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Osteopathy as an alternative to steroid injections

shutterstock_227707180We recently received some wonderful feedback from patients of our practice founder and osteopath Ami Sevi. His treatments had eased the pain these two women had been feeling so much that they had decided against the cortisone injections other health professionals had recommended to them.

In this blog post we take a look at cortisone injections and how osteopathy offers an alternative to patients like Michelle and Uzma.

Firstly, the testimonials:

Michelle Mulholland was delighted that one treatment with Ami had reduced her lower back pain so dramatically that her surgeon had changed his mind about recommending her for a cortisone injection.

Michelle said:

“I was booked in for a cortisone injection after months of physiotherapy with a very well respected therapist in London had failed to improve my lower back pain. Luckily I was visiting friends in Yorkshire and after some research found Amittai Sevi at Good Health Centre. From the moment I walked in I felt better cared for than I had previously, and after just one session with Amittai my pain reduced by 90%. I was so much better that my surgeon advised against the injection and told me to just keep doing whatever I’d done!

“Such a shame I am emigrating abroad as finding an osteopath like Amittai is no easy task! I have no doubt that if I could see him again he would eliminate my pain all together.”

Uzma Akhtar had a series of treatments with Ami for a shoulder problem that was making it very difficult to get on with her everyday life, including looking after her family.

Uzma said:

“How appreciative I am that you have got me to my normal state! I came to you after suffering for nearly three months with tendonitis which was developing into a frozen shoulder. I couldn’t look after my young boys or even get dressed without being in agony.

“Following my first session with Ami I felt some flexibility return and less pain. I couldn’t believe what an improvement it made. After a further four sessions with Ami I have gained more than 90% movement back in my shoulder and arm. I can’t thank you enough for treating me and making me better so quickly – now I am able to take care of my young family.

“I was told by a physiotherapist, three different GPs and an ultrasound scan that I most definitely needed a steroid injection. Due to Ami’s treatment I no longer require it!”

So what are cortisone injections?

Cortisone injections are steroid injections used for their anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. They contain corticosteroid medication plus a local anaesthetic and are injected into the site of the pain, often joints but also muscles and surrounding tissues. Generally fast-acting, they provide relief for periods of six weeks up to six months.

These injections have been commonly used for lower back pain since the 1950s, alongside physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises. However, they don’t work for everyone and aren’t without their risks and side effects.

Possible side effects of cortisone injections include an increase in pain and swelling plus bleeding and infection at the injection site, and weakened tendons and ligaments. They can also contribute to raised blood sugar levels making them unsuitable for people with diabetes.

Longer term side effects include:

  • Death of nearby bone (osteonecrosis)
  • Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis)
  • Joint infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site
  • Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint
  • Tendon weakening or rupture
  • Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site
  • Cartilage damage.

Often, repeated use of cortisone injections can lead to the degeneration of cartilage within a joint, leaving surgery the only option. It is therefore recommended that the number of cortisone injections given to a patient within a year be limited to no more than three or four.

Osteopathy as an alternative to cortisone injections

When an osteopath assesses a patient, they take a holistic approach, treating the body as a whole as they search for abnormalities in the body’s structure and function. Rather than focusing on the site of pain alone, an osteopath’s priority will always be to investigate the biomechanical dysfunction that gave rise to the problem the patient came to see them about. True osteopathic thinking is based around the individual: osteopaths base their very careful diagnosis on the patient with the problem, and not the problem itself. They will take into account a patient’s lifestyle and medical history, any previous trauma, their posture and so on to build up a picture of how and where in the body the pain began.

Osteopaths use manipulative techniques to detect and release areas of tension or structural imbalance. By making adjustments to the musculoskeletal system, an osteopath can restore balance and ensure the body is physically comfortable. This in turn will reduce the loading of the tendons, allowing them to heal in the short term and also to prevent the same problem from occurring again in the long term.

This is what happened with both Michelle and Uzma – their underlying problems were not treated by the medical professionals they saw first.

We’re delighted that Ami was able to reduce Michelle’s pain after just one treatment, and help restore Uzma’s quality of life after four treatments. Our osteopaths have helped countless other patients with similar pain over the last 25 years.

We’d like to add that we’re not against the use of cortisone injections across the board. If all other treatments have failed, the right injection into the right area of the body at the right time and in the right patient can help that patient to regain their quality of life. However, it’s vital that the contributing factors are addressed and a programme of care is tailored to the individual.

If you’d like to explore osteopathy as an alternative to injections or surgery, please get in touch to make an appointment with one of our experienced osteopaths. Call 0113 237 1173 or fill in this form to request a callback.

Arthritis Action
The Institute of Osteopathy
British Institute of Osteopathy
General Osteopathic Council
British Acupuncture Council
Accredited Voluntary Register