonstrate short routines from seated, on all fours and on your back to get all the joints moving as best they can. See the video on all fours on the article on hip and groin pain. Click here.


  • warm up before you start any activity

  • check your posture – relax! Don’t hunch your shoulders or slouch

  • work at the right height

  • BREATHE – it’s easy to forget!

  • take frequent breaks – a quick stretch and shake

  • change activity or at least position when you can – even a few minutes will make a difference

  • don’t bend too far – it’s best to squat or kneel to reach low things

  • lift carefully – bend from the hips and knees. Hold heavy items close to you

  • reduce weight – if you have pounds to lose

  • learn how to look after your back with stretching and mobilising exercises see our video

  • keep moving, walking is great exercise - stretch before and after



 A regular Swedish Massage will relax, increase awareness and reduce stress – wonderful and excellent prevention:

  • eases painful muscle spasm
  • turns the stress setting down and this helps to ease pain
  • helps the body release its own painkillers - endorphins
  • improves circulation, allowing oxygenated blood in and wastes out
  • helps the muscles come back to their normal resting position rather than shortened and spasmed
  • back of the legs massage will also help the back, as hips must maintain their flexibility - essential for healthy backs

If you feel pain in you back – even if it doesn’t seem too bad – get it treated as soon as possible


  • to reduce pain and encourage relaxation so that you operate at a lower level of excitement
  • to relieve tension in back muscles that are then likely to distort structure with far reaching effects on health
  • to balance muscles that are causing problems and to detect and remove trigger points that may be preventing the body from healing itself
  • to improve overall body functioning especially circulation to chronically inflamed areas thus speeding up repair
  • to cause a release of the body’s own painkillers.


Therapists use muscle energy techniques and specific release and mobilising techniques to restore structure.


Osteopaths use palpatory techniques to discover what is causing an imbalance leading to back pain. They use a variety of techniques, some may cause clicking sounds others are more like stretching and specially applied movements. The Osteopath will check your whole structure looking for the cause of the problem. Advanced Remedial Massage and/or Muscle Energy Techniques are often included.

By improving the condition of the back many other conditions often disappear or reduce. The pain of osteoporosis or arthritis may well be eased as muscle spasm is reduced. Anyone who has experienced angina knows that muscle spasm is very painful!!


  • to balance relax and re-energise with oils such as chamomile and geranium
  • reduce muscle spasm with anti-spasmodic oils like ginger
  • to reduce tension with calming oils such as sandalwood
  • to reduce inflammation with anti-inflammatory oils such as lavender
  • to improve circulation to all joints with warming oils such as rosemary
  • to reduce pain with oils such as lemon, eucalyptus – natural painkillers
  • to help in repair with oils such as mandarin.


  • Similar to acupuncture, Shiatsu works to regulate the flow of energy or ‘qi’ thus maintaining health in all ages. Qi is the vital energy in the body that underlies all functions.
  • Qi flows in specific pathways known as meridians
  • Shiatsu practitioners can detect which meridians are too energised and those which are lacking in energy. Either imbalance can lead to blocks to healing and also to what we call disease.
  • Specific points relative to the presenting pain are pressed on the major meridians of the body to cause energy to flow more easily. This combined with acupressure, trigger points and Thai style stretching makes this a is very effective treatment.
  • This explains why so many are delighted with the improvement in constipation, painful arthritic joints, headaches, overwhelm, anxiety, obsessing about work, memory problems, period pain, nausea, asthma and so on. 
  • The wood element is often affected with joint pain - so liver and gallbladder meridians will need checked.


  • to balance, relax and re-energise,
  • to work the spine reflexes to reduce muscle spasm,
  • to reduce tension in the pelvic girdle,
  • to improve circulation to all joints especially arthritic ones,
  • to improve nutrition bringing the body’s healing agents to damaged areas,
  • to improved elimination in inflamed areas and generally,
  • to reduce pain – certain points on the feet are specific to sciatica.



Research: Back Pain

Massage Therapy reduced anxiety, lowered back pain and sleep disturbance. It also improved mood.

Hernandez-Reif, Field, Diter, Swerdlow & Diego 1998