Many of my patients ask me what makes my approach to treatment different from other therapists and how I first started treating people’s backs, so as an introductory blog, I thought I’d pick up there.
Prior to training to become a therapist, my experience was in the health and fitness industry. I owned two health clubs in Ipswich, at a time when it wasn’t thought to be trendy to have a gym membership. Our aim was to create a personalised fitness plan for every individual member, with regular consultations – we were way head of our time in that respect. One day, a friend asked if it would be possible to hire a room to offer massage and reflexology to our members. I agreed, and she quickly built up quite a client base. When the time came for her to spread her wings, she suggested I went on a basic massage course to enable me to treat her regular clients, which I did. I had had a bad back since my early twenties, so the anatomy and physiology of the human body was a subject that interested me a lot – what could we do ourselves to enable us to live our lives pain-free? It quickly became apparent to me that nobody came in for a massage unless they were experiencing aches and pains, so I was keen to learn more to enable me to treat the underlying issue.
It was a natural progression for me to open my first BackCare Clinic, as the majority of problems I was seeing were mostly back-related. Nobody walked through the door feeling fantastic – my clients were in pain, which indicated to them there was a problem, but you don’t have to have back pain to have an unhealthy back. In my opinion, stiffness of the spine, together with poor posture, are the basic underlying causes of most non-traumatic back pain. Why do we wait until the pain is at its worst before treating this back stiffness?
I have developed my own approach over the years, which is to restore mobility into the whole of the spine to reduce the stresses causing discomfort. I follow a three-step process, starting with treating the pain, correcting the underlying problem (to alleviate symptoms) which lead to the pain developing, and teaching people how they can maintain a healthy back. I like to use the analogy of visiting the dentist. Parents take their children to see the dentist religiously for check-ups, and I believe we should look after our backs in the same way. If we treated back stiffness from an early age, before any back pain reared its ugly head, we would be able to enjoy a more active, pain-free adult life.
I believe that we develop bad posture as early as our initial teenage years (although we see the effects much later), brought on by various emotional factors. If you are taller than your friends, you could be inclined to make yourself appear shorter, girls lacking confidence (particularly during puberty) are known to hunch their shoulders, and shy people have a tendency to exhibit rounded backs. Such feelings during those difficult teenage years have a massive impact on our overall back health. The big problem for our backs is that, as poor posture develops, our backs stiffen. The result is that, by the time we leave school, if not before, the vast majority of us will have lost the ability to straighten our spines effectively and, more importantly, in comfort.
So, how do I go about treating my clients? I have tried and tested many different types of treatment, but the only method that has really worked for me is the Theraflex. By mobilising each of the individual vertebrae in the spine which have become stiff over time, the machine allows for a degree of movement that would not be possible with the hand. I combine this therapy with muscle energy techniques (the patient performs an isometric contraction against my controlled counterforce to correct any restricted movement around a joint), and cranial-sacral therapy (a gentle, hands-on treatment that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction). This combination of therapies is unique to me – it is a system I have developed, as I feel the three techniques perfectly complement each other, and I have also seen fantastic results! I am the only therapist offering Theraflex therapy in East Anglia, and certainly the only therapist that I know who combines all three types of therapy.
Depending on how long the patient has been experiencing a particular problem, they should see significant results after just three or four sessions. After the initial few treatments, I recommend my patients come and see me for regular, but not too frequent, maintenance – a bit like an MOT! – to keep stiffness under control and minimise the risk of further problems.
Back issues can affect our everyday lives in so many different ways. If we are self-employed, it is essential that we can work. I read a statistic the other day that back pain costs the UK as much as £37 million per day! That’s astounding. The vast majority of us do not want to take days off due to a bad back. That’s why maintenance is so important, to help prevent this situation from arising in the first place. Likewise, if you are a grandparent, you want to be able to pick up your grandchild, or get down to play with them on the floor. A healthier back will enable you to enjoy so many precious moments – pain-free!
For me, it’s all about raising awareness of how you can achieve better back health… You don’t have to suffer in silence. I love what I do, and it’s so fulfilling to see people leaving my clinic pain-free, with a new, improved posture, and a smile on their face!