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Pain Management Practice

Osteopaths are trained to identify and treat physical injuries in the body. All osteopaths are skilled at managing mechanical pain, or typical pain that is produced when there is discomfort or an immediate physical injury to the body.

In addition, pain management osteopaths focus on identifying and managing underlying causes of ongoing or persistent pain which may be maintained through complex physiological and neurological factors unique to each person.

Pain management osteopaths work mainly with people who experience pain which lasts longer than expected healing timeframes. They work with more complex pain types, such as nerve pain (pain that results from a disease or problem in the central nervous system but can exist without a physical injury), neuroplasticity (changes in the brain and patient behaviours or perceptions due to pain), and pain comorbidities (when there are numerous types of pain present, other illnesses or conditions that may produce or compound pain or disability).

Pain management osteopaths have additional training and/or experience to manage pain that lasts beyond expected healing timeframes; nerve pain, as well as stress, behavioural and mental adaptations that can occur as a result of persistent pain.

Assessment and treatment

There are clinical processes and requirements that all osteopaths follow, regardless of their clinical focus, before they provide treatment. These include performing a physical assessment, a thorough health history, discussion of a proposed treatment plan, provision of advice and information on the risks and benefits of any proposed treatment; and confirmation of your willingness to proceed – otherwise known as informed consent.

Assessments performed by a pain management osteopath may include the following additional and specific clinical components:  

  • Exploration of your pain history. This involves identifying what you think is causing your pain, previous tests and diagnoses you have been given to explain your pain, as well as treatments and other approaches you have tried to relieve your pain
  • Collection of information about your lifestyle at home, at work and socially and occasions when your pain gets better or worse. Pain management osteopaths may use surveys and questionnaires to determine factors that affect your pain, including life stresses, past treatments, emotional and other factors
  • Additional pain testing, to identify if your pain is linked to a musculoskeletal injury, or other factors that have triggered changes in your nervous system or brain
  • Determination of whether hands-on manual therapies and home exercises could complement any other treatments you are trying to manage your pain
  • Determination of whether you would benefit from a referral for further assessment or clinical management.

Pain management osteopaths work with you to tailor your pain management plan to your individual needs, goals and to the type or types of pain they have identified. Uniquely, the approaches they use to manage pain may not involve any hands on manual therapy. They work with you using methods that have been validated in pain science, such as pain education, basic cognitive approaches and lifestyle advice to help you manage components of your lifestyle that can influence pain and trigger flair ups.

Pain management osteopaths work closely with general practitioners, psychologists, exercise physiologists, medical specialists and other health professionals as they understand effective pain management requires a multidisciplinary approach. They understand that manual therapies may be one of several strategies needed to manage pain. Where required, pain management osteopaths may work with or refer you to a pain management clinic with the support of your general practitioner. Osteopaths also receive regular referrals from other health professionals.

Special considerations of pain management osteopaths

  • Neurological, musculoskeletal and other causes of pain, as well as neurological, cognitive and musculoskeletal assessments for pain
  • Tests and examinations used to assess pain, its effects, and measure progress
  • Chronic health conditions that may impact pain
  • Referral pathways involved in managing and treating various types of pain
  • Typical relief timeframes for various types of pain, both with or without clinical intervention
  • Manual therapies, musculoskeletal and basic cognitive clinical interventions for managing various types of pain
  • Complex pain presentations that may require additional attention or investigation.

Pain management osteopaths use referral pathways and have a developed understanding of:

  • Pharmacological interventions used to manage pain
  • Medical interventions used by pain clinics and pain management centres.

Note: there are no specialisations within osteopathy. However many osteopaths choose to work with a specific patient group or groups and undertake further study and/or training to support their clinical focus.