Misconceptions about the causes and treatment of back pain can be detrimental so it’s important to get the right information.
Since back pain is common – it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide – myths and misconceptions about it have developed over time, whether about the causes of back pain or its remedies and treatments. Some of these falsehoods began as principles generally agreed upon within the healthcare community before new information was discovered to provide new understanding on the subject of back pain. These myths can be contradictory and harmful and can cause fear among sufferers which may influence their behavior and choices.
It’s important to consult a doctor if you’re experiencing back pain. It’s also important to bust these common myths surrounding back pain so that people with back pain can get the proper treatment.
Myth #1: Sitting up straight all the time will prevent back pain.
Slouching is bad for you – that’s the truth. However, sitting up straight and still for too long can also be detrimental to your back. Ideally, you should take breaks a few times a day by standing up and walking around every half hour for a few minutes. When sitting, use chairs that offer correct lower lumbar support to keep your back comfortable.
Myth #2: I exercise a lot so that means I won’t ever get back pain.
It’s true that physically active people are less likely to suffer from back pain than those who don’t exercise; however, back pain can affect all people, whether they regularly exercise or lead a sedentary life. Some sports are more likely to cause back pain than others, such as gymnastics, running, weightlifting, and golf. This is not to say that exercise is bad for you, which leads to…
Myth #3: Exercising is bad for those with back pain.
It’s been proven that regular exercise helps prevent back pain. In fact, some physicians may recommend exercise for people who have hurt their lower back. Back pain shouldn’t stop you from exercising or sports that you enjoy. The key is to consult your doctor who will probably recommend that you start with gentle movements to build up your tolerance and gradually build up intensity.
Myth #4: I have to stay in bed and rest because of my back pain.
While it can be a good idea to take it easy for a couple of days to feel relief from a recent injury or strain that causes back pain, lying in bed all day can actually make it worse and lengthen the recovery period. Moving around helps ensure that your muscles stay strong and don’t atrophy or become stiff. Modify your daily activities, and gradually increase the amount of activity you do.
Myth #5: Lifting heavy objects is bad for my back, so that takes weightlifting off the table.
It’s not necessarily the weight of the object you are lifting that’s the problem, but how you lift it. Remember though, the heavier the object you are lifting, the more likely it can cause back pain. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t pick up something that might be too heavy for you.
Make sure you use a proper lifting technique to prevent injury to your back as recommended by WebMD:
- Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
- Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).
- Keep good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back.
- Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight, and don’t twist as you lift.
- Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.
- Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps.
- Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
- Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.
Myth #6: Severity of back pain correlates to level of damage.
While this can be true of acute back pain, the same cannot be said for chronic back pain (which lasts for more than 6 weeks).
Myth #7: There is a standard or one-size-fits-all cure or treatment for back pain.
As much as there are various causes for back pain, there are also various ways to treat it. There are also spine specialists from various areas of expertise, such as physical therapy and surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, chiropractic, and osteopathic medicine, and they will have different diagnoses, treatment plans and opinions for a patient’s back problems. Additionally, massages, stretching and hot baths may help in some cases, but cause more pain in others, depending on what is causing the back pain.
Myth #8: I will eventually need surgery for my back pain.
Many people choose not to go to the doctor to have their back pain checked for fear that they will be required to undergo surgery. However, the reality is a vast majority of patients never need surgery. There are various alternatives for treating back pain, including anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and minimally or non-invasive procedures.
Myth #9: Back pain often occurs out of the blue.
It may seem as if your back gave out without warning, but most back problems develop over time and may be due to bad habits such as poor posture, bad lifting techniques, and weight gain, or even emotional issues such as depression.
Myth #10: No specific problem is found with my back, so it must be all in my mind.
You should never dismiss pain – it is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. There are many cases of back pain in which the cause may be difficult to ascertain, but that doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real. If the pain is interfering with your day-to-day life and is persistent, it is important to seek medical attention right away to rule out underlying serious problems.