We’ve all had those mornings where there’s a tinge in our backs that simply won’t go away. After a bit of stretching or maybe an over-the-counter pain reliever, we can usually get our back in order once again.
For some people, however, this tinge never seems to go away. To make it worse, everyone from your well-meaning family members to coworkers seem to have advice and suggestion–both solicited and not.
As with anything related to your body’s health, you can’t always believe everything you hear or read–especially on the internet. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common back pain myths:
Myth: Exercise causes back pain
The assumption that back pain could be worsened by any type of exercise is one of the most common back pain myths.
Although neck and back pain are major concerns, exercise may actually be a good way to help release the tension in your muscles and improve your back’s range of motion. In fact, many doctors recommend exercise for people who have recently injured their back.
If you suffer from back pain, it’s best to start with simple gentle movements and build your way up. With any type of exercise, you should always be cognizant of your back and maintaining proper form.
On the flip side, just because you do exercises such as walking or running, it may not help back pain. These “weight-bearing exercises” put more stress on your back, based on gravity alone.
Typically an exercise regimen should focus on stretching and core training which is more catered to back health and alignment.
One of our favorite recommendations for back pain is yoga. Focused on balance and steadiness, yoga encourages your body to develop defenses against the causes of back pain, which include weak abdominal and pelvic muscles, as well lack of flexibility in the hips. When you strengthen these muscles, you improve your posture, which reduces the load on your back, and thus reduces the aches you feel. In addition, stretching can increase flexibility by increasing blood flow to tight muscles.
The best way to be sure that exercise won’t cause further harm your back is to consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
Myth: Bed rest is best
You’ve probably been told after feeling that tinge in your back to lie down and rest. You’ve also probably been told to rest for a few days and simply lay in bed until the pain goes away.
Lying down may help relieve back pain immediately after an injury, but too much bed rest causes muscles to tighten up, which may make pain worse. Inactivity can also raise your risk of blood clots.
Prolonged bed rest and immobilization inevitably lead to complications, such as loss of muscle strength and endurance, contractures and soft tissue changes, disuse osteoporosis, and degenerative joint disease. Cardiovascular complications include an increased heart rate, decreased cardiac reserve, orthostatic hypotension, and venous thromboembolism.”
These complications are much easier to prevent than to treat.
Myth: Losing weight will solve your back pain
This myth isn’t entirely untrue, as being overweight or obese can lead to back pain and other spinal complications. However, where the problem comes into play is with the notion that being thin automatically solves all back pain entirely.
The truth is that, while being overweight can be the leading cause of some individual’s back conditions, thin individuals can still feel just as much back pain as obese individuals can. It all depends on what the actual contributing factor of the pain is. While overweight individuals feel back pain from the weight put on their bodies, those who maintain a healthy weight may still experience back pain from various other conditions or injury.
It’s not about being thin or fat, it’s about maintaining a healthy weight. Doing so can help prevent back pain, result in more positive outcomes from treatment for back pain, and reduce your risk of other common health conditions such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Not sure where to start? Check out these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for assessing your weight.
Myth: Surgery is the best solution for chronic back pain
For most cases of chronic back pain, spinal surgery is actually not recommended. When back pain is severe and consistently limits the ability to sleep or function, surgery may be considered if anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes don’t provide relief within six to 12 weeks.
Relief can often be achieved through an integrative medicine approach which seeks to restore and maintain health and wellness across a person’s lifespan by understanding the patient’s unique set of circumstances and addressing the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health.
By personalizing care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of pain or illness.
Ultimately, it may be determined that surgery is the best solution for a patient’s back pain, but in most cases, it should be considered a last resort.
Myth: Back pain is normal
Arguably the biggest myth about back pain is that is it normal.
An estimated 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. But, considering this accounts for a broad range of time, let’s put it in perspective. Another survey shows that more than 1 in 4 adults has reported experiencing low back pain during the past 3 months.
Due to its prevalence and the wide range of severity, many sufferers often attribute their back pain to normal aches or a normal part of aging and don’t consult a physician until the pain becomes debilitating.
The reality is that back pain should not be part of your daily life, whatever your age.
When to Seek Help
Acute back pain typically comes on suddenly and may last for a few days or up to a few weeks. It typically resolves on its own with rest or with the aid of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, heat, ice and/or stretching.
Chronic back or neck pain, on the other hand, is defined as lasting more than three months and requires treatment from a licensed healthcare professional.
The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates are experienced in treating a variety of common conditions including neck pain, low back pain, herniated or ruptured discs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, radiculopathies, nerve injuries and vascular abnormalities of the spine.
Understanding that each back and neck pain patient is unique, we take an individualized approach to care to help alleviate that pain as much as possible. Call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment today.