416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 8pm

416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-8pm

Author Archive

My Jaw Hurts! Can Osteopathy Help?

Friday, January 27th, 2023

Many people think Osteopaths only treat backs! Sometimes, patients don’t mention some of their aches and pains because they believe Osteopaths don’t treat that area. Jaw pain (commonly referred to as TMJ pain) is one such example.

The TMJ joint has an incredibly complex relationship with numerous other parts of your body, and the joints themselves are incredibly complex in both their structure and the way they function. The amazing thing is not that they occasionally cause people pain but that, in general, we make them work incredibly hard and don’t even think about them because they normally work so efficiently!

Anatomy of The Jaw


What Is TMJ?

TMJ is an acronym referring to the temporomandibular joint. There are two temporomandibular joints in the body, one on each side of the face near the ears. These temporomandibular joints are what connect your lower jawbone to the base of your skull and assist with moving the jaw when chewing, talking, swallowing and for forming facial expressions.

TMJ disorders (sometimes referred to as TMD) are conditions affecting the jaw joints and their surrounding muscles and ligaments. These conditions may result in mild or severe pain and discomfort, tenderness at the joint, localised facial pain and/or difficulty moving the joint.

What Causes Jaw Pain?

The muscles you use in your jaw are the strongest and most sensitive in the whole body, they work hard at their job to keep your jaw moving. However, sometimes for various reasons, things can cease to function in the way that they should, which puts undue pressure on all of the surrounding tissues and muscles, causing pain and inflammation. TMJ disorders can be caused by a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Injuries sustained to the jaw joints or surrounding tissues
  • Repeated grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Jaw dislocation (between the ball and socket joint)
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Head or neck trauma or injuries
  • An uneven bite (Malocclusion)
  • General wear and tear
  • Poor posture
  • Holding your jaw open for long periods of time during dental treatment

Signs And Symptoms Of Jaw Dysfunction

Jaw pain is relatively common and can be highly debilitating. TMJ disorder symptoms can affect one or both sides of the face, they can come and go or last for years, and jaw pain can affect people of all ages, children, teenagers, and the elderly. Some of the most common symptoms experienced are:

  • Tenderness and pain in the jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Restricted movement when opening or closing the mouth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Joint noise; cracking, clicking or popping when opening the mouth and during eating
  • Swelling on the side of your face
  • Headaches
  • Pain around or behind the eyes
  • Trouble chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite
  • Neck or shoulder pain

TMJ And Ear Pain

Pain in the ears is often overlooked and presumed to be from other causes, such as allergies or infection, rather than jaw dysfunction, which is why it’s important to note the connection.

Because the TMJ joints connect your neck and jaw very near the ear, muscle tension and inflammation from your jaw can interfere with the proper functioning of the ear. This leads to ear pain and inflammation around the ear canal and can also present as tinnitus or a ringing sound in the ear.

Ear pain associated with TMJ disorders is often a sharp, stabbing sensation and can sometimes feel like the ears are a bit clogged up. If you regularly experience ear pain, stuffiness or ringing in the ears, it’s best to rule out TMJ disorders.

Can Osteopathy Help With Jaw Pain?

While not all jaw pain can be relieved by osteopathic treatment alone, it is certainly worth discussing your jaw pain with your Osteopath. They can help to reduce the symptoms and work towards correcting any existing musculoskeletal issues with a focus on pain relief, rehabilitation and restoration of normal function.

After carrying out a full assessment of your jaw, neck and spine to determine the underlying cause of your pain, your Osteopath will put together a tailored and comprehensive treatment plan to address the issue. Treatment plans centre around the principles of Osteopathic treatment using highly skilled techniques to ease your jaw pain and restore the proper range of movement in the jaw. While also focusing on more long-term rehabilitation techniques to improve mobility and strength in your jaw and other areas if needed.

3 TMJ Relaxation Exercises

In some cases breathing and relaxation exercises to relax the jaw may be helpful to patients, particularly those going through stressful life events. The following two breathing exercises can help relax the muscles around the jaw.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise One

  • Sit in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a deep breath and puff up your cheeks, then blow out the air with an audible sigh.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise Two

  • Focus your attention on your jaw and its movement.
  • Clench your jaw tightly, feeling the tension in the surrounding muscles.
  • Hold for five seconds, then relax for fifteen seconds and allow the tension to disappear.

Jaw Relaxation Exercise Three

  • Rest your tongue gently on the top of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth.
  • Allow your teeth to come apart while relaxing your jaw muscles.

If you are struggling with jaw pain – Our Osteopaths are here to help please do not hesitate to contact the team at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Can Osteopathy Help With Shoulder Pain?

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

Our Osteopaths are highly trained in treating patients with shoulder injuries. During treatment, we focus on treating the root cause of pain.

Therefore, we will rarely only concentrate on your shoulder; we will examine your entire spine, including the neck, upper back, and pelvis, where we may often find additional structures contributing to your injury.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by sporting activities that involve excessive, repetitive, overhead motion, such as swimming, tennis, and weightlifting. Injuries can also occur during everyday activities such as reaching for shopping in the car, carrying your baby, hanging out clothes, and gardening.

Shoulder Conditions Suitable For Osteopathic Treatment

  • Rotator Cuff Strain / Tears
  • Rib Pain
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Shoulder Impingement
  • Bursitis
  • Trapped Nerves
  • AC joint Injuries
  • Repetitive Strain Injury

Examination Required 

An osteopath will consider all of the above causes of shoulder pain during the initial consultation. An osteopath will examine the shoulder and the entire spine and peripheral joints to figure out the root cause of your shoulder pain, which sometimes may not come directly from the shoulder itself; it can be due to dysfunction from the ribs thoracic spine, and neck. This approach is essential for patients where their shoulder pain has not healed or responded to other treatments.

Do I Require Imaging? 

In cases where acute trauma (tear to a muscle, ligament, or fracture) is suspected, we can refer a patient for a scan of the shoulder (MRI, Ultrasound, X-Ray). If surgery is required, our Osteopaths will refer you to an Orthopaedic specialist. You do not need to see your GP for this referral. We have an excellent network of Surgeons and Musculoskeletal specialists to whom we refer to.

How Can An Osteopath Help?

As with any injury, early diagnosis and treatment are important, and treatment options will vary for each individual. Osteopathy involves taking a whole-body approach to healing, including examining the shoulder and the entire neck, back, and pelvis, which can significantly influence how the shoulder functions.

Osteopaths use a hands-on osteopathic treatment approach, combined with rehabilitation exercises and patient education about what caused the pain in the first instance and what you can do to prevent the pain from re-occurring.

Hands-on treatment focuses on gentle manipulation techniques focussing on the joints and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder and surrounding area. Mobilisation techniques are used to restore the range of movement into the shoulder gently.

It’s also important to remember that shoulder pain can affect people of all ages; children, teenagers, the elderly – it’s is not caused by old age!

When we treat patients with shoulder pain, our main aim is to return patients to health and the activities they normally enjoy doing as quickly as possible!

How Long Will It Take For My Injury To Heal?

The process of healing begins almost immediately after a shoulder injury and proceeds in a relatively organised fashion. It follows 3 Phases of Healing that often overlap and can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to heal, depending on the severity of the injury. For more information about the healing process – Click Here.

So don’t suffer Shoulder Pain needlessly- we’re here to help!

If you are struggling with an Injured Shoulder – Our Osteopaths are here to help you!

Please do not hesitate to contact Lorraine Herity at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

What Is Core Strength And How Do I Maintain It?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

After a long winter, a lockdown, and extended periods working from home, you may find you have been leading a pretty sedentary life. However, sitting a lot more than usual can mean the core muscles aren’t being challenged as much, so it might be time to pay them some attention!

What Are The Core Muscles?

The core muscles are those located throughout your midsection that surrounds the stomach, spine, and pelvis. This includes the abdominal muscles in the front, the muscles within the lower back, and those around your sides.

More technically speaking, the core muscle group includes the long rectus abdominal muscles in the front of the stomach, the external and internal oblique’s on the sides of the stomach, the transversus abdominis, a group of muscles, called the erector spinae, the multifidus muscles deep in the back, the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the pelvic floor muscles, the iliacus and the psoas muscles and the quadratus lumborum in your lower back on either side of the lumbar spine.

What Do Core Muscles Do?

Core muscles play a fundamental role in stabilising the spine and pelvis, providing strength and support when the body moves through its full range of motion. For this reason, core muscles are essential for injury prevention, particularly around the lower back, and for maintaining good posture.

We use our core muscles every day. Getting up out of a chair, standing, walking, running, bending, and performing pretty much any of our daily tasks requires the core muscles to support the lower back and maintain balance. Core muscles are also important for all sporting activities, exercising and lifting.

How To Strengthen Your Core – Some Exercises To Do At Home

Strengthening your core muscles is often a significant part of rehabilitation from back injuries because those with weak core muscles are more prone to back injury. So regular maintenance of the core muscles is an important part of any exercise routine. Any exercise that activates the core muscles is useful to help improve core strength; however, exercises that directly target the specific muscles are the best.

Getting Started

If you haven’t worked on your core in a long time, always start slowly, focus quality over quantity, gradually increasing the number of repetitions as you feel able. And remember to do a quick warm-up before you begin. Afterward, it is beneficial to stretch your muscles, especially the hip flexors and hamstrings; this increases flexibility in the muscles around the core.

The 5 Best Core Exercises

The best approach to strengthening your core is working several core muscle groups at the same time. The following exercises are perfect for beginners through to more advanced levels; adapt the length and level of stretch to suit.

1. Bridges

Lying on your back with legs bent to 90 degrees, lift hips and back off the floor to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, then lower to the floor and repeat ten to twelve times.

The Bridge is effective because it creates contraction of all of the muscles from the rib cage down to the pelvis and around into the back.

2. Plank Lifts

Lying face down on the floor, prop yourself up using your forearms (keep knees and feet together), lift your entire body off the floor and keep it in a straight line from head to toe (resting only on your forearms and toes). Hold for 10 seconds. For a more advanced level, raise each leg one at a time a few inches from the ground. For a more beginner level, modify your plank to use the knees instead of your feet to hold your weight. Lower and repeat.

Planks are one of the best core-strengthening exercises because they create full contraction of the core and the upper arm and shoulder muscles, almost like holding a push-up position. The idea is you hold strong like a ‘wooden plank.’

3. Opposite Arm And Leg Raise (Superman)

Lying face down with your arms and legs extended out straight,  raise your right arm and left leg off the floor (approximately 10 cm). Hold for 5 seconds, and then lower to the floor. Repeat the same action with the left arm and right leg. For a more beginner level, begin on your hands and knees, extend your left leg and right arm so they are level with your torso, repeat for the other side. Ten reps on each side is a good starting point.

Leg and arm raises contract the core muscles on the opposite side to the extended limbs as they must engage to maintain the movement. Ensure movements are slow and purposeful; it’s not about speed.

4. Metronomes

Laying on your back, bend the knees and raise the feet slightly off the floor; extend the arms out to your sides but keep them on the floor. Rotate your knees to the left, bringing the knees as close to the floor as possible but not touching them. Return to the center, then move your knees to the right side, try ten to twelve reps per side.

Metronomes are great for the obliques and for building key rotational core strength.

5. Side Planks

Lying on your right-hand side, lift and support your body using your right forearm and right foot, keep the left arm resting lightly on your left side for a moment, then extend it at right angles to your body towards the ceiling. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, bring the arm in, and lower the body to the floor. Switch sides and repeat.

The side plank challenges stability control and works the muscles along the side of your body.

Here is a link to some beginners pilates for core strengthening. The teacher provides excellent instruction!  

4 Benefits Of Good Core Strength

Improving your core strength has numerous benefits for the body and overall health; here are the top 4!

  1. Injury Prevention. Strong core muscles mean the back is well supported, and postural imbalances are corrected, making you less likely to succumb to injury. This is one of the biggest benefits of core strengthening.
  2. Improved Athletic Performance. Strength in your core equals strength in all other areas of the body. All powerful movements originate in the core; the core strength allows the transfer of power to the arms and legs, shoulders, and thighs.
  3. Better Posture. Weak core muscles often result in loss of the lumbar curve resulting in a swayback posture. Strong core muscles help maintain the natural curvature of the spine, reducing unnecessary strain and improving posture.
  4. Reduction In Back Pain. Core strength is vital for protecting and stabilising the back; strengthening the core can reduce back pain.

If you are suffering from injury or back pain, always consult your osteopath or another medical practitioner before beginning any stretching/strengthening/ mobilisation programme.  These exercises may not be suitable for some people. Enjoy!

Why Does My Neck Hurt?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Osteopaths are highly skilled in treating patients with neck pain. During treatment, our focus is on treating the root cause of your pain. Therefore, we will rarely only focus on your neck; we will examine your entire spine, where we may often find additional structures that contribute to your neck pain.

Along with osteopathic treatment, we also address any other predisposing factors, such as poor ergonomic set-ups and stress, which could exacerbate your pain.

6 Symptoms Of Neck Pain

Some common symptoms associated with Neck Pain are:

  1. A burning or prickling sensation in the neck
  2. Intense pain in the shoulder and/or radiating down the arm
  3. Inflammation of the joints in the neck
  4. Disturbed sleep patterns (due to pain lying in bed)
  5. Restricted mobility and loss of range of motion in the neck (e.g. unable to rotate neck whilst driving)
  6. Headaches associated with neck pain

What Causes Neck Pain?

  1. Biomechanical Issues: This is probably the most common cause of neck pain. Neck pain can arise from using and loading the neck when working at your desk, sleeping, exercising, driving, and many more. Spinal restrictions in the neck and throughout the spine right down to the pelvis can have an immense impact on how your neck functions as part of your entire skeleton system. Even grinding your teeth and jaw tightness can affect the neck.
  2. Trauma: where someone has a sporting accident, fall or car accident, for example – Direct tears to discs, ligaments, muscles or damage to cartilage and nerves can occur.
  3. Osteoarthritis: a common condition affecting neck joints in the elderly or patients who have had several neck injuries in the past.
  4. Diseases: Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer, can cause neck pain.

Neck Pain Conditions Suitable For Osteopathic Treatment

  • Generalised Aches and Pains
  • Trauma, Injuries and Sprains
  • Postural Over Strains from Prolonged Sitting
  • Whiplash
  • Trapped / Irritated Nerves
  • Jaw Pain
  • Headaches – Migraine Headache, Tension-Type Headache and Stress and Cervicogenic Headaches

Do I Require Imaging? 

An osteopath will undertake a detailed medical case history and consider all the above causes of neck pain during the initial consultation. A thorough examination of the neck and the entire spine and peripheral joints will be undertaken to determine the root cause of your neck pain.

In cases where acute trauma (tear to a ligament, cartilage or muscles) is suspected, we can refer a patient for imaging of the Neck (MRI, Ultrasound, X-Ray). If surgery is required, our Osteopaths will refer you to an Orthopaedic specialist. You do not need to see your GP for this referral. We have an excellent network of Surgeons and Musculoskeletal specialists that we refer to.

How Can An Osteopath Help?

Once we have diagnosed that your pain is coming from various structures in your neck or spine, we will compile a comprehensive treatment plan tailored specifically to each patient. Treatment plans centre around osteopathic treatment using highly skilled techniques to ease your neck pain, restore movement, and ease aches and pains in your neck. We also focus on more long-term rehabilitation exercises to improve mobility and strength in your neck and spine.

It’s also important to remember that neck pain can affect people of all ages; children, teenagers, the elderly – it’s is not always caused by old age!

When we treat patients with neck pain, our main aim is to return patients back to health and the activities they normally enjoy doing as quickly as possible!

How Long Will It Take For My Injury To Heal?

The process of healing begins almost immediately after a neck injury and proceeds in a relatively organised fashion. It follows 3 Phases of Healing that often overlap and can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to heal, depending on the severity of the injury. For more information about the healing process – Click Here.

So don’t suffer neck pain needlessly – we’re here to help!

If you are struggling with neck pain or headaches – Our Osteopaths are here to help you!

Please do not hesitate to contact Lorraine Herity at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

How Do Injuries Heal?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

The 3 Phases of The Healing Process 

During an injury, physical trauma disrupts the balance of normal cellular function and triggers the beginning of complex physiological repair processes.

Lots of times, injuries can repair to normal or almost normal function. In others, the injury may result in impaired function of the damaged tissue, or on occasion, can cause chronic pain. Sometimes injuries heal very quickly, and others can seem slow at times.

So, knowing what’s happening on a cellular level and the part the immune system has to play should give you an insight into the healing processes that your body goes through.  This will hopefully prepare you for faster, safer and more effective recovery from injury.  It is also important to remain positive and remember that the body has an innate capacity to heal, and with proper treatment and advice, your injury should heal very well!

The process of healing begins almost immediately after an injury and proceeds in a relatively organised fashion. It follows three phases that often overlap:

  1. The Inflammation Phase
  2. The Proliferation Phase
  3. The Re-modelling Phase

Phase 1 – Initial Inflammation

  • During the first phase, the body initiates the healing process almost immediately after your injury, and so begins the acute inflammatory and painful phase.
  • This inflammatory period can last several days.
  • During this time, white blood cells are attracted to the area through chemical signals, such as leukotrienes. Fluid from blood vessels leaks into the surrounding tissue and triggers the characteristic signs of acute inflammation and injury: redness, swelling, and warmth.

Phase 2 – Proliferation

  • This second phase begins as the inflammation settles down and your immune system begins to repair the damaged tissue by laying down collagen.
  • This can begin from day 4 up to about 4-6 weeks.
  • New collagen fibres are put down in a disorganised fashion in the form of scar tissue, which is weaker and less flexible than the normal area tissues.
  • In this phase, you will probably have less pain.
  • But there is a high risk of re-injury as the tissue used during the repair phase is not as strong as it was originally before the injury,
  • This is often the phase when you start to feel better and return to regular activities too soon, only to experience a setback in your progress.

Phase 3 – Remodelling

  • As healing progresses, the tissues improve in quality, organisation and strength.
  • The remodelling phase focuses on increasing the collagen fibres’ cellular organisation and the strength between the collagen bonds.
  • There is also a risk of re-injury during this phase.
  • Patients should gradually increase the load on tissues by utilising rehabilitation exercises to stimulate growth and improve overall function.
  • Pain can come and go during this page, depending on levels of inflammation and reinjury.
  • This phase may take several weeks, months or on occasion, some years
  • At the end of this phase, a patient would aim to return to full normal daily activities.

How Does Osteopathy Assist The Healing Process?

Phase 1:

  • Osteopathic treatment focuses on accurate diagnosis and hands-on osteopathic treatment to help alleviate pain during the initial phases of injury.
  • Identifying predisposing and maintaining factors and the barriers to healing which may include; poor posture, stress, lack of sleep, poor breathing mechanics, and others.
  • Compile a tailor-made comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the injury and any potential barriers to healing.

Phase 2:

  • Osteopathy focuses on addressing underlying muscle and tissue imbalances. Improve joint and muscle mobility and alignment across the whole body.
  • Continued help with pain management via osteopathic treatment.
  • Providing advice on rehabilitation exercises to help improve overall mobility and strength.
  • Encourage a gradual return to sports and activities.

Phase 3:

  • During this phase, osteopathy focuses on regaining full range of motion, improving strength through tailor-made rehabilitation programmes, and further increasing loading on the tissues.
  • Provide advice on preventing further injury and how to enhance overall performance.
  • At the end of this phase, your Osteopath would expect a patient to return to full normal daily activities.

Are are struggling with an injury?

Our Osteopaths are here to help you!

Please do not hesitate to contact our Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Can Osteopathy Help With Whiplash?

Friday, August 20th, 2021

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful hyper-flexion and hyper-extension movement of the neck and often can affect the entire spine. Car accidents commonly cause whiplash, sporting accidents, falls and many other injuries that affect people of all ages. These forces may result in painful injuries to the muscles, ligaments, joints and discs of the neck and other spinal areas.

Symptoms can include headaches, neck pain, dizziness, shoulder pain, numbness into the arms and sometimes thoracic and low back pain.

Most people with whiplash heal within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes physical therapy, rehabilitation exercises, and sometimes pain medications. Whiplash is something that our Osteopaths regularly treat at Better Health Osteopathy.


Cervical Spine Soft Tissue Injuries From Whiplash


Symptoms of Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash does not just affect the neck, which is a common misconception. It can affect the entire spinal column and can present itself in several ways, including the following:

  • Neck Pain
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Thoracic and Rib Pain
  • Car Seatbelt Injury
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness & Vertigo
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Pain in Legs or Arms
  • Concussion Symptoms


Are There Longer-Term Complications of Whiplash?

Most people who have whiplash feel better within a few weeks following injury. It is imperative always to get your injury checked with a medical professional such as your Osteopath, who will then advise on the best course of treatment if needed.

Unfortunately, some patients go on to have some serious chronic debilitating neck pain, headaches, and lack of mobility, which can seriously impact everyday activities such as work and caring for the family. Chronic whiplash can also cause psychological distress, including anxiety and depression in some patients.

At Better Health Osteopathy, we often treat these patients who are suffering long term complications of whiplash. One cohort of patients we often see are younger men who have suffered several whiplash injuries from the likes of sporting injuries and car accidents. They often can go on to suffer from this injury for a long time.

Can Osteopathy Help with Whiplash?

Osteopaths regularly treat patients suffering from whiplash. Osteopathic treatment of whiplash injuries aims to reduce pain and inflammation and restore mobility and function throughout the body, often reducing the need for medication.

During treatment, it is crucial to address the neck symptoms and all the presenting symptoms of the whiplash injury, which can affect parts of the body further from the neck and right down into the low back and pelvis.

Osteopathic treatment often includes gentle mobilisation and manipulation of joints and muscles, myofascial release to release the tension in your soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles). Rehabilitation exercises often form an important part of the treatment plan. These can include muscle stretching, strengthening and proprioception retraining programs. Patient education is also an integral component of the overall treatment plan.

The Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy aim to return patients suffering from whiplash back to health and everyday activities and promote a pain-free life for the future.


If you are struggling with whiplash – Our Osteopaths are here to help you! Please do not hesitate to contact Lorraine Herity at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Back Pain – Symptoms, Causes, Exercises And Treatments

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Low back pain is a prevalent medical condition reported to affect over 90% of the general population at some time in their lives. Low back pain affects patients in many different ways, with each patient having their own unique experience.

The majority of back pain is caused by dysfunction of the spine and body’s muscles, ligaments, and joints. However, there can be more serious underlying causes of back pain at times. Osteopaths are primary healthcare providers trained to differentiate between uncomplicated back pain and other conditions requiring further medical attention or investigation, such as X-ray or MRI.

Osteopaths treat patients with low back pain regularly. Generally, most patients recover from back pain over a number of weeks. However, back pain can, at times, have a severe impact on people’s everyday activities. Others can suffer from chronic back pain, where they can suffer from episodic periods of discomfort throughout the year. Only a tiny percentage of patients suffering from back pain will ever require surgery.

Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain symptoms can vary from mild pain and stiffness to unrelenting acute back pain. Some patients report a burning sensation in their low back. Others can report sensations like tingling and pins and needles in their legs. Others find it challenging to get in and out of the car, to get up from a chair, or put their socks and shoes on.

Back pain can come on without any prior warning or specific injury in many cases. This can be very frustrating for patients. Sometimes, however, there are some warnings where the patient may experience stiffness or slight back pain for weeks or months leading up to the acute back pain event.

5 Common Causes Of Back Pain

Low Back Pain typically can be challenging to diagnose and treat because there is often not one specific cause for back pain. In fact, there can be many different causes and contributing factors to back pain. Each patient will experience their back pain in their own unique way. It is important, though, to understand what structure in your back is causing the back pain

Your back comprises many structures, including facet joints, discs, ligaments, ribs, muscles, nerves, and sacroiliac joints. These structures can be easily strained, for example: from poor posture at your desk, by simply bending down to pick up a piece of paper, putting your baby into the back seat of the car, or by lifting something awkwardly on a work site.

5 Common causes of Back Pain Are:

  1. Injury or trauma to a vertebra
  2. Pulled muscles or ligaments throughout the spine
  3. Strained or prolapsed discs
  4. Irritated spinal nerve roots which cause nerve symptoms such as pins and needles or tingling in the legs or other extremities
  5. Existing medical conditions such as arthritis or inflammatory disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis

Additional Factors That Can Contribute To Back Pain

Often there is not one leading cause of back pain. In addition to the above, many other factors can contribute to back pain and the level of pain experienced by patients.

These include:

  • Poor and repetitive posture
  • Previous back injuries
  • Sitting and driving for too long
  • Repetitive bending and lifting activities
  • Smoking and poor nutrition
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress, anxiety, depression, and periods of emotional distress can affect back pain and impede healing
  • Poor spinal mechanics – dysfunction in other parts of the spine can add to the load on the injured back during movements
  • Underlying chronic health conditions

6 Top Tips When Suffering From Back Pain

When back pain occurs, it can impact on quality of life and everyday activities. Here are a few tips to help you manage when dealing with back pain.

  1. Remain Calm. More than 90% of patients with acute back pain will recover fully over some weeks.
  2. Avoid Heavy Lifting, Twisting And Bending. This includes gardening, vacuuming, lifting your baby in and out of the car, heavy lifting on-site.
  3. Discover The Root Cause. Your Osteopath will help you figure out and treat the root cause of your back pain which will contribute to a speedier recovery and help prevent further injury.
  4. Pain relief. if required, consult your GP about medication such as anti-inflammatories which could help to ease the inflammation in your back.
  5. Stay mobile. Bed rest is not recommended; avoid sitting for long periods at your desk. Avoid long periods of time driving in the car. Walking and gentle stretching can be good for your back.
  6. Strengthen And Repair. Once the pain subsides, your Osteopath will prescribe rehabilitation exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles and prevent further re-injury. It is important to follow through on your rehabilitation program.

Serious Complications of Back Pain-Red Flags

As mentioned previously, most back pain will improve over several weeks. However, there are some serious symptoms that we refer to as ‘red flags’ which should never be ignored or left untreated – if you have any of these, always see your Osteopath.

  • Numbness into toes, weakness, pins and needles down your leg.
  • Pain which is not easing after a couple of weeks.
  • Pain at night, weight loss, fever.
  • Problems with starting and stopping urination and defecation are a medical emergency – go straight to A&E.

4 Back Pain Home Remedies

Most back pain gets better within a few weeks of home treatment; however, everyone’s pain is different, and back pain can be a complicated condition as there can be multiple factors at play. The following remedies are given as a guide only; always check with your Osteopath for professional advice on caring for your back injury.

1. Get Moving Again

Although getting up and moving about may be the last thing you feel like doing – exercise helps. A short walk or low impact activity are a great place to start; the movement will help free up muscles and get things working again. Stretching is also a good idea once you feel up to it. There are plenty of stretches online that can help with back pain; some of the more common ones are:

  1. Touching The Toes. Leaning over gently stretching hamstrings and lower back.
  2. Inverting The Spine. Laying on your stomach while gently lifting your chest with your hands.
  3. Arching And Relaxing The Back. On your hands and knees, slowly alternate between arching your back toward the ceiling and dipping it toward the floor.
  4. Simple Back Stretch. Sitting on your heels, leaning forward, placing your head on the floor and stretching your arms out in front of your head.
  5. Knee Hug. Laying on your back while pulling knees up to the chest, see video below.


2. Check Your Surroundings and posture

Prolonged sitting at your desk, monitors at incorrect heights, and mismatched chair and desk heights can all contribute to back pain. In fact, any form of sustained posture such as breastfeeding, painting ceilings, lifting heavy material at work can contribute to back pain. Take a good look at your work / daily environment and ensure everything follows ergonomic principles.

3. Heat/Cold

Ice packs are most beneficial immediately after the injury strikes to help keep inflammation down. At the same time, heat packs are good for muscle relief and aiding in getting you up and about again.

4. Pain Relief Creams Or Arnica

You will find several pain relief creams available at your local chemist, or you could try using Arnica. Arnica is a homoeopathic remedy used for treating muscle pain, swelling, bruising, and other minor injuries.

Do I Need Imaging Of My Back?

In most cases of back pain – imaging is not required. However, in some cases, imaging or blood tests may be required to rule out more serious causes of back pain if an underlying medical issue is suspected. One or more of the following tests may be required.

  • Blood Tests. Blood tests are used to rule out an underlying infection that might be causing your pain.
  • X-ray. X-rays are useful if a fracture or degeneration is suspected. X-rays do not show disc bulges or nerve root impingement.
  • Scans. MRI or CT scans are used to diagnose herniated discs or problems with muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments.

Can An Osteopath Help With Back Pain?

Osteopaths are highly skilled in recognising and identifying the various structures in your back that may be the source of your pain. When visiting your Osteopath, you can expect a detailed medical history to be taken, along with a thorough Osteopathic examination to assist the diagnostic process and identify any red flags that may be present.

Osteopaths endeavor to treat the root cause of your pain using hands-on osteopathic treatment. The aim is to improve joint mobility by reducing muscle tension, inflammation and nerve irritation. We work with patients to reduce the duration of low back pain episodes, help prevent future episodes. We will also provide guidance on exercise, posture, and rehabilitation. Our main aim is to return patients back to everyday health and activities as quickly as possible.

Treatment techniques include soft tissue and joint mobilisation, manipulation, massage and various stretching exercises, and a detailed recovery and prevention plan.

Osteopaths can also refer a patient for further orthopaedic assessment, including MRI, steroidal injections, or surgery.

If you wish to discuss any issues with Back Pain, please do not hesitate to contact our Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

10 Facts About Back Pain

Friday, April 2nd, 2021
  1. Back pain is scary, and can really impact on quality of life. However, only approximately 1% of people with back pain will have serious pathologies.
  2. Getting older is not a cause of back pain.
  3. Pain is rarely associated with significant tissue damage.
  4. MRI’s and X-ray’s rarely show the cause of pain. Except in cases of serious pathology.
  5. Back pain during exercise and movement does not mean you will cause further harm.
  6. Pain flare-up’s during the healing process are normal and do not mean you are damaging your spine.
  7. In the average population, it can take back pain approximately 6-8 weeks to heal, but it can often take longer.
  8. Injections and strong drugs are not usually a cure for back pain but can have a place to help ease the pain.
  9. Back pain during pregnancy is common, but should not be taken as a normal part of pregnancy. Always seek medical opinion via your Osteopath, Midwife or GP.
  10. Difficulties with urination or defecation during a back pain episode is a medical emergency – Go straight to A&E for medical assistance.

If you are struggling with Back Pain – please do not hesitate to contact our Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Anxiety in Children; How Breathing Re-Training Can Help

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

Anxiety in children is a common condition affecting about 25% of children aged between 13 and 18.  When children are anxious, they are in fight-or-flight mode.  In this state, the body feels threatened and reacts to help the person escape or avoid a threatening situation.

The body responds by releasing hormones that make the heart beat faster, causes breathing to quicken, and boosts blood sugar levels. Having this stress reaction activated too often, or for too long, can have adverse health consequences and cause numerous physical and emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms Include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperventilation – Quick breathing or difficulty catching one’s breath
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Tummy aches
  • Shaking, dizziness, tingling around lips and in hands
  • Fatigue

Emotional Symptoms Include:

  • Ongoing worries about friends, school, or activities
  • A need for everything to be “perfect.”
  • Constant thoughts and fears about safety (of self or others, such as parents and siblings)
  • Reluctance or refusal to go to school
  • “Clingy” behaviour with parents
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to relax

Fight or Flight Mode: Its Impact on Breathing

The unconscious body, otherwise known as the autonomic nervous system, determines whether we are in a fight-or-flight or rest-and-digest mode.

Children prone to anxiety tend to practice shallow upper rib breathing, which uses upper chest muscles rather than the diaphragm and can cause headaches, fatigue, cramps, and muscle tension.

A growing number of studies have shown that breathing may trigger body relaxation responses and benefit both physical and mental health. Focussing on diaphragmatic breathing can help turn off the fight or flight mode and bring your child back into a state of calm.

What Is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique whereby children are thought to engage their diaphragm better when breathing.  It can help slow down breathing when a child is feeling stressed or anxious.

Children with anxiety tend to over-breath. An anxious child can take significantly more breaths per minute than a child in a calm state. This type of breathing is highly ineffective. It can lead to shallow upper rib breathing, which can deprive your child of carbon dioxide and result in hyperventilation (over-breathing), making the feeling of anxiety worse.  Diaphragmatic breathing is a much more efficient way to breathe in comparison to shallow upper rib breathing.

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Breathing Properly?

This is an easy test. Put your hand on your child’s tummy and ask them to breathe in. Feel and observe the breath. Is your child breathing through their tummy, or are they more upper rib breathing, where they breath more predominantly through the upper thoracic and rib area. If you find little movement through the tummy area, chances are your child is an upper rib breather.

How Can Osteopathy Help?

Diaphragmatic breathing involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and utilisation of muscles in the neck and between the upper and lower ribs to allow for inhalation and exhalation. The diaphragm is one of the major primary respiratory muscles, and its function is vital for proper breathing.

An Osteopath will examine patterns of breathing in your child. We assess how well the diaphragm, ribs, thoracic and cervical spine function to facilitate optimal breathing patterns. In children with anxiety, we often find that the diaphragm is dysfunctional and held in a contracted state, making it difficult to breathe through, further increasing anxiety levels.

Children often suffer from headaches caused by upper ribs breathing.  There is often an over-contraction of neck muscles which causes dysfunction in the cervical spine segments, leading to tension-type and cervicogenic headaches.

Once we have improved the mechanics of breathing by improving the function of the diaphragm, ribs, upper thoracic spine and cervical spine, we will then teach your child how to breathe properly by focusing on diaphragmatic breathing. We often see an immediate change in breathing patterns after the first couple of treatments, which should help lower your child’s anxiety levels.

By practising diaphragmatic breathing, your child will have a better sense of control.  It is an excellent portable tool that your child can use anywhere when feeling anxious, especially in situations when you are not there to help them through it.

If you feel your child needs help with over-breathing,  headaches or tension in their neck, feel free to contact the Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Can Osteopathy Help With Sciatica?

Monday, March 16th, 2020

What Is Sciatica?

The term ‘sciatica‘ refers to pain, inflammation and neurological sensations associated with the sciatic nerve, most commonly presenting itself as pain radiating down the back of the leg. It most commonly occurs when a herniated disk or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be described as anything from a dull ache to a sharp shooting pain down the leg that can leave the person momentarily incapacitated.

Although the pain associated with Sciatica can be severe, most cases resolve within 6 weeks. However, some people who have severe Sciatica associated with significant leg weakness, foot drop, or bowel or bladder changes may require surgical intervention.



Symptoms Of Sciatica

People experiencing Sciatica may have a number of symptoms that could include any one or more of the following:

  • Throbbing pain in the lower back, buttocks or legs while sitting.
  • Pain in the buttock or down the leg.
  • Tingling, pins and needles or numbness in the calf or foot.
  • Muscular weakness.
  • Difficulty in moving or controlling the leg.
  • Lower back pain that is exacerbated when you cough or sneeze, or when driving in the car.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sometimes people are unaware that their symptoms relate to Sciatica, so it is helpful to understand what causes it. There can be a number of underlying conditions contributing to the pain associated with Sciatica, and these may include.

  • A herniated or prolapsed disc in the lower back (the most common cause)
  • Growths within the spine
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine)
  • Piriformis Syndrome (spasm of the piriformis muscle located in the buttock region)
  • Trauma to the lower back
  • Pregnancy is also a common factor as during pregnancy the pelvis and lower back are placed under pressure as the baby grows.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for Sciatica include:

  • Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of Sciatica.
  • By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger Sciatica.
  • A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods might play a role in Sciatica.
  • Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop Sciatica than active people are.

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

Your Osteopath can diagnose Sciatica after taking a detailed medical history and physical examination. MRI and other imaging are not normally required unless your symptoms are severe and we suspect that a corticosteroid injection or surgery may be required. If this is the case,  your Osteopath will make a referral to an Orthopaedic specialist and request an MRI. 

Complications of Sciatica

Although most people recover fully from Sciatica, Sciatica can potentially cause permanent nerve damage. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any bowel or bladder function loss.

How Can Osteopathy Help Sciatica?

An Osteopath is able to work towards relieving the symptoms of Sciatica by seeking out the underlying cause of the pain. In most cases, sciatic nerve pain can be improved by decreasing muscle spasms, improving joint mobility and overall spinal functional movement, thereby relieving stress on the affected areas. Treatments may include a combination of manual joint manipulation or articulation, muscle, or tendon manipulation to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Once the initial pain has been reduced, an Osteopathic treatment approach will include focusing on rehabilitation exercises with a view to preventing further episodes. This will involve an exercise regime that aims to restore mobility, build postural strength and encourage muscle activation.

What Can I Do To Help My Injury?

  • Avoid heavy lifting, pulling, and dragging activities such as at work, in the house, or at the gym during the acute stage.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting and driving as this can potentially add too much load to the injured disc. 
  • Avoid gardening activities during the acute stage. 
  • Continue with your osteopathic treatment plan, which will help promote healing and reduce inflammation.  
  • Remain positive, as the vast majority of disc injuries will heal without the need for surgical intervention.  
  • Consult your GP about medication such as anti-inflammatories which could help to ease the inflammation in your low back.
  • Stay mobile – walking and gentle stretching can be good for your back. 
  • Your Osteopath will prescribe rehabilitation exercises once the acute stage settles down. It is important to follow through on your rehabilitation program.

If you are struggling with sciatic pain – please do not hesitate to contact the Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.

Healing From A Sports Injury? How An Osteopath Can Help

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Our bodies are a complex structure of muscles, bones, tendons and connective tissue which, when all is well, work together in harmony to help us move in all the ways we want to. Unfortunately when one or more of these elements is not functioning at its optimum, for any kind of sport or physical activity – the risk of injury is increased.

5 Types Of Sports Injuries

Most sports injuries are the result of a sudden trauma or gradual damage to the Musculoskeletal System. This system comprises of the muscles, bones, joints (such as the hips, knees and ankles), ligaments (link bones to bones), tendons (link muscles to bones) and cartilage (covers joints allowing the bones to slide over one another) that allows us to move our bodies about. The most common types of sports injuries are:

  1. Sprains. One of the most common sports-related injuries, sprains are the result of overstretching or tearing the ligaments, a good example here is a sprained ankle.
  2. Strains. Slightly different from a sprain, strains can involve muscles, joints and/or tendons being overstretched or torn. A good example is a strained hamstring or an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury (ACL).
  3. Swelling. Swelling is the body’s natural reaction to an injury; it is often a warning sign that something is not right. Swelling can be a result of overuse, improper technique, or gradual trauma as well as the result of a sudden injury.
  4. Fractures. Broken bones are a common occurrence in high-intensity sports such as mountain biking or horse riding. Stress Fractures are also common in sports people, they are less obvious and range from a tiny fracture to severe bruising within the bone.
  5. Dislocations. High impact sports such as rugby sometimes result in dislocations. A dislocated joint is when the bone is forced out of its socket within the joint, shoulder dislocations are a good example.

7 Ways To Reduce The Likelihood Of Injury

Most people who engage in regular exercise or sporting activity will experience minor sports-related injuries from time to time. There are some sensible precautions that can all help to reduce risks of injury including:

  1. Warm-Up Before Exercise. Before you begin any kind of exercise it is important to warm up your muscles and get the blood flowing.
  2. Understand Your Limits. It is important to exercise within your existing capabilities, this includes taking into account current fitness levels and previous injuries.
  3. Gradually Increase Difficulty Levels. It is important to increase your exercise levels slowly, doing too much too quickly is one of the biggest causes of injury. Do not over-train!
  4. Work On Your Technique. It doesn’t matter what kind of sport you play; if you repetitively train with poor technique then the likelihood of injury is increased. Poor technique can be a big factor in overuse or gradual onset injuries.
  5. Use The Right Gear. Ensuring you have the right kind of training equipment can make a huge difference to the occurrence of many injuries. For most sports the correct footwear for your foot is a vital part of any training regime.
  6. Be Sensible. Running in the dark over uneven ground is not the most sensible way to train, neither is pounding the pavement for hours on end when choosing to run on a natural turf is possible – use your head when it comes to building up those training hours.
  7. Don’t Forget Recovery Time. Always factor in recovery time after any games or training sessions. The muscles, tendons and ligaments need time to recover from the stresses and strains of intense activity, this includes the need to rehydrate and rest.

Healing From A Sports Injury

If you fracture a bone it will heal pretty well as long as it is fixed in place correctly. Bone tissue heals using calcium and other minerals drawn from the body in a process that creates a bond as strong as the original bone structure.

Treating soft tissue injuries however can be a little trickier. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments do not heal as efficiently as bone – essentially building what is known as ‘scar tissue’ to heal the wound. The problem with scar tissue is that it is weaker and generally less flexible than the original tissue leaving the area more susceptible to further injury.

Unless correctly diagnosed and managed, soft tissue injuries can lead to reoccurring problems, pain and reduced movement in the injured area. While painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help manage the pain and reduce symptoms they are not addressing the actual cause of the injury.

Seeking out the professional advice of an Osteopath who is specifically trained in how the body’s musculoskeletal system works together as a whole, is a good way to actually address the root cause of the issue and get some of the much-needed movement back into the area as it heals.

An Osteopath can help with injuries that have not fully healed post-surgery, ongoing injuries that never seem to go away, soft tissue damage after breaking a bone, in -act all kinds of injuries’ from any sports and fitness activities such as rugby, cricket, mountain biking, horse riding, football, netball, running, cycling, hockey, dancing and many more.

Suffering from old sports injuries that haven’t quite healed properly – your Osteopath can help! Contact Lorraine Herity at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 7555700 or book online.

Can An Osteopath Help With My Frozen Shoulder?

Monday, March 16th, 2020

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterised by stiffness, pain and severe restriction of movement in the shoulder due to intense inflammation in the shoulder joint. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsens over time and then resolves, usually within two years.

Treatment for frozen shoulder involves rehabilitation exercises and sometimes corticosteroid injections injected into the joint capsule. In a tiny percentage of cases, arthroscopic surgery may be indicated to loosen the joint capsule so that it can move more freely. It usually only affects one shoulder but can affect the opposite shoulder in some cases. 

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

In most cases, the cause of frozen shoulder is unknown. However, some common risk factors can play a part in the onset of this condition; these include diabetes, heart disease, trauma and connective tissue disorders, and those aged between 40-60 years.

Sometimes Frozen Shoulder can be a result of previous trauma to the shoulder or because of recent surgery that renders the arm or shoulder unusable for a lengthy period of time.

5 Symptoms Of Frozen Shoulder

Some common symptoms associated with Adhesive Capsulitis or Frozen Shoulder are:

  1. Intense pain in the shoulder and/or radiating down the arm
  2. Inflammation of the joint
  3. Disturbed sleep patterns (due to pain and attempting to lay on the affected side)
  4. Restricted mobility and loss of range of motion (unable to lift, reach, or raise the arm fully)

The 3 Phases Of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Frozen shoulder is generally a self-limiting condition and normally will heal within 2 years. It follows 3 phases of healing as outlined below. 

  1. Phase 1. Commonly referred to as the “Freezing Phase‘, when symptoms begin to occur, this is the most painful stage, and it can last several months.  
  2. Phase 2. Commonly referred to as the “Frozen Phase“, the pain starts to subside somewhat and stiffness sets in, and there is a marked loss of range of movement in the shoulder. This phase can last for many months or even over a year.
  3. Phase 3. Commonly referred to as the “Thawing Phase“, when movement gradually returns to normal over many months.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder Treatment Options

As with any injury, early diagnosis and treatment are important, and treatment options will vary for each individual. Frozen Shoulder sufferers can seek treatment from several healthcare providers, including their Osteopath for physical therapy, a GP for some pain relief, or an Orthopaedic specialist for referral for a corticosteroid injection if needed. 

Osteopathy involves taking on a whole-body approach to healing which will include not only examination of the shoulder but the entire neck, back and pelvis. 

Osteopaths will use gentle manipulation techniques focusing on the joints and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder and spine. Mobilisation techniques are used to restore the range of movement back into the shoulder gently. Rehabilitation exercises will form an integral part of the overall treatment plan, especially in the Thawing Phase. Osteopaths will also provide lifestyle advice to lessen the pain where possible and for ongoing management and prevention.

If you are struggling with an injured shoulder or Frozen Shoulder – Our Osteopaths are here to help you! Please do not hesitate to contact Lorraine Herity at Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch today. Call 027 755 5700 or book online.