70-90% of people will have an episode of lower back pain in their lives, so you’re in the minority if you haven’t had lower back pain! Crazy right. With all this attention that lower back pain gets, there’s some great information out there on how to manage it super effectively. HOWEVER, unfortunately there’s still plenty of well past their use by date, age old myths about back pain in circulation and that we still hear regularly.
SO, we’ve come over all mythbuster-ish for this blog and are going tackle 4 lower back pain MYTHS, and why they are indeed not true!
#1 ‘My back pain is due to something being out of place’
You may be familiar with the idea of discs slipping out of place which is a cause of back pain. Discs are attached EXTREMELY firmly attached to the vertebrae they sit between making it virtually impossible for them to ‘slip’, very unlike a bar of soap! What people are likely referring to is a disc bulges or herniations, where the jelly like material within the disc becomes displaced, very different to a disc slipping out. So there you go, Discs don’t slip. Period. Research has also shown that discs have an amazing capacity to heal when they are injured, with 2 in 3 completely resolving or shrinking within a period of months.
You’re spine also doesn’t go out of place willy nilly. There can be very minute changes in spinal alignment in very small groups of people, however this has a very poor correlation to pain and so is unlikely to be the main driver of your back pain. Manipulation of your spine doesn’t put anything back in place, because nothing was out of place in the first place. Instead the benefits are likely due to reduced tissue sensitivity controlled by the nervous system.
The great news here, is that when having episodes of back pain, it is not due to large structural changes in your spine.
#2 Bending forward is bad for my back
Your back is a resilient structure, and by its very nature is designed to be flexible to allow us to move. Bending forward is a normal function of the spine and doesn’t need to be feared or completely avoided. Where some run into trouble is when they perform repeated activities, which cumulatively becomes over and above what their spines can cope with. One example is shifting boxes when moving house. This exposes your spine to repeated loads over and above the norm. This more to do with the cumulative build up of stress over time that your spine is not accustomed to, rather than the act of bending forward.
That being said, your physio may advise that you avoid bending for a short period of time during a flare-up, however once you back settles, you should absolutely bend again to restore normal function of your spine.
The key take home is to not fear bending, but to be conscious of the amount of time your are exposing your back to a repeated activity, whichever type of activity that is.
#3 Bed rest is the best for my back when it’s sore
In the first few days after the initial injury, avoiding aggravating activities may help to relieve pain, similar to pain in any other part of the body, such as a sprained ankle. However, there is very strong evidence that keeping active and returning to all usual activities, including work and hobbies, is important in aiding recovery.
In contrast, prolonged bed rest is unhelpful, and is associated with higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and greater absence from work. In fact, it appears that the longer you stay in bed because of back pain, the worse your pain becomes. This increase in exercise and return to normal daily activity can be done gradually. Therefore, while performing some common tasks at work and home may initially be painful, early and gradual return to all these tasks is better for your back than prolonged rest.
#4 I’ve got back pain, I need a scan to find out what’s wrong
Scans are only needed when there is suspicion of something more sinister at play (cancer, significant issues with your nerves, bladder or bowel disturbances). Research has found that back pain symptoms and findings on scans like disc bulges and arthritis are poorly correlated. Findings like disc bulges and arthritis are also found on scans in completely pain free people as well! Physios can treat back pain very effectively through a thorough assessment and can tell you whether or not there’s a need for a scan.
So there you go, we hope this has clarified and debunked some of the most common myths surrounding lower back pain. The key take home here is that your spine ISN’T made of glass, it is a strong and resilient structure that is designed to move.
Get strong, stay mobile, move normally and you will be less likely to experience back pain.
Leave a comment and let us know what you think! For more information, or to speak to a Physiotherapist about your lower back pain, call 8490 0777. Alternatively if you’re keen to get started on the path to avoiding or postponing a hip or knee replacement, book a time here. Thanks for reading ?