Changing Your Beliefs Surrounding Low Back Pain!
If you’re struggling with back pain, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Low back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of pain and dysfunction across the globe. It’s often associated with expensive, ineffective, and sometimes harmful care.
Negative beliefs about LBP are correlated with higher levels of pain, disability, work loss, and increased medication and healthcare seeking. These negative beliefs are common in people with and without LBP and can be reinforced by the media, industry groups, and well-meaning healthcare practitioners.
Check out these top 10 myths of LBP written by our Kelowna Physiotherapy team and adapted from O’Sullivan et al. (2020).
Back to basics: 10 facts every person should know about back pain.
Myth 1: Low back pain is generally not a serious medical condition.
Fact: Low back pain is not usually a serious condition. Less than 1% of LBP presentations indicate a serious condition that would require medical intervention. These pathologies are things like a fracture or cancer.
Rest assured, if warranted, our Kelowna rehabilitation team is trained to assess for these risks and would recommend further medical investigations if warranted.
Myth 2: Low back pain will become persistent and deteriorate through life.
Fact: Most episodes of LBP recover and LBP does not get worse as we age. Evidence-based treatments from our Kelowna-based physiotherapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy team can help at any age.
Myth 3: Longstanding low back pain is always related to tissue damage.
Fact: Backs are strong, resilient, and robust! If you have suffered an injury, tissue healing almost always occurs within 3 months. If pain persists past this time, it usually means there are other contributing factors. Beliefs, fear of movement, sleep, stress, and recovery expectation can all influence ongoing pain.
The tissue is not necessarily the issue! Our Kelowna rehabilitation team takes the time to assess the whole person – not just the problem, and determine whether any of these lifestyle factors can contribute to your low back pain episode.
Myth 4: Scans are always needed to detect the cause of LBP.
Fact: Scans are only helpful in some people. Scans can reveal some scary-sounding conditions like disc bulges, degeneration, and protrusions. Unfortunately, these reports do not say that these findings are very common in people without back pain as well, and do not predict pain severity.
Our Kelowna Physiotherapy team likes to refer to these conditions as “normal age-related changes” and you can think of these changes on the inside of your body as wrinkles on your skin!
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Myth 5: Pain related to exercise and movement is always a warning that harm is being done.
Fact: When pain becomes chronic, it’s common that the structures around the spine can become a bit more sensitive to touch and movement. Pain during movement reflects how sensitive your back structures are, not how damaged you are. Hurt does not necessarily mean harm!
It is safe and normal to feel some pain when you start to move and exercise. This usually settles as you get more active. In fact, exercise and movement are one of the most effective ways to treat back pain.
Our experienced team of practitioners will set you up with a rehabilitation program, providing a safe way to move and exercise, so that you can get back to doing what you love!
Myth 6: Low back pain is caused by poor posture when sitting, standing, or lifting.
Fact: How we sit, stand, and lift does not cause back pain. In some cases, it can provoke sensitive structures but overall moving through a variety of postures and movements is healthy for the back.
In fact, there are no real ‘ideal’ or ‘bad’ postures. Any posture can be less than ideal if maintained for long periods of time. As our Physiotherapy at team likes to say, “The next posture is the best posture!”
Myth 7: Low back pain is caused by weak ‘core’ muscles and having a strong core protects against future LBP.
Fact: Weak ‘core’ muscles are not causally associated with low back pain. In fact, people with back pain often tense their core muscles as a protective and guarding response.
Now we all understand the importance of strengthening to enhance function and lessen pain; however, there are certain instances with low back pain that learning how to relax these muscles can be just as important as learning to activate your core.
Don’t guess, get assessed!
Myth 8: Repeated bending and lifting result in wear and tear and tissue damage.
Fact: In the same way that lifting weights makes muscles stronger, moving and loading the spine makes the back healthier, stronger, more resilient, and more robust! Activities like running, twisting, bending, and lifting is safe if you start gradually and practice regularly.
Unsure where to start after experiencing an episode of low back pain? Have our Kelowna rehab team take you through a full evaluation, set you up with a plan of care, as well as a treatment and rehab program to find safe and effective ways to move, and ultimately get you back to living your best life!
Myth 9: Low back pain flare-ups are a sign of tissue damage and require rest.
Fact: While pain flare-ups are often times scary and debilitating, they are often not related to damaged tissue. Common triggers are poor sleep, stress, tension, worries, low mood, inactivity, or unaccustomed activity. Managing these factors can help reduce or even prevent these flare-ups. If you have a low back pain flare-up you are not sure about, seek our physiotherapy team’s advice but is it very important to try to keep calm, and to keep moving!
Myth 10: Treatments such as strong medications, injections, and surgery are effective and necessary to treat low back pain.
Fact: Spine injections, surgery, and strong painkillers are often not very effective for chronic pain in the long term. Finding low-risk ways and self-management strategies to put you in control of your pain and function is key. Our rehabilitation team at Affinity will work with you to determine these strategies and help you take control of your body again!