Back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders affecting people. Unfortunately, there seems to exist a considerable gap between the knowledge of healthcare professionals about back pain and the beliefs of the general public about them. Research studies have shown that perceptions and attitudes of people towards back pain can significantly impact their management and prognosis. Here, we will address common myths regarding back pain and reveal the truth.
Truth: Contrary to what people think, spine is not a delicate area rather spine and the tissues surrounding it including muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. constitute a well-designed structure that has immense endurance, flexibility, and support. Therefore, except for some cases such as an unstable fracture of the spine, there is no indication of being overprotective about the spine after an episode of the back pain.
Truth: Although many diseases have a genetic predisposition meaning that they are passed on from parents to their offspring, but fortunately back pain is not one of them. If one of your parents or even both suffered from back pain, they wouldn’t transfer it to you through genes. However, families usually share a tendency of leading a sedentary lifestyle that may increase the risk of back and neck problems.
Truth: A short period of rest after an acute injury may be helpful by reducing pressure on the vertebral discs and limiting the mechanical stress that may irritate pain receptors. But, if this rest is more than one or two days, it could be highly damaging to recovery process from back pain. Prolonged bed rest may increase the risk of more pain as well as other adverse effects such as; risk of blood clots, muscle atrophy( loss of muscle mass), loss of bone minerals and impact on heart and lung functions and lost working days. On the other hand, there is solid scientific evidence that keeping active and early return to normal work and other activities, is helpful in prompt recovery.
Truth: A survey conducted by North American spine society cited it as the most common misconception, and it leads to many people with back pain being overprotective of their backs and resulting in further increase in the risk of pain and injury due to lack of conditioning. For a healthy spine, a regular exercise regimen involving stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises is essential. A sedentary lifestyle with lack of exercise causes weakening of the spine and surrounding tissues and causes more harm than good. The key is to prepare your spine for everyday shocks with the help of appropriate physical activity. Take professional help for information on the right kind of exercises for increasing spine strength.
Truth: It might come as a surprise to you that more pain does not always mean more damage or injury. People with a similar type of injury can experience different levels of pain. It is important to note that pain sensation is interpreted, processed and controlled by your brain and nervous system. Thus, two persons with a similar injury to the spine may feel different levels of pain on movement of the back like bending, but it does not mean that one with more pain is damaging the spine more. The perception of pain depends on many factors including individual, genetic and environmental factors, for example, your brain and nervous system might be more active in feeling pain than others. Fortunately, a multi-factorial approach inclusive of education about your condition, exercise, and psychological counseling can help ease this pain.
Truth: It is very logical that you should not lift anything too heavy for you, but a fear of backache is no reason to prevent you from lifting things in your daily activities. It’s not significant that how much you lift but how you lift is more important. For lifting things without unnecessarily straining your back, stand directly in front of the object you want to lift. Go into a squat position with keeping your back and head straight. Lift the object using your legs to push up the weight and your arms to keep it close to your core. Don’t’ twist or bend your body to avoid hurting your back.