Low back pain is one of the most common conditions treated by physiotherapists. If you are unlucky enough to have been a sufferer, you know that severe pain in the back can take over your life. With improved understanding, health professionals have come to identify some common myths about back pain that are inaccurate, misleading or even counterproductive.
Myth #1 – Discs can ‘slip’ out of place
Sitting between the vertebrae of the spine are soft discs that provide flexibility and shock absorption to the spine. In the past, many health professionals including doctors and physiotherapists told patients that these discs had ‘slipped’ as a way of explaining their pain to them. While this was helpful to some extent, it is not entirely accurate. These discs are actually very secure and rarely, if ever ‘slip’ out of place. Discs may bulge slightly or in some cases tear. However, more often than not these injuries will heal without any permanent damage and exist in many people without causing any pain at all. Thinking that a part of your spine has permanently ‘slipped’ out of place can cause you to move differently. This can create even more pain and dysfunction.
Myth #2 – If you have low back pain, you should stay in bed
When back pain strikes, our natural instinct is to rest, avoid movement and wait for the pain to pass. However, studies have shown that being active and performing targeted and gentle exercises can help improve low back pain. In fact, our impulse to stop moving and protect our spines can actually cause abnormal movement patterns and stress. This can then lead to ongoing pain after the original injury has healed. If you are unsure of what kind of exercises you should be doing, your physiotherapist can help guide you with a targeted exercise programme.
Myth #3 – Severe pain means severe damage
Pain that is severe, strikes suddenly and without warning can be a very scary experience. If this happens to you, you could be forgiven for assuming you must have sustained a very serious injury. The fact is however that the spine, being surrounded by nerves is a particularly sensitive area of the body. This means pain in this area can be very strong without significant damage. A small ligament sprain or muscle tear can actually cause a large amount of pain. It is common however for intense symptoms to settle down quickly, even disappearing within a few days. In many cases, symptoms that last for longer than 2-3 weeks are caused by changes to your movement patterns in response to this pain, and not the original injury itself.
If you are suffering from back pain, the best person to see is your physiotherapist. They can help you to recover without any complications or side effects. This will help you safely return to your usual activities while also ruling out any serious damage that might need further investigation.
None of the information in this article is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury.
If you require professional advice or treatment, please see our range of treatment options, or book an appointment online. Physio Direct has many clinics located throughout New Zealand, with no GP referral required to make an appointment.
Physio Direct is ACC accredited so you can come to us directly to get an injury registered with ACC without having to go to your GP first, followed by an assessment, treatment and follow up review, to ensure correct care and recovery. Physio Direct can also refer you directly for Cortisone injections, X-Rays and Ultra Sound Scans and on to Specialists if needed.
Please feel free to print out these news letters and put the in the staffroom and hand them out to your team. Understanding more about injuries, gives people the power to prevent an injury from occurring in the first place. Prevention and education is the key!