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Feb 2

Do you know the truth of these common back pain myths?

by Kelly Homann

Do you experience back pain?

Lower back pain affects nearly everyone at various ages and stages in life. Below are some common things I hear patients say and things they have been told. Sometimes the advice is unhelpful, or even harmful, so I thought I’d post some of the ‘myths’ below.

 

 

Myths Reality
Rest only Gentle movement and walking is crucial to recovery. It helps circulation, flushing painful inflammatory waste products from the area, reducing pain and local muscle spasm.
Stretch it out It’s not always a back muscle ‘strain’. In fact, most of the time it is not.
Excess hamstring and forward bending stretches, often prescribed, can actually worsen your symptoms but this is dependent on which actual structure is the cause of your pain. A physiotherapist can assess whether your pain is from a joint, disc or muscle and give you the right advice about what to do, and not do, while your body heals.
“My wife/father/aunt has the same problem” Although back pain may present similarly, there is no real reason why yours is exactly the same as someone else’s. The reason why another person has similar pain or why they may seem to be improving or not improving has little bearing on your own experience. Back pain that does not resolve within a day or two should be assessed and treated before it becomes a more chronic problem, even if it is just ‘a niggle’.
“It’s always there, I’m just getting old” No, no, no!! Back pain is not a ‘normal’ phenomenon you ‘just put up with’. Many factors contribute, including weight, inactivity, posture and body awareness. It is vital that everyone maintains an adequate level of physical activity to prevent and treat pain.
“Scans have shown I have the spine of a 70 year old” Health professionals are referring less and less for investigative scans such as xrays, as there is a large amount of evidence saying that what shows up is not always related to the patients current pain. An xray of a painfree adult may show many areas of ‘degeneration’ or osteoarthritis yet this individual may not be experiencing any pain.
“I have a slipped disc” Firstly, discs do not ‘slip’, and secondly, intervertebral discs are soft tissue structures which can heal. They may not heal perfectly, like any part of the body, so be an area that you are more likely to re-injure in the future, but this is not a permanent label for yourself: ‘I have a slipped disc, therefore I . . . . have this forever/cannot do certain things/etc’. Disc injuries are very common, and very commonly completely recovered from. If you still experience pain, it is more likely that some of your postures and activities are contributing. It may even be a different structure close to the disc causing your pain, so an assessment and some advice and possible treatment may be the best first step.

For pain free living, prevention is key. Usually this involves some exercise and posture correction. These things will not only prevent further back pain, but a host of other health problems you could potentially face in the future!

Next week, I’ll share with you some ideas of what to do when your back is sore.