Nov 22, 2018
When you have an office job where you sit most of the time, you might have already experienced back or neck pain. In Japan this is also a common issue and there are several approaches on how you can deal with it.
Items from the pharmacy without prescription
The most obvious method is probably using pain killers. The problem with pain killers from Japanese pharmacies is that they are quite weak compared to what you can get in Europe or America.
Another option are medial pads (湿布). These are pads that you directly apply to the body part that is in pain. They come in different sizes and with different ingredients. I would recommend trying a few and seeing which one works best.
The medical pad section at the pharmacy
Visiting an orthopedic clinic (整形外科)
When you visit an orthopedic clinic in Japan they will most likely do an X-ray or CT scan to see if there are any issues with your bones or spinal discs. In some cases an additional MRI scan might be required for the diagnosis. In that case your doctor will probably make an appointment for you at a larger hospital where the MRI will be conducted and you will be handed the results. You can then take them to your doctor for analysis.
In the case that the doctor finds something, they will treat you accordingly. If they do not find anything wrong they will most probably tell you that you do not do enough sports and prescribe you some pain killers. If do some research you might also find clinics that offer physical therapy but this is not really common in Japan.
Visit a pain clinic
If pain killers don’t do they trick for you and you can’t stand the pain anymore, another option is visiting a "pain clinic." At a pain clinic the doctor will use injections to numb your nerves so that the pain signal cannot travel to the brain anymore. These injections are a little bit painful but the effect is said to last about a week. I tried it a few times and it never lasted longer than a day for me. Also do not forget that the injections might numb the pain but do not deal with the cause of the pain.
Visiting an osteopathic clinic (整骨院)
At an osteopathic clinic they have a slightly different approach than at the orthopedic clinic. Instead of looking for issues with the bones the approach focuses more on muscles -- trying to relieve your pain by reducing muscle tension. This is mostly done through massages or acupuncture. Some clinics also use electric stimulation or special heath lamps.
In some cases your health insurance covers visits at an osteopathic clinic in Japan, but in my experience every clinic handles the insurance issue slightly different so it might be a good idea to check whether in your case insurance is applicable or not. There are also clinics in Japan that only offer treatment that is not covered by the insurance.
When you can use your insurance a visit to an osteopathic clinic will cost you about 1,000 to 2,000 yen, otherwise it will could be around 5,000 to 6,000 yen.
An osteopathic clinic
Have you experienced back pain? How do you deal with it in Japan?
Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/