Back pain, generally rights itself whether you intervene with treatment or not. It can be troubling, because the intensity of the pain often does not proportionately correlate to the damage/issue.
However, experiencing an episode of back pain can be frightening and can seriously knock your confidence. Many people do not manage back pain well because they are given the wrong advice, so we are here to set the record straight and slay some of those myths.
Stretching helps relieve back painâ€¦
Historically you will have been advised to stretch. However, recent research has shown that those who have MORE motion in their backs have been shown to be at greater risk of having future back troubles.
Stretching to end/extreme range of movement can do more harm than good.
Bed rest will do me the world of good…
Exercise is good and safe for back pain and in fact evidence suggests that keeping active and returning to usual activities is an important part of recovery and prevention of future back pain episodes. In contrast, prolonged bed rest is associated with greater levels of pain and a poor recovery. Do not underestimate the benefits of walking, it is an excellent way for most people to feel the benefits of exercise without aggravating the structures within the lower back and has been proven to reduce levels of back pain.
I have intense pain! I must have done serious damage!?
Back pain is totally normal, almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in their life. What is not normal, is NOT recovering from back pain. Most pain is a result of poor movement patterns or a trauma and the prognosis is generally excellent. Usually people report significant improvements within 2 weeks and a full recovery within 3 months. As previously mentioned, intensity of pain and underlying pathology (damage) rarely correlate.
Powerful Painkillers are an effective way to manage the pain…
Contrary to popular belief, studies have indicated that strong painkillers are NO MORE effective than a placebo sugar pill for managing back pain. Ineffective, addictive and incredibly bad for you over a prolonged period, tempting as it may seem, leave the pain pills alone.
Sit ups will give me a strong core and will protect against back pain…
Classic abdominal exercises like sit ups/crunches force the spine through repetitive flexion and extension cycles resulting in huge amounts of pressure being placed on the spine.
In fact, if you were to recreate how to herniate a disc in a laboratory setting, spinal experts would use the sit up movement to achieve this.
For a strong core, exercises like planks and bird dogs are the order of the day, neutral spine exercises which resist movement rather than create it. Pilates is a great style of exercise to develop the core in a controlled, safe environment.
Surgery is rarely needed…
Only a tiny proportion of people with back pain require surgery. In fact, the results for spinal surgery are often no better in the medium and long-term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise based therapy and treatment. So before jumping under the knife, explore all other avenues first.
My MRI showed damage, I must have a big problem then right?
Take MRIs with a pinch of salt. The presence of an abnormality does not necessarily mean you will experience pain. In a famous study, MRIs were performed on test cases who had NO reported back pain. Over 50 % of the subjects showed disc abnormality even though they were not experiencing any painful symptoms. This indicates that disc bulges or abnormalities are normal and pain is often coincidental.
This is not DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE (or some other scary name), this is NORMAL ageing, just like the wrinkles on our faces.
Other things to consider…
There are many factors to consider that influence the levels of pain you may be experiencing. Poor sleep, low mood, anxiety and worry will all exacerbate the symptoms. Try to manage these external influences and factors to help alleviate pain.
Although back pain can be debilitating and frightening, try to remember that most cases will improve significantly within 2 weeks and fully recovered within 3 months. Heed good advice, rather than scare mongering and myths for a speedier recovery.
Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor and Rehabilitation Specialist.
Body Care Plus,
17 Fore Street,