Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why am I in pain? The osteopathic perspective…

Why am I in pain, stiff and sore?

Symptoms are messages from our body asking us to pay attention. But many of us are not used to listening to our bodies, or we may find its messages confusing. Sometimes we don’t want to know and just want the pain to go away, but this strategy is rarely helpful. Symptoms appear because function has been compromised. Osteopaths are trained to understand symptoms, tracing their causes within the person’s body or environment, and to treat the person to encourage health and balanced function. Below are some common scenarios that can give rise to symptoms.

Traumatic causes:

The most obvious cause is the result of a traumatic event, for example a car accident, fall, sports injury, or an awkward bend or lift. In the case of trauma, the relationship between the injury and onset of pain or symptoms is usually more obvious.

Multi-factorial causes:

Another cause is more gradual and mysterious because multiple factors contribute to the onset of symptoms. Multi-factorial causes can be understood by the story of ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Here the pain results from the final straw being placed onto the camel’s back. How can a single straw have such a big effect? It doesn’t make sense unless you realize that the camel already has a huge weight of straw on its back, and this final straw is what triggers the symptoms.

Multi-factorial causes

In this scenario the cause is not obvious because there is a hidden history of mini-traumas and a gradual wearing down, much the same as the camel story. Over time, our bodies slowly begin to show signs of accumulated strain and incomplete recovery. Transient aches and pains when we are tired might be the first signs that something is not right. And if left unattended the symptoms can become more persistent and our bodies take longer to recover. The answer is to pay attention earlier on and seek advice.

Complex multi-factorial causes:

In this scenario the stressful events are not limited to physical traumas and can involve different body systems and stages of life. The reality for most of us is that we are a complex and layered picture of the major events in our health history, which may or may not be resolved.  For example major accidents or illnesses, recurrent infections, sports injuries, surgeries, nutritional issues, inherited weaknesses – the range is as varied and unique as each person. Each contributing factor on its own may not be too significant, but the combination of unresolved events in one’s health history leads to accumulated strain and limits the body’s ability to recover from the current problem.

Our body tells the story:

The osteopath listens to the history and the story of the body as it unfolds in examination and treatment. Sometimes the job is straightforward, and sometimes not. Understanding the causes of symptoms, the relationship of stressors, and the big picture is a crucial aspect of osteopathy. Investigating this complexity can make the treatment uniquely effective, achieving results that other similar treatment modalities may fail to achieve.

Seeking help early is advised in order to ease pain, to regain movement and function, and to enable your body a better recovery.



Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine

While massage may have developed a reputation as a decadent treat for people who love pampering, new studies are showing it has a wide variety of tangible health benefits.

Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune function in women with breast cancer, improves symptoms in children with asthma, and increases grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Giving massages to the littlest patients, premature babies, helped in the crucial task of gaining weight.

The benefits go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness that people may recognize after a massage. The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain, according to guidelines published in 2007.

New research is also starting to reveal just what happens in the body after a massage. While there have long been theories about how massage works—from releasing toxins to improving circulation—those have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence. Now, one study, for example, found that a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.

PJ-BF878_MASSAG_D_20120312202502There’s been a surge of scientific interest in massage. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicinepart of the National Institutes of Health, is currently spending $2.7 million on massage research, up from $1.5 million in 2002. The Massage Therapy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds massage research, held its first scientific conference in 2005. The third conference will be in Boston next year.

The massage therapy field hopes that the growing body of research will lead to greater insurance coverage for its treatments. Washington is the only state that requires insurers to cover massage therapy.

Another common type of massage, so-called deep tissue, tends to be more targeted to problem muscles and includes techniques such as acupressure, trigger-point work (which focuses on little knots of muscle) and “deep transverse friction” where the therapist moves back and forth over muscle fibers to break up scar tissue.

Massage is already widely used to treat osteoarthritis, for which other treatments have concerning side effects. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 showed that full-body Swedish massage greatly improved symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients who had massages twice weekly for four weeks and once a week for an additional four weeks had less pain and stiffness and better range of motion than those who didn’t get massages. They were also able to walk a 50-foot path more quickly.

“If [massage] works then it should become part of the conventionally recommended interventions for this condition and if it doesn’t work we should let [patients] know so they don’t waste their time and money,” says Adam Perlman, the lead author of the study and the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C.



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