1 in 6 Australians reports low back pain in their lifetimes, and it is one of the leading costs of healthcare, as reported by Medicare. Over recent years our medical knowledge of the pain mechanisms of back pain has improved considerably, and with that – proof that lots of commonly held back pain beliefs are in fact MYTHS. Education is where it’s at – correct understanding, combined with physiotherapy has been proven to lead to a reduction in pain and disability.
Let’s bust those myths….
1. I’ve hurt my back, and now I’ll have a back problem forever.
The majority of people who hurt their back recover within a few weeks, even if initially they have debilitating pain. Most people return to their previous level of activity and work. There are a very small number of people who do develop chronic back pain, and it is now understood that there are specific high risk factors, including the level of pain, anxiety, fear avoidance of movement, catastrophising thoughts which can be flagged and managed by your therapist.
2. I’ve hurt my back, I need bed-rest.
The worst thing you can do is rest in bed. This will prolong your misery and recovery. Instead, movement is the first aid for back pain. Walking, gentle movement exercises as taught by your physio, and a graduated return to normal activity will get you better quicker.
3. I’ve slipped a disc/my back is out.
Discs don’t slip. EVER.
(To read an entire blog on this, visit Discs Don’t Slip Ever.)
A few points in summary:
- Between each of the vertebrae in your spine, there sits a disc. This consists of two parts; a strong cartilaginous ring on the outside called the annulus fibrosis, and a softer centre called the nucleus pulposus (you can picture it a bit like a jelly donut!). These discs are strong, flexible and help with movement and shock absorption. The discs are anchored to the vertebrae by ligaments. This connection is exceptionally strong, and makes it impossible for the disc to actually slip out of place.
- When you have your back cracked – the noise is gas being sucked into the vacuum created by stretching a joint. Nothing is being moved back in. (It wasn’t out in the first place!)
4. I NEED a back scan.
It has been widely scientifically proven that the changes seen on an xray, CT or MRI do not necessarily correlate to the person’s back pain. In fact, if you scan a heap of people who have never had back pain, you will see the same changes – we think of them like the wrinkles in your skin, just signs of aging. Even the way that these scans are explained to patients can lead to a poor outcome. On top of this, there is a higher surgical rate of people undergoing early scans.
To reiterate – understanding is everything. So if you’ve got more questions send us a message, or come see us, and we’ll get you back on track.