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Back Pain and the Myths


We are busting myths and reinforcing what the latest evidence says is best for your back

Myth #1: Moving will make my back pain worse

Fact: People fear to twist and bend but it’s essential to keep moving. Gradually increase how much you are doing, and stay on the go.

Myth #2: I should avoid exercise, especially weight training.

Fact: Back pain shouldn’t stop you from enjoying exercise or regular activities. In fact, studies found that continuing with these can help you get better sooner including using weights where appropriate.

Myth #3: A scan will show me exactly what is wrong

Fact: Sometimes it will, but most often it won’t. Also, even people without back pain have changes in their spine so scans can cause fear that influences behavior, making the problem worse.

Myth #4: Pain equals damage

Fact: This was the established view but more recent research has changed our thinking. Modern physio takes a holistic approach that helps people understand why they are in pain.


Back Pain in General

Back Pain is common and normal. 80% of people will experience an episode of back pain during their lifetime. What isn’t common, however, is not recovering from back pain. Most acute back pain is the result of simple strains or sprains and the prognosis is excellent. Within the first two weeks of an acute episode of pain, most people will report a significant improvement in their symptoms with almost 85% of people fully recovered by three months. Only a very small number of people develop long-standing, disabling problems.

Back pain is not caused by something being out of place. There is no evidence that back pain is caused by a bone or joint in the back being out of place, or your pelvis being out of alignment. For most people with back pain, scans do not show any evidence of discs, bones, or joints being out of place. In the very small number of people with some change in their spinal alignment, this does not appear to be strongly related to back pain.

Surgery is rarely needed for back pain. Only a tiny proportion of people with back pain require surgery. Most people with back pain can manage it by staying active, developing a better understanding of what pain means, and identifying the factors which are involved in their pain. On average, the results for spinal surgery are no better in the medium and long-term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise.

Poor sleep influences back pain. When someone has pain, a good night’s sleep can be hard to get. However, it works both ways as sleep problems can lead to back pain in the future. In the same way that poor sleep can make us more stressed, give us a headache, make us tired or feel down, it can also cause or prolong back pain. Therefore, improving sleeping routines and habits can be very helpful in reducing pain.

Stress, low mood, and worry influence back pain. How we feel can influence the amount of pain we feel. Back pain can be triggered following changes in life stress, mood, or anxiety levels. In the same way that these factors are linked to other health conditions like cold sores, irritable bowel syndrome, and tiredness, they have a very large effect on back pain. As a result, managing our stress, mood, and anxiety levels through doing things we enjoy, and engaging in relaxation can be really beneficial in helping back pain.

Persistent back pain CAN get better. Since back pain is associated with many factors that vary among individuals, treatments that address the relevant factors for each individual can be effective. Failing to get pain relief after lots of different treatments is very frustrating and cause people to lose hope. However, this is very common as most treatments only address one factor e.g. someone goes for massage for their sore muscles but doesn’t address their sleep or fitness or stress levels. By identifying the different contributing factors for each individual and trying to address them, pain can be significantly reduced and people can live a happier and healthier life.

This article was written by our physiotherapist Einav Cohen

For more information about Back Pain

If you would like additional information about Back pain or back pain mythsor to discuss how we may be able to help with your back injuries and issues, please contact us using the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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    (Based on an article written by Mary O’Keeffe, Dr Kieran O’Sullivan, Dr Derek GriffinMary)

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