If you suffer the misery of an aching back, you’re not alone. Lower back pain is the world’s biggest cause of disability, with approximately 540 million people struggling globally. Whether it’s repetitive strain injury, carrying a bag that is too heavy, or simply sitting for a long period of time at your desk, it can be crippling.
Modern life doesn’t lend itself to having a healthy back. Over the past five years, Google Trends analysis shows that the number of people searching for ‘how to get rid of lower back pain’ has increased substantially (+100%).
With many adults in the UK spending more than seven hours each day sitting, it’s not surprising that eight out of 10 will suffer from back pain or some other musculoskeletal problem in their lifetime.*
Further Google Trends analysis highlights that Brits searching for ‘chiropractor vs osteopath’ has more than doubled in the last five years, growing 160%. So whilst it can be easy to tell when something is not quite right, the hardest part is knowing who you should see to help fix the problem, particularly if you don’t realise there is a choice available between a chiropractor, an osteopath or a physiotherapist?
Sarah Taylor, Head of Specialist Relations, at AXA PPP healthcare comments: “Musculoskeletal problems have a disruptive effect, so it’s no surprise they account for the greatest number of lost working days in the UK. When people experience muscle or joint pain, it’s important that they get the most appropriate treatment as early as possible, and a lot of it is about exploring the options available. Every person is different, so the answer depends on your specific situation and personal preferences – there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it really is about finding what is best for you.”
So who should you visit?
Knowing which options are available to you, and distinguishing between the professions can be confusing. Without knowing too much, it can seem these practices are similar: non-invasive, drug-free, manual techniques, which aim to improve physical health and wellbeing. But, scratch the surface of what’s available and you may find a method that works particularly well for you.
Chiropractor – isn’t that the one with all the cracking?
Search analysis shows that there are over 10,000 searches relating to ‘chiropractor crack back’ every month, suggesting that the common misconception surrounding the profession is still rife. So, if you haven’t been to a chiropractor before, the prospect of going might be a bit scary. Most modern chiropractors don’t use ‘cracking’ techniques too often as it is seen as less necessary than getting movement back into the spine. In fact, chiropractors use a range of techniques, from specific manipulation, mobilisation, massage and muscle release to improve the movement and function of the spine and other joints.
Osteopathy – it’s not just for bones and joints
Many people might assume that osteopathy means ‘bones’. However, the practitioners specialise in the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders – looking at the relationship between the structure of the body and the way it functions. An osteopath will give you a clear explanation of what they find and discuss a treatment plan that is suitable for you. Treatment is hands-on and involves skilled manipulation of the spine and joints, and massaging of soft tissues.
Physiotherapy – don’t they just treat sports injuries?
The aim of physiotherapy is to rehabilitate and improve a person’s ability to move and function. Physios use their expertise in anatomy and physiology to assess and treat people. While physios are mostly known for their treatment of sport injuries, they actually use a combination of manual therapy, massage, stretches, exercises and advice designed to treat a range of musculoskeletal injuries including back pain. If your injury is caused or aggravated by lifestyle factors such as frequent heavy lifting or maintaining a bad posture while sitting at your desk, a physio should provide useful tips to improve this and prevent injury re-occurrence.
So, which treatment is right for you? AXA PPP healthcare has created a handy video on its website to show the subtle differences between each profession, in a bid to help the nation solve its ever-evolving back problem.