In this day and age, there are still so many myths circulating around about lower back pain... This misinformation is largely due to poor understanding and incorrect beliefs and can have negative impacts on a persons recovery... Let's discuss and debunk 4 of the biggest myths about lower back pain!
1. "If I have lower back pain I need to REST it and STOP moving"
Our understanding of lower back pain has come a long way even just over the last decade or so. The latest research evidence actually reveals that bed rest and movement avoidance (which is a common go to treatment for lower back pain) will actually worsen the pain, delay your recovery and increase the chances of recurrence.
The main reason for this is that lack of movement will gradually cause you to become stiffer, weaker and more sensitive to your pain. It actually doesn’t take long at all for this negative process to begin occurring in your body.
The best approach and advice is to try your best to stay active (even if you can only tolerate small amounts of movement) and try to move around as normally as possible. This will encourage healing, reduce sensitisation and restore your movement.
2. "The worse my pain is, the more my lower back is damaged"
Carrying on about our advancements in research and evidence, we have also discovered that pain and damage are often actually very poorly corelated. If you yourself have ever stubbed your toe on a cold night, then you would know that you can experience very high levels of pain without sustaining any damage at all.
Pain itself is very complex, but it is essentially our warning system and its operation varies from person to person. When it comes to lower back pain and even more so with chronic lower back pain; our attitudes, mental state, beliefs, current circumstances and past experiences all contribute to our pain experience.
This means that high levels of lower back pain often does not actually correlate to having high levels of damage or serious injury. For example, in many circumstances you may be in a significant amount of pain but the cause of this pain may purely be due to muscle strains as opposed to more serious damage such as nerve, disc or even bone.
3. "Bending your lower back is bad for you"
The human body is a fantastic machine capable of amazing feats of strength, endurance and skill. Do you really believe that the human body would be able to bend so easily at the lower back if you were not designed to do so? Well yes, there are definitely more or less ideal ways to bend and move depending on the task, the load and the frequency but to think that you should avoid bending is ridiculous.
I myself have treated a number of people who have been told that bending is bad for them and to pretty much avoid and minimise all bending even after healing from a lower back injury. This in many cases will cause development of a fear avoidance of bending which usually leads to de-conditioning and thus ongoing lower back problems.
4. "I'm in pain because something is ‘out of place’ and needs to be ‘cracked’ or ‘popped’ back in again for my lower back pain to be fixed"
The verbal description of something feeling ‘out’ in your spine is an easy way to explain and describe what you might feel during lower back pain, but it is physiologically incorrect. Your spine has a significant amount of ligaments, muscles and other soft tissue structures stabilising it. Your joints can't actually ‘crack’ or ‘pop’ out and back in again…well not without dislocating and relocating them which is very difficult to do and would hurt significantly.
Many people might say “but what about when I crack my back and it feels good after, doesn’t that mean I’ve put something back into place?”. Well, no. Think about this - Chances are you, or someone you may know, cracks their knuckles regularly. Were their knuckles ‘out of place’? before you cracked them? Are they ‘back in’ now? The answer is no. Cavitation or crepitus (the technical term for cracking) occurs when you stretch two synovial joint surfaces apart quickly. It affects the surface tension between the joint surfaces, and the pressure and volume within the joint. This results in a ‘crack’ or a ‘pop’ sound being heard and felt.
The fact is, to fix your lower back pain you need a proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan. Cracking it or the belief that someone can ‘pop’ it back into place and fix the problem is completely incorrect and will not contribute to properly fixing your lower back pain or injury.
There you have it! 4 of some of the biggest lower back pain myths and what you should really believe.
If back pain is affecting you – feel free to get in touch with Physiotherapy Recovery Clinic Concord and see how we can help you get your lower back pain back to normal.
By: Adam Fracassi (Physiotherapy Recovery Clinic Concord)