All Posts

Busting Back Pain Myths

back pain

Low back pain is very common. 4 out of 5 people will have an episode of low back pain at some time in their life. There are many common sense research-based things you can learn in the Mastering Chronic Low Back Pain program to help your back pain. There are, however, still some age-old myths about low back pain that research has busted. 

The Facts vs The Myths

1. Moving will make my back pain worse.

Myth. Our back is designed for movement and if you are injured, this will help you to recover faster. Gentle movement and exercise in all directions of the spine is safe and healthy for the spinal joints and muscles. Remember to start slow and stay on the go.

Myth #1 Don't exercise if you have back pain.  

Fact #1 Gradual movement is safe and healthy for the spine.  

2. The best thing for a sore back is bed rest.

Myth. In the first few days after an injury, slowing down and resting may help to relieve pain. However, prolonged bed rest is unhelpful and often slows down healing. There is strong evidence that keeping active and gradually returning to usual activities is important in aiding recovery.

Myth #2 Bed rest is essential for back pain.

Fact #2 Gentle movement helps recovery. 

3. My pain is severe because the damage is severe.

Only around one percent of people with back pain have something potentially serious causing their pain. Sometimes, while low back pain can be very severe, there are many other factors that contribute to the pain. Things like sleep, stress, fear of the pain and lack of movement can make your nervous system sensitive so that the pain seems worse than it is. 

Myth #3 Pain always equals damage or injury.

Fact #3 Most low back pain is not serious or life threatening. 

4. A scan or x-ray will show the reason for your pain.

Myth. X-rays and MRIs are not usually needed for the majority of back problems. They can be very useful in the diagnosis and treatment of your back pain but abnormalities are often found that are not related to the pain. 

Myth #4 Scans will show me exactly what is painful.

Fact #4 Scans rarely show the cause of back pain. 

5. If you have a bulging or herniated disc, you will need surgery.

Myth. Not usually. One study found that 90 per cent of patients with disc herniations had good outcomes with chiropractic, physiotherapy and exercise and didn't need surgery. While surgery can be very successful in some cases, it is rarely the first line of treatment for back pain and injury.

Myth #6 Bulging discs definitely mean surgery.

Fact #6 Surgery is rarely needed. 

6. I need strong pain killers and some injections to make it go away.

Myth. Spinal injections and strong painkillers like opioids are often not very effective for persistent low back pain in the long run. They come with risks and have unhelpful side effects. Finding low-risk ways of controlling your pain is the key.

Myth #7 Strong pain killers and injections are needed. 

Fact #7 Low risk ways to control pain are available. 

7. Skinny people don’t get back pain.

Myth. Anyone can get back pain. Staying fit helps to prevent back pain. Back pain is more common in people who are unfit, overweight or smoke. 

Myth #8 Skinny means pain free.

Fact #8 Back pain is more likely if you are unfit, overweight or smoke. 

8. If you have a bad back once, you will have it forever.

Myth. Most low back injuries fully resolve without life-long disability and pain. Learning to look after your back will strengthen it and keep it moving to prevent future injuries. 

Myth #9 Bad backs last forever.

Fact #9 Most low back pain improves.

9. Back pain is all in your head.

Myth. Back pain is very real. Sensitised spinal structures can cause a lot of pain. We now know that this sensitisation combined with our thoughts and feelings about pain influences the severity of the pain and how much we feel it. 

Myth #10 Back pain is all in your head.

Fact #10 The pain is real and has many factors.

Empowering you to take control

Back pain research blended with common sense empowers you as the patient to take control of your problem and gives you the tools to master your back pain.

Dr Cristina Rodes is a chiropractor, researcher, author, mother and host of Back Chat. She has recently celebrated 36 years as a clinical chiropractor. She is passionate about wellness and spinal health and has helped thousands of people live healthier lives.