The work we do in clinic is important, but it accounts for a tiny part of your time. The best results come from knowing how to manage your problem between treatments. Your osteopath will give you personalised advice to help, and you can read on to learn the basics of self management.
Heat or Ice?
During the case history, we want to know what makes your symptoms better or worse. Often we ask directly about the use of a warm or cool compress, and the answer is "I haven't tried either because I didn't know which one was right". As a general rule, ice is good for new injuries and reducing inflammation. Heat is good for relaxing tight muscles, but it might aggravate inflammation. In either case, you don't want to apply the compress for more than 10 minutes. Please note that the aim with ice is not to fully numb the area- doing so will often cause more discomfort when sensation returns.
It's also worth knowing that inflammation happens for a reason. After an injury, inflammation brings the cells that are needed to clear and heal damaged tissue, so don't feel that you need to ice until you've lost all swelling, redness, heat, or pain.
Stretching can be relieving for tight muscles. Stress related tension is a good example of this. For tension, breathing exercises can be helpful too. Depending on your exact case, your osteopath will give you a selection of exercises to target the root cause and symptomatic areas. These exercises can be key in managing not only the main problem, but reducing or preventing secondary symptoms, such as headaches resulting from tightness spreading into the neck.
You may be asked to combine these exercises with heat or ice to improve their efficacy. It can help to find a routine to keep on top of your exercises, such as performing them as soon as you get up or before bed. Hip and leg movements might be easily done while brushing your teeth, or more general ones might fit nicely into the time it takes to boil the kettle. Fitting them into a pattern that suits you is the trick.
You might be surprised how many problems benefit from strengthening. Hypermobility (whether local or widespread), and postural problems can be particularly responsive. We prefer to strengthen an area rather than use supports or braces where possible.
Strengthening might sound daunting, but it's not always about lifting barbells. Depending on your problem and general fitness, you might be asked to use resistance bands, light weights, or even things you have lying around the house like a tin of beans or a bottle of windscreen fluid.
Your osteopath can help you to build up your exercises as appropriate, either increasing the number of reps or sets, or the weight itself. As your condition improves, we might also change the exercises completely, targeting new areas or working more broadly.
Don't underestimate the benefit of a walk or other innocuous movement. Many minor aches and pains will begin to ease over the course of gentle exercise. They may return afterwards, but the overall improvement has still been developed. Often, comfortably returning to exercise comfortably is a patient's goal. We take the time to understand what you want from treatment to completely tailor your treatment and management plan.