Effective Pain Relief During Pregnancy

Pregnancy and back painAcupuncture has been used for centuries to effectively treat women suffering pelvic pain (sacroiliac joint and pubic joint pain) during pregnancy.

For relieving pelvic pain in pregnant women, a study published in the British Medical Journal found “Acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises.”

In fact, acupuncture was shown to be more effective than standard treatment or stabilising exercises.

Please feel free to share this post with family and friends, especially if they’re pregnant.

Read the research

Love Gardening, But Your Back Doesn’t?

Gardening & Back PainFor many of us, including myself, spring means gardening. Whether you love or hate it, one thing’s for certain, it involves lots of forward bending.

Digging holes, pulling weeds, lifting, cutting the grass, pruning and planting all involve forward bending or flexion of the lumbar spine. While there’s nothing wrong with flexion, when performed repeatedly or in a sustained fashion, it frequently leads to acute episodes or aggravation of lower back pain and sciatica.


• Think before you lift. Bend your knees & keep your chest up.
• Weed on all fours rather than bending down or crouching.
• Avoid long periods of forward bending. Spread the work over
a couple of days or a few weekends.
• Take regular breaks and reverse your posture.
• Avoid lifting and forward bending first thing in the morning.
This is when discs are more likely to be injured.
• Get help with heavy lifting.

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Don’t take your back pain lying down!

Back PainPerforming squats at the gym, some years ago, I experienced severe lower back pain and tightness. Immediately, I made for the exit, fearing I would collapse to the floor, a rather embarrassing prospect for someone who treats back pain for a living. Arriving home, my next job was to exit the car. Well, not as easy as it sounds. Eventually, I managed to get inside and collapsed on the floor where I spent most of that and the following day. I had experienced back pain before, but not like this.

While it’s true that movement is often good for back pain, it’s important to understand that a few days of complete rest can be very beneficial in helping your damaged tissues heal. In those first few days, pain is often constant, with no position or movement providing relief. This type of pain is inflammatory and will be aggravated by any movement, including deep massage and manipulation, which places mechanical stress on the damaged tissues, causing more trauma, inflammation and pain.

Inflammation typically last for 1 – 3 days, at which point you will find there is often a significant reduction in pain, improved movement and function. As your pain reduces and mobility increases you will begin performing those movements and sustained postures that probably contributed to the onset of your pain, so be careful! Any movement or posture that causes pain to increase or spread to your hip or leg should be avoided. The same applies to movements and postures that cause increased stiffness and reduced function.

Once you’re up and moving, make sure you make an appointment to see a McKenzie Method practitioner, who can assist you in identifying the cause of your pain as well as teach you important strategies to help prevent pain from returning.

Want to learn more about the McKenzie Method? Click here.

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Paracetamol & Back Pain

Parcetamol & Back PainAs you may be aware, a recent study published in the Lancet, revealed paracetamol not to be to be effective in relieving back pain.

Obviously, this has resulted in a number of articles being published, highlighting the drugs ineffectiveness. Some of these articles have pointed out that roughly 80% of us will experience lower back pain at some point. They also explain that 50% of the people in the study were “better” within two weeks, regardless of whether they received paracetamol or not, and they encouraged those suffering from back pain to stay active.

Many of the patients consulting me for lower back pain, describe a common pattern. They have typically experienced several episodes of back pain, often over many years, with each episode being a little more severe. Often, pain that began in the lower back, has since spread to the buttock, thigh or lower leg and symptoms have persisted for longer periods. Previously, these patients were in the 50% group, getting better within two weeks.

What this pattern shows us is that lower back pain does often get “better” within two weeks, however, it is often recurrent. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that 40-50% of patients go on to develop recurrent lower back pain.

The recurrent nature of lower back pain is what we should be addressing and explaining to our patients. Having them resume normal activities, the same activities that possibly played a role in the onset of their back pain, may in fact play be linked to the recurrent nature of the problem. Those of us that have suffered lower back pain, myself included, know that there are certain movements and postures that aggravate our pain and possibly others that ease it. When in pain we naturally to avoid painful movements, however, we soon return to these previously painful movements once our pain is “better”. Just remember those movements were painful for a reason! Pain is a warning that something is wrong, just like your engine warning light.

There is certainly some truth in telling patients they will get “better” in a few weeks and to keep active, however, I believe that this message may be doing those who suffer back pain a disservice. Back pain is not a diagnosis, it’s a symptom with many causes. However, it is often recurrent because we continually subject our backs to sustained poor posture, slumping over the computer and performing everyday movements and exercisers with poor technique. These mechanical factors need to be addressed in those suffering from back pain and in my experience, when they are, lower back pain can typically be managed and it’s recurrence significantly reduced.

Is it my elbow or my neck?

Pain felt on the inside of the elbow or medial epicondyle is often referred to as golfer’s elbow.images
Interestingly, most people suffering from this condition don’t play golf.
Often the condition has a protracted history, lasting for months or even years and fails to respond to treatment directed at the site of pain such as; massage, physiotherapy exercises and local injection.
One of the reasons why treatment of the painful site can fail to resolve the complaint is because it’s often caused by the neck or cervical spine. This can be difficult for patients to accept because the elbow is often exquisitely tender to touch.
One study, published in the Journal of Sports Health, looked at a sample of 102 patients and found a strong link between neck problems at the level of C6-7, the lower neck, and golfer’s elbow.
I frequently encounter patients with golfer’s or tennis elbow who responded to specific neck exercises, even though many don’t actually have neck pain when they present for treatment.

If you’re suffering from elbow pain, particularly if it’s failing to respond to local treatment, make sure your neck is appropriately examined and excluded as a possible cause.

Piriformis Syndrome

The following is a response I provided on a practitioner forum.

It’s important to differentiate between piriformis trigger point activity or knots and piriformis syndrome. The syndrome, as others have pointed out, involves compression of the sciatic nerve as it passes through or near the piriformis muscle and is associated with neurological symptoms.

Piriformis trigger points DO NOT cause neurological symptoms and give rise to referred pain over the sacroiliac joint region, hip or greater trochanter and possibly posterior thigh.

If you have neurological symptoms such as; numbness, tingling, shooting pain, burning, loss of sensation or weakness in the leg or foot then it could be piriformis syndrome, however, it is essential that your lumbar spine be eliminated as the cause! Not saying your GP is incorrect but piriformis syndrome is RARE.

Both piriformis trigger points and piriformis syndrome result from simple muscle spasm/trigger point activity and will both respond rapidly, 1 -3 treatments, to appropriate dry needling or acupuncture.

I’m very interested that you say “it gets bad towards the end of the day”.  Would love to know what your day involves! If it’s sitting, you most probably need some advice on ergonomics as well as appropriate treatment.


Brett Rawlings
Cred. McKenzie Method Practitioner
Doctor of Acupuncture
Clinical Myotherapist