Pain is a highly complex phenomenon which is helpful in some instances (like telling you to move your finger quickly away from a very hot surface or letting you know that you have sustained an injury and need to keep off the injured site) but very unhelpful and debilitating in others (when it persists for a long time, and becomes suffering).
Much of the work we do as Osteopaths involves helping patients with their pain and we need to make the distinction between how we deal with short-term pain associated with injury (so-called ‘acute’ pain) and longer-term pain conditions (‘chronic’ pain). Sometimes it may be more realistic to develop suitable coping mechanisms and ways of distracting from the pain rather than attempting a ‘magic bullet’, and possibly failing to eliminate it altogether.
There are sometimes painful problems that are caused internally by an issue within the nervous system which creates a distorted ‘map’ of the state of the person’s body. Such ‘neuropathic’ pain is very real to the sufferer but may be felt in tissue which is not itself injured. An extreme example of this is ‘phantom limb syndrome’, but similar effects can occur in people with chronic pain without such dramatic tissue injury.
The alleviation and elimination of pain is a major focus of Western medicine and one of the reasons why societies have become so dependent on pain-relieving medication. Analgesics, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants/ anti-spasmodics do have important roles to play but also have been over-prescribed, leading to problems with side-effects and dependency.
By working on a patient-centred basis and exploring the many complex issues around the individual’s pain, Osteopathy can be helpful in alleviating it. David has developed skills in areas such as CBT, mindfulness/ meditation, breathing work, TENS and body re-mapping which can enhance the traditional osteopathic techniques. Addressing physiological issues such as nutrition, lifestyle and stress can also make a major impact on pain.
For a great article on the osteopathic management of chronic pain: