Most of us, if not all of us, have suffered back pain at least once in our lifetimes. In fact, around 80% of people will experience back pain.
For a common condition, there are many misconceptions or myths about back pain that aren’t helping anybody. That’s why we wanted to share with you “5 myths about back pain” so you can be better informed when dealing with this issue.
Myth 1. Lying in bed/being inactive will help me recover from back pain faster
The first myth to be debunked is one we see all too often. While avoiding aggravating activities in the first few days after an injury can help alleviate pain, there’s strong evidence to suggest that keeping active and gradually returning to normal activities, work, and hobbies is a very important part of recovery.
In contrast, prolonged bed rest is associated with more significant disability, poorer recovery, and a longer time to return to work. Research has actually suggested that the longer a person stays in bed with back pain, the worse their pain becomes.
Myth 2. Persistent back pain = surgery
It’s time to stop worrying that your persistent back pain will end up with you on the operating table. Only a tiny proportion of people with back pain require surgery. The vast majority of people with back pain can manage it by staying active, developing a better understanding of what pain means, and identifying the factors involved in their pain.
This should help them continue their usual daily tasks without having to resort to surgery. Interestingly, on average, the results for spinal surgery are no better in the medium and long-term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise.
Myth 3. Back pain is only caused by physical stress on the body
We commonly associate pain with physical cause and effect. However, how we feel can influence the amount of pain we feel. Contrary to common belief, back pain can be triggered following changes in life stress, mood or anxiety levels.
When your physical movement is limited, this can cause psychological distress, and the psychological distress can, in return, worsen the pain. Your personal health beliefs and coping strategies can influence your distress level and course of the pain. For instance, if you are anxiety-prone, expect the worst, and have catastrophic thinking, this can make the pain far worse. That’s because those psychological vulnerabilities can change your brain and intensify the pain.
Therefore finding ways to manage mental health, including doing things that we enjoy and find relaxing, is very important in managing your back pain.
Myth 4. There is a “perfect” sitting posture
How often have we all heard “sit up straight” as the ideal sitting posture at work? Believe it or not, no specific static sitting posture has been shown to prevent or reduce back pain. Different sitting postures suit different people, with some reporting more pain from sitting straight and others from slouching. So while slouching gets bad press, there is no scientific evidence to support this.
Many people with back pain can adopt very rigid postures (e.g. sitting extremely upright) with little variation.
The ability to vary our posture, instead of maintaining the same posture, together with learning to move in a confident, relaxed and variable manner, is important for people with back pain.
Myth 5. Back pain is 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.
Of course, it is worth noting that many people feel better after undergoing treatments like manipulation.
However, this improvement is due to short-term reductions in pain, muscle tone/tension and fear, NOT due to realigning of body structures.
Hopefully, we have taught you something new or interesting about back pain – information you can now take to be better prepared when you get it!
All information shared in this article is not our own and has been referenced from accredited sources.
Irish Independent – 15 Things you didn’t know about back pain
Kevin Wernli – Myths about back pain