Common Back Pain Myths- Why you still hurt and what can be done about it!

 

There are many common myths about back pain and until understood, many waste both time and money on treatment approaches that do not relieve your back pain and in many cases, can make your pain and suffering worse.   Here are common back pain myths and explanation on what you can do to relieve your back pain once and for all!

 

  • Myth 1: Acute back pain is short-term pain

    • The belief that back pain is a short term problem denies the evidence of research. Many studies show that instead of being short-term, over 50% of patients suffer from recurring attacks of back pain or have persistent or chronic pain following their initial injury.

  • Myth 2: Spinal manipulation is the best and most effective treatment for back pain

    • The treatment of back and neck pain by adjustment or manipulation of the spine has been a popular form of treatment, but over the past 10-20 years, research has demonstrated that benefits of spinal manipulation have been greatly exagerated. Though some feel they attain some pain relief initially, the pain relief is short lived, is minor and often has other detrimental effects.  These types of passive treatments create patient dependance and are losing credibility.  The focus is now on activity and exercise, which both have the potential to allow empower patients to manage their own problem and become independent of relying on clinicians to make them feel better. 

  • Myth 3: Ultrasound and electrical stimulation treatment get rid of back pain.

    • Not so! No research exists that ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat or other modalities alleviate pain.  In fact, they can cause harm in that they create a passive approach to the management of back pain, creating dependence on a clinician to alleviate the pain.  These treatments provide no long-term benefit, and do nothing to treat the underlying problem, and there is no scientific evidence that they accelerate healing. 

  • Myth 4: Back pain is caused by inflammation

    • Though this belief is wide-spread, it is untrue. Acute low back pain is usually almost entirely mechanical in nature, that is, resulting from the spraining of ligaments supporting the spine and/or distortion that may result in displacement of the intervertebral disc.  This is often referred to as a “slipped disc” but the disc does not actually “slip.” 

  • Myth 5: Back pain is caused by arthritis or osteoarthritis

    • These conditions are often referred to as “degenerative arthritis,” “degenerative disc disease,” or “degenerative osteoarthritis.” The changes noted on x-ray are common and does not mean it is the cause of the pain. There are many people who demonstrate these changes on their spinal x-ray but they don’t have any pain. 

  • Myth 6: You should take it easy and avoid vigorous activity.

    • This advice may be warranted for the first one to two days after your initial injury but otherwise it is best to regain your mobility as soon as possible.  The longer you are sedentary and inactive, the worse it is for your joints and muscles.

  • Myth 7: You will have to stop jogging, running, football, golf or tennis, etc

    • This is untrue and in most cases, harmful advice. It is common to attribute the onset of back pain with sporting activities but rarely the cause of the back pain. There are many more likely causes for the onset of your pain.  Few back problems are serious enough to justify ceasing the activities that you love.  While you may have to pause the activities you love while you recover, permanent abandonment of the recreational activities you love is usually unnecessary,

  • Myth 8: Back pain is caused by damp conditions or the weather or sitting in a draft.

    • Climate and weather have often been deemed the cause of back and joint pain.  There is some as yet invalidated evidence that barometric pressure may have some influence on the pain experienced during the passage of very high or very low pressure systems, but sitting in a draft is not the cause of back pain, but rather the sitting posture of the individual is the cause. None of these weather events are the cause of joint or back pain.

 

Most that suffer from back pain desire a rational explanation of why they hurt.  Patients need education in posture and exercises that will help their condition that will allow them to remain free of disabling problems.  They need advice on how to avoid detrimental postures and forces encountered in daily living activities so they can learn how to apply beneficial strategies.  

All patients deserve the opportunity to learn how to manage their back pain without dependence on a clinician to “cure their pain.”

The McKenzie Method is such an approach that empowers the patient to take an active approach in their management of their pain. Your therapist will perform a thorough assessment, and will work with you to develop an individualized exercise plan that will alleviate your pain, prevent its recurrence and empower you to participate in all the activities you love!