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Therapies for back pain

There are tens, if not hundreds, of different therapies for back pain, all vying for attention and our money.

This is a reflection of how many of us, in all the world’s cultures, both suffer from back pain and want to do something about it.

Therapies vary from the simple. low risk and easily performed at home to high technology, invasive and life-threatening procedures. Finding our way through this maze is difficult, and if there are so many therapies, why do so many of go on having the back pain problems that we do?

Let’s look at the “big three” therapy systems:


Physiotherapists work in a huge variety of clinical areas, from premature babies to the elderly, intensive care units to sports injuries.

Some physios have M.Sc. degrees in Manipulative Therapy and are accomplished assessors and treaters of musculoskeletal problems including back pain. Physiotherapists employ manipulation and mobilisation techniques, various exercise techniques, pain management techniques and advice.

Physiotherapy skills in musculoskeletal assessment vary widely depending on the person’s experience but all are trained in the management of pain problems.


Osteopathic medicine is a system of health care which is based on the idea that disease is the result of the relationship between anatomical structure and physiological function. Structure and function are considered to be interdependent. A normally functioning musculoskeletal system is assumed to play an important role in wellness, disease prevention and recovery.

Like physiotherapists, osteopaths view health and illness from a musculo-skeletal perspective. Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment that emphasises the structural and functional integrity of the body. See also this reference for a discussion of the differences between osteopaths and physiotherapists.

Using various techniques, the aims are to mobilise joints, to reduce muscle tension, to improve the blood and nerve supply to tissues, to facilitate the body’s own healing mechanisms and improve its own capacity for recovery. Advice on posture and exercise may also be provided.

The osteopathic model of health care is positioned as a complete and distinctive primary care model. It aims to treat illness, finding out about the state of the individual by palpatory (touching and testing) evaluation of the whole person. It aims to optimise health for the whole person.

Osteopaths treat a wide range of disorders, mainly musculoskeletal, but may claim to influence other conditions or illnesses by their intervention.


Chiropractice is a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. It uses manipulative therapy to correct chiropractic subluxation, which many chiropractors theorize as the cause of most disease. The idea is that these disorders have significant effects on the nervous system and on general health.

Further information about chiropractic treatment can be found at the Chiropractor Appointment Line website.

There is an emphasis on manual treatment, including spinal manipulations. Manipulative therapy has been shown to have some efficacy in treating back and neck pain, headache, and other symptoms of spinal-related conditions. However, applying the chiropractic model as a cure to conditions outside this particular area is not yet accepted by the medical community.

If you want to see a really good description of what a chiropractor can realistically do for you, go to What a Rational Chiropractor Can Do for You, written by a retired chiropractor of 43 years experience.



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