Low back pain is the most common spinal problem in the USA today. Most people instinctively think of low back problems whenever they hear the word chiropractor. This month we are going to talking about low back problems. Today I want to address four common myths about low back issues. Each week this month we will delve a little deeper into the issue of low back pain. Next week we will talk about common worries that people associate with low back pain. The week after that we will discuss chiropractic solutions to low back pain. Finally, in the last week of the month we will have a conversation about what you can do at home to help take care of your won low back problems. Let’s dive right in today and talk about the four common myths associated with low back pain. Also, please be sure to go to my Facebook page throughout the month of April as I will be presenting short videos on each or these topics.
Four common myths associated with low back pain
· Exercise will make my back hurt worse so I should rest until the pain goes away.
· Severe back pain means a slipped disc and therefore I must have surgery.
· Stress is not a cause of low back pain.
· The more pain I have the more my low back is damaged.
Rest is not the answer
A common mistake that is made is to think that resting all injuries is the best way to take care of them. Research has shown that musculoskeletal injuries will respond better and faster to movement. A study released in 2021 (Pub Med) demonstrated that when joints (like those on the vertebrae of the low back) move, natural pain killers are produced and released in that area. Exercise should be started as just simple range of motion movements almost immediately upon the onset low back pain. Moving, even in those simple tiny amounts, can be very beneficial is relieving some of the low back discomfort.
Severe low back pain means a slipped disc and therefore I must have surgery
Pain is not the only indicator used in deciding on surgery for low back issues. Surgery is now regarded as a last resort to low back pain that does not resolve. The discs of the low back are positioned very close to the nerves where they branch off the spinal cord to serve the leg. This leads people to believe that a disc that is damaged must be touching a nerve to cause the pain. The fact is that a damaged disc can cause inflammation to accumulate near the injury site. This inflammation is a natural and normal part of the healing process. The inflammation will cause pain, but the inflammation can be moved out of the area by non-surgical means.
Stress is not a cause of low back pain
Physical stress that is found in heavy lifting and over exertion most certainly can cause low back pain. Our muscles have a very interesting reflex that is designed for our protection. When a muscle is overused in comparison to its regular activity level, cells in the muscle become damaged. There is a certain amount of pain associated with that damage due to the inflammation/repair process.
Emotional stress will also cause a reflex contraction of muscles. Think of this like you would think of bracing yourself for a severe impact you are anticipating. The low back will react to those emotional stresses just like the neck muscles do that cause tension headaches. Because the low back muscles are larger in mass it may take more stress to cause a painful reaction, but it will and does happen.
The more pain I have the more my low back is injured
Pain is a very subjective experience. Everyone’s tolerance for pain is different. I had a patient that worked a heavy labor type of job as a landscaper. He developed low back pain and was treating with me for it. He continued to work at his job for weeks before we decided to obtain an MRI to discover if there was a reason for his slow recovery. We discovered the largest herniated disc I had ever seen on an MRI, and he was doing heavy work daily and was in moderate discomfort only.
I have had other patients who have reported to me that their pain was greater than a 10 on a zero to ten scale. These patients were in abject misery and there was absolutely no evidence of any problems at all on their MRI. Pain is a very unreliable indicator to determine the extent of injury.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Please be sure to check out our videos on low back pain by clicking the link on our website to our You Tube site or visit our Facebook page to see our videos there. Next week our blog will focus on the five most common worries people have about low back pain.