Back pain is a significant burden and one that the majority of us will experience at some point in our lives.
As it is such a common ailment, advancements in medical treatments, surgeries and diagnostic imaging have strived to improve the diagnosis and treatment of spinal issues.
However, new problems have emerged, creating poor, unhelpful beliefs about back pain.
Only 1-2% of back pain cases are of a serious nature
Research examining these unhelpful beliefs has shown that they are associated with greater levels of pain, increased work absenteeism, medication use and treatment seeking.
Back pain is usually not due to a serious issue.
Only 1-2% of back pain cases are of a serious nature. Back pain is not dangerous and physical activity, movement or exercise will not cause damage to your back. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Exercise has been proven to help people with back pain.
If your back pain persists, usually it is due to a combination of factors
Backs are like any other structure in the body and if injured, should heal within normal tissue healing times. If your back pain persists, usually it is due to a combination of factors. Yes, back pain can be debilitating, but it is rarely life threatening or results in permanent disability.
Lifting, bending, twisting and running do not wear out our backs. Actually, once done gradually and regularly, these activities help to keep our backs strong.
Back pain is also not caused by poor posture. Manual handling training – practicing safe lifting and moving techniques – is common practice in the workplace.
A growing body of research suggests there is little evidence that such training courses reduce the rates of low back pain or levels of pain.
In fact, some new research supports the use of flexed postures for lifting, as opposed to “keeping a straight back” and highlights the difficulty in trying to lift without flexing your spine. It is also suggested that straight back techniques may in fact increase potential back spasm in those with back pain.
Often, people with back pain describe their back as weak
Back pain is not caused by a weak core. Often, people with back pain describe their back as weak. Backs are much stronger and more robust than people think. Yes, it is important to have muscle strength and flexibility, to be fit and strong.
But, people in pain protect the painful area and adopt poor postures. People with back pain often brace their back and core muscles in an attempt to prevent pain.
People with back pain need to learn how to relax their core
However, overactive, braced, tense muscles can actually cause pain. Imagine holding your fist tight all day. Your fingers, wrist and palm will be sore by the end of the day. People with back pain need to learn how to relax their core, release muscle guarding, slouch in their chair and learn to breathe, letting themselves move freely and confidently.
Pain does not always mean injury
Back pain can sometimes be related to a specific injury, but in many cases no specific incident is to blame. Pain does not always mean injury. Pain is very complex and influenced by many physical and psychological factors.
Pain is not an indication of new damage
Stress, poor job satisfaction, fear of movement, anxiety, poor sleep and low mood can all influence and amplify our back pain regardless of specific tissue injury. Pain should not mean stop completely. Pain is not an indication of new damage. Pain with exercise does not mean you are doing harm.
The use of imaging and scans in relation to lower back pain also poses significant issues. Access to MRI scans has become significantly easier.
A culture of quick fixes, self-diagnosis via Google, misinformation in the media and an automatic drive for a scan to diagnose a problem has influenced how we think about our backs.
Research has found an over-emphasis on normal age-related changes on scans influences pain levels in patients.
Scan results do not equal pain or problem
A recent large-scale study examining MRI findings of degeneration, found that there were no clinically important associations with these findings and future lower back pain. Scan results do not equal pain or problem. Scans often don’t show the exact cause of back pain.
It is important that you spend time reviewing your scan results with an experienced doctor or physiotherapist.
Reassurance post scan is vital to discourage poor beliefs and thought processes about your back and to help get you moving confidently again.