Top 10 Myths About Back Pain
We can make self-driving cars, but back pain is worse off now than it was 30 years ago. In fact, it is even more costly now than it was 30 years ago!
Why is it so hard to treat back pain? And why is it so prevalent now compared to 30 years ago? The answer: it is complicated.
It seems like everyone is googling back pain treatments and every week the internet has a different answer to the “best approach” for treatment. The internet is turning those “Joe Schmo’s” into millionaires with their gimmicks, gadgets, and gizmos to treat back pain. Those, along with expensive imaging, injections, and surgeries, are just adding insult to injury.
With all the “information” available online, what should you believe?
Below is a list of the top 10 myths I constantly hear from patients regarding back pain:
- The spine is fragile and breaks down. This has resulted in a significant increase in spinal fusions that have shown little to no benefit. The spine is robust and has lots of structures in place to keep us intact. If it truly were fragile, wouldn’t we all be cut in half during a car accident? We have powerlifters squatting over 1000lbs on their back and their spines don’t crumble.
- If you have back pain, it must be coming from a “mechanical” issue. Back pain has been so extensively researched over the past 20-30 years and we have found out that it is often not a “mechanical” issue (i.e. we can’t just blame a joint, disc, etc.). Pain is a complex topic beyond the scope of this blog, but know pain is perceived differently by everyone (i.e. my wife can handwash dishes at a much higher water temperature than I can).
- Back pain is from a ‘misalignment’. This is an easy idea to sell, but not even those skilled in manipulations can agree on what segments need ‘adjusting’. Most of them base it off x-rays, but humans have anomalies and not all of them are painful.
- Poor posture is the reason you have back pain. Posture has received the blame for a lot of low back pain, and again, it is easy to sell to clients. But, there has been no good research showing that it causes back pain. In fact, research can’t even demonstrate the ‘best’ posture to obtain. Again, everyone is different and posture is highly variable.
- I need an MRI/x-ray/CT scan to know what is wrong with my back. The invention of the MRI might have been the best and worst thing to happen to back pain. Numerous studies show that ‘abnormalities’ on an MRI happen equally, if not more, in those who are not experiencing any pain. And, you can have pain and still have a ‘normal’ MRI. Plus, radiologists have difficulty seeing the same thing on the same image!
- I just experienced back pain yesterday, I am doomed for life. This statement is not heard as often as the others, but believe me, I have taken hundreds of phone calls where people who just woke up yesterday with back pain think that they are going to have it for life! It is simply not true. In fact, most back pain (roughly 90%) fades steadily and does not become chronic back pain.
- The doctor said I have herniated discs and suggested I have surgery. Surgery is not right for everyone! Always try conservative management and let surgery be the last option for back pain. There are numerous stories of people “healing” from herniated discs, in fact, studies have shown that the discs can actually reabsorb.
- If I just lay in bed for a few days, the pain will go away. Taking pain laying down is a horrible idea (see blog here). Basically, remember, movement is medicine.
- A little heat and a TENS unit will get rid of my back pain. Active treatment > passive treatment (ice, heat, TENS, etc.). Those modalities may help decrease the pain, but they are temporary at best.
- If I have back pain now in my 30s and 40s, it will be worse when I get older. There is no correlation between age and severity of back pain. In fact, the incidence of back pain is the greatest between 35-55 and significantly decreases after that. You are not doomed for life if you have back pain early.
Do you have back pain and believed one of these myths to be true? Feel free to apply for a free consult and we can discover what is going on with your back pain specifically.