When does pain become an injury? (Or when should I make an appointment with an osteopath?)

We all suffer the odd knock or strain, bumping into things, overdoing exercise or (if you are as old as me) even sneezing or sleeping strangely……Usually the pain will last a few days, a lot of pain that occurs in a short time is to with the process of acute inflammation, which signals pain to us to let us know something is wrong.  As most of our patients come to see us in order to resolve pain this begs the question, when does the pain you have become something that you should seek help from an osteopath for? There is never a clear cut answer to this question but there are a few criteria that can be applied that may help you decide.

Is the pain/injury progressing as you would expect?  Another way of asking this ‘is has the pain or dysfunction persisted beyond what would be expected’?  For example, say you twist an ankle while walking along the pavement, for the next few days you might expect to have a bit of pain and possibly some swelling around the ankle, and your walking is limited.  Over the next few days the swelling will go down, the pain will reduce and you will hopefully return to normal activity.  That would be a normal healing process.  However, in some cases after a sprain sometimes how the ankle joint performs is altered and the person can be left with Achilles tendon pain or stiffness, this would then be a good time to call an osteopath as the body has developed a dysfunction that may need some treatment to help it recover, as well as hands on treatment we could give you advice on activity modification to protect the joint, and carefully prescribed exercises to speed up the recovery process.   

What was the mechanism of the injury?  Some injuries are not really conducive to having a bit of massage, or some joint stretching.   For instance if you have had a heavy fall and have a lot of swelling and bruising around an area then the area is best left alone, the swelling is a sign of acute inflammation, which is the body’s way of beginning the rebuilding of the damaged tissue, having some manual therapy during this stage of healing is rarely helpful, time is your friend at this point (and depending on the pain levels, painkillers as advised by a pharmacist or doctor).  But if you moved in an odd way and you ended up with pain that you felt was surprisingly debilitating, but there was no swelling or bruising then that sounds more like something that could be treated effectively by us in our clinic.

Also, are you actually injured, or are you just sore?  Having a think back to why the pain may have occurred may give you the answer here.  If you are not used to exercise and then have a couple of days of prolonged activity then it would be reasonable to think you may have some muscle soreness after this, maybe a case of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  DOMS are one of life’s little joys that tend to occur if a muscle has been performing repeated eccentric movements, that is lengthening under tension.  A good example of this is the quadriceps on the front of the thigh being a bit sore 24-48hrs after you walk downhill, say from a hiking trip.  The pain generated by DOMS is thought to be generated by inflammation and microscopic damage to the muscle and is not a condition that needs treatment as it should subside in a few days, however if you need to be rid of it in a very short time frame as you are doing an activity that needs you to be in as good a shape as possible then massaging the muscles shortly after the activity can be effective in preventing the appearance of DOMS.  If you have done a lot of activity and there is still some pain or stiffness after 5 days then you may have a bit of your body that has retained some element of dysfunction that may benefit from some treatment from us.  

 Is there a race against the clock? – This feeds into the other two points above, if you have a specific goal, such as a marathon, or a holiday coming up that you need to be in good shape for then seeing an osteopath may help speed up your recovery from an injury or painful episode.  The episode may be slowly getting better anyway and with the passage of time it may resolve to your satisfaction, but if you have not got the luxury of time and you wish to get back to your best as soon as possible then making an appointment to see us may help you achieve your goal.

How irritating is the problem?  Often we ask people ‘on a scale of 1/10 how intense is your pain? This not only gives us an idea about what might be causing the pain but also how it is affecting a person’s quality of life.  Another way of looking at it is to ask ‘how irritating is the pain/dysfunction?’, this changes the question away from just the amount of pain to what the problem means to the person who is experiencing it.  For instance, if you have a very low level pain or bit of stiffness in the knee when you spend a lot of time on it, no big deal in the grand scheme of things but maybe gardening is your hobby and the knee pain means you can’t do half the things in the garden you would like to.  This would be a good reason to make an appointment to see if we could help as even though you may not have an injury as such, but how your knee is functioning is having an impact on your quality of life, which there is no need to put up with if you don’t have to.

So hopefully that gives you a good idea about what to do when you are experiencing some pain, you can wait and see if it improves, or if it is persisting, is stopping you living the life you would like, or you have a specific goal you wish to achieve then get in touch to see if we can help!

Do you want to know what is causing your pain and if we can help?  Why not take advantage of our new patient consultation introductory offer to get you started towards a tailor made recovery plan for only £19.

Are you in a lot of pain and want to get better as soon as possible?  If so the why not book in for a new patient consultation, with treatment on the day, for £60.

What our Clients Say


Vicky Lee from Bath


Our Practitioners

Here at Align Body Clinic in Bath we have a wealth of experience with all manner of symptoms.

Jay Ruddock
M.Ost, BA(hons), Dip PT

Jay Ruddock registered osteopath Bath


Sheena Harper

Sheena Harper registered osteopath Bath

Registered osteopath
Advanced practitioner of Structural Integration

Jay is an award winning osteopath who uses a unique mix of techniques from osteopathy, structural integration and exercise, his talented touch can work wonders on your pain and discomfort.

His easy going manner ensures you can relax as he eases those joints in ways you never thought possible.

As well as treating people Jay is an occasional lecturer at schools across the UK and sits on the south west NHS Research Ethics Committee.



Registered osteopath
Medical Acupuncturist

Sheena not only has a Master’s degree in Osteopathy, she is a qualified practitioner of Western Medical Acupuncture, a highly effective method of pain management.

This mix of disciplines enables her to help people of all ages with a wide range of ailments and injuries.

Sheena takes a friendly but focused approach to getting her patients pain-free.


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Whether you've only just started having pain or are a long-term sufferer, we can help, lots of our patients have benefited from our combination of hands on treatment and prescriptive exercise. You'll be surprised at how much difference we can make. So, don't put up with it for any longer, contact us today to make an appointment. Tel: 01225 571084