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Why see an osteopath for back pain?

Most people suffer from low back pain (LBP) at some point in their lives, so it's not surprising that we're often presented with this issue at the clinic. There are about 300,000 ACC claims for low back pain in New Zealand every year.

Osteopaths are well equipped to deal with many forms of LBP, and we are ACC registered. Most cases only require a few treatments, however some chronic cases can be more challenging.


There are a number of possible causes and it's our jobs as osteopaths to diagnose where the pain is arising from and ensure it doesn't return. Our examination will investigate your case history, your body's range of motion, muscle tone and flexibility. Sometimes we may need to organise additional examinations such as an x-ray to confirm a diagnosis.

Chronic conditions

In some chronic cases of LBP the underlying cause may be a debilitating condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or anklyosing spondylitis, which will be uncovered by our examination as well as x-rays and blood tests, or which you may already have been diagnosed with. Unfortunately some chronic conditions such as these may never be completely resolved. However, a maintenance plan can be designed to help you manage your back condition with osteopathic treatment, supplements, exercises and postural advice. We have found that in our patients that the right management and treatment plan tailored to the specific circumstances can make the world of difference to daily life.

Lifting injuries

Commonly, patients come to the clinic after a lifting injury or where they have bent down to pick something up and felt their back "go". Sometimes it can occur during a relatively minor activity such as gardening, making a bed or even sneezing. This type of injury usually results in localised pain in the lower back where it is painful to bend, or sometimes to sit or roll over in bed. Sometimes the injury can be more severe and result in pain down the legs described as sciatic pain or lumbar nerve root irritation. The underlying problem is that the discs in between our vertebra, which usually act as shock absorbers, have been compromised and are pressing against the nerves in the back. Having it treated immediately is recommended. Another common problem is a generalised stiffness that usually occurs gradually and is often worse when sitting or first thing in the morning. Whatever the presentation of your pain, we are equipped to help you recover.

Osteopathic treatment

As osteopaths we can determine which joint, ligament, muscle, tendon, disc or nerve is "out", strained or aggravated and treat the injury. In more chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, spondylolisthesis and scoliosis a more detailed treatment plan needs to be formulated and the combined efforts of osteopathic treatments and other modalities should be used. Whatever the reason for the low back pain we can help you get back on your feet faster and ensure it does not come back.

Why choose an osteopath over a physiotherapist or chiropractor?

Osteopathic treatment has proven to be highly effective and safe for managing low back pain. Research indicates that osteopathic treatment significantly reduces pain and improves functional status in patients with both acute and chronic nonspecific low back pain.

An added advantage of choosing osteopathy is the reduced number of treatments required compared to other modalities. According to ACC's report, osteopathic treatments for low back pain generally require fewer sessions than those provided by physiotherapists and chiropractors. This not only leads to quicker relief but also offers a cost-effective solution for patients seeking effective pain management.

In addition to its efficacy, osteopathy is also recognized for its gentle and holistic approach, focusing on the body's natural ability to heal itself. This approach minimizes the risk of adverse effects, making osteopathy a safe option for a wide range of patients, including those with varying degrees of pain severity.

By integrating osteopathic care into your treatment plan, you can expect a holistic, efficient, and safe approach to alleviating low back pain, backed by strong evidence and supported by the ACC's findings on treatment efficiency.

For more detailed information and to experience the benefits of osteopathy firsthand, visit our clinic and let our experienced osteopaths help you achieve a pain-free life.


1. Franke, H., Franke, J., & Fryer, G. (2014). Osteopathic manipulative treatment for nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 15. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-286.

2. Farra, F., Risio, R., Vismara, L., & Bergna, A. (2020). Effectiveness of Osteopathic Interventions in Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.. Complementary therapies in medicine, 102616. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102616.

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