Is the pandemic causing you pain?

How the pandemic is putting a spotlight on hidden sources of physical pain

The pandemic has been a real pain. It’s affected our health in multiple ways and caused or exacerbated all sorts of physical pain and discomfort – in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees and more.

Poor posture plays a role in the pain and misalignment that so many are experiencing. How many of us have spent hours slouched at our desks or on the couch while working from home? But poor posture may not be the source of your discomfort. If you’re suddenly experiencing aches and pains and you don’t know why, there may be several lesser known, more deeply rooted issues now coming to the surface.

Physical pain and misalignment can be caused by

  • Former injuries, which can impact your body long after medical intervention. These may be traumatic injuries such as whiplash from a car accident, concussion from a sports injury, or a former fracture. Or more subtle and easily-overlooked lesser injuries, like scars from injury or a surgical procedure, to which your body has gradually adapted over years.
  • Lack of muscle strength, particularly in the spinal muscles, core and lower back muscles.
  • Jaw (TMJ) strain/injury. The temporomandibular joint is known as the master joint of the body. Its dysfunction can throw your entire spine into adaptive misalignment.

Your pain is a signal that something in your body needs addressing. What happens when you ignore physical pain? By not finding and treating underlying sources of pain, your overall state of discomfort, frustration and fatigue may increase. It can impact your day-to-day life and reduce your mobility and motivation to move for physical and mental wellbeing.

In the long-term, chronic pain can have a deeper, psychological impact. It can impact your mental health, relationships with others, performance and productivity at work and in life, and more. As you find it increasingly difficult to maintain an appropriate level of fitness, you may be at higher risk of physical injury from minor causes, such as getting out of bed or walking, which can be deeply upsetting.

Over time, chronic issues may arise, like fluctuations in blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels, and insomnia.

Seeking timely support can improve your quality of life and protect against more debilitating health challenges.

How an osteopath diagnoses and treats pain

Whether it’s postural issues as a consequence of working from home or a deep rooted, hidden cause impacting your physical wellbeing, osteopathy is trusted by everyday people to elite sports professionals to alleviate pain and realign the body.

But first, what is osteopathy? Osteopathy is a manual medicine that takes your entire body into account. Taking an integrated approach to healing, IMI’s osteopaths consider your current concerns, history of injuries, and medical conditions. We also recognise the impact of physical, mental and/or emotional trauma that may have long-lasting impact on your body structures.

We don’t just ask “Where do you hurt?” and treat the painful part; we find and address the root cause for sustainable healing.

With all the information available, your osteopath can create a fully-personalised comprehensive treatment plan to address your health concern, and balance your musculoskeletal, cranial, cardiovascular, digestive and urogenital systems. Your treatment plan may include manual techniques like joint mobilization, soft tissue release and trigger point therapy, and cranial and visceral manipulations to alleviate pain and tension in affected muscles, joints and organs.

Does osteopathy actually work?

In the hands of a skilled osteopath, osteopathy – a manual therapy created by renowned American medical practitioner and surgeon Dr Andrew Taylor Still – is scientifically and clinically proven to help in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Research shows the benefits of osteopathy in treating a wide range of people from premature infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) to adults with migraines, back pain and more. In fact, a recent comprehensive analysis of nine studies conducted between 2013 and 2020 with 55 primary trials involving 3740 participants shows promising evidence that osteopathy helps in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain in pregnant and postpartum women, and acute and chronic non-specific low back pain.

In clinic, clients experiencing pain during the pandemic for reasons they can’t explain have been relieved to discover the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Take Susan, for example. Susan is a 35-year-old athletic mother with a young daughter. Her posture was unaffected by working from home as her job kept her on-the-go. But, with her daughter learning online and her husband working from home, she was feeling stressed. With the gyms closed, she was less active than usual, despite maintaining a yoga practice at home. When Susan was finally able to return to the gym, she suffered mid-back pain. Rest, massages and stretches did nothing to alleviate her pain.

An osteopathic assessment revealed a left hip fracture from her teenage years was the underlying source of pain. Susan’s usual exercise routine was keeping her muscles and joints mobile and functional enough to compensate for her old fracture. But, with her physical activity reduced during the pandemic, her left hip area had become stiffer and less mobile. Her return to sports induced a strain of three muscles in the left hip area, which in turn caused a restriction in her mid-back.

As we were dealing with an old injury, Susan’s recovery plan included five treatments to harmonize hip recovery with the rotational amplitude of the thoracic spine. We used joint mobilization, trigger points and fascia therapy. We also recommended appropriate stretches and supplementation to address the affected area and, once the hip area was better, functional exercises and stretches to help her back mobility.

Osteopathy – a complementary approach

Chronic pain can be complex. You may require the healing hands of osteopathy alone, or the care of complementary practitioners – medical doctors, naturopaths, psychotherapists, acupuncturists and more, too. When necessary and only with your agreement, we can call on multiple practitioners all under one roof at IMI to support your healing.

Greg, a 40-year-old father-of-three, benefitted from a collaborative treatment plan. Unfazed by the fifth wave, he embraced working from home and kept up with his weekly HIIT training online. He felt relaxed and was drinking a little more alcohol than usual. But when Hong Kong reopened and he resumed playing golf, he felt a sharp pain in his right side rib cage. During his osteopathic assessment, he found deep breathing painful.

We referred him to a medical doctor to rule out a rib fracture, establish whether or not to do an x-ray, and determine the relevance of a liver function test in case of any visceral cause to the right side ribcage. The medical diagnosis confirmed Greg was not suffering from a fracture; instead, he had alcoholic fatty liver – a condition IMI’s naturopaths are experienced at helping clients with.

With Greg’s agreement, we referred him to a naturopath who prescribed herbals to improve his liver, while we focussed on his restricted ribs and intercostal muscles, and the back and shoulder muscles involved in the golf swing motion. We also recommended lifestyle changes and at-home practices such as alternatives to alcohol consumption, stretches for ribcage, breathing exercises, and stretches for golf. Greg saw significant results after one month of combined osteopathy and naturopathy support.

If the pandemic is causing you pain, let us help you. Perhaps you know the cause; perhaps you don’t. Whatever is preventing you from living a pain-free, fully functional life, our osteopathic team is committed to partnering with you to discover and treat your true source of pain for long-term wellbeing.

About Victor Bourdeau

Victor Bourdeau is a Director and Senior Osteopath at IMI. A registered member of the Hong Kong Osteopathic Association, he is skilled at supporting clients with injury prevention, injury recovery, and optimal performance. Committed to identifying and treating the root cause of health concerns, he specialises in treating musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular system and digestive organ dysfunctions, headaches, migraines, sleep disorders, sports injuries, and post-operative care.

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