Updated: Jun 13
It' s 2007. Physio UK hosted a debate on who owns lower back pain. The panel of 6 was made up of leaders in the field of Osteopathy, Chiropractic treatment, Orthopaedic surgery, Physiotherapy, exercise and an alternative thinking journalist and author. They were each given 10 minutes to answer the following 4 questions:
Who are they?
What is their modality?
Where do they see their field in 10 years?
Who owns lower back pain?
The last 2 questions were the ones of real interest to me. The answers I found surprising. Question 3. Where do they see their field in 10 years? The Osteopath and Chiropractor were both heads of the leading teaching schools in their field. They both pretty much had the same response. I paraphrase, “There is no need to do anything else. The treatment has been around for years and we see no reason to change what we do” One, and I can't remember which, definitely didn't walk the walk of spinal alignment as he slouched over the panels desk.
The leading Physio from Canada specialised in the pelvis and said all back issues stem from the pelvis. Full-stop.
The American Physical Trainer said it was all about “exercise, diet, a happy mind and spirituality, it’s all in my book” and didn’t actually answer the question. The alternative thinking author and journalist said it was mind, body and spirit we needed to develop, with the help of the universe. She had a point in that emotions have been proven to be held at a cellular level (Dr Bruce Lipton - the Biology of Belief) but gave no enlightened solution for what lower back pain looked like in 10 years time.
And finally, the leading Orthopaedic surgeon from a London teaching hospital. He was the only one to talk about progressive, innovative replacement components and the new techniques in surgery.
With the exception of the surgeon’s response, I found the other answers, quite frankly, worryingly shocking or useless. To think the majority of them believed we couldn’t improve on what we know about the human body was outstandingly arrogant. (Feel free to comment below!)
Question 4. Who did they think owned lower back pain? Not surprisingly, all of them thought their field of expertise owned lower back pain.
However, the surgeon admitted surgery played a part, but wasn’t the sole answer. He added, “We see people after they've exhausted the other options of conventional therapy. Surgery is a last resort and spinal surgery happens in approximately only 5% of the people we see” What happens to the other 95%? They were being sent back for further physiotherapy and more addictive opioids.
Others suggestions touted as to who might own lower back pain included the tax man, the government, NHS, medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the City, the gyms etc.,
No one, and I mean NO ONE, mentioned the person with the back pain! I attended this debate with 5 friends who weren’t physios, osteos, chiro’s or surgeons however, we were alternative thinkers and physical therapists in one form or other and one was a very forward thinking GP. We'd met as a small group studying bodywork techniques with the acclaimed Judith Aston in 2005. Our common interest was wanting to make a difference having already recognised conventional solutions to muscular skeletal issues, for us, didn't add up and another approach was needed..
We all agreed the only person to own lower back pain is the person with the lower back pain. I know. I’ve had it! Footnotes: Physio UK - was an excellent educational organisation that sadly is no longer in operation.
Judith Aston - Founder of the Aston™ Paradigm, a Rolfer who studied directly under Ida Rolf. She is a whizz at seeing and teaching gait and alignment and went on to develop her own spiralling massage technique believing it wasn't necessary to go as deep into the tissues as Rolfing to trigger a change in the body. Her age is a secret I've not been able to get the answer to, but based on the fact she was teaching movement and exercise in her early career from '63-72, she's got to be pushing towards mid 80's and she's still working!