Debunked: 3 Common Myths About Back Pain You Need to Know!

I was in the clinic today chatting with one of our clients who was telling me about his neck pain.

He started explaining that ‘it happened back in 1990 when I was in the army, I had an accident where I fell off a wall and cracked my neck on the way down.’

I winced as he was telling me the story.

He went on ‘the medics were very worried about me and they took me to the medical centre and immediately put me in a neck brace. Once I had a lot of pain medication pumped in my veins, things started to feel more comfortable.’

‘I was left in the neck brace for 3 weeks to keep it stable.’

I asked him ‘was it fractured?’

To which he replied ‘no they took an x-ray and CT scan and there was no damage, leaving me in a brace was just what they did back then.’

It got me thinking about the way we treat back and neck pain now compared to 30-40 years ago. It is completely different and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around back pain.

Let me explain….

1) Bed rest is good for back pain

This is one of the biggest myths, it Is NOT good for your back. Although you may feel you want to lie in bed when you have back pain.

When I had my first back spasm I was living in Bristol as a Student, I could not get out of bed, the doctor told me to stay sitting down, study for my exams and take two tramadol every four hours.

I ended up worse off the next day as I had been sitting down studying, I couldn’t move, nor could I concentrate on anything as my head was so fuzzy from the tramadol.

The research suggests you should be moving, to get blood flow into the area and reduce inflammation. Moving allows the muscles to move and stretch rather than seize up putting more pressure on your back.

It will be intensely painful, but you need to ensure you keep moving to prevent further issues and prolonging the pain.

If you have general back ache, exercise is good for your back to keep it mobile. There are some things you should avoid, e.g running a marathon or doing a 200kg deadlift. Light exercise and gym weights is good to build stability and strengthen your muscles.

2) You must take prescription medication to get rid of back pain

If you read my blog regularly you know where I stand with painkillers (skip ahead), for those who don’t please read on.

If you are taking painkillers, please consult your GP and do NOT take this advice over the prescribing physician.

There is a place for short term painkillers in managing back pain, to get on with life and regain normal movement. My issue is with long term painkiller use and the patient becomes reliant on it.

You must look at what has happened in the US over the past decade with the opioid crisis, to see that long term pain medication is not good for a human being. Side note: I read an article suggesting that Europe can expect an opioid crisis to sweep the continent in the next 5-10 years, it is just a matter of time.

This terrifies me and means we need to act sooner to prevent this happening.

Alternative sources of pain relief are available.

Gentle movements like Pilates and yoga from home can help to alleviate pain, acupuncture, physiotherapy and massage to name a few. I believe pain medication if needed should be used for the first week and then weaned off in the second week as the patient finds a long-term natural solution.

3) Back pain is a natural part of ageing

I love this one.

After I did a triathlon in May in Mallorca, I was chatting to a family friend who is 75 and represents GB for his age group in triathlons. He has no back pain and is extremely fit. Granted not as fit as he was 40 years ago, but still moving pain free.

Now I know what you will say, ‘this is an anomaly’.

Well, perhaps he is. But back pain is not a part of ageing.

I have seen young people below 30 years of age that have severe issues with their backs. The research tells us that males aged 20-30 are the most common to suffer a prolapsed disc.

I have also had the benefit of x-raying clients of all ages. I have seen wear and tear in a spine of 30 years old and nothing in a 60-year-old. Please don’t tell me it is ageing.

A lot is environmental factors, how you live, how you move and what you do with your body.

Ensure you practice good posture and keep up light resistance exercise.

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If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

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