Clinical tests and assessments
If you have sore joints, bones, ligaments or are unsure of what positions, movements or postures could be causing your pain, an osteopath may carry out orthopaedic tests to help identify what could be causing you discomfort. These tests can help to highlight changes in motion in injured parts of the body and help to identify movements or positions that cause discomfort or pain.
If you have burning or tingling pain down your shoulders, arms, legs or hips or in the neck, osteopaths may use neurological tests to check if you have an injury or disease relating to the nervous system. This involves carrying out tests to evaluate your body’s response to certain stimuli and sensations – for example, by checking your reflexes and your ability to perform and replicate specific movements. This will help the osteopath to understand whether your nerve pathway is impacted in any way, and allow them to advise you on movement/lifestyle changes or other strategies to help ease stress on your nerve pathway.
If you have had a workplace injury, prolonged absence from work, or are changing work roles, an osteopath may carry out functional capacity tests to help identify the physical demands and movements involved in performing tasks in your work and daily life. This will help to assess the level risk of a physical injury while performing a specific task. These tests can also highlight the limitations of your physical capabilities, movement, function or use of specific muscle groups. This will help your osteopath to develop a strength or conditioning plan for you to help improve your performance while carrying out particular activities.
If you have neck or back pain associated with carrying out a particular activity, or if you have physical discomfort or difficulty using appliances, equipment or aids in your workplace or daily life, an osteopath may decide to carry out an ergonomic assessment. This reviews your function and movement within a specific workplace, domestic or other setting, and aims to find the right fit for appliances, tools, equipment or spaces you use for your height, body shape, weight and physical form. An ergonomic assessment will help your osteopath to advise you on the efficient use of space, while helping to improve your posture and positioning in an environment and, ultimately, help to prevent injury.
Once complete, an osteopath will write up a report recommending certain changes to equipment, the layout of your work environment, how you use equipment or perform tasks, or other appliances needed. The osteopath may also recommend changing between duties or tasks, introducing resting periods or exercises that can assist.
Ergonomic interventions can consist of postural or positioning advice for a specific environment, such as at a person’s home or workplace. It can also involve redesign and modification of an environment to prevent injury, promote recovery post injury or manage symptoms associated with chronic neuromusculoskeletal conditions. A growing body of research highlights that ergonomic interventions may reduce pain intensity for people with spinal pain and neuromusculoskeletal conditions of the upper body including neck disorders.
An exercise-based assessment may be appropriate if you are transitioning between sporting grades or levels, are moving from community to elite sport, or are having a lifestyle change and wish to continue exercising. Pregnant women, people with chronic deteriorating conditions and older people who wish to exercise may also benefit from an exercise-based assessment.
During an exercise-based assessment, your osteopath will identify the demands of your preferred sport and test your exercise skills. Depending on the sport, an exercise- based assessment could include a test of your endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination, power or force, precision of movement, body region strength, posture, running or walking style.
Following an exercise-based assessment, your osteopath will create a plan for you, including targeted exercises and clinical advice for your sporting success. This may include single and multi-movement clinical exercise routines for neuromusculoskeletal management with, for example, specific exercises for:
- Range of motion
- Tissue extension
- Joint stabilisation
- Joint mobilisation
- Postural issues
- Nerve gliding
- Motor skill maintenance or development
- Balancing or proprioception
Exercise prescription may assist patients with neuromusculoskeletal issues not caused by a serious or life-threatening health condition. Research suggests that directed clinical exercise may improve and reduce pain in people with muscular guarding, low level neural impingement syndromes, neck pain, neck disorders, upper back pain, acute and persistent low backpain without significant neural impingement, low grade spondylolisthesis/spondylolysis, shoulder disorders, idiopathic scoliosis, kyphosis, low level jaw joint disorders, tendinopathy, clinical ankle instability, carpel tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, heel pain, low level and moderate hip, foot and knee osteoarthritis.