Osteopathy: Part 1 of the multi-treatment approach to pain

I try and blog at least once a week, but a new job and a bad flare has meant that, unbelievably, it’s been almost a month. For that, patient readers, I apologise. You would think that after nine years of chronic pain I’d know my body well enough to see a flare a mile off and kick it in the ass, but it doesn’t seem to work like that.

No matter how long we’ve suffered from fibromyalgia, our flares knock us down just like they did at the beginning; quickly and with force.

However, whilst the force of the flare is pretty much consistent, the way I cope with it most certainly is not. Back in May I wrote this post about changing my approach to chronic pain management in the hope it might have a long term impact on my symptoms. After watching Dr in the House, a BBC programme where a GP moves in with someone with a complicated illness, I decided to try a multi-treatment approach to managing my pain.

Dr Chatterjee suggests that there are five areas to consider when faced with chronic pain, and he thinks that responding to each category rather than just one is more likel to improve your pain. I’d ruled out the focus on neurological conditions after my MRI scans came back negative, but that meant I still had four areas to address. I promised I’d update you in a series of blog posts, so here we go…


The first box I tackled was the musculo-skeletal issue by booking an appointment with an osteopath. Over the years I’ve tried physiotherapy, body-stress release, esoteric therapy, reflexology, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and no doubt a couple of others at some point or another. However, I’ve only ever had one or two appointments before giving up because I’ve never noticed a significant change to my pain – and I’ve never enjoyed the appointments.

I decided to give osteopathy a go because I’ve never done it before and there’s some evidence that shows it helps with back pain and migraines. For those who don’t know about osteopathy,  the NHS describe it as “moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints … it’s based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together.”

When I first walked in to my osteopathy appointment, I wasn’t completely in the right frame of mind. I was running late so I arrived a bit flustered and I was on the defensive because I knew that, yet again, I would have to explain my entire pain journey to someone new who would likely talk about emotional trauma, the validity of fibromyalgia, or claim he could cure me in a matter or weeks.

However, he did none of those things. In fact, he was pretty great.

My osteo does three things I absolutely love. He’s not big on small talk; we only have half an hour together so he makes the most of that. He’s quick, to the point and knows I’m there to get stuff done so that’s what he does. He also refers to my knowledge and expertise, and asks me questions so that his medical knowledge can complement – not contradict – what I’ve been doing. Finally, he’s nice. It might be irrelevant to some of you, but I want someone to help me through this very complicated pain journey who’s kind, who doesn’t patronise me, and who doesn’t get pissed off with me when I don’t do my exercises – which, to be clear, is a lot of the time.

I’ve been seeing him every 3 weeks for the last five months and the main question is: has it helped? Well, I’m still flaring so my gut response is no, but we all know it isn’t that simple. Maybe I would have flared sooner if it wasn’t for the osteo, or maybe the flare would have been worse.

There are a couple of reasons I keep going back.

This is the first time in almost nine years that anyone has done any physical manipulation to help me. My osteo looks at my ability to move at the beginning of each appointment, he focuses on the areas that are bothering me the most, and he explains what he’s doing and why. All of this is about my physical pain, not the history of any mental anguish. I’m often pretty exhausted after an appointment, and some of his manipulation makes me feel a bit nauseous but the physical response makes me feel like he’s doing something. My neck pain has improved over the weeks I’ve been seeing him, my headaches have eased and the approach he is taking seems logical.

Private osteopathy in central London is pretty expensive and I’ve wondered – on more than one occasion – if this is a total waste of time. And it might be. But I want to keep trying because I made a promise to myself to try a number of things and see if the combined approached works. (Alongside osteo I’m also doing some pretty excellent stress-relieving activities and starting exercise too, but more on that soon…)

If you’re considering alternative therapy then these are my three no-nonsense tips, based on a) the fact I’m quite enjoying my current experience and b) I’ve hated my past forty-five experiences. Written down they seem like common sense, but apparently it’s taken me nine years to realise this.

  1. Find a therapy you understand and that sounds logical, not one that has to convince your inner sceptic. If you’re open to all alternative therapies then that is excellent but if you’re not, do your research and follow your head.
  2. Find a treatment you enjoy. There’s nothing worse than lying with needles in your face wishing you were anywhere but lying with needles in your face.
  3. Find a therapist you actually like. It’s important.

This is approach one of four. I’ll be back with number two very soon.


15 comments on “Osteopathy: Part 1 of the multi-treatment approach to pain

  1. This really was fascinating information. I do not have Fibromyalgia, but have been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years, which comes with a ton of pain. In these years of talking to doctors about my pain, not one of them had ever mention these 5 areas of address. For me, stress is HUGE! I am working on getting that under control. My most recent MRI was horrible. I do try to exercise, but it is hard with pain sometimes. I know my diet isn’t good but I am working on improving that now! I really appreciate you sharing this as this has given me things that I can focus on to maybe improve my pain. Thank you so much!!!! I hope you are doing well and I really look forward to more of your posts!!!

    • No one had ever mentioned it to me either! Take comfort in the fact it’s totally shaking my world cos I’m rubbish at sustaining all these things, and I’ve never tried to change my diet because I love food too much! Let’s see how I go, and I hope it continues to help you too. x

      • Oh sweetie, you are definitely not the only one having issues changing the diet part. It is only me and my husband and I don’t like to cook, he can’t even boil water, so we eat out a lot. I am reading up about changing my diet, but honestly have not done anything massive yet!

  2. Osteopathic treatment is so gentle it’s a perfect treatment to try. I have fibro but before this horrible condition, I had a really nasty head injury with the resulting whiplash. I tried conventional medication and physio to no avail, 6 hours of osteopathic treatment and I was pain free.
    I’m booked in for treatment this week to help with my fibro headaches. I would question if a half hour treatment is sufficient…. I have an hour at a time. I usually sleep on the way home too!
    Best of luck finding what works for you xx

  3. Thank you for this information! I never understood what an osteo did until now. 😘

  4. I have also been inspired by Dr in the house to tackle my chronic pain.
    I think I might have been a bit too enthusiastic on some fronts and have ended up in the midst of a horrible flare.
    I started with food, going low carb which has given me acid reflux & flu like symptoms with pounding headaches. The plus point I have lost 7lbs, but gained a prescription of ranitidine
    I have purchased a Fitbit and keep pushing myself to get to 10,000 steps a day which is ridiculous in the middle of a flare.
    I am seeing a lovely osteopath who is trying to help ease my muscle spasms which are stopping me from sleeping.
    The missing ingredient for me is Dr Rangan Chatergee moving into my house, holding my hand and saying calm down we can do this together.

    • Allow me to step in for Dr Rangan and say, woah! 10,000 steps is a lot for anyone, never mind someone with fibro and in a flare! I think there are some really good things from Dr in the House that we can take and learn from, but please don’t push yourself too hard. The exercise element of my multi-treatment approach, which I’ll blog about soon, is swimming and walking but we have to build up over time. Congrats on the weight-loss, that’s awesome, but be kind to yourself. 🙂

  5. Great article, thanks. I hope you’re feeling more like you.

  6. This sounds really good and I’m glad it helped you some. I would love to keep hearing about it.

  7. Kate Perry

    Hi Sarah, having emailed you in the past about the Dr in the house programme, your post was incredibly well timed for me.

    I have been having increasing levels of neck/ shoulder/ head pain over the last few months. This has coincided with far more migraines which seem more punishing and longer lasting, plus much louder tinnitus.
    I’m currently waiting for an ENT referral (my hearing has become impaired suddenly) and a physio assessment – but I’m positive that all of the above are linked and a solution needs to be found as I can’t carry on this way.
    I’m hopeful that it will lead to an MRI to rule out anything sinister but can probably predict that I will be sent away with “It’s fibromyalgia my dear” and a sheet of exercises which I probably can’t do!
    So, other options will need to be explored and I think an osteopath may be next on the list!
    Take care and keep warm,

  8. Pingback: Relaxation: Part 2 of the multi-treatment approach to pain – A LIFE LESS PHYSICAL

  9. Pingback: Doctor in the house: How I’m changing my chronic pain management – A LIFE LESS PHYSICAL

  10. This is fantastic Chris, thank you so much for sharing. And there are a couple of tips in here I haven’t tried so will definitely be giving them a go. x

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