Lower Back Pain – Common Observations

After suffering a recent episode of lower back pain myself. I am reminded of the common pitfalls that occur when your lower back is really flared up. So I thought I’d share. You may have experienced these yourself. If not, I hope you don’t, but try and be reassured by the normality of these occurrences.

  • You will drop everything onto the floor. May be you just notice it more, but I’m sure this happens more often at this time?! Try and bend from your knees to lower yourself down, and try and be face on to the object you’re picking up to avoid twisting at the same time.
  • You may get stuck on the toilet! Don’t be alarmed, take deep breaths, place your hands onto your thighs and support yourself as you steadily stand up.

  • You might struggle to wipe your bottom! Sorry if this is crude, but it is a fact and a common scenario when lower backs are quite painful. I have not tried this myself, but have found on the web a device that might help people if this is required. https://freedomwand.com
  • Everything you want at the supermarket will be on the lowest shelf. See advice in the first point, or ask for help. Shopping trolleys are even harder to control when your back hurts too.

  • You will feel every bump and every turn in the road. For sure you’ll be onto the council about potholes after an episode of lower back pain.

So I hope this isn’t too flippant a list. Lower back pain can be very debilitating, and very alarming. So knowing what you might expect could offer some reassurance. For the majority of cases staying gently and regularly mobile is very important. Also be reassured, that most back pain is  benign in nature and relatively short-lived. Although different injures follow different time spans.

If you are, or know anyone else who is struggling. Please feel welcome to call for advice – 01245 280636.

Your osteopath referring to other health professionals

As a primary healthcare professional your osteopath, in addition to their osteopathic skills, have been trained to undertake detailed medical histories and a comprehensive range of clinical examinations in an effort to diagnose the cause of your symptoms.

It is due to this extensive training that they are able to determine if you may need to be referred on for further tests to determine an accurate diagnosis, or if your condition may require the intervention of another health professional.

rivermead osteopaths chelmsford

When this happens your osteopath can write to your GP outlining their findings and requesting further investigations or referral to an appropriate consultant.
In addition to referring to your GP, many osteopaths know their local medical community well, so are well placed to recommend treatment from other health professionals who are able to treat specific conditions, or even another osteopath with specialist knowledge of the condition.

Before your osteopath makes any referral, they will discuss with you their diagnosis and explain why they feel you need help from someone else.Logo: General Osteopathic Council If you are happy to be referred they will ask your permission to write to the person they are referring you to with details of your case notes and any other information from their examination that they feel might help the clinician to treat you most effectively. This may help you to get better or faster treatment because the next person to see you won’t be starting from scratch and will have the benefit of another expert’s insight into your condition. If you prefer, you can ask for a copy of your notes to take to your GP or another doctor.

If you are referred, do keep your osteopath informed about your ongoing treatment, and feel free to continue to consult him or her about any other aches and pains you’re experiencing

Advice for back pain sufferers

New research finds that many back-pain patients aren’t receiving the care they need

The Lancet have published a series of papers on low back pain, calling on medical professionals worldwide to stop offering ineffective and potentially harmful treatments to patients. The research states that people with low back pain are being harmed, not helped, with an over-reliance on scans, surgeries and opioid prescriptions to treat a problem that could be more effectively addressed with self-management and less-invasive physical and psychological therapies.

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world, effecting more than 540 million people.  Disability caused by low back pain has risen by more than 50% since 1990. In the UK, guidelines recommend a combination of physical exercise and advice and support for low back pain patients.

Robin Lansman, spokesperson for the Institute of Osteopathy said, ‘The Lancet papers show rising levels of disability across the world, associated with lower back pain. The authors emphasise that, in many cases, people receive interventions that can actually worsen their condition.’

‘In the UK, low back pain is a burden on both the individual and our health care system which is why the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have produced extensive guidance. The guidance recommends manual therapy as part of an overall package of care for those with low back pain. They also recommend, exercise and self-management and psychological support which osteopaths routinely provide.’

He added ‘The most common reason for a patient to visit an osteopath is for low back pain, it accounts for around 36% of our patient workload. Osteopaths pride themselves on offering individualised care which is tailored to the most appropriate pathway for the patient’

If you are suffering with low back pain, find out how osteopathy can help you by visiting www.iosteopathy.org

Bone Health

A natural change with ageing is a loss of bone density. It is important to do what you can to keep your bones as strong as possible to avoid potential fractures, and the possible knock-on effects and recovery from these.

So there is an expected loss of bone density as we age, but a loss of bone density can occur as a result of some illnesses and taking some medications. There is also a sharp change in hormones around the female menopause. This can make ladies more susceptible to a reduced bone density, however reduced bone density is not just a female issue.

You may be referred for DXA scanning if your GP feels you may have these changes. A slight reduction in bone density may be referred to as osteopenia, a more marked reduction may be diagnosed as osteoporosis. Depending on your particular situation and history. Treatment may look at lifestyle factors; for example diet and exercise. Supplementation and/or other prescribed medications may also be advised.

The ideal scenario would be to try and counter these changes with more conservative approaches in order to try and prevent further issue later down the line. The best time to do this is in childhood, this is the time you build-up your skeletal mass. Think of it as a “bone bank” that you borrow from for the rest of your life.

So we need to be guiding the young people in our lives regarding diet and exercise (see below) as well as possible to give them the best “bone bank” possible.

Another crucial period of time in a female’s life, is the year running up to her menopause. But how do we know when this will be? We don’t. We may have a rough idea what could be likely if we know what our mother’s age of menopause was. We know the approximate age it’s likely to happen at. But this is an unknown. So it’s important to make taking care of your bones a part of your lifestyle.

 The following factors are important to counter an excessive loss of bone density:

  • Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, skipping and jogging. Do what feels appropriate for you. Also resistance exercises help. So try a little weight lifting. Just using a little resistance would help e.g. baked bean cans for upper body weights. You don’t have to train to an Olympic standard!
  • Making sure you have the appropriate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium (see below). This may need to be through a combination of diet and supplementation. Keep a food diary for a couple of typical weeks for you to try and gauge what, if anything is required. These are not the only vitamins and minerals essential to bone health. A consultation with a nutritional therapist might be necessary.
  • If you know you have suffered an illness, possibly an eating disorder or a digestive issue that may effect the uptake of nutrients. Be aware that you could be at slightly more risk and discuss this with your GP.
  • Be mindful that some medications can predispose to a reduction in bone density, especially if they have needed to be taken over a long period. For example steroid treatment, and some epilepsy medications.

These are the current recommendations for supplementation.

  • Calcium – for all adults, aged 19-64 years of age 700mg/day.
  • Magnesium – for men aged 19-64 years of age, 300mg a day. For ladies of the same age range, 270mg a day.
  • Vitamin D (be aware that it can be difficult to get the required amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Vitamin D is largely synthesised in our bodies via a reaction through sunlight on our skin. This is not possible all year around.) 5 years of age to adult = 10mcg a day. This is possibly only necessary over the autumn and winter months.

 The following foods are examples of sources of the above:


Whitebait 100g is 870mg/Ca

Cheddar/Edam cheese 50g is 350mg/Ca

Canned Sardines 70g is 350mg/Ca

Raw spinach 100g is 170mg/Ca

A large orange is 70mg/Ca

20 shelled almonds is 50mg/Ca


Pumpkin seeds 35g is 184mg/Mg

Taco shell 100g is 104mg/Mg

Muesli 95g is 90mg/Mg

Boiled brown rice 100g is 88mg/Mg

30 Peanuts is 70mg/Mg

2 slices brown bread is 40mg/Mg


2 fillets cooked mackerel (about 110g) is 21micrograms/vit D

Tinned salmon 100g is 12.5 micrograms/vit D

Tinned tuna 100g is 5 micrograms/vit D

1 egg (60g) is 1 microgram/vit D

All Bran 45g is 0.8 microgram/vit D

1/2 pint semi-skimmed milk is 0.03 micrograms/vit D

Stay Well

I am lucky enough to be writing this blog post from my sun-bed on the beach in Montenegro. It’s beautiful, relaxing and hot – I’m sweating like a waterfall!

Rivermead Osteopaths has been really busy this year, which has been fantastic. I enjoy my job as an osteopath, but this recharge of my batteries before my to return to the clinic is great for me, and should allow me to be as helpful as I can be to you.

Taking the time-out, I’m reminded that good musculoskeletal health isn’t all about manual therapy and exercises. Although obviously, I’m still a firm believer in this side of things!

I’m thinking of the day-to-day stuff that I know helps me, but I haven’t been doing recently. Busy lifestyles can make these things go out the window far too easily.

Now I don’t want to sound too preachy. Life is life and all the best laid plans….Shit happens from time to time and messes with your good intentions. But here are 3 positive suggestions to make a difference to your day-to-day, and I am committing to these now with you.

So here are a few things that have “gone missing” for me. I’m an early bird so this suits me, but maybe just getting up 10/15/20 minutes earlier each day could give you a little extra time to fit this in. They not only help our muscles and joints, but also our inner workings, physically and emotionally.

MEDITATION. For me, 10 minutes a day (but it could be longer) has helped me relax, remain calm, and most notably improved my focus. There is also evidence to support it’s use in people who suffer chronic pain. (You don’t need to be standing on rocks at the edge of a lake, although that would be lovely.)

BEING GRATEFUL. Its easy to dwell on whats wrong and forget about the positive stuff. Being grateful can help improve focus and allow acceptance. Which can sometimes again, be a good tool in people who experience chronic pain. Taking time each day to do this, may be even writing it down could be useful.

GETTING ORGANISED AND MAKING MY FOOD FROM SCRATCH. The difference I feel in my well-being for consuming non-processed food is exponential. Just upping my veggie intake made a huge difference to me. Maybe have a cook-up day and freeze meals ahead of time so you always have something healthy ready to go?

If you need any guidance with any of these suggestions, then please ask in the clinic.  

Just so you know. I will be starting some nutrition training at the end of this month. So soon, I can help you more with the food stuff. Stay well.

Fancy A Few Tips on Your Hips for Summer Activities?

Wimbledon has started, running through to the 16th where Andy Murray will once again hope to be in with a chance of claiming a hat trick of Wimbledon wins under his belt – despite a troublesome hip injury putting a threat to his chances of Wimbledon glory once again.

Murray said he was feeling “good” after practising three times on Friday June 30th, as he recovers from a hip injury which saw him pull out of his final Wimbledon warm-up match.

Murray, 30, has been suffering from his hip problem due to possible twisting and flexing of the hip on a relatively constant basis during his career, intense training from a young age making him become one of the world’s best – does unfortunately take it’s toll with injuries to the body.

Whatever your desired activity or sport you may enjoy, the most important factor is listening to your body – especially if you are of the older generation. It can be hard to accept that some activities may pass you by because of a certain injury hampering your favourite hobby. But don’t give up at the first hurdle, this should be a very last resort!

It’s not uncommon for amateur/younger tennis players to be affected by these types of hip problems either, but the good news is you can manage your injuries to a certain degree if one of your hobbies happens to be a game of Tennis down your local club.

Trying out different surfaces such as clay/grass/concrete (depending on the courts on offer at your preferred playing spot) can also be helpful, this can help avoid muscles imbalances that might develop if you were to stay on one surface.

Keeping active, performing exercises and stretching out before and after your matches as well as some much needed rest can help massively with your recovery – eradicating a possible flare-up of pain or discomfort and strengthening the muscles around your injury as a result.

If the problem persists after two or three weeks it might be time to seek the help of a professional. Here at Rivermead Osteopaths, we can help with your pain – 14 million people in the UK alone suffer from various types of pain throughout their body and we’re here to try and put that right.

We’ll be keeping a beady eye on the events of Wimbledon over the coming weeks backing Andy Murray all the way! Our man started his title defence on centre court on Monday and we hope there is no recurrence of his injury – otherwise he’ll have to pop by and pay us a visit at Rivermead Osteopaths!

An osteopath may be the answer to your prayers – Call 01245 280636 today to see if your problem can be helped by osteopath Claire Thomas – alternatively you can email us via info@rivermeadosteopaths.co.uk.

Persistent Pain

We all feel pain from time to time. When someone injures themselves, specific nerves recognise this as pain, which in turn triggers the body’s repair mechanism. As the problem resolves, the pain tends to improve and usually disappears within 3-6 months. This type of pain could be argued to be beneficial: if it hurts, you are likely to try and avoid doing whatever it is that has caused the pain in the future, so you are less likely to injure yourself in that way again.

Occasionally the pain continues even after tissue healing has finished. When pain continues after this point, it becomes known as persistent (or is sometimes referred to as chronic) pain. This type of pain is not beneficial and is a result of the nerves becoming over-sensitised, which means that a painful response will be triggered much more easily than normal. This can be unpleasant, but doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing yourself any harm simply by moving. You could think of this as a sensitive car alarm that goes off in error when someone walks past.

Persistent pain is very common and effects over 14 million people in the UK alone. It often does not respond to conventional medical interventions and needs a different kind of approach, but there are many things that you can do to manage your pain yourself with the support of your osteopath, your family and loved-ones. Keeping active, performing exercises and stretches can help, learning to pace your activities so that you don’t trigger a flare-up of your pain as well as setting goals and priorities are all very important and can help you to maintain a fulfilling lifestyle.

For more information on how to manage your persistent pain, speak to your osteopath or visit http://www.paintoolkit.org/

Osteopathy for Work


The health and safety executive estimate that in 2013/14 there were 526,000 cases of work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – about 42% of all work related illnesses MSDs are the second biggest cause of absence from work, effecting over 1m people at a cost to the economy (estimated in 2007) of £7bn.

 If you are self-employed, taking time off work with musculoskeletal problem can have a devastating effect on you and your family’s financial security, so getting back to work as quickly as possible is essential. That can seem impossible when you’re in pain and unable to complete your usual daily activities, but movement really helps.

The Work Foundation recommend that you work with your employers and healthcare professionals if effected by MSDs to find ways of returning to work as soon as possible using a combination of treatment, lifestyle changes and adjustment to working conditions. They also suggest that early intervention is key to recovery, hastening your return to a normal, healthy lifestyle and limiting the negative psychological effects of an extended period of sick leave.

How our osteopaths can help;

  • Fast access – our osteopaths are usually able to see you within a couple of days of seeking an appointment. As osteopaths are primary healthcare professionals you don’t need to be referred by a GP unless you are seeking NHS funded treatment or your health insurance provider insists that you see a GP first.
  • Treatment and advice – once they have assessed your condition an osteopath will usually begin treatment straight away. They can also provide advice on how to avoid making the condition worse or re-injuring yourself.
  • Inexpensive treatment – Many MSDs can be treated by osteopaths over a few visits.
  • Fit notes – A fit note provides your employer with advice on what they can do to help an employee return safely to work. This may include adjustments to working conditions, such as reduced hours, a different work station set up, or recommending avoiding activities that may prevent or slow recovery, heavy lifting for example. Osteopaths are able to issue fit notes which will give employers this expert advice.
  • Onward referral – With your permission, osteopaths are able to share information about your health with other healthcare professionals, such as your GP. If your condition requires the intervention of another expert, an osteopath can provide a letter of referral detailing the diagnosis and any treatment that they have been able to provide, which may help you more rapidly get the help you need to return to health.

Back Pain and Children

Like adults, children can suffer from back pain as a result of a variety of lifestyle activities. And like adults, there are number of things that parents and carers can do to prevent issues arising.

If your child does complain of back pain, it is important to seek advice from a qualified professional, such as an osteopath. An osteopath will help to establish the cause of the problem and will provide advice on treatment, or refer you for further examinations if required.


Good school bags

Children are often required to carry bags full of books, PE kits, musical instruments and other equipment to and from school. Parents should try to limit the weight of school bags as much as possible and invest in a good quality back pack that the child should wear across both shoulders, ideally with a strap across the chest to keep the load close to their body. Packing the bag with the heaviest items (such as laptops and heavy books) closest to child’s body, will also make carrying more comfortable and less likely to strain the muscles of the back.

Limit screen time

Looking down to use smart phones, tablets and laptops for an extended period can pull the back and neck into an unnatural posture, resulting in pain. Placing limits on the time spent using devices and encouraging regular breaks may help to avoid problems. If your child has to use a laptop for homework, consider purchasing a support that elevates the screen to a height that allows him or her to sit up straight to look at it.


Regular exercise

A sedentary lifestyle is known to contribute to the risk of developing back pain, as well as contributing to obesity. Regular physical activity helps to keep the core muscles that support the spine strong and maintain flexibility, which will help to avoid back pain. Encourage lots of active play, walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc. To keep your child fit and healthy.

The right bed and pillow

Good quality sleep is vital for both physical and mental development. Make sure that your child has a good sized comfortable bed with a firm mattress and a pillow that supports their head without lifting it too high.

Osteopathic Treatment for your child’s back pain

Your child’s back pain may benefit from osteopathic treatment. Using gentle manual therapy, an osteopath will help to resolve any stresses and strains that are affecting their body and relieve their pain. They can also provide lifestyle advice that may help to prevent the problem from coming back.


01245 280636


Ouch! What to do when you sustain an injury


Sprains and strains to muscles and joints happen to all of us and for most they are a painful, but temporary reminder to be a little more careful. Prompt action can help your body to heal faster and may prevent further injury or prolonged pain. 

Strained or ‘pulled’ muscles often happen when we over exert untrained muscles, train without properly warming up or try to go beyond a joint’s natural flexibility. Sometimes we feel the pain straight away, however some injuries might not cause pain until later on. What can you do?

Remember RICE (Relative rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), using these can help to relieve the pain and start the healing process.


Relative rest: The first thing to do if you feel pain is to reduce the offending activity – pain is usually your body’s way of telling you that there is something wrong that needs your attention. It can be normal to feel a little sore after exercises for a day or two, but if it is more than this, pushing through the pain is rarely beneficial.


However, movement stimulates the healing process so stay as mobile as you comfortably can. Try to keep the joint moving through a comfortable range of motion, without forcing it to the point of pain. This will help to encourage blood flow and keep your joint flexible whilst it heals. This is particularly relevant for back pain as gentle exercise, such as walking, can help. You should slowly build your activity levels up as soon as your symptoms begin to resolve and as soon as you are able.


Ice: Cooling the area using an ice pack can help to reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a thin tea towel around the area so as to avoid direct skin contact and then apply the pack to the injured area for 10 – 15 minutes. You should repeat this several times per day for the first 72 hours. This will help to control inflammation, making it easier for your body to get blood and nutrients to the area and resolve the injured tissues.


Compression: Gently applying a compression dressing may help to temporarily support the injured joint and reduce swelling, though remove this immediately if there are signs that this is reducing the circulation to the area (numbness, pins and needles, the skin turning white or blue etc).


Elevation: If the injury is in the lower limb (knee or ankle), elevating the area a little can make it easier for your body drain fluids that might accumulate around the area, causing swelling. For example, if you’ve hurt your knee, sitting down with the knee raised on a low foot stool may ease your pain.


Seek medical attention. If you have pain that can’t be controlled with over the counter painkillers, can’t put weight on the injured limb, experience paralysis or loss of sensation or the swelling is very bad seek help from your local A&E department, urgent care centre or telephone 111 for advice.