It looks unusual, but it doesn’t hurt and it could make the world of difference to people with back problems. PAM* is a therapy available to clients throughout Norfolk and north Suffolk that could alleviate pain and improve your posture in a few weeks. RACHEL BANHAM found out more…
Most of us don’t wait until we need a filling to go to the dentist. Few people struggle until they can barely see before going for an eye test. So why do we hang on until our back gives in before consulting a professional?
Whether it’s making the bed, lifting something heavy or just turning suddenly at the wrong angle, nearly all of us know what its like to have a ‘bad back’ at some time or another. Our hectic modern lifestyles don’t help. We spend long periods driving, often don’t do as much exercise as we should, and spend hours hunched over computers in the office.
Many of us are lucky not to walk around with a permanent crick in our neck – the result of lengthy phone conversations with the receiver perched between our head and shoulder while we get on with other things. But that’s where PAM comes in. Standing for Power Assisted Micromanipulation, it provides a way to mobilise the spinal vertebrae and gradually return the spine to proper function and mobility.
Although it looks unusual – PAM is like a bionic massager with four prongs – it acts as an extension to the therapist’s hand and moves the joints of the spine in a gentle and pain-free way. Its bionic fingers can apply more pressure and penetrate deeper than real fingers because they move 25 times faster. During a treatment, the therapist moves the instrument over the whole spine. It then moves each vertebral joint, reduces inflammation and nerve impingement, while restoring normal mobility.
“A healthy spine is supple and flexible. It is designed to absorb stress”
Nic Aldous is an Osteomyologist treating clients across East Anglia, he works in the healing of bone, muscle and neurological problems and using PAM, works on the same principle as physiotherapy and osteopathy. Having worked with people of all ages, Nic believes most people have bad backs. “Everyone that comes into the clinic has backache – but I would suggest they have had a bad back for many years before they have back pain” he said.
Some 90% of the population has had a bad back. They then trigger off the back problem by something quite trivial. And, while lots of us sit in a hunched position at work, the situation doesn’t improve when we stand up, many of us walk stooped. “Most people have problems at the base of their spine or at the top of their neck. A healthy spine is supple and flexible. It is designed to absorb stress” Nic said. “But most of the population cannot stand properly because their backs are too stiff”.
PAM eases that rigidity. Nic welcomes all back pain sufferers to his north Suffolk clinic, where he gives a free assessment of individual back problems and discusses the way PAM can relieve headaches, a stiff neck and whiplash injuries. The treatment is also said to be of benefit to those with trapped nerves, arm pain, a ‘slipped disc’ or sciatica. “It mobilises rather than manipulates and it is, in my experience, the gentlest way of treating the spine” he said. “If you are sensible and build up the treatment most people come through with very little discomfort” Most people need three or four treatments to get rid of back problems.
Those who have reaped the benefits include Maggie, 38 who was taking eight painkillers a day for her back pain after a whiplash injury. After her first PAM treatment, her spine felt less tight and more supple. After her second visit, she walked out of the clinic with no pain at all. Then there was David. He was just 16 but his posture was poor and he complained of lower back pain. His spine was stiff. After PAM, instruction on improving his posture and exercises to maintain his increased mobility, he remains pain free and is an active sportsman. Treatment through PAM also proved beneficial for a 36 year old farm worker who had a painful shoulder that remedies from his doctor did not help. He was found to have an abnormal curvature of the spine but after three PAM treatments he had a full range of movements and no pain.
Nic said of PAM: “It has made a difference to what I do. It’s the one thing that can give us the ability to prevent back problems as much as treat them.”
When I was 13 and still a tomboy I was known as ‘the hunchback’ because of my habit of trying to hide the fact that puberty had struck. Years later, I still had a terrible habit of hunching over and hated it when my older sister would poke me in the spine to get me to straighten up. Although I have worked at it, I was always aware that my posture is not all it could be. I kept on hunching over my desk and jamming my phone under my ear as I scribbled at work.
But when I proudly tell Nic Aldous at our first meeting that I have never had any back pain, he just looks at me and sighs. Twisting me round so I can see in the mirror, he points out my hunched shoulders, my pot belly and the fact that I bend my knees slightly – all hallmarks of a stiffened spine brought on by my sedentary lifestyle. He warns that without help, I could have spine trouble later on in life as once a spine stiffens, it has to be manipulated to free muscle, nerve and bone so it can get on and do its job.
But at least I’m not alone – everyone has this problem, but everyone can be helped. Meeting PAM – Power Assisted Micromanipulation – is a bit weird. It is a little grey box of flashing red lights and a strange little device with four legs. At full pelt, its clacking and buzzing noises make it sound like it should be attached to some instrument of torture. Each vertebra in the spine has two prongs called transverse processes and PAM puts pressure on them, gently working them free of stiffness. It is also used to vibrate along the spine to encourage the nerves and blood to the back to un-stiffen the spine further. The vibrations make your teeth chatter when it works on your neck and as it works now you can feel the slight movements of the vertebra without any pain. After 15 minutes my stomach had flattened as my shoulders straightened and I am taller, so much so that I have to adjust my car mirrors.
After two more sessions over another two weeks, I was ready to throw away my gym membership. Between my shoulder blades there is now a visible dip instead of rounded shoulders and neck. Nic, who has made it his mission to make people take care of their backs, is as pleased as I am with the results. Another two sessions later over two weeks I have a ‘normal’ S-bend in my back. I feel much more flexible, less stressed and much happier with my posture – just don’t ask me to do back-flips.
This article first appeared in the Eastern Daily Press – 23 Sept 2002
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*PAM – Power Assisted Micro-Manipulation has been replaced by THERAFLEX, which works in exactly the same way.