Pain sometimes seems inevitable as we grow older. Whether it’s a serious injury or general wear and tear, stiffness and aching become a recurring theme in your joints. You might want to find anything that can alleviate the discomfort. If regular medicine isn’t proving helpful, you may look to alternative or complementary therapies.
By alternative and complementary therapy, we mean healing techniques that are not directly based in modern medical science. In the context of musculoskeletal problems, likely approaches include chiropractic and osteopathy. As you may know, few things can rile people up as much as the debates about whether alternative medicine actually works or if any apparent benefits are due to the so-called placebo effect (you expect it to help, so it feels like it helps).
Chiropractic and osteopathy both involve the practitioner manipulating your body in a way that is similar to other forms of physical therapy. Chiropractic focuses on the chiropractor using their hands to manipulate the spine, known as spinal or chiropractic adjustment. It’s mainly used to alleviate back pain, and to a lesser extent pain in the neck, shoulder or elbow. It may help you relax and alleviate tension, but when done incorrectly, it can cause damage.
A doctor of chiropractic isn’t the same as a medical doctor, but some osteopaths (but not all) are official medical practitioners. Osteopaths manipulate the body in a wide variety of ways, including stretching and massaging it. It’s based on the idea that all parts of the body – physical, mental and emotional – are connected, and by treating one area, it can help you heal more completely. Osteopathy may reduce pain and tension, stimulate blood flow and improve mobility.
The evidence we do have supporting osteopathy and chiropractic mainly suggests it can help with milder pain and stiffness rather than serious medical conditions. Many people do find it beneficial, although that may sometimes be the placebo effect, but it can also be harmful when done wrong or used as a substitute for regular medicine.
If you want to try an alternative therapy, maybe because the regular approach has already failed you, talk to your doctor first and ensure you find an experienced and qualified practitioner. Take proper safety precautions, don’t set unrealistic expectations, and listen to your body if it tells you something is or isn’t working.