10 Back Pain Secrets
Have you ever wondered what causes Back Pain (BP)? It’s a big topic and there are plenty of opinions enjoying mass circulation. For instance, you might have heard about slipped discs, pinched nerves, wear and tear, misalignment, and postural dysfunction. Perhaps you’ve been informed that the back is particularly susceptible to injury and you should avoid using or lifting with it. In either case, the word on the street seems to be that there’s something unique about our backs.
But is this true? Is our back somehow separate and different from the other tissues and joints of our body? If it’s not, then why is BP a leading cause of global disability? This blog post is meant to share with you 10 Back Pain secrets that are supported by research. These facts can help us better understand the phenomenon that is BP.
Fact #1: Persistent back pain can be scary, but it’s rarely dangerous
Persistent BP can be distressing and disabling, but it’s rarely serious and you’re likely to recover with the right approach to physical rehabilitation.
Fact #2: Getting older is not a cause of low back pain
Although this is a widely accepted concern and belief, research does not support the idea that age causes BP. Evidence-based physical therapy can help at any age.
Fact #3: Persistent back pain is rarely associated with serious tissue damage
Backs are strong and resilient. If you’ve experienced an injury, tissue healing occurs within three months. Pain persisting beyond this time frame is likely influenced by other contributing factors. These include sleep quality, stress levels, activity levels, and diet (just to name a few).
Fact #4: Scans rarely show the cause of back pain
Plenty of scary-sounding things can be found on medical scans. These include disc bulges, protrusions, degeneration, arthritis, etc. Interestingly enough, research shows that these findings are common in people without BP or injury. Therefore, medical scans are only helpful in a minority of cases.
Fact #5: Pain with exercise and movement doesn’t mean you are doing harm
When pain becomes persistent, the spine and surrounding structures can become sensitive to movement. It’s likely that the pain you’re feeling during activity is a reflection of how sensitive these structures have become – not how damaged they are. Therefore, it’s normal to feel some degree of pain or discomfort as we participate in physical rehabilitation. Your Physical Therapist will place structure around your recovery to ensure that you’re stimulating tissue adaption through appropriate challenge and that pain will reduce in a timely manner.
Fact # 6: Back pain is not caused by poor posture
How we sit, stand, and bend does not cause BP, though too much of any one thing can lead to discomfort. Your spine is meant to move and you should allow it to enjoy a variety of positions throughout your day.
Fact #7: Back pain is not caused by a ‘weak core’
Weak core muscles do not cause BP. In fact, individuals with BP often clench their core muscles as a protective response, which can exacerbate the situation. Imagine clenching your fist. The first two minutes are fine, but eight hours later you’re moaning in agony.
Fact #8: Backs do not wear out with everyday bending and loading
The same way lifting weights makes muscles stronger, moving and loading the spine makes it more resilient and healthy. Activities like lifting, running, twisting, and bending are safe so long as you progress gradually and practice regularly.
Fact #9: Pain flare-ups don’t mean you’re damaging yourself
While pain flare-ups can be disabling and scary, they are not often related to tissue damage. Common triggers include poor sleep, stress, tension, dietary fluctuations, and inactivity. Controlling these variables can reduce the likelihood of pain flare-ups. When they do happen try to relax, stay calm, and keep moving.
Fact # 10: Injections, surgery, and strong drugs aren’t a cure
Spine injections, surgery, and strong medications aren’t very effective for persistent BP in the long term. They also come with risks and side effects. A strong physical rehabilitation protocol involving activity pacing, progressive exercise, and pain management techniques is the safest and most effective way to recover from BP.
So there you have it. Your back is stronger, healthier, and more resilient than often advertised. It’s meant to lift, bend, twist, and move! If you’re struggling with BP, we recommend finding a Physical Therapist that inspires hope, provides challenge, and offers guidance along the way. We ought to acknowledge Peter O’Sullivan for dedicating his time and energy towards debunking common misconceptions about BP. Without his work the 10 secrets that you just read wouldn’t exist. We also want to acknowledge Dr. Stuart McGill who has dedicated his career towards understanding spinal injury. Though biomechanics is on the ebb, his contributions to the field shouldn’t go unnoticed.
If you’re suffering from BP, we have a a number of Physical Therapist that can help through evidence-based care. Book here.