There is a lot of mis-information about back pain facts. If you are frustrated with persistent lower back pain that has cost you valuable time and money then dive into this evidenced based post of 10 must-know back pain facts inspired by a recent article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
1. Persistent back pain can be scary, but rarely dangerous.
Longstanding back pain can be upsetting and disabling, but it is rarely life threatening so stay off of WebMD and stay moving.
2. Getting older is not the cause of back pain.
No evidence supports the notion that getting older causes or worsens back pain. In fact, proper treatment can help at any age. With that being said, Don’t blame arthritis for everything. Also, read on why noisy joints are normal.
3. Persistent back pain is rarely associated with serious tissue damage.
Truth is, backs are strong and resilient and just like any tissue they HEAL. Perhaps you had an original injury and damage to the tissues but after three months those tissues have likely healed, and the focus should be on other contributing factors. Read more about what I mean HERE and HERE.
4. Scans rarely show the cause of back pain.
Scans can be helpful in a certain subset of people. However, imaging reports from scans are filled with scary words and don’t always tell the full story. In fact, many people without any symptoms show findings on these fancy tests. Read a previous blog post HERE.
5. Pain with exercise and movement doesn’t mean you are doing harm or that you have to stop.
With longstanding pain, movement and exercise become sensitized. Oftentimes, patients become frustrated because other doctors tell you to stop doing these activities. In reality, the pain you feel during these movements is a reflection of this over sensitization rather than tissue damage. The best thing you can do is slowly work to regain those movements. Read this article on exercising with pain HERE.
6. Back pain is not caused by poor posture.
A variety of postures is healthy for your back. Some movements and static positions do become painful because they get sensitized. Check out this video about when posture really matters or whether sitting is the new smoking.
7. Back pain is not caused by a weak core.
Weak core muscles are not a cause of lower back pain. Rather, people with persistent lower back pain often have a tense core and need to work on being able to relax it a bit. However, this is not to say that training the core is a waste of time. Check out how to do it safely HERE.
8. Backs do not wear out with everyday loading and bending.
Lifting weights makes our muscles stronger and more resilient. Similarly, movement and loading makes our backs stronger and healthier too! Importantly, avoid spikes in your training: start gradually and be consistent.
9. Flare ups don’t mean you are damaging yourself.
Flare ups are not typically related to further tissue damage. They are often just a sign that you did too much, too quickly. Triggers for flare ups include things like poor sleep, stress, tension, and new activities. Check out this video using the traffic light analogy to manage flare ups.
10. Injections, surgery and strong drugs usually aren’t a cure.
Injections, surgery, and opioid medication may help in the short term, but they aren’t very effective for persistent back pain in the long term, The risks and side effects of these treatments may not be worth the outcomes.
Sources: O’Sullivan PB, Caneiro J, O’Sullivan K, et al. Back to basics: 10 facts every person should know about back pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 31 December 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-101611
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