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Low Back Pain Myths Busted

Photo courtesy of Petteri Sulonen


We are either constrained or liberated by what we believe.  Too many of us, for one reason or another, fail to evaluate circumstances or ideas for ourselves, instead going along with the common view.  This leaves us vulnerable to consequences and outcomes that we may not prefer.  It can certainly be the case with low back pain.  My wish is that you become empowered to effectively deal with this problem so it doesn’t get out of hand and cause you real misery.  To help with that, here are a number of common low back pain myths.  Which ones have you believed?


Common myths:


  1. Rest is best.  The truth is that rest is worst.  Except in the most extreme cases where you can’t move, rest will prolong and even limit your recovery.  Backs like movement and heal better when they move.  The pain of walking and moving around in the short term will pay for a quicker and more complete recovery in the long term.
  2. Pain is bad.  The truth is that without pain, you’d be in real trouble.  In the book, “Pain, the Gift Nobody Wants”, Paul Brand correctly says that pain is a gift that tells you when something is wrong and helps you avoid behaviors that will hurt you.  If you can function and rest with your pain, it’s much better for you to feel it than to numb it with drugs.
  3. Pain is the problem.  Pain is never the problem, the problem is the problem.  Where is the pain coming from, the disc, the facet joints, where?  That’s the problem, the injury itself, pain is merely the byproduct.  When a fire alarm goes off, is the noisy alarm the problem or is the fire the problem?
  4. Muscle spasm is a common cause of low back pain.  Muscles cause back pain about as often as it causes appendicitis pain.  The truth is that most back pain comes from either the discs or the little facet joints in the back part of the spine.  This becomes important in how you care for an injured back.  In this case, it would be stupid to suggest muscle relaxants for muscles that are already weak and malfunctioning; unless of course, you wanted to sell muscle relaxants.
  5. Back supports and good chairs make a huge difference.  Not really.  While a good chair can help and a back support is occasionally useful the problem is not in where you sit but in the shape your back is in.  Make your back healthy by keeping your joints moving well and your muscles strong.  That’s how you get it well when you injure it and how you keep it well afterwards.


Just as there are common rules to keep your teeth healthy and strong, there are laws of physiology to keep your spine healthy, they just happen to be shrouded in misperception.


Have I missed any?


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