Back pain is a widespread problem most adults will experience in their lifetime. And it comes in many forms. It can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term), and caused by many things.
Perhaps from a recent injury, or connected to illness, or from bad posture – an increasing issue for many WFH workers. Back pain can also be referred to from other systems of the body, or it can be related to nerve damage.
Regardless of the source, many people are plagued with back pain. Over time, a myriad of treatments, theories, and unfortunately, myths about back pain have caused a whirlwind of confusion for back pain sufferers.
Here are five common myths about back pain that we see most, and we’re here to settle them once and for all.
‘The Only Cure is Surgery’
False. Back pain does not always equate with surgery. While some cases do require surgical intervention, a good number of sufferers with back pain may be able to reduce their symptoms using conservative treatment.
There are many treatment options that should always be considered before turning to surgery. These include exercise, stretching, trigger point dry needling, modalities, and injections.
It is important to discuss all treatment options with your provider to determine the interventions that will provide you with the best outcomes.
‘Back pain runs in my family – There is nothing I can do to prevent it’
False. While certain hereditary conditions can increase the risks of chronic back pain, there are certainly many reasons people suffer it, and it’s most often to do with lifestyle choices and habits.
Taking steps to reduce your chance of developing back pain is the solution we should be taking. It can be difficult to constantly implement, which is perhaps why so many people suffer back pain. But the tricks are simple.
First of all, maintaining good posture through day-to-day activities can reduce your risk of developing back pain. You should also always be aware of your posture when lifting things, adopting safe lifting mechanics at all times. (No, don’t just lift that large TV on your own…).
Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise are also excellent preventative strategies, keeping weight and pressure off your nerves and back.
‘I have degenerative disc disease, so there is nothing that can be done for me’
False. Well, degenerative disc disease is not reversible or curable. However, there are certainly things that can be done. It’s also worth knowing that there is literature now that indicates that the majority of people over 40 will show signs of degenerative disc disease on an X-ray whether they report back pain or not.
Physical therapy and exercise may help reduce symptoms, while pain relief injections are also available. Strengthening your core muscles, eating well, and not smoking are also very effective ways to reduce flare-ups over time.
If you are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, ask your provider if physical therapy could help you.
‘Having a strong core can lead to less back pain’
While this statement is mostly true, it is not only about core strength but also about core stability when it comes to reducing your risk of back injuries.
Core strength alone is not enough to reduce your risk of back pain. Plenty of high-level athletes have complaints of back pain due to a lack of control of their core during activity. When engaging in heavy lifting or activity, being able to maintain a neutral spine requires the core to stay engaged throughout. Plenty of people with six pack abs do not use their core effectively, thus potentially leading to injuries.
Hip flexibility is another critical aspect of preventing back injuries. When the hips are tight, the back often has to take up the slack. If hip flexibility is poor, motion is made up for at the spine, taking it out of a good neutral position potentially opening the door for injury.
‘Pain medicine is the only thing that can help back pain’
There are many avenues available that may help reduce back pain other than potentially addictive narcotics. Consult with your provider about using modalities such as a home TENS unit that may help manage your pain.
Again, simple practices such as proper posture keeping the spine in a neutral alignment may do wonders to help reduce your pain.
While back pain can be a difficult thing to deal with, it does not necessarily have to be debilitating. Hopefully dispelling these 5 myths about back pain can help put you on your way to a healthier back.